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Back Basin Stags
– Hunting Experiences

At the back of the Poronui hunting estate is a trophy hotspot that is especially popular with red deer and sika. It is a place where many hunting dreams will become reality. Back basin is best described as a huge amphitheatre of guts, depressions, scrubby faces and rolling hummocks. The flats were once clothed in beech forest but the trees were cleared decades ago so it is mostly open country now. The surrounding ridges are clothed in native forest and regrowth and the spurs spilling down into the basin proper are moderately steep. This hunting spot sucks in testosterone driven stags like a vacuum cleaner with the sika stags claiming the higher thickly bushed country and the red stags ruling the roost lower down on the slopes and on the flats.

Stag and deer looking at each other

The high ground is the best ground

Accessing Back Basin is relatively easy. Hunters can come from the north or the south and once on top of the backbone ridge linking the access roads can look down into the back basin from a number of lookout positions. The high ground is the place to be although wind direction determines what access road is used on a given hunt. The most successful way to access Back Basin is by the secret back door. The guide drives to the top of Whartoeto Basin (the area I call The Grove) and parks the vehicle under cover. Hunters stalk carefully along the track through overhanging native trees and then pop out at the northern end of Back Basin with a view right down the whole hunting area.

Hunter looking over Poronui's landscape with binoculars

Legendary Big Boy

Of all the sika stags I have encountered in Back Basin; Big Boy was the most memorable. He oozed dominance and aggression, owned the best rutting territory, held most of the local hinds and had the eight point trophy stags skirting warily around him His antlers were long and wide but there was one genetic flaw. He lacked inners though the length, spread, span, and brow tines were exceptional. I took up the challenge of outwitting him. Over a week guide Mark McGlashan and I hunted just him and were lucky enough to take this monster of a stag on the last evening of my hunt.

Hunter posing with his trophy

Hardy Red Stags

Back Basin is also where many of the largest red stags are to be found. It is the premium red stag battle ground so only the tough duke it out here. Hind numbers are high and to the most aggressive victor go the spoils. In many ways Back Basin is a colosseum for red stag gladiators. During late March and all through April the basin echoes with roars and the sound of antler clashing. For hunters, sitting on one of the high lookouts it is an amazing spectacle. In the past, stags with identifiable roars ended up with names such as grumbler, bass, screamer, and try-hard. A particularly aggressive stag was called Mr T and a monster one with extreme palmation was called moose. As a side note back basin also holds a lot of arapawa rams because of the open flats and clearings.

A red stag family walking in Poronui's landscape

In summary, what makes Back Basin such an amazing place for hunting clients are the following

  • There is a lot of rolling, lightly vegetated country which aides trophy selection as well as executing a successful stalk. This is of benefit to bow hunters in particular.
  • It is a mature red stag and sika stag country, meaning some of the best trophies on the property congregate here with their harems.
  • The advantage of ridgetop height is that the location allows extensive glassing opportunities. Hunters can also sneak into position without being seen by animals below them.
  • In addition to red stag and sika stag there is also a good chance of seeing transient fallow bucks, an occasional old rusa stag, and resident arapawa rams.
  • A lot of what hunters spot from their high eyrie will be big, and it is respectfully known by guides as the place to secure a ‘whopper’ of a trophy.

Hunter posing with his red stag trophy

Greg Morton
Previously New Zealand correspondent for USA based publications The Hunting Report; The Bird Hunting Report and The Angling Report, Presently writes a monthly article named Fair Chase for New Zealand Fishing News and a hunting blog for Poronui.
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