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Big-game oddities
– Hunting Experiences

Spend enough time in the New Zealand wilderness and you are sure to see some of nature’s big-game oddities. These are the individuals that are just different to the norm — and striking enough in looks to have you reaching for your camera or rifle.

For example, specific color is a major characteristic that each game species has, and, as a hunter, I’m wired to match a color with a species. But sometimes the data bank in my brain comes up empty. The animal in front of me just doesn’t look right. Three years back I was hunting at Poronui when I spotted a dark brown/black animal feeding in a clearing. My brain went through the possibilities, but none of the deer species living there matched what I was looking at. The only likely suspect was a feral goat, but its body shape was wrong.

Too small for a red and too compact for a rusa or fallow, it had to be a sika, but I had never seen one this dark. On closing the distance it turned out he was a sika oddity. His antlers were very average, but his pelt was a trophy in itself — glowing black in the sun. On the day, I opted for the camera and let him walk because of his rarity.

Red deer are another deer species that provide few strange color oddities, but a couple of years ago I was lucky enough to photograph a piebald yearling traveling with its mother. Splashes of white were randomly thrown around giving her an Appaloosa horse appearance. There were a lot of reds in this area, but she was the only one showing white genetics.

Speaking of the color white, it sometimes appears in wild pigs. Recently, I photographed a white specimen travelling with a mob of black pigs. It had wiry white hair covering its body.

A Poronui sika stag oddity that I shot a few years ago was a dominant master stag carrying six tines rather than the desired eight points. What made him unique was the size of his antlers: the length was 33 inches, the spread in the mid-20s, and he had massive brow tines — one was 17 inches. The trey tines were both broken, as he was a fighter, and he had enormous bulk and beautiful Manchurian sika marking.

Another antler oddity I encountered was a unicorn black fallow buck. One antler was long and well palmated, while the other side had a short stump. When he stood up and stared me down, he looked really strange and lopsided. His gene line stopped there as he became venison.

Horned animals have also been known to be missing a horn. A tahr one-horned oddity I photographed near Fairlie was a big-bodied bull with a trophy horn on one side and nothing on the other. If he had a matching horn set he would have been a top-shelf trophy. Sadly, that was not the case. You never know what you will encounter in the hills.

 

Greg Morton
One of New Zealand’s longest hunting/fishing profile journalists. Outdoors writer since 1987. Past positions include New Zealand correspondent for The Hunting Report; The Bird Hunting Report, and The Angling Report, and writing a regular hunting article for New Zealand Outdoor for 30 years. Presently writes a monthly article named Fair Chase for New Zealand Fishing News and a hunting blog for Poronui, while continuing his passion for hunting, fishing, and wildlife photography. Lives in Alexandra, Central Otago.

 

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