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Face to face with a Free Range Sika trophy
– Hunting Experiences

Poronui is internationally recognised as a superb hunting destination for those seeking a quality free-range sika stag trophy. The 16,000 acre private property has excellent deer habitat comprising of exotic gum tree plantations, river flats, scrub, swampland, native forests and cut over hills. In addition, the farmland backs on to extensive areas of old growth beech forest or manuka shrublands. The fringes where farmland and cover meet are sika stag hotspots. 

Transient stags 

Large numbers of stags call Poronui home during the summer while they grow their antlers and take advantage of feeding along the farm edges.  Once autumn comes around, many stags head for rutting territories that can be kilometres from Poronui and in doing so create opportunities for hunters in the adjoining Kaimanawa hunting areas.  Deer movement studies indicated that these stags moved as far as 16 kilometres in this annual pilgrimage. Once they get that out of their system though they head back to Poronui to feed and recover condition.  This movement back to Poronui provides excellent late season hunting opportunities as it creates an influx of stags to fill the gaps left by those shot during the rut.

Transient stags

A cunning plan

In May of this year I was stalking through scrub high above the property. From my position I could glass lots of country.  Away in the distance, on a knoll I could see sika stags sunning themselves. A stalk plan was formed for the following day that would see me get up early and creep in on them with my Cannon camera. The next morning dawned clear and sunny so I was on my way early. Two hours later I approached the stag spot I had located the day before and carefully worked my way along the edge of some trees.

Poronui landscape

Eyeball to eyeball with a trophy 

The bright sun was over my shoulder and my camera was on a monopod. I was about to crest the final rise when I suddenly realised a trophy sika was just to my right half obscured in a hollow and looking down the valley. He was just feet away unaware of me. Then he turned slowly and looked straight at me. Luckily before this happened I had time to lower my head behind the camera, and this action combined with the full sun in his eyes camouflaged me. It was a standoff. He was so close he could have walked over a few metres and licked the camera lens. 

Eyeball to eyeball with a stag

A Top Trophy 

Instead of running he stood like a stature. He obviously could not see my face so just stared at the black camera. I began taking photographs marvelling at how magnificent he looked standing in direct sunlight, with trees and a mountain behind him. At one point he looked away from me for fifteen seconds and stared down the valley where some deer were trotting in his direction. I took over twenty photo shots before he finally became uneasy about the approaching deer and walked over the crest and into the trees. What a trophy. He was an older stag, and his eight point antlers were wide, even and long. His spotted pelt hinted at Manchurian bloodlines.

Stag looking at Poronui landscape

A Warrior

He was a warrior resting up after the battles of the rut. A length of vine hung from his right antler; a deep gash was evident under his left eye; an ear was scabbed and several tines had fighting marks. He showed no sign of fear but one or two photos showed wariness and a lifted head when I moved slightly. He was in great condition and this spot was clearly his sun drenched lookout. Being wise and cautious he was watching what the other deer around him were doing without exposing himself. When they looked agitated he melted away. This standing and watching was clearly what he did on a regular basis.

It is an encounter I will never forget and in hindsight I am pleased I was carrying a camera not a rifle that day.  

sika stag looking at the photograph


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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