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Find active wallows and you find the stags
– Hunting Experiences

Definition of a deer wallow?

A wallow is a churned up muddy depression in the ground that is used by deer to bathe, roll around in, and in the case of stags urinate in to mark territory. Common places to find wallows are in muddy creeks, damp hollows on plateaus and ridges, and in boggy drainages and swamps. Popular sites can be deep and wide, some reaching ten feet across by three feet deep. Wallows located near to female family groups are prime real estate quickly claimed by alpha stags during the rutting months March through to early May. Access rights are strongly contested.

a wallow in Poronui

Wallow sites get very busy during the rut?

Three of the four deer species found on Poronui use wallows during the rut. Red stags, sika stags and rusa stags find the act of wallowing irresistible, unlike fallow bucks that do not wallow. Red stag wallows are large, located in strategic spots and by March are being used regularly. The herd stag will visit his wallows often to cool off and leave scent and while there thrash nearby trees. Sika stags during the rut make shallow wallows by turning a wet scrape into a pungent depression that they roll around in. Such smelly scrapes are often located in places where water pools naturally. Rusa males wallow keenly as well. They are very enthusiastic in a wallow and end up covered from top to bottom in thick mud. Active stag wallows are easily identified. The water is filthy and smelly, fresh tracks are everywhere and the surrounds are covered in recently splattered mud. Red deer wallows in particular are also used by hinds with dominance hierarchy determining who holds priority right of use.

a deer all muddy

Poronui guides target known red stag wallow sites

By early March the bachelor groups of red stags are breaking up and as the rutting urge intensifies so does the use of historical wallows. Stags will return to the same location each year to wallow. Wallows are one way a stag indicates his presence. The largest wallow I have seen on Poronui is the one located within the area known as The Grove but many other smaller wallows are located within the gum tree and native tree blocks and in wet drainages across the cutover slopes. Guides know where the best wallows are and will use game trail cameras and scouting trips to find out when wallows have become active, which trophy animals are visiting them, and what time of day stags turn up at known wallows. Such locations are a great place to ambush territorial stags.

Wallow antics

Funny things happen at wallow sites. Two incidents were memorable. The first was the arrival of a spiker red deer at a wallow I was watching. I knew a trophy red stag owned this wallow so this youngster was on dangerous ground. He wanted to get in the wallow and have a forbidden bath but was so nervous that he was shivering and twitching as he approached. Closer and closer he inched but just as he was nearly in the mud an unseen deer barked loudly. The spiker stumbled backwards with fright, impulsively leapt high into the air then sprinted away as though he was being chased by wolves.

The second sighting was of a young stag that arrived to freshen up his wallow. He strutted up to the mud bath and immediately began pawing away at the water sending filthy water flying in all directions. He then plunked himself down and had a good roll around. He then repeated the whole sequence at least four more times, added a bit of scent to the mix, stirred things up with his antlers and fully satisfied with his efforts he continued on his territory patrol.

red stag drinking from the antic wallow


Greg Morton: A New Zealand correspondent for the USA based publications The Hunting Report; The Bird Hunting Report and The Angling Report for many years. He presently writes a monthly article named Fair Chase for the New Zealand Fishing News and a hunting blog for Poronui Hunting.
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