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– Hunting Experiences

Deer are gregarious herbivores, who, when left alone, like to live in herds or, during spring and summer, in smaller family groups. Each deer species is different in manner, but within each society, it’s always the females who call the shots.

Even during the rut when it looks like the aggressive males are the boss, they are actually dependent on the good grace of the females to pass on their genes. In order to procreate, the stags and bucks have to, firstly, infiltrate the females’ home ranges. They then have to prove their physical worthiness against other males to the watching girls. Away from the rut, the boys are surplus to requirement and are ignored. They get the hint and go off in their bachelor groups or go on as loners until the next rutting season.

Poronui has four deer species: red deer, rusa, and fallow deer in the estate, plus sika who live in the estate and are free-range across the whole property.

Matriarch deer females are amongst the wiliest adversaries a hunter can face. Being responsible for a herd or family group, the matriarch is always on the alert. She selects her feeding zones carefully, teaches all her charges how to survive, and selects bedding areas where the wind and viewing location is to her advantage. Two scenarios play out if she suspects your presence. Her mob is gone before you even notice them, or a bark, woof, honk, or squeal precedes a stampeding exit. Older females sitting within a herd will all be facing in different directions. They are never entirely off duty.

The easiest deer to hunt are yearling females and males who have been kicked out of the family group when mum has a new fawn at foot in late spring. These teenagers are still naive — they’re not used to making their own life-saving decisions. Two lessons often not ingrained are to be in cover during daytime hours and to run away and not look when spotting or smelling a human. Mobs of stags without females can also be slow in running rather than looking.

Sika has the largest population of deer at Poronui and the older females have a major job on their hands keeping their offspring safe. Four things particularly impress me. Their sharp eyesight, loud vocal warnings, speed off the mark when fleeing, and the fact they don’t stop until they are out of sight. They’re real guerrillas of the bush. I have disturbed some big mobs of feeding sika at Poronui and a minute after the lead matriarch lets out a blasting squeal, every deer is gone.

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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