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Red Stag Rut Peak
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Greg Morton predicts the peak 2017 rut day for red stags. Will he nail it?

Hunters stalking New Zealand bush or alpine basins during the red deer stag rut hope their visit dates coincide with the peak of the roar. It can be anticipated that at some stage in late March through to mid-April cold weather and cycling hinds will see the local stags in an area all get stroppy at the same time. Fuelled with pumping testosterone, usually wary stags will square up for a fight with whoever they perceive to be challenging them.

Unfortunately for hunters, the peak might be just one special morning, a special day or if you are really lucky it might last a week or so. Some years there is no peak. This epic time could follow a cold southerly storm, a period of heavy frosts, or a dramatic change in temperature from hot to cold. During the rut peak, stags are roaring everywhere, and along with roaring they’re aggressive and belligerent, on the roam, and determined to mate at all costs. Wallows are stirred to a slurry of mud and urine, marking trees are destroyed, young stags are nervous and skittery, hinds are pestered or rounded up into mating mobs, and older beaten rivals hobble away with bruises and tine cuts.

It’s chaos but unpredictable. I have hunted the red deer rut period for four decades but have only experienced one screamer of a ‘peak event’. It was full on madness. It lasted the whole three days I was hunting. Sleep in my tent at night was impossible because of the racket outside, and during the day everywhere I looked stags were on the move screaming abuse at each other. The red stag rut seems to be a bit earlier in the South Island than the North Island, and often can be waning by early April so the peak differs from place to place. A few years back I selected April 21 as a generic peak of the rut day date for fallow across both islands, so let’s go out on a limb and select one possible generic day for red stags to go crazy. Based on what I have experienced and what others have told me I reckon April 7 will see it all go off. If wrong, I will definitely be in the ballpark as stags will be real frustrated around about then.

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