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Rut fight club
– Hunting Experiences

I visited Poronui in early March, and the date coincided with the shift in the male population from buddies to rivals and eventually fighting foes. Some stags and bucks were still stripping velvet, most were grazing vigorously to put on body weight, many were still tagging along with male buddies, but several others, mainly red stags, were on their own looking frustrated and emitting the first roars or calls of the season.

Poronui was on the cusp of the rut, and over the next two months, all of the mature males would be joining the fight club. The only company the males wanted was of the female kind, and woe betide any other male who intruded on his rutting territory or harassed females he perceived to be his. Winner takes all, and the loser gets nothing.

The first males to suffer rutting angst are the red stags from around mid-March, then the fallow and sika in April, and lastly the rusa in July/August. The fighting begins as sparring amongst the younger males, then a bit of more serious pushing and shoving amongst older animals, then when mature rivals are evenly matched it can be a full-on attack with no holds barred.

I recently read an article that stated the red stag has the most potent weapons of virtually any animal on the planet. They are designed to spear and thrust deeply, and should they enter the stomach or flank of a defeated rival the result may be fatal.

Here in New Zealand there have been occasional instances of farmers being killed by a domestic red stag when attacked in a paddock during the rut. And, indeed one or two stags on the hill have given me that ‘you owe me money’ look that sees me checking out the best escape route.

Fallow, sika, and rusa may not have the same array of killing tines when fighting, but these species are equally aggressive. This aggression has often seen sika chase off reds, and fallow and rusa fight to the death. Hunters visiting Poronui during March through to August will likely have the opportunity to view this amazing spectacle.

Of all the species I have encountered when hunting, it is the fallow that seems to end up with the most injuries. Perforated and ripped ears, lost eyes, broken antlers and tines, edema and hematoma, scars, limps, swollen limbs, and a serious loss of condition.

All of the species ignore injuries during the rut.  Nothing gets in the way of the drive to procreate.


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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