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Sika: a five- to seven-year investment
– Hunting Experiences

Cam Speedy is well respected in the sika hunter’s world. For over 40 years he has used his wildlife biologist skills, acquired fieldwork experience, deer knowledge, and a lot of time and effort to educate and advise sika hunters on how to get the most out of sika hunting.

A main point made by him is that trophy sika don’t just appear by chance — they need a five- to seven-year investment by private and public land managers to reach the potential of their ancestral gene pool. ‘Don’t shoot the sika stags young, take the hind instead’ is a common mantra they feel should be followed if stags are to produce trophy heads. The ‘let them grow’ stance is also a strong theme down south in the wapiti, red deer, and bull tahr blocks. Speedy also strongly believes in looking after deer habitat. Overpopulation produces few trophies, while managed healthy hinds produce healthy offspring, which, in the case of stags, means larger headgear.

Poronui has long been a supporter of sika deer research projects and helped Speedy with an ambitious free-range stag collar-tracking project. The data gathered has been invaluable.

In April 2021, during a week-long visit to Poronui, I encountered a huge sika stag I called Big Red. He was a stag that had definitely reached his seven-year ‘let him grow’ mark. Luckily for him, I was only carrying a camera, so it was not me who will cash in this investment. The photos you see here were taken during my exciting interaction.

I had parked up my vehicle early in the morning and was skirting cutover pine land that was on the cusp of Poronui farmland and beech forest. Poronui has a lot of such places, and Poronui female sika are often found here fattening themselves. I had spotted a small group of mothers and yearlings and slowly, over an hour or so, crept into a hidden spot where I could take some photos. Nothing flash, just a couple of cute group pics.

Two clicks later I was about to move on when I noticed all the deer looking right.

Immediately, a reddish-colored sika stag materialized out of the scrub, and, if Cam was with me he would have said proudly, “That right there is why you wait seven years.” It was a ripper animal, a perfectly even eight-pointer with strong tines, good length, and good width. Even better, he didn’t know I was there.

It was early in the rut so he was checking out the girls to see if any were coming into season. He approached each in turn, nostrils flaring and licking his lips with his tongue.

They were not interested so he began thrashing the ground with his antlers and sniffing the ground. A distant rival’s call had him lift his head and let out a weak reply, and a couple of times he focused on my location as though he knew he was being watched.

He hung around on the fringe of the group for about 10 minutes before mooching back into the scrub, looking for more receptive company elsewhere. A bonus of letting quality stags age is that their genes have been passed on over several seasons. He is still out there somewhere.

 

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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