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Let The Sika Stags Come To You
– Hunting Experiences

In the late summer months sika stags keep to themselves. While large numbers of hungry young animals and adult females intermingle and graze the forest edges and Poronui farmland, the stags are elsewhere.

Summer is for eating

The stags make the most of summer conditions to feed up on the heavy grass cover. Their velvet antlers are sensitive, and they aren’t keen on jostling with other stags or banging against branches and trees. They know this is the time to build up the reserves for the rut – there is plenty of time for fighting with other stags then! They strut out of the bush, say hello to a few of the regulars then it is head down and full on munching for hours. Their coats gleam, their bodies are fat and well-conditioned, and they may still have a male mate or two tagging along. There is little animosity at this stage and little noise.

April is rutting bedlam

By mid-March the stags will be heading to their rutting territories, which may be miles from where they spent the summer. Once April arrives the deer are still coming out of the bush at dawn and dusk but that is the only constant. The stags have changed from docile gluttons to aggressive, assertive, squealing warriors seeking territory and hinds. The urge to mate brings on a red mist that dominates waking hours. Competition is intense and fights and battle wounds are common. Eating food is replaced with pacing and marking territory, digging scrapes, threatening, and fighting rivals and pestering hinds. 

Poronui guides are on the job

The hunting guides on Poronui have observed these behaviour changes and know they need to scout regularly to be confident of putting a hunter in the right place for a trophy stag.  There is plenty of choices as Poronui is the ancestral home of New Zealand sika and a big property. By April the rutting behaviour and general location of territorial stags have become more predictable and it is often best to spend plenty of time glassing from a suitable lookout so individual undisturbed trophy animals can be assessed without spooking the area. 

The Magic Hour

On a recent hunting trip to Poronui I visited one top April ambush spot that has been very successful for hunters in the past. It was a scrub covered knoll halfway up a hill-face that looked across to a gully where deer regularly filtered out of the bush each evening. The tactic was to arrive at the knoll when deer were absent (suits a dusk hunt) and wait until they began filtering out of the bush. The magic hour before darkness was when most trophy stags were taken. It was amazing how animals just arrived without making any noise. On my hunt an impressive stag strutted out well within range. He eventually stood on the ridge with the blue sky behind him and the waning sun brightening the grass. He was a poster boy for the property but just a year or two off full maturity so was left to his hinds. A stunning sight I will not forget. I backed out quietly and left them to their antics.

Greg Morton
Previously New Zealand correspondent for three USA based outdoors publications: The Hunting Report; The Bird Hunting Report and The Angling Report, Presently writes a monthly article named Fair Chase for New Zealand Fishing News and a hunting blog for Poronui.
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