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Stroppy Sika
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Sika stags have attitude. In the height of the rut they are fully switched on, and on the job as far as procreating the species is concerned. My main knowledge of sika is through observation, and that observation tells me they are assertive, full on scrappers when zapped with testosterone. A sika expert once told me that during the rut sika stags are not just ‘he-haw’, and ‘shrill whistle’ vocalisers. Get in close, he said, and there are a multitude of other noises going on. He was right. On an early trip I stalked in on a rutting stag, and seeing him following a hind gave a call to get his attention. The result was amazing. He spun around and came straight at me, grinding his teeth, and making low growls, moans and squeaks. His eyes sparked anger and his body posture was all aggression. At distance you would not hear any of these messages.

Nearly all the photographs I took of that stag are slightly blurry as he never stopped strutting at me, and only spun away when he caught my scent. Even then he only ran a few paces before glaring back at me and high stepping into the bush. If I had been a stag he was going to have me. On another occasion I was lucky enough to see a big eight pointer calling out in the open. He was fresh out of his wallow and checking out his territory when he heard a rival roaring nearby. He responded immediately and then headed off in the pretender’s direction.

Poronui is like downtown Auckland when it comes to busy sika activity and I remember General Manager Steve Smith once telling me that it is one place where sika deer try to break into the estate rather than the other way around, as there are more of them outside the park than inside it, and there is more tucker in there. Trophy quality is outstanding inside and outside the estate and the best hover around that 180-200 Douglas score bracket. I have never personally shot a monster sika but have seen several in the distance, so I am at least moving in the right direction. Old trophy stags are wise stags, but the rut is when a small chink in their armour is exposed. From late March to early May they are sexually active, and this means they carry out all aspects of rutting behaviour such as vocalisation, rutting pads, territory marking, and fighting. Early and late in the day is the best time for hunting success, and a good, sika hunting guide is your best asset.

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