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Winter Encounter
– Hunting Experiences

A few issues ago I mentioned how in photography the eyes of the quarry tell you what he or she is thinking. Little did I know that soon after that entry I would be eyeballing one seriously amped rusa stag whose eyes said he was not happy. This encounter occurred just a few weeks ago, in July the beginning of the rut for Poronui rusa.

Wow: have the quality of the stags come on since my last rut visit two years ago. Good stags I saw then are now very good stags. Next year many will be ‘as good as they get’ trophies.

On the day in question I was stalking in on a lazy roaring stag that was just letting his rivals know he was in residence. More of a sigh, than a roar, their call comes across as a tired groan. In the process of trying to pinpoint his location I flushed two female rusa who spooked him into thicker brush. Lucky for me a spiker was also hanging around so the stag blamed him for the untimely intrusion and was not unduly worried.

I snuck into the thick stuff and could see two antler tips sticking up above the scrub. No photograph was possible so I let things evolve. When a rival across the valley roared, he revved up and thrashed a bush with his antlers, and tried to get a sitting rusa hind up on her feet. I stepped to the right to see better and instantly he spotted the movement. He stared straight at me through a bush, and I thought I had just blown a great chance for a rare, close up photograph.

Then, the gods smiled on me and he stepped out into an open patch and glared angrily at me. I’ll let the attached photographs tell the story. ‘Who the hell are you, and what are you doing in my bedroom’ sums it up best. Then it just got better as the worried hind also stood up and I secured another top photograph, with the courting couple caught in the same frame. A snort and the hind led the stag away, though they paused once more further away so I could take a last shot.

It had been a special, moment and these photographs rank right up there as the best I have taken. A top trophy, great background, angry eyes, and a gender pair of the species in the same shot. It doesn’t get much better.


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