Working a 28 days on 28 days off roster I get a bit of time for some leisure, but heading to work on the 25th of March is not ideal when you like hunting stags in the roar. One of the longest months in my life!
Suzi and Blair with two more sika heads for the collection.
Back from the shipyard in China and ready to go stag hunting, my wife Suzi had all the food and gear prepared, all I had to do was load it into her car ready for the morning. We travelled to Taupo and I took Suzi through the usual ritual – go to Hunting & Fishing for any last minute things, then off to Stag Park for breakfast. Finally we were at Heli Sika, and to say I was excited would be an understatement. I just love hunting sika stags during the roar. Being a late starter last year and not seeing much action I was hoping for a lot better this year.
We were soon flying towards the Lower Ripia. At the hut we unloaded our gear. Suzi put the food out and organized the hut while I wondered off to get some water from the creek. With that done we took our day bags and went out for a look. This was the first time Suzi had been deer stalking and I showed her all the sign deer leave in the bush.
About an hour from camp we came across some very fresh droppings. I took about five more paces then the high pitched squawk from a sika hind rung out. I turned to Suzi and said, “That’s what they do when they know you’re there.” We never did get a look at that hind and carried on up the spur and along the ridge.
Next morning dawned with not the greatest of weather but we finally got out for a walk and headed for a few wallows I’d marked the year before. We found them but it didn’t look like there had been a stag there for at least five days. Were we too late? We continued on, spooking a couple of hinds, and that was about it for the day, back to camp to plan tomorrow’s attack. Next morning dawned a nice day so we decided to do a bit of fly camping. We loaded up our packs and headed out, seeing a few hinds on the way, plus a few scrapes made by stags. We were in the right area but there was still nothing making a noise.
The next morning was nice again too. We headed off about 40 minutes from the fly until we came onto a saddle. I heard a quiet mew and stopped, but it was too late, the sika stag winded us and departed. I got a glimpse of him and he was a beauty too!
We continued on towards another saddle, then over the edge in a gut I heard a red stag going off his head. We decided to go back along the saddle to a better position. I changed the cards in the AJ caller and gave a roar but no reply. About 10 minutes went by so I gave another roar – still no reply. Next minute crunch, crunch, snap! I turned on my scope cam and readied the .308. Then I could see the big brute marching towards us. I raised my rifle and he stopped just behind a tree and poked his head out from behind it. I waited patiently for him to move again but he didn’t present a shot. Then suddenly he turned and cut through a clear patch heading away from us. I gave a moan and his head snapped around – BOOM! Right between the shoulders. We took the venison steaks back to the fly camp, then packed up and made our way back to the hut.
A red stag in sika country, dropped by a shoulder shot with the "Bush Pig" .308.
ONTO A SIKA
The following morning we found more fresh sign and heard a heehaw about 500 to 600 metres away from the hut. We made a beeline for where we though the roar came from. About 200 metres away from where we thought the stag was, in amongst some rough scrub, I climbed up on a log for a better view. As I stood up vertical, straight in front of me was a 6-point sika – staring right at me for second before it vanished!
Out with the AJ caller. As the stag crashed away I pressed the first button my finger could hit. At the single call I heard the stag stop, but he was out of sight in the scrub. I called to Suzi to join me on the log and as she scrambled up we both heard the stag moving off again.
We made a decision to get out to the main spur where the bush was more open. We were almost there when we heard a heehaw within 100 metres. The wind was right but we were loosing light fast in the bush now – it was after 5pm.
I gave a call, but got no reply. Five minutes went past, then another five. I gave the caller to Suzi and said, “Try a mew.” She did that and we got an instant response. The look on her face was priceless. Again she mewed and got another instant response, closer this time. She mewed at him a couple more times – first he was closer again, then he was back at his original position. I couldn’t figure out what was going on because I couldn’t hear him moving between the different positions.
It was now 5:25 and I figured we had about 20 minutes of light left. “We gotta move.” We headed down the spur a bit until we reached a nice basin off the side. Here we got into a good position and tried another call. The stag came in and I got a quick glimpse of him. I whispered to Suzi who was behind a tree, “I saw him – give him a mew.”
At the call the stag instantly stepped out from behind a patch of pepperwood with his antlers laid back and let out a long “mewwwwww”. I had the "Bush Pig" .308 up – BOOM! The bullet struck his front shoulder and went through the heart, but he still crashed away into the scrub. Then we heard another series of crashes off in the opposite direction – a second animal! That explained it, there had been two stags mewing at each other, not one stag moving between positions.
Out with our head torches now to find the stag I’d shot. We found a blood trail and followed it and lost it about three times. It was almost pitch black by the time we finally we found him. A nice 7-pointer jap stag.
I was stoked, and only 250 metres from the hut. We did the usual photos and took the meat, making our way back in the dark. Next morning we woke to rain on the roof and a bit of wind that lasted most of the day. I went for a short walk then packed it in. The rain continued to fall that night, and in the morning we decided to let the bush dry out for an hour or so before heading out.
Slowly making our way across the first flat we found a few more scrapes and tree rubs. We stopped just before the creek and were figuring our way across when we heard the unmistakable sound of a deer approaching. Suzi saw it first, ”There’s one and it’s got antlers!”
I raised the .308 and fired and the stag went upside down and backwards. A 4-pointer. I said to Suzi, “You must be my good luck charm – a red and two sika stags in a couple of days!” She just smiled. We took a few photos and I butchered the animal and we had a quiet 300 metre stroll back to the hut in time for lunch!
Wet, thick scrub! Blair with the four-point sika stag.
We chilled out at the hut that afternoon. Suzi read her book and I had a couple beers and removed the skins from the heads. I also removed the jaws for the Hunters & Habitat jaw box. Next morning I went for one last walk as Suzi cleaned up our gear and got ready for the chopper. As before I came across a couple hinds and some scrapes, but I was back at the hut by 10 am. Sam arrived as scheduled and flew us back to Heli Sika, the first leg of our journey home