by Ashlee Strange
It was an early start on a Friday morning back in April, to get down to the family hunting block in Taumarunui. I was eager to get my first deer, as on a prior trip three weeks earlier, I had missed out. I had my heart set on my first deer being a stag!
Hubby and I arrived at about 2 p.m. when we unpacked our gear, grabbed the gun, got straight on the four-wheeler and headed for the hills. It was late in the roar with not much vocal action, so there was going to be a bit of walking and a lot of glassing.
After making the decision to head to a spot where hubby had seen a few reasonable stags the weekend before, we jumped off the bike and headed in on foot. About 500m from the bike I spotted a spiker sitting in the sun in a patch of grass between the Manuka in a low-lying swampy gully. The sun was getting low so we decided to move in for a shot. Hubby was keen for some meat for the freezer, and with another day tomorrow there was plenty of time for a larger stag.
I moved down into position about 150m away with a nice rest, and my heart was speeding up with a deer in my crosshair. With the wind in our face, he had no idea we were there, then suddenly he stood up and wandered into the Manuka for no apparent reason. Reassessing a shot as he was in a lot of cover now, out of the corner of my eye I spotted movement about 250m away. At first I wasn’t sure if it was a stag but I knew it was a deer of some sorts, and it was a lot bigger-bodied than the spiker! This animal was definitely worth closer inspection. With it sitting behind a tree, all we could see was his bum and legs through the binos.
We decided to stalk to another position to get a better look at the animal. He must have seen movement as he popped up and trotted out from behind the tree. We were stoked to see a nice, young, even 8-point red stag! We hit the deck with bugger all cover at around a hundred metres away, easily in range for the 7.08mm. He knew something was up but was standing his ground on high alert, and with a nice breeze in our face he was never going to wind us. All we had to do was keep our movement to a minimum. I slid down the grassy bank ever so slowly to get a clear shooting path and found a solid rest. He was staring right at us in the open, and he had my name written all over him. Rest sorted … a couple of deep breaths to calm the nerves and squeeze … BANG! With a solid hit through both lungs it rocked him. He reared up and then hit the deck … a nice clean kill. I couldn’t quite believe it and was absolutely rapt … I had my first stag!
With light getting really low now, there was a quick photo session and the butchering began, he was easy to get to with the bike, so his head was removed, the animal was gutted and then strapped onto the bike and off to the chiller. What a day; three hours out of the truck and I had my first deer on the ground … bring on next year’s roar!