Roar Tips & InfoBy Hayden Sturgeon
- 19th Nov, 2019 Nov 19, 2019, 12:00 AM
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During the rut, a little preparation can go a long way
As the saying goes, “...90% of the deer get shot by 10% of the hunters.” Having a couple of plans in mind can be a really good idea. Weather can change and stop you in your tracks, but with good old Plan B you may be able to recover and walk in or fly to another area. Tools like Google Earth have opened a whole new dimension to hunting and allow you to pick the hillsides apart as well as making camp sites and planned routes a lot easier to find.
Other useful tips are; check your online doc web page – this can show you 1080 drops along with WARO activities. If you plan to fly in, talk with your local pilot for potential information about pressure from other hunting parties, and also to ensure that you’re booked in – I’ve often seen two parties wanting to go to the same spot due to double-booking.
Pre-roar scouting can be very valuable over the summer months. You can spend time locating hinds, stags in velvet, old rubs and wallows, game trails, water sources etc, along with learning the layout of the land. Knowing how the area hunts best will help you achieve your goal come roar time.
Game cameras have become very popular. They help identify wallowing activities, along with capturing images of those elusive stags that keep their movements to a minimum.
Different seasons can have an impact on the condition of the stags, along with their antler growth. Depending on WARO activities (Wild Animal Recovery Operations, aka; helicopter hunting), hunting the tussock tops might not be the best idea.
Camping just off the bush edge and dropping down to hunt the lower bush benches, ridges, and spurs, could be a better plan. But if the tops are WARO free, hunting the upper basins along with letting your binos do the work can be a good way to locate potential stags. The more time you spend in an area the more you will get to understand the habits of the deer and how to hunt them.
Always go prepared and expect the unexpected. Good gear goes a long way to helping you deal with different situations. Your gear list will differ depending on your plans. If you’re going to base yourself out of a hut or main base camp you’re typically going to have a few more luxuries that make the trip that bit nicer. But if you plan to hit the hills running and fly camp in different locations across your proposed hunting grounds you’ll need to be very particular about what you pack.
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This is where good, light weight gear can make getting around that much easier. There are some good NZ branded clothing companies such as Huntech, SWAZI, Stoney Creek and Ridgeline to name a few that offer a full range of clothing from base layers to full wet weather cover that can keep you warm and dry in any conditions.
“...if you plan to hit the hills running and fly camp ...you’ll need to be very particular about what you pack...”
Food preparation is another element not to be overlooked, you will be burning a lot of calories while working the hills so a well-thought out meal plan will help you work harder and recover faster. There’s plenty of good information on the internet about energy foods. As for cooking and camping gear, you can’t do much better than the products tested and reviewed by NZGUNS’s writers in recent years.
EXECUTING THE STALK
There are no set rules on how to stalk deer, but there are a few tips that will potentially help you be successful. Locating a roaring stag or having a stag reply to your roars are a good start – you know there’s one in the area. Being mindful of the wind direction while closing the gap is paramount as the stag will be looking to cut your wind and find out who the intruder is.
Some stags can get all worked up by other stags in the area and in this situation I find it easier to sneak in while they’re making all the noise. By doing this you’re not giving away your location, but be mindful of hinds and rival stags when you’re getting close – they can ruin a good stalk by barking or crashing off and spooking the main stag as they leave.
Some stags will hold their ground and place themselves inside some really tight bush that gives them cover, making it harder for the hunter to access them without being busted. Every situation is different, but the main principles of stalking apply.
Take your time and be patient in your approach. Big mature stags are old for a reason and most will only give you one chance.
Trophies of course mean different things to different people but for the purposes of this article we’ll focus on the traditional large rack of stained timber that many hunters spend their lifetimes chasing. Studying deer genetics and researching the original release areas can help you decide on your trophy hunting spot, but books like Bruce Banwell’s collections are rich in the history of trophies from bygone eras.
A lot has changed over the years with extensive venison recovery reducing deer numbers, but many areas still produce a few quality trophy heads if you’re willing to put in the effort. In low density deer areas like much of our public land you’ll need to cover the miles to be successful.
"Take your time and be patient in your approach. Big mature stags are old for a reason and most will only give you one chance."
Genetic improvements have been employed on private high country stations in the South Island, along with parts of Gisborne and Wairoa on the East Coast of the North Island. These properties have produced some huge stags but you can still find some giants on public land if you do your homework and prepare well, depending on what species you are targeting. Shooting young stags and velvet stags won’t help your chances but we still need to cull inferior stags along with taking meat animals to help herd management.
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There’s still plenty of public land that offers good stag numbers, but you will spend a lot of time passing up lesser stags to find that reasonable head if you are serious about taking a wall-hanger. Remember too, that a trophy is in the eye of the beholder.
This is often forgotten and when the dream trophy head is at your feet after years of effort you don’t want to stuff up the final step. A sharp and appropriate type of knife is essential for this task. Great tutorials about this can be found on YouTube or in the pages of the various hunting magazines, but it’s best to practice the steps on meat animals to ensure you get your trophy out clean and tidy.
You don’t want your chosen taxidermist to be presented with a mess, for example failing to cape and cool the skin can result in hair slippage. You are better to leave too much skin on than not enough and if you’re not completely happy don’t hesitate to get your trophy to your taxidermist asap.
It’s imperative beyond all else that you clearly identify your target before pulling the trigger. It’s better to let an animal go than take a poor, uncalculated shot that could ruin your hunting career along with taking someone’s life. It can be easy, especially in the roar in thick bush with your adrenalin running, to mis-register the information you are seeing, so slow down and ensure you are 100% positive it’s an animal you are aiming at.
Use the safety systems on offer such as hi-viz clothing, Eperbs, Garmin In-Reach or GPS, which can all help turn a bad situation into a better one. Sites like Mountain Safety Council and NZDA offer valuable information and even us seasoned hunters should brush up on the basic firearm safety.
Before leaving camp discuss your intended plan with other members of your party and stick to it. Be prepared to walk back to camp or pack out of an area if you feel it’s unsafe – there’s always another time. A basic first aid kit is a must, and taking a learner’s first aid course is a great way to master the correct techniques for dealing with cuts, broken bones or CPR should a hunting buddy get into trouble.
Ensure you have a quality head light and make sure you carry spare batteries as more than likely you will be journeying back in the dark at some point.