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Stag of a lifetime!

By Dave Irving
  •   14th Oct, 2020 Oct 14, 2020, 12:32 PM
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It was during a weekend trip to Whanganui in an effort to try and bag some meat for the freezer as well as getting some much need time away from work, that I managed to secure my best red stag to date. However, it wasn't without some stressful moments!


It was on the last evening of our three day trip that after missing an opportunity to secure what would of been my personal best fallow buck, and passing up a few meat animal's, the pressure was now on to bag an animal, at least for the freezer. 


As the afternoon wore on, I found myself tucked into a small goat track on the side of a cliff. I lay down on a perfect grass shelf that overlooked a clearing. Not long into things, I spotted a large red stag feeding on the clearing. He was quartering away and heading towards the native bush.


Counting at least six points on his right side, he looked very impressive. It was a steep downhill shot and I would only have the once chance at getting him...


Dialling 170m on my Tikka .300 Win. Mag; I carefully engaged the trigger and slowly squeezed off the shot. The blast from the muzzle resulted in my losing sight of the stag in the scope, but I was confident of a solid hit. Grabbing my binos, I glassed the clearing and saw two big red stags running off from the clearing. Disaster, or so I thought!


“Not long into things, I spotted a large red stag feeding up on the clearing. He was quartering away and heading towards the native bush.”


I couldn't believe it. Quickly ranging and dialling for 300 yards to were they were as they weaved up the valley towards the thick native bush at the top ridge. All I could see was what looked like two 12pt red stags steadily walking away. As hard as it was, I refrained from taking another shot as all I could see was their tail ends and antlers swaying from side to side.


I put my head in my hands, I couldn't believe it. I replayed the shot over and over in my head for, absolutely gutted at what had just happened. I had just missed the biggest stag I'd ever had a chance to take a shot at.


Prior to the hunt we had visited the range to make sure the rifle was on target. I'd had a perfect rest with the bipod and felt as if the shot had been perfect. I couldn't believe that I had missed and to then see two of the biggest stags I'd ever seen, running off from the clearing, I was beyond disappointed.


My hunting mate, who had watched the shot through the binos said that he had flinched at the shot and didn't see the hit. We packed up and heading down the cliff face to were the stag should of been and nothing, no blood trail, no tufts of hair, no stag of a lifetime on the ground, nothing...


I was gutted to say the least. I put my rifle and backpack down and proceeded to grid search the area by torchlight. It was completely dark by this time and doubts of ever finding him grew as the minutes ticked by.


Following the stag prints up the hill to where the I had seen the two stags run from, we both looked for drops of blood, hair, just any tiny chance or glimmer of hope to show I'd hit it. Still nothing.


“Prior to the hunt we had visited to the range to make sure the rifle was on target. I'd had a perfect rest with the bipod and felt as if the shot had been perfect. I couldn't believe that I had missed and then to see two of the biggest stags I'd ever seen, running off from the clearing, I was beyond disappointed.”


I replayed the shot over and over in my head, trying to come up with an excuse for the miss. After an hour of grid searching in the dark I gave up and said to my mate that I'd come back at first light for another look before the long drive home.


As we grabbed our packs and rifles, my hunting mate said, “After you took the shot the stag looked like it jumped and ran left over that small bank.”. I hadn't checked that side as I was too busy looking at the two stags walking straight up the valley out of the clearing.


I said to him that I'd quickly have one more look and then meet him down on the track as it was pitch black now and getting late. We split up and I headed up the hill once again. I just wasn't quite ready to head back to the hut and endure the nightmares about missing my stag of a lifetime.


As I walked over to the bank and through the manuka scrub, I got a strong whiff of stag. I followed my nose through a little creek bed and up and over the next bank.


Then, as I shone my torch into the gloom of the night in a last ditch effort, BOOM! There he was, one very large and very dead, red stag. But how? I had taken the shot and then watched as two big stags ran out of the clearing?


I watched them walk all the way up out of sight over the ridge? There must of been three stags! However, the time to reminisce on that moment could wait, I now had my stag. Still not believing my eyes, I ran up and put my hand on it, he was warm, a sure sign that it was indeed the stag!


The stag where he fell. A welcome sight for any hunter!


I yelled out to my hunting mate “I found it!”, “The stag, it's down right here!”. He came running up the hill and we both stood there in disbelief. Some high fives were in order and after a few quick photos under torchlight, we dressed him out and then hatched a plan to leave him there for retrieval first thing in the morning.


We had gone from the lowest of lows to the highest of highs within a matter of seconds. The feeling of achievement and disbelief of what had just happened was overwhelming and we were instantly buzzing. We reached the hut on an absolute high and enjoyed a couple of whiskeys before a much needed sleep!


We retrieved the stag in the morning and took it out whole so that I could cape the head skin for sending off to the taxidermist. He was a magnificent animal and I felt that getting him mounted was the best way to show the stag the respect he deserves. Plus, I'll have him on my wall forever to remember!


Taking every last scrap of meat, we took it all to the butcher to be made into salamis, sausages, and backsteaks for the BBQ. It had been an epic trip to say the least and it goes to show that if you put in the hard yards you just never know your luck.


I'll never forget that hunt for the rest of my life. Hunting is one of those things that is hard to understand if you've never given it a go.


My advice is to get out there and see for yourself, whether it's on the water or in the bush. Give it 100% and simply enjoy your time in the outdoors!




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