By adam, 28 June 2010
STAGS ON THE TRACK
Having lived in Wellington for a couple of years, I had come to enjoy the Tararuas. They had offered me some neat tramping, fly-fishing and camping. Despite this, I had not done a lot of deer stalking in it. After all,the Tarauas have never been very well noted for deer numbers or trophy potential. This does offer one distinct advantage though, in that there are fewer hunters in the roar making hunting both more enjoyable and safer.
We woke to a dawn typical to the others on our trip. It was cold, wet and blustery. Once again the deer weren’t roaring, we had missed the roar by about a week, and our hunting gear was soaked. Harry, Ewan and I hadalready spent a few days in the Tararua bush. We had so far been unsuccessful in our hunting venture, despite Ewan and I seeing a couple of hinds. I had also managed to roar in a stag on the first day but didn’t get a good look at itbefore it took wind of me.
This was our final day of hunting and we were intent on getting, at the very least, a bit of meat to stock up our freezers. The plan this morning was to go our separate ways to cover as much ground as possible and increase our chances of success. While Harry and Ewan were going to go up separate sides of the valley we were camped in, I was to head up and over, into another valley altogether.
After scoffing my face with some oats and drowning my tiredness in coffee, I wished the boys “hot barrels” and began my ascent up and over the ridge. I went at a fairly quick stalking pace, wanting to put as much distance between me and our human scent infested hunting grounds as possible,while trying not to spook any potential deer on the way. While it was a moderately steep climb, the bush was fairly open under the canopy so my eyes were peeled.
Upon reaching the top, I had a snack to refuel and then slowly descended my way down and across the valley, into the wind, at a slow and steady pace. It was beautiful stalking country with a mix of scrub,clearings, creeks, tree fall and plenty of deer sign. Shame about the wind though which, as it often does in steep valleys, was swirling around sending my scent in every possible direction. Eventually, I reached the bottom of the valley where I began to move my way slowly down stream glassing the slips and listening for roars as I went.
Next thing I knew, I felt a sharp shooting pain on the back of my head, followed by another one. I brushed the back of head and a wasp fell to the ground. “$%^# ya you stupid *@#!” I yelled, probably alarming every deer within the vicinity. Somehow, I had never been stung by a wasp before and I wasn’t keen to find out if I was allergic or not. So I began picking up my pace to a fast walk but was stung again and again until I was eventually running whilst waving my hands around my face like a mad man.
After a good five or so minutes I stopped again only to find more wasps stinging me. This was getting ridiculous, so I lay my rifle to the side and jumped into the creek to remove the pheromones left behind by the other wasps, which was obviously the reason why I was getting stung over and over again. To my relief it worked. Unfortunately though, I had just run past all the prime country I was planning to hunt. I decided to continue down stream to a track anyway, that would take me back camp.
Once I reached the track, I noticed that there were a few deer prints on it and that there was no sign of human traffic having been on it recently. With this in mind, I slowly stalked my way back along the track withmy eyes peeled.
After only 5 minutes on the track, I came around a corner to see a bloody great big deer running away from me. “OI!” I yelled, in an attempt to get him to halt and have a look. Luckily for me, he stopped in his tracks and looked back at me. I shouldered the rifle, put the crosshairs on the base of his neck and pulled the trigger. The deer hit the floor instantly, like a great big sack of spuds.
Elated, I sat down to admire the stag that lay in front of me. While he had a horrible set of antlers on him, he was most certainly a large bodied animal. But the adrenaline rush soon wore off and I now realized that I had the arduous task of butchering him and carrying him back to camp. Putting him on my back took some effort, bugger me he was heavy, and I frowned at the thought of the couple of hours walk back to camp I had.
I began the walk back, buckling at the knees as I went. A deer started roaring nearby, I ignored him having just shot enough meat for the three of us for a couple of months. About an hour’s walk later, I saw a large shape out the corner of my eye which began crashing its way through the bush. Must of been another deer I thought. I continued for a little while longer before stopping for a rest and a bite to eat. After a minute or so, I thought I heard a noise to my right, perhaps it was another deer? I lay crouched down inanticipation and soon enough a deer slowly poked his head through the foliage of a nearby bush about only 10 meters away. I stayed as still as possible, not wanting to scare him, just to see what he would do. He slowly lifted his head,took a few big sniffs of the air around him and then, obviously smelling danger,slowly turned around and sneaked away. What a magnificent sight!
Arriving back at camp was a good feeling and the boys where stoked that we had something in the bag. Harry showed me the ultimate measure of“good on ya mate” by giving me the only beer left in camp. By golly, I never knew a can of ranfurly could taste so good!