Hunting NZ Red Stags

March 13, 2018

Part 1 Desire & Decisions

by Alan Stevenson.

There is usable stalking daylight till nearly 8.30pm on the South Island. However, when you are on the last day of your hunt, its 7pm and you only have one stag on the ground between two of you… every minute the pressure doubles.

My first trip to “The Land of the Long White Cloud” in November 2017 was only a few weeks behind me when I started quizzing the Guide about what the quality of Free Range Red Stags was like in country he had access to. Never mind that my hunting kitty was low, and that I’d only just been in Kiwiland and had access to plenty of Red country freely offered by generous mates in the Brisbane Valley… the stags and mounts I saw while I was in Christchurch were just bigger and better. And I wanted a piece of that action.

I love hunting Reds (well all species of Deer that I have tried so far, really), but truth is the genetic quality of the vast majority of Brisbane Valley Red Deer is poor. Areas exist where the “bloodline” is better but access to those places is closely guarded, and understandably so. It is possible to pull heavy 10-12 point Stags out of country I have access to, but the fact is they are not that common. Any old Stag is a real trophy, and usually a hard hunt. I have a few hard – earned heads of those old gully dwellers now, after 7 years hunting Reds. And I look forward to getting more, however New Zealand offered the chance of a more regal Stag, yet which would still be a bush animal and a trophy to earn. The thoughts of a chance to hunt such an animal began to take up waaaay too much of my time.My wife saw me looking through pictures of Stags taken there over and over, and asked what I was obsessing about this time. I pointed out the big Reds and she agreed that they were very impressive. And then suggested I go. “Can’t, haven’t got the coin saved for that and won’t have time to”. She thought about this for a while and then suggested that I redraw some of the excess money I had overpaid on our little house in town we used when more of our kids were in school. We planned to sell it anyway, so why not take some of the profit early…? That was easy - decision made, just like that! My guide had two possible spots available, one in April and a cancellation in late February. Be the first Red hunter he guided in the year? Yes please; February it was. And in case is wasn’t obvious, my wife is a hunting enabler. She has no interest in hunting herself, but understands its importance to me. Ain’t that cool?

We could hunt two up; was any of my mates available on short notice? Yeah, Bevo put his hand up just 5 weeks out and said he was keen. He only needed… everything but a rifle. Passport, backpack, camo, good boots etc… He got it done though, and pounded the pavement every night chasing the fitness needed as best he could. I did a bit of armed hill climbing but not as much as I usually do as despite being very hill fit for my last trip, my right knee gave me grief, and ultimately cut my hunt short. So I was working an exercise bike in my trophy room every evening, for low impact leg muscle work in preparation this time.

Bevan flew into Brisbane on the Friday, a day before our flight. I however had driven down a few days prior and entertained myself with a few days glassing Reds near Kilcoy… just to warm up. No Deer were harmed in this exercise. Sadly.

Hunting New Zealand Red Stags Part 2

Contributors Bio

Alan Stevenson will be 50 in 2018. Born in a small Queensland town, which he still lives near, he is the youngest child of 5.

He has been managing cattle properties since he was 20, and shooting and hunting since he was about 10. In the late 70s, during the bad droughts, Alan went into 'roo control shooting and then rabbits, wild dogs and pigs on the family country. He took up reloading at 18. In his thirties he began expanding his rifle collection, and as opportunities arose from his late 30's Alan pursued more wild game species. He has now hunted all deer species in Australia other than Hog Deer but Banteng and Camels remain elusive. In the past decade Alan has pursued African Plains Game  and now Tahr and Red Deer in New Zealand.

He plans make a third trip over "the ditch" next year for Tahr (again) & Chamois. Beyond that, North America beckons... Bear & Elk being top of the list.

Alan is a dedicated husband, farmer and father with four children, three of whom hunt and shoot, the fourth too busy with their Grandchildren!