Thursday, the pressure was on. Two days left to hunt and we had shot nothing but gongs. Time to get it done. With the clearing rain the temps had dropped, there was snow above us and I don’t know how cold it was up on the hill, but it was 3 degrees when we left the Hilux. And there was a breeze. We made our way around to the ridge we had watched the big 11 pointer on and glassed, and glassed, and glassed. And for 6 hours we saw nothing but hinds and young stags. Nothing big at all.We took turns hiding away from the breeze, but I mostly kept looking north, at a good sized group of hinds resting in the open far away where we had seen the massive 14 pointer on Monday evening. Tom sat down beside me again and glassed the Manuka area to the East of the grass opening they had camped in and then said “Shit, he’s there. The big 14, I just got a glimpse of him heading toward those hinds!”We had to get closer. There was a little saddle ridge that we might be able to see the opening from directly between us and the Hinds. Decision made, we climbed down and carefully, quietly and as quickly as we could made our way to the ridge. On the way we traversed a well-hidden little slide that stunk of Stag, which did nothing at all to quell my excitement.[caption id="attachment_774" align="alignright" width="542"]
I made myself comfortable on the grassy left edge and ranged the opening at 299m. Tom swapped out his Swaro spotting scope off the tripod for his camera and set up to the right and we were ready. Just in time. The Imperial headed Stag walked out of cover into the open below the hinds and started to feed, and I closed the bolt. I waited for a minute or two while the big fella was turned away from me and as he turned to the left and presented side on Tom spoke quietly “when you’re ready”.
300metres exactly, slightly uphill… that’s as good a zero hold as I am going to get. Standard lying rest with rifle over the backpack for a right-handed shooter, body kicked to the left. I had those lucky few minutes to control my breathing and heartrate waiting for him to turn and when I slowly squeezed the trigger on my custom .
300Wby the hold was as good as I have ever had, in the field. The 150gn Barnes TTSX hit him right where I wanted it and exited. Tom calls “Perfect Shot!” The double 7 drops, rolls downhill and crawls a few metres forward, his shoulders blown and his boiler room holed.
https://youtu.be/KvhtRelOMg4And then he slowly stands. He shakes and wobbles, muscles defying the lack of blood and oxygen and with head tilted up staggers around in a circle. All behind a bush from me. I feed another round into the .300, and then he starts a stumbling run downhill, for the Manuka.
I KNOW the shot was good. He’s dead on his feet. But it’s bloody rough in there and we don’t have the time to spare to spend hours finding him. I don’t want to lose the best bush stag I have ever seen, even if it’s just for a while. I also don’t want to wreck his head or face because he is nearly front on to me now. I have just a second or so to process this and I am about to lose sight of him. So I try to pump one into his chest. He drops. And the shakes set in.
The three of us take about ½ hour to get up there, and all the time I am worried about the second shot. I feel I had to take it, but I am stressing a bit. And with cause… when I get to him you can tell I had not allowed for the lag while he travelled downhill toward me and the shot is high… and it’s clipped off his brow and bey tine. But, it coulda been worse. I could have wrecked his face. He could have stumbled another few hundred metres and been real hard to find, let alone retrieve. I find the tines and am hardly the first bloke to shoot an antler before. The taxidermist can fix these. And a better Stag than I ever dreamed I would get is dead at my feet. My first shot was perfect (we still can’t figure out how he got up, such determination!) and it was a fair chase. I realise I don’t care at all. It’s fixable and we didn’t lose him. Tom delivered, the rifle was flawlessly accurate, I got the load and the shot right and this beautiful country had again delivered up to and beyond my expectation.
To be continued