Hunting NZ Red Stags Part 4

Alan
Stevenson
|
March 14, 2018

Part 4 Bevo on the Boil

by Alan Stevenson.

I dig some leccy tape out of my pack and sort-of reattach his tines. Many pics are taken. Tom capes him (and discovers that my second shot appears to have jarred & broken the big boys neck; that’s why he dropped) and I take as much meat as we can carry out. Tom takes my rifle but the head and cape are my load to walk down the hills with. And I love it.

Caping Out

We take him straight to the taxo who has a laugh about it but reassures me that yeah, fixing those points won’t be an issue. Now it’s Bevan’s turn. Back up into the hills we go. Soooo much easier to walk the hills without a rifle and ammo, just a pack, water and camera. Should do it more often.

Nahhh.

My shot has pushed everything into cover though and we don’t see much but hinds and fawns, however the monster 11 pointer appears again, on a different ridge just before dark. We head back home for a short night. And to again confirm that yes, beer tastes good after success. And Rum tastes even better. As is my habit now, I had snagged a pair of bottles of Bundaberg Liquor in Duty Free. Because you can neck that stuff straight out of the bottle. We all enjoyed the quick celebration. And some venison. Mmmm.

Not surprisingly though, Bevo was worried. This might well be a once only trip for him. He has a young family and Katie, his wife, had very generously pushed him to take this chance while he could. A big financial commitment, and he now had just one day to get a Stag.

A cold bevo

So now it’s Friday. The last day of our hunt and we are on the Redeye next morning. We need to find Stags. And once again, till midday we see nothing but hinds and fawns. It was far hotter and the sky is clearer. Bevan and I are melting in our thermals and fleecy camo, so we both strip out of the thermals and get dressed again. Then, the cloud rolls back over the mountains and the temperature falls by ohhh… 15 degrees. And we are cold again.Finally, a Stag appears. We are on the same point as day one, as far out as we can go. And a heavy 6x5 walks into a tiny opening at 465m. Bevan closes the bolt on his .257Wby Vanguard.

There's a stag in there

A .257 Weatherby is a flat shooting laser and his is sighted only 4” low at 400m. However Bevan is shooting downhill. At 465 metres, and we are frankly guessing where it’s going. We know where it should go in theory, but practical experience would be better. And it’s a shit shot to take. There are some leaves, and the brief look we have shows the Stag with his head turned feeding behind his opposite shoulder. The 100gn monolithic copper projectile will likely exit at that range… and the Stag’s head is in the firing line. Tom gets Bevo to hold fire and then the Stag takes a few steps to feed and is gone from our sight.

There he is.

Bevan is stressing now. Did his one chance just walk off? There is no guarantee he can ever do this trip again. Tom promises an identical booking next year just at day rate with no Trophy Fee but Bevo is understandably under the pump, contemplating “failure”, through no fault of his own. He asks if we could go after the 10 point bush Stag in the pen. Tom wants to deliver the promised free range hunt but Bevan convinces Tom that he will be perfectly happy to hunt in the pen, on the last afternoon. Because there are financial realities he can’t ignore, and time is now real short. We spend the afternoon walking and glassing, and find the breeding Stag and a lot of hinds, and a few young Stags… but no big old swamp donkey.

Then, at 5pm Tom looks down into a likely overgrown gully from a different angle than we had tried before and there he is. Old bastard has been watching us look for him. And he backs into the bushes in the gully and proceeds to wait us out.

We wait, and wait; we can just see the royal tops on his LHS antler and nothing else. In contrast, you can very easily see the weight on Bevan’s shoulders. At 7pm I offer to walk around the ridge and down the head of the gully to flush the stag out. Tom says no, the Stag will bolt and that’ll be it, all over. Bevan has been lying down behind the rifle 300m from the gully where the Stag is holed up for 2 hours now. Finally though, at 7.10pm he finally steps out up onto the bank. Bevan hits him from high, quartering down through the lungs and opposite shoulder in another perfect shot and I have a great view of it in the Bino’s. The others are wondering does he need a second hit but I am confident it’s all over. He can’t move uphill, staggers and falls, rolling into another gully. And doesn’t move again. Bevan’s relief is huuuuuuuge. Job done.

Patience Rewarded

We take pics and Tom capes again, Bevo gets the carry out experience and we roll straight to the taxo. Barry Ryan is a nice fella and doesn’t seem to care that we take him away from the Rugby Union at the pub. We drop off Bevans Trophy and pick up mine and my mate Cameron’s Tahr skulls and tanned capes (our November 2017 hunt) from there for me to take back to Australia in just a few hours.Our hunt is done, and we are both happy. I was the lucky one, getting to shoot a stonker first after Gita shortened our time on the ground.

In Bevan’s shoes I might have felt conflicted because we knew that Stag had to be there; but likely done the same thing he did on Friday. My wish is always to earn the trophy. Hunt hard. No “cheating”. Reality intrudes though. Time spent “out there” in the bush is all very well – I live in the bush after all and love it. And I have done plenty of hunts that ended in no result. But the romance of the hunt without success won’t always sustain you. When you know you will do it again, and often, you can be happy enough without success every time. Because there will be many more chances. But when you have stretched yourself financially for what might very well be the once-in-a-lifetime hunt… you won’t ever be happy with saying “oh well I didn’t get anything but at least I was out there” about THAT hunt. Bevan had one chance to down a Stag and shot perfectly. He earned it. And I am very happy for him. And glad that I wasn’t in his position. Because I (barring disaster) will be able to do it again… but I still would have hammered that Stag, that evening. I reckon for Bevo, that is a hard earned once-in-a-lifetime trophy. To quote him – “You can only fuck with the dick you got. And this is the dick I got”.

Editor Note: Great Sentiments Alan.Decide that one for yourself. But I will return to NZ. I booked a Tahr Rut hunt just before I started to write this. I confirmed a few other things though, whilst over in Kiwiland.

  • The best optics you can buy are vital. They always are anyway, but for South Island hunting… doubly so. I need a Badlands or Stony Creek Bino chest case (that’s on order).
  • I wish I could run a suppressor… like almost everyone in New Zealand. I haven’t fired my rifle there without being bitched at for it being so loud and hurting ears, and scaring animals away. And I don’t think I have the most powerful rifle ever seen there. That we are denied use of silencers in Australia defies rational common sense. I had a few Kiwi’s look at my rifle, then look puzzled and ask why I didn’t have a “shusher”. Good Question.
  • No such thing as too much practice and development with your rifle and load. Long shots are likely. You must know how to get the job done at range, and be carrying the gear to do it.
  • Being fit for the job helps. And having an understanding and enabling wife/partner helps even more.

Finally, all Kiwis seem to have an attitude toward hunting that Australians in general could use. What reception do you think three stinking, half cammed up and splattered with blood blokes would get at a servo in Australia in a city late at night.Bet it wouldn’t be  

“you boys must have had some luck by the look of ya, what’d you get?”

Hunting New Zealand Red Stags Part 1

Hunting New Zealand Red Stags Part 2

Hunting New Zealand Red Stags Part 3