New Zealand Stag Story - A ReelCamoGirl Guest Blog
Author - Sheri Lynn
As with most of my “Non- Canadian” hunts, my New Zealand Stag hunt was part of a planned group trip with 5 friends. Lindsay Fraser is the man behind Fraser Safaris; a meticulously run outfitting lodge near Christchurch New Zealand. Lindsay would be the one taking me on what turned out to be one of the most memorable hunts of my life.
Day one was spent sighting in our bows and getting used to the guns provided by the lodge. I was using Lindsay’s 25-06 instead of my crossbow. I didn’t think I would get a successful shot because of the steep, hilly terrain. Lindsay took us touring around the area, showing us hunting land options and looking for stag. We were spotting stag antlers without the use of binoculars and didn’t take long for everyone’s excitement to build!
After we got a feel for our surroundings, we headed back to the lodge to have supper and a good night’s sleep.
The second morning we headed out along neatly manicured, but winding roads. Eventually we came to a vibrant green meadow that stretched out for miles until it reached the base of a very steep, towering hillside. (These are some of the same mountains that provided the setting for the “Lord of the Rings” movie.) Without even glassing the area, we could see the shine of two sets of antlers in the grass about 400+ yards up the hill. Lindsay and I watched them both through our binoculars and discussed their attributes. They were both nice stag, and would score well over 350. Lindsay told me that either stag would be a great option and that if I decided to try to hunt one, we could begin the hike to attempt to get close enough for a shot. After a bit more discussion, and the option of not one but two amazing animals it was decided there was no time like the present and we headed up the incline to the right of the stags.
**One thing I will interject here, is that there is no treadmill in North America that adjusts to match the incline of the hill angles in New Zealand. If I ever go back, I will be taking cleats or spike shoes of some kind!**
I was focused on the stag on the left as he was a bit more unique. We made it about 150 yards in the direction of the stag when they both became aware that they had company and stood up. This gave us an even better view of what they had to offer. I still preferred the one on the left so we carried on; trying to move fast and stay low. Although I cannot say how long it took for us to get on a level spot within shooting range of the stags, I can say that it was a sweet relief to be able take my pack off and sit down! The stags were below us in a valley that spanned over 100 yards. The “right” stag was heading up the hill at the base of the valley, and the “left” stag was no longer visible.
I instantly felt discouraged, and thought I had lost my chance at the stag that I had my heart set on. Panning from the higher bull and back down trying to find the lower one, proved to be futile. My attention turned to the higher bull, he was a good size too, and would also be a great “first” stag. We had had a bit of a rest and caught our breath to get ready for more climbing. As we stood up, movement below us in the valley caught our attention. It was the stag I had been looking for! We crept low up a small hill to where there was an area of tree cover and glassed him again, he was close to the bottom of the valley heading straight for a draw that would bring him directly across from us if he stayed on course.
After a few minutes, the stag started running. If he made it over the next hill, we would have to hike all the way back down into the valley and up the other side. We would be lucky to even spot him again after all of that. Luckily for me, he paused on a ledge and looked around. I had the rifle ready with my crosshairs on him and decided that now had to be the time.. I pulled the trigger. The bull began to stagger. He tried to continue up the hill but fell a few steps later. After a huge sigh of relief, a series of hand shakes and high fives, it was time to go check out this beautiful beast. (It's funny how the backpack and rifle sling didn’t seem to be as heavy as they were 20 minutes before! ) When we finally reached my stag, I was overwhelmed with how thick his horns were. He had really thick bases and no broken points. He was the perfect bull.
We moved him to a spot that wasn’t so steep and set up for pictures before we started the big job of getting him out of there. I couldn’t stop smiling the whole trip back to the lodge! The guides scored the stag for me. 383 was the final verdict. That night after supper I laid in bed exhausted and wore out from the day. I was excited for what was in store for the rest of the week. I still needed to climb those hills again to go after an Arapawa Ram! I would like to give a kudos to Rion White of Orion Taxidermy in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan for capturing the beauty of my 2013 New Zealand Stag in an awesome shoulder mount that I display with pride in my home.