14 At Last

At 59 I had still not shot what could be classed as even a half decent red stag. I had plenty of eight pointers and one arguable 12 – eight good points and four bumps! It certainly wasn’t from a lack of trying and over recent years I had honed my gear so that two and three-day trips could be accomplished without carrying too much crap.

I already had two unsuccessful trips into a certain valley, but each trip left me wanting to go back for another look. After a hectic summer of work at Top Catch Charters – Kaikoura, I had a window of opportunity to get away from March 11-13. Perfect, as the stags should still be out feeding up before the roar but still have hard antler.

After a three-hour slog I made it to my camp site and got set up for an early night before a big day hunting the following day. As I had a couple of hours before dark, I climbed a leading ridge to glass the surrounding country. Fog made this difficult, but I did get to watch a hind and yearling come out for a feed just before dark. Back to the tent we went, my collie cross, Frankie and me.

An hour and a half before daylight I was up and getting ready with a good breakfast and a hot coffee. Enough supplies for the day were loaded into my pack and we were off an hour before daylight. Just before daylight we encountered low cloud, which was a real downer as seeing anything was going to be difficult to say the least! I decided to push on and climb higher and was rewarded with the cloud lifting right on daybreak.

A scan of the first head basin with the Pulsar showed up five deer so it was off with the pack to get the binos into action. Disaster, I had left the Leicas back in the tent! After silently berating myself for such an amateurish mistake I decided to check the animals out with my scope. This showed four hinds and one lone animal I could not identify. I hatched a plan to stalk in to 200 metres and suss this one out with the scope. I dropped back out of sight and began a slow climb to get within range, while checking out some small gullies on the way.

The first gully was devoid of life as was the second bigger one, so it was time to catch my breath before a final push to a saddle that would give me a good view of the lone animal. As I stood there on the ridge top, I was jolted into life as I spied a stag feeding right out in the snow grass at the head of the gully, only 150 metres from where I stood.

Crouching down I put the bipod on the rifle and wound the scope up to evaluate the head. He looked okay with three on each top, albeit not that strong in length. It was then I noticed two more stags with him which complicated things more. I quickly looked them over and decided they were younger but better quality relative to tine length and shape. One was an eight pointer and the other a 10, so the decision was made to take the first stag. I got Frankie into heel then put a round up the Sako, a pretty easy shot into the chest and down he went. The other two made their way slowly out of the gully and I wished them well for the future hoping to bump into them in a year or two.

It was only a five-minute climb to my prize and I was blown away to find he was in fact a 14 pointer! Not a massive head but very even and everything I could want in a head off public land. I sent a message on my inReach to my partner, Fiona, to let her know what I had done, and I would be home a day earlier than planned. After removing the head and back steaks it was only an hour to get back to camp where I packed up for the walk back to my Hilux.

All up I walked 21 kilometres and climbed over 1000 vertical metres so I sure earned this head. I will also be back into this little bit of paradise to secure another stag in the future.

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