‘Roar’ of stag not easy to replicate
A deep, bellowing noise reverberates through the thick Fiordland forest. There is a stag in the distance. Excitement builds and I am handed a hollowed out cow’s horn to imitate a stag’s roar and draw him out. My lips cover the end of the horn and I release a noise that sounds more like labour pains than an angry stag protecting its patch.
It is the time of year when hunters are pouring into the bush in the hope of shooting a stag. Chances are better than normal during the roar which reaches its peak around mid-March through to mid-April – when stags actively and aggressively compete for access to hinds for mating.
The threatening ritual in the wild involves stags moving to favoured rutting areas, which they defend and where they attempt to hold together groups of hinds. On the trail of this rutting stag in the distance I plough through thicket, following deer trails and looking for fresh signs I am on the right track. My hunting companion points to a large fresh poo – ‘‘that’s a stag’s’’ he says before we march on.
We try baiting the stag with another ‘‘roar’’ but there is no reply. All is quiet and we continue cutting through bush, crossing streams and stopping periodically in silence to scan the bush.
‘‘It’s like looking for a needle in a haystack,’’ I muttered, after about four hours of walking with no joy of hearing another roar, let alone seeing a stag, hind or yearling.
The longer we spent in the bush, it felt like the stags were taunting us and we were constantly one step behind. We came across deer wallows that had recently been used.
The mud puddles were frothy and smelly after a stag had piddled in it and rolled around. There were hairs still floating on the surface of the water, fresh hoof prints on the ground, and shiny poo with flies still hovering around.
Two tiny fantails laugh as they flit over our heads. ‘‘You’re too late’’, I imagine them chirping at me. We trudge on. The thrill of the chase is what spurs hunters on and it requires a lot of patience, endurance and smarts. It is an adrenaline rush and it’s that rush that sometimes makes hunters quick to take the shot.
New Zealand Mountain Safety Council programme manager firearms and hunting safety Nicole McKee says with more people in the bush during the roar, there are more incidents than other times of the year and with heightened senses, hunters need to ‘‘step back and take a breath’’ and not react straight away.
There have been 11 people killed since 2005 while out hunting deer, according to mountain safety council figures.
The most recent hunting tragedy was on Stewart Island last month, when 24-year-old Invercargill man Samuel Phillip Long was fatally shot by another member of his five-person party. Long’s accidental shooting death is the second in less than a year in the south.
Adam Hill, 25, was accidentally shot and killed by Tuatapere artist Wayne Edgerton while hunting during the roar in the Longwood Range last April.
While injury and death figures ‘‘could be better’’, incidents are low given the number of people hunting, McKee says.
‘‘There are a lot of people out there hunting, 241,000 people in New Zealand have a firearm licence and the majority do a
Reporter Jo McKenzie-McLean goes bush during ‘‘the roar’’ to hunt a stag.