‘Roar’ of stag not easy to repli­cate

Central Otago Mirror - - NEWS - By JO McKEN­ZIE-McLEAN

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.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.