Another overdue update – this one not so long ago.
With plenty of filming and lots of deer making the one way trip to my freezer over spring and early summer, February and the promise of hard antler (or at least hard velvet) couldn’t come soon enough. Filming partners Kane and Eden had other commitments for the weekend so a quick reccy into the Kaweka’s was my plan on a cool Saturday morning. The spot i was going to has produced some good stags in the past but they are very few and far between with high hunting pressure and horrible bush making even seeing deer relatively difficult. On this particular Saturday morning I got to the carpark and did the walk to my favourite clearings in the dark and waited for light. It was unusually cold and the night before had seen the first rain in months for the very dry Hawke’s Bay – i was thinking that surely the deer would have to be out for a big breakfast after such a cold night… As soon as it was light enough to glass effectively I picked up the unmistakeable glow of a sika in summer coat. It was moving quickly through the scrub from the clearings towards the bush proper although was unaware of my presence. I set the camera’s and rifle up on the deer before I had even had a good look at it but when I finally rolled over and had a look through the scope on max zoom I was glad I hadn’t mucked around. I could see he was a stag and had 8 strong points – the decision to shoot wasn’t a tough one as this was by far the best sika I had ever had a chance to shoot and I was confident based on other tales of late that he would be in hard velvet. Quickly ranged and dialled the shot felt good and a loud thwack reported back across the gully. It was hard to contain my excitement as I replayed the shot on the video camera that thankfully confirmed what looked like a good hit.
Very happy after confiming a good hit on the camera:
Now the hard bit began, crossing the large valley full of horrible scrub to find him. 1 hour later i was at the stag and absolutely elated. He was as i expected, strong and even and a truly beautiful sika from the Kawekas – I couldn’t have been happier. Two years of hunting this particular spot fairly hard and never pulled the trigger until now – definitely all worth it.
Now I said that was the hard bit – it wasn’t. Turns out the route i took to find the stag was probably the best one – the one I took on the way back to the car was terrible. 3 hours of hands and knees scrub bashing with the meat, the head, rifle and camera gear had me cramping badly by the time I reached the car that afternoon. A quick run-over with the tape measure on the way home has the stag scoring around 170ds – the velvet was hard enough to strip but i’ve decided to preserve the antlers in formalin keeping the velvet on in the condition he was shot in.
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