As creatures of habit Red Deer need two very important things through the winter months…FOOD AND SHELTER.
Post rut stags will need to rebuild, putting that weight back on after a month of chasing hinds is paramount, the easiest way to find them is find a good food source, if its public land its going to be sheltered north faces, slips and banks free from canopy vegetation where grass is good quality.
Be sure to check river flats as they can be quite sheltered and often have the best feed, if it has been terrible weather they are likely to be at lower altitudes where it is a few degrees warmer. Stags will be with other stags, often a mature animal will have a younger buddy or Squire with him, watch for that, so frequently a smart old stag will let his younger Buddy feed out into the open then he will follow when he feels it is safe. I have seen this happen numerous times, be patient, so often he will appear right on dark especially if the area has had a bit of hunting. On private land stags will be where the grass is and where it is warmer, it’s a simple equation, if you have farm access ask the land owner where he has had no stock for a while and work out if there is tree cover nearby, they will most likely be there during the day coming out to feed when they feel safe.
Days are shorter so a mission into your area for recon is a great idea, get onto Google Earth and look for open areas which look warm, my pick would be the lowest point on a range, the less a deer has to climb to move from one valley to the next where the lowest saddle is will be a well used path, they are just like us wanting easier passage through saddles…find the lowest saddle, find some slips or open spots nearby and check it out…Stay warm and SAFE …Good Luck!
The short winter days can provide hunting opportunities throughout the day, unlike often in summer when chamois can find the heat a bit much and will hunker down. With the rut having ended in June, bucks aren’t usually hanging around with the does, so if you’re seeing groups of chamois, the chances are they are a family group with no resident buck. One of the most important things to consider in winter is the snow levels – thick snow can be hard work for both the hunter and the chamois. When the snow is reasonably thick, the chamois may be down lower or in the steeper stuff where the snow hasn’t settled so deeply. The hunter may struggle to even get into chamois territory.
During winter there seems to be less preference of chamois being in the sunny side or the shady side – they’ll typically be where the most preferred terrain is (feed, shelter, etc). Pick a nice looking set of bluffs in the 1200m to 1500m elevation band, and you should soon find the dark figure of a chamois peering over an outcrop at you or feeding away in some exposed tussocks and scrub. Winter can be a good time to get out and avoid the masses, for the keen hunter with some quality gear to keep you warm.
The Rusa rut starts in June and as far as I know, can end up finishing as late as October. The stags are active in what I can only describe as highs and lows throughout that time period.
They are from a tropical climate, so cold nights or a rainy few days can have them out on the first sunny day worshipping the sun on their favourite slip. Just ask
any chopper pilot who has flown around in the Te Urewera’s.
Get off the main ridge. They live down on the faces and little side spurs. You could walk a main ridge and think there has never been a Rusa there. But dip off the ridge 30 yards and you could find yourself in the heavy sign.
Once you find fresh sign, stalk and treat everything as if there is one behind the very next tree as they will not be far away. Their sense of smell and hearing is a cut above other species, plus they are always aware of their surroundings. They have been wired to be prayed on by Tigers and Leopards - those days have long since left them but they don't know that.
Grass is a weakness but they also feed on a variety of other vegetation. They either live in steep goat country or lower, flatter terrain - as long as there is sun and feed, they don't seem to mind. I never wasted much time stalking in light sign or on ridges. Just move through until sign gets hot, then concentrate on nailing that area with good wind. I've only ever bowhunted them, so my experience is
what you would call close-contact hunting. I found evening was the best time to catch one on its feet unawares.
Go hard then be patient!
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