Here’s what you need to know about red stag hunting.
Once the exclusive hunting prize of European kings, red deer or red stag have expanded their territory to include Eastern Europe and Eurasia, New Zealand and Australia, North America, and Argentina and Chile in South America. In America red deer are primarily found on expansive preserves and hunting estates, where it provides sport for big game hunters.
The red deer is the fourth largest deer in the world, behind moose, wapiti, and sambar deer native to Southern China and Southeast Asia. Mature red stag (males) typically weigh in at around 350 to 500 pounds or so. There are several subspecies of the deer, with subtle differences in size and appearance between them, but we’ll just lump them all into the category of red deer. Female red deer (called does or hinds) are substantially smaller than their male counterparts.
For our purposes the antlers of red stag are the prominent identifying characteristic. The bony headgear, which, like the antlers of our native deer (whitetail and mule deer, moose and elk) are shed and regrow each year, is notable for the number of points it can produce. Similar to elk, the antlers are thick and heavy, and can produce numerous points if forage is sufficient and stress levels are minimal. Occasionally a stag will have no tines, and it is then known as a ‘switch’. But by and large, the antlers of red stags are very impressive trophies.
Another telling difference between elk or wapiti and red deer is the vocalization that the males make during the rut or roar. Elk bugle during the rut, which is thought to be an adaptation resulting from their general preference for more open environments. Red stag, however, roar. Their roar is deemed to be a development of their preference for more forested and deep woods environments. That’s a significant difference between the two.
Stags will roar to keep their harems of hinds together and to establish dominance with other males. The louder the roar, the more attractive it is to the hinds. Roaring takes place primarily in the early morning and just before dark.
Hunting red deer it is not completely unlike hunting elk. Red stag have keen eyesight, excellent hearing and a sensitive nose. Unless you are paying close attention to the wind, to keeping hidden and camouflaged, and to moving with stealth, you will be hard pressed to avoid detection. Some hunters even go so far as to remove their shoes during the final stalk, in order to avoid alarming deer by breaking a twig.
Since red deer tend to frequent the thicker bush, it is a good idea to assume the higher ground and, if possible, hunt the ridge opposite that which you are on. Glass the other side and listen for their roars early in the morning during the rut. Glassing will be difficult in thicker timber, but look for small openings and “parts” of deer. Often the larger stags will roar earlier than the lesser ones. This is certainly not a hard and fast rule, but it does tend to bear out. Try to pinpoint his location and formulate a plan to intercept and ambush him.
But in doing so, be aware of the the wind and especially of his harem of does. If you do have does coming into your ambush site, remain patient. There’s surely a stag close by, keeping tabs on them. If he doesn’t show, you could try giving a grunt or, if you’re far enough away, a roar to compel him to reveal himself. Be sure you are well hidden though, as the hinds will have their attention focused on the source of the sound.
Your Ox Ranch hunting guide will be able to better pinpoint the general area that, depending on weather conditions, red deer will likely be frequenting. Between the two of you, you should be able to formulate a solid plan of attack and score a large antlered trophy.