What can you expect during red stag hunts? Here are a few things to try and avoid.
Red stag hunts can be very challenging and even intimidating. They are a historically romantic animal, inhabitants of the deep, dark and mysterious forests of Old Europe, hunted by royalty and Robin Hood. There's a mystique about them.
They've earned that reputation. They are magnificent creatures. Massive in size, ethereal in their ability to slip through the densest cover. Their senses are keen and they always seem to be on high alert. They carry themselves with a relaxed sense of urgency.
To successfully hunt them you must be alert and aware of all of your surroundings. You must move with wary determination and confidence. You must be skilled at the highest level.
So what could possibly go wrong?
Haha! Glad you asked.
Here a few things that can bollox up a red stag hunt.
The wind in a thick forest or on a mountain side can be a tricky thing. It can be blowing easterly when you begin your stalk, but halfway in it can change direction on a dime. If you're not positioned right, you're busted. You've got to be aware of the thermals, the prevalent winds at certain times of year, and the patterns they present. But that doesn't mean that it all can't suddenly change and spoil your stalk. Red stag have incredible noses. One whiff of you and it's back to square one. That's just part of the game. Accept it.
Red stag will often be found in the company of does, at least during the roar or rut. Remember, you don't have just the one set of stag eyes to be concerned about. You've got who knows how many other eyes looking for danger as well; looking for you. It's often not just a case of you versus the bull. It's you versus the bull and his harem.
Red stag hunting requires an enormous amount of stamina and energy. The deer inhabit places where the air can be thinner and the hiking is arduous at best. Just getting to them can be a challenge for the only marginally fit hunter. And if you do score, you've got some even more energy depleting work ahead of you packing the animal out. Be in as good of shape as you possibly can be to hunt red stag. In fact be in the best shape of your life.
Remember what we just talked about, being in shape? Don't let your conditioning adversely affect your shot. It's tough enough to make a good, killing shot when your adrenaline is pumping from the sight of a magnificent stag. Don't allow yourself to be gasping for air from being out of shape too. But most importantly, practice, practice, practice shooting in every position and at every angle. Be it gun or bow, be able to confidently hit exactly where your aiming, every time. You owe it to yourself and you owe it to the animal.
More than one hunting trip has been turned into misery because the hunter didn't have the right footwear. Either his boots weren't broken in adequately or she simply brought along the wrong footgear for hiking rough terrain. Blisters and aching feet can sour any hunting trip. Make sure you've got good, well broken-in boots with solid ankle support.
6. Water and Food
You've got to stay hydrated while hunting red deer. You'll be putting on the miles and you'll be sweating and depleting your energy stores. Be sure to take breaks, rehydrate and have a snack. Carry enough water to with you to more than handle your expectation, and/or carry some form of water purification device with you in case you find a stream. Don't let weakness and tiredness from lack of hydrating or not eating a little something periodically overcome your ability to hunt effectively.
You're on a mountainside, glassing the hillside across from you. You see a nice bull but it's getting a little late in the day. Do you try to plan and execute a stalk, or do you back out and try to find that bull again tomorrow morning? Sometimes a sense of urgency is a good thing, but sometimes it can cause you to rush things and perform a sloppy stalk. And once a stag busts you, he's likely long gone for the foreseeable future. Take note of the time of day during your hunt and plan accordingly.
Red Deer are amongst the biggest members of the deer family, and when you see one in person, especially at a distance of 50 yards or less, it can be tremendously intimidating. Like buck fever times ten intimidating. Collect yourself, breathe, calm yourself down. Don't allow your nerves to overwhelm your sense of purpose, that is, making a good shot or stalking even closer.
Red deer have been known to virtually stop a hunter's heart when they crash from cover and hightail it to the next county. It is not uncommon for a hunter making a stalk to be so focused on his quarry's location that he ignores or pays little attention to the animals that might be bedded or quietly feeding between him and his target. A red stag that busts loudly from cover is enough to shake the nerves of the most seasoned hunter. Focus, but cultivate a situational awareness kind of mindset.
You don't want to be in a hurry when you're glassing for animals. You want to spend the bulk of your time on your butt, with your eyes glued to a spotting scope or high quality binoculars. A lack of patience in the glassing/searching portion of your hunt will do you no good. Study the area you're glassing thoroughly, in a determined manner. As big as they are, it is also amazing how well red deer can blend into their environment.
Steve Rinella did this very thing on a New Zealand red stag hunt. He glassed a bull at around 400 years, and he shot. After he fired, and previously unknown to him, a larger bull got up between him and the bull he shot. He could only wish he had seen the bigger bull first.
When it comes time, consider Ox Hunting Ranch for your red stag hunts, since they'll fully set up to offer an experience of a lifetime. You know what to expect, now book the hunt and make it happen.