I haven’t shot my bow since I shot my whitetail in November, so I’ll dust off the bows today. I used to shoot every day of the year, but I seemed to pick up the odd bad habit during my close range practice in the house through the winter. The first winter I trapped, I didn’t shoot at all, because most days I was lucky to get 6 hours of sleep between working for 12-16 hours, checking snares and putting up my coyotes. I was also foolish enough to take on custom skinning for a couple of guys, which added to my workload, but got me good at skinning, and then fast. By the end of that first season, I could skin a previously frozen coyote in less than 4 minutes. Anyway, when I started shooting again in the summer, I noticed that I didn’t have any of the bad habits that I normally do after a winter of shooting at 5 yards. I was able to jump right into my regular shooting routine; one broadhead tipped arrow from 50-80 yards, without any issues. Since then, I give myself a break for the winter. I have just over a month to prepare for this hunt, which is plenty of time, and I’ll begin shooting today.
I’m also out of shape, at least compared to what I normally am, and I just had fairly extensive sinus surgery, but I have a follow up appointment on Thursday, and I’m sure I’ll get the green light from my surgeon to begin exercising again. I haven’t done much in the past year or so, as my chronic sinus infections left me with little energy and ambition, and it was too easy to use that as an excuse.
Follow along here if you want to hear more of my extensive ramblings regarding my preparation for the hunt, and of course, the hunt itself!
My flights are all booked now. I’m surprised at the price, considering it’s just over a month away. I expected they would be much more. Round trip from Winnipeg to Auckland for $1750 CAD, so closer to $1300 USD. Only $150 CAD for the short connecting flight from Auckland to Taupo, where Gerald will pick me up. During the few days that I’m there, they only have one other hunter there, and he’s hunting for Sika, so I’ll have the red stag all to myself! The roar will basically be over but the younger stags will apparently still be roaring some, so I’m glad I’ll get to experience part of it, anyway.
I didn’t get a chance to shoot today, got caught up with catching up on coyotes and lost track of the daylight, but I did get the snowmobile out after dark to make a path to my target backstop.
Here are the first two arrows I’ve shot since November 11. The first was at 40 yards, the second at 50. This is my hunting setup, so the arrows are tipped with broadheads. I’ve shot the same bow and arrow setup since 2012 and see no reason to change. I actually have piles of extra arrows and components in case something is discontinued, that’s how much I like it.
The arrow is a Carbon Express Piledriver Hunter 450, cut extra short to get it stiff enough to handle a 100 grain brass insert and 150 grain 3 blade Vantage Point Archery broadhead. My “fletching” is a Starrflight FOB, which I take an endless amount of teasing over from my taxidermist. I shoot an 80 pound BowTech Invasion CPX that scales in at 84 pounds, and this combination has broken more heavy bones than I can remember. On most animals, I’ll take pretty much any shot angle presented, because this setup has proven to be a bone breaking penetrator.
My shooting partner is our loveable family idiot, Rome, who believes himself to be a master shed hunting dog.
Not familiar with the starflight fletching...had to look it up.
On another note, does anyone know how I can move this thread out of the “Hogs” section? That is not where I intended it to go and just realized today that that’s where it’s been posted.
I haven’t done a hunt where I’d have to fly for several years, so I started packing last night, just to give my packing memory some time to catch up.
I decided to pack the same way my wife and I did on our trip to South Africa several years ago, as it minimizes the risk that you’ll be without hunting gear for a day or two. We split everything up half and half into two bowcases; one bow each, half the arrows, half the hunting clothes, etc. The other couple in camp with us didn’t do this, packing both their bows, clothing, medication, etc. into one case, which was delayed several days. It’s just me going this time, but I’ll still split everything half and half into two bow cases, and put my camera, medication, etc. in my carry-on.
We use SKB bowcases, and I’ve watched them be treated pretty roughly, with no damage to show for it. I’ll start with a layer of clothing as extra padding, then the bow goes in next, with a bow sling on to protect the strings and cables. The sight and rest get stuffed and wrapped with socks to protect the “snaggy” bits if the cases are inspected. Binoculars and rangefinders get wrapped well then placed in a corner. My broadhead, FOBs, nocks and a windchecker bottle go into a small plastic case to protect everything else from the broadheads. Arrows are wrapped with elastic bands then packed wherever they’ll fit. Then I pack the rest of my hunting clothing around everything to keep it from shifting.
Deserthunter, that’s how I normally do it, but figured since I can borrow my wife’s binos, I’ll split everything evenly. If I was headed to a less reputable destination, I would definitely pack them in my carryon.
I wonder, would the pressure change in the baggage compartment affect them? I’ll change my packing plans if it may affect the fogproof seal. If that’s the case, I might pack my rangefinders in my carryon as well, and just remove the batteries.
They do have a pretty interesting airport, from what I’ve been able to see from the International Departures annex.
I always enjoy watching the flight tracker map, and the coldest the temperature outside the plane got was -71F, our altitude was around 40, 000 feet and the fastest airspeed I saw was almost 600 mph.
Also, don’t worry if your bow cases don’t show up in the “Fragile and Oversized Luggage” area. There’s a locked cabinet controlled by the police near baggage claim 3. There’s a Police kiosk across the aisle from it. If there’s no officer at the desk and no one walking around with a detection dog, press the red button a few times, and if that doesn’t work, try the phone.
Also, make sure that you give yourself plenty of time to claim your case! Another bowhunter that I met in line waiting for his case only had an hour to claim his case, clear biosecurity and customs, check in for his next flight and then make the trek to the domestic departure terminal about 2/3 of a mile away. He probably made his flight but it might have been close. I would give yourself at least 3 hours from your scheduled arrival time to your next scheduled departure time. Security and customs weren’t at all busy and it still look nearly half an hour to get through, and then you still have to check your bags and make your way to the domestic departure terminal.
After breakfast this morning, Joe and I headed out for a morning hunt.
I also saw 2 stags over 400”, some young stags and had another stalk on around a 360” stag, but he got up to chase a satellite stag off just before I was in a position to shoot. I lost track of how many fallow deer we saw tonight, but dozens, at least. One was a really neat management buck. He was very light, almost white, and had one great big antler with a spike on the other side. There’s quite a few fallow bucks here with damaged pedicles from crawling through the cattle fences while in velvet. They’re sure fun to hunt though, and cheaper!
The stags are still roaring, but mostly young ones and it seems like the roar is basically over. Although, the 360” stag we stalked yesterday was mature and still holding hinds. Most of the other mature stags we’ve seen have been solo or with other stags.
The second morning, things happened fast. We were only a couple of hundred yards from the Ute when we spotted a nice fallow deer raking brush on the edge of the crop field. We snuck into a small patch of bush and got set up, then my guide, Joe Edlington, began to call. As a side note, Joe is a very good photographer, as is Gerald, and if you have Facebook or Instragram, they’re worth a follow. Joe is under Joe Edlington Wild and Gerald is under Wildside Hunting Safaris. Anyway, as Joe croaked, the fallow just kept coming across the field, headed back to the bush. Unfortunately, none were interested, but a group of 4 stags started headed towards us. The lead one was the best, a good, mature stag. It looked like it was all coming together and he came through at 39 yards. I drew and stopped him with a soft grunt, then shot. He dropped at the shot like a bloody whitetail, and I could see the arrow went high. Very high, far too high to be a lethal shot. He took off like a scalded dog, jumped through the cross fence and was gone. We ran through a gate next to us to try to cut him off at one of the open ridges, and we got close, but had no view for a second shot before he disappeared into a small valley. We got around the other side of the valley and waited for him a reappear, but he never did, so I did a slow push while Joe stayed up top in case he came out. We spend some time pushing out the narrow strip of bush, but to no avail, so we went back to the shot site. We found the arrow, and it didn’t look good. No blood to speak of, some small bits of meat and some fat smearing. Absolutely no blood, but we were able to follow his tracks. We followed them through where he had disappeared into the small valley, up where we had sat in case he reappeared, but he must have beaten us through, down off the other side and then along a long, narrow opening for a couple of hundred yards before we lost them. Absolutely zero blood was spotted and his gait seemed unbroken. Regardless, we spent the rest of the morning and afternoon looking. Joe would get in position where he could see virtually everything coming out of a bush, then I would do a slow push. We pushed lots of fallow out, but not my stag. I was disheartened and disappointed, but not surprised. I saw the arrow placement as he ran after the shot, and I knew at that moment that we wouldn’t recover that stag, and unless infection set in, he would likely survive.
On the last bush stalk of the morning, about 100 yards from the end of the bush, we suddenly spotted a standing stag at only about 30 yards. We froze, waiting to see what he was going to do. After a few minutes, he laid down in his bed. We could see his chest through the binoculars and could see that he wasn’t the stag I had hit high, but I decided to see how close I could get to him, just for fun. We hadn’t had hardly any wind the entire hunt, so even with the forest floor being damp and fairly quiet, it was still tough to move without making any noise. I was already too close to take off my boots, especially since I was also wearing gaiters, so I decided to do the stalk in boots.
My first route gave me the best chance at not being seen, due to several large trees blocking his view, but the tangle of vines kept me from getting any closer or getting a decent angle. At this point, it was just a practice stalk, but I wanted to treat it as if it was a target animal. I backed out, using the small trees to hold myself steady so I could move slowly and clear the debris with my toe before putting any weight down. At one point, I was less than 20 yards from the stag and could see his eye quite clearly, but had to cross about a 6’ area with nothing between him and I, not even a vine. I figured it was a fools errand, but there was no other way to approach, so I decided to put Sitka’s original Optifade Forest pattern to the test.
I moved as slow as I absolutely could possibly move, again, clearing a quiet footbed with my toe. It probably took me close to 10 minutes to move 6’, but I was finally behind cover again and he hadn’t even batted an eye. I finally got the best angle I could, but he was bedded slightly facing me, so I got comfy and prepared to wait. At this point, I had decided I was going to shoot this stag, with my guides permission. I slowly looked back and got his attention, then made a shooting motion and he gave me the thumbs up and got ready to film. I sat on my heels until my toes felt like they were on fire then slowly shifted into a comfier position. When I leaned back against the tree fern that I was using for a back rest, it made a slight, mushy, cracking sound. It was barely perceptible, but the stag stood up in his bed. If he had stood straight up, I would have had a perfect shot into his vitals, with trees blocking his view of me. Unfortunately, he stood and moved slightly forward, blocking his vitals. He took a few steps forward, looking my direction, so when his view was blocked, I stood and drew. When he stopped again, he gave me a clear shot into his vitals, so I settled and shot. He whirled at the shot and even though it was only maybe 18 yards, he turned a nearly broadside shot into a quartering to shot, and I saw the FOB pop off far back. I thought, “oh no, not another bad shot!” but could see him slow to a stop after only 60 yards.
We didn’t have a clear shot with a bow or a rifle, but he was clearly woozy, with his head down low. He took a few more steps before he disappeared out of sight behind a small bank. My guide and I split up, each watching a different side of the bush patch we were on. He was nearly to the end of it, so our thoughts were that if he came out, one of us would see him and put another shot in him, if need be.
After about an hour of waiting and seeing nothing, paired with the fact that we’d both heard a small crash and thumping only a few minutes after he disappeared, we slowly snuck forward, ready to take a follow up shot, if necessary. We had already checked the arrow and it had some blood on it, and didn’t smell like gut material, but there was no blood trail at all. We were able to follow his tracks in the soft ground, and after only about 60 yards, we could see the stag laying there, dead. And what a stag he was! An honest once in a lifetime stag, especially at less than 20 yards. To top it all off, the backdrop was absolutely gorgeous for photos. I am so proud of this photo, and have my guide, Joe Edlington, to thank for it.
When Brenda and Gerald starting building this hunting area around 2006, it was a working farm, and still is today. Because it’s a farm, it’s perimeter fenced, and cross fenced. These fences do a great job of keeping cattle where they should be, but deer pay no mind to it. I watched fallow and red deer, bucks and does, stags and hinds, cross through or jump over these fences with ease, oftentimes at nearly full speed. The quality of stags and bucks is thanks to starting out with the best genetics available at the time and then leaving it to grow naturally, as a self sustaining wild herd, with zero influence or assistance from humans, besides the crop fields grown for cattle grazing. The largest stag they’ve ever killed was taken this year at 504”, actually in the same crop field that mine was taken near. There’s also several wild stags that have come through the perimeter fence and have chosen to stay, and who can blame them? Wildside has hinds and feed galore, and some incredible views!
We headed back for lunch, then headed back out around 3:00. It was nearly a full moon, accounting for the slower morning, but the evening hunting was great. Every little basin had fallow in it, and within a couple of hours, we had actually found our target buck. He was a mature buck and half huge. If both sides were good, he would be one of the biggest fallow bucks on the property. Unfortunately, one side was just a giant spike. Unfortunately, I don’t have any good photos of him. We caught up to them just before dark and he worked a scrape in front of us at 50 yards, but it was a little too dark to shoot. 5 or 10 minutes earlier and the plan would have worked perfectly. Unfortunately, as the daylight ended, so did my hunt.
Gerald, the outfitter and owner, had also been hunting for a management fallow buck that night and was able to take one at 18 yards. With no blood trail, he elected to leave it until the morning. I had some time before I had to leave, so I joined him and Joe in the search. Not long after we found the last blood, we found the buck, dead in the ferns. Gerald had actually been within yards of him the night before but the darkness and ferns hid the spotted fallow perfectly. They’re a beautiful animal, and will definitely be my target species on my next trip here.
I’m sitting in the Auckland airport as I type this, so I suppose this is the end of the semi-live hunt. Thanks all for following along! I’ll probably update the thread with more photos as they’re sent to me by Joe. He’s a great photographer and got a lot of shots that I just wasn’t able to capture.
Jake, unfortunately, I didn’t have any time before I left, and if I had, I would have continued hunting haha. It was a short, spur of the moment trip, so I was actually only in-country for 6 days, and hunting for 4. It was a short scouting trip for next time, when I’ll definitely have to bring the family. If I don’t, I might as well stay in NZ, because I certainly won’t be welcome at home haha.