A crashing blast of
sound rang out, echoing and re echoing across the mountains and then
suddenly his father crashed to the ground with his magnificent antlers
folded under him. One kick and he was still. Galvanised into instant
action the herd took off across the hill.
| It all
started nearly seven years ago. His father was a majestic beast
with thick flowing mane and long sharp antlers. His mother also had
good genes and gave birth to him in a grassy glade well back in the
wooded hills. Curled in a small spotted ball while his mother
wandered off to feed, he felt very insecure. But when she came back
and suckled him, his anxiety waned as he took down her sweet milk.
When he had finished feeding, his mother licked his anus, causing
him to defecate. After cleaning up after him, his mother moved off
so that he would sleep peacefully while she grazed on the lush
herbage of the valley. He had virtually no scent, plus his mother
would always clean up after him so there was not much chance of a
predator finding him unless it actually wandered right onto him.
After two weeks, he started to pick at sweet grass shoots and after
six weeks had gone by, his spots disappeared leaving him a dull
brown colour that blended in with his surroundings.
Nearly a year passed, then, as he became
stronger, a pair of long spikes started to grow from his head. Soon
they became hard and itchy, rubbing them on small bushes they
gradually coloured up and he spent time sparring with another young
spiker that lived with the herd.
|Then one day it happened. The
whole herd of about fifteen deer were grazing on the side of a steep
hill in the early morning fog.Suddenly a crashing blast of sound
rang out, echoing and re echoing across the mountains and his father
fell to the ground with his magnificent antlers folded under him.
One kick and he was still. Instinctively he started running, as the
rest of the herd were also galvanised into instant action with only
their caudal patches standing out as they melted into the bush.
Then suddenly he stopped, turning back to see what had happened to
his father. Walking back, he saw a strange creature dragging his
father to a small clearing. He was lucky, as this was a trophy
hunter not a meat hunter, otherwise he might never have had the
chance of growing up. As the strange creature turned to look at him,
he abruptly ran as fast as his legs would take him to catch up with
the rest of the herd.
that year as it cooled off, the bigger stags in the herd moved away
from the hinds and the few smaller stags. It was sort of like a
boys group, heading off on their own away from the females and
annoying kids. The rest of the herd browsed on, covering plenty of
ground in search of feed. Some time later, his head began to itch
and he was rubbing his antlers up and down a small tree when one
fell off. Getting a fright he ran off, and then the following day
his other antler also fell off. It felt strange to not have that
familiar weight upon his head. The weather warmed up and good rains
fell causing the grass to grow thick and lush, especially where the
fires had been through. Now his whole time seemed to be spent
eating as much as he could. New antlers started to grow from his
head. Not a pair of spikes like before but heavy new growth.
Between November and early January they grew long and sported two
long brow tines and a smaller tine half way up each side. The tops
were starting to fork, as his good genes were coming through. These
antlers were heavy and felt hot with the heat of the blood coursing
through them. He had subconsciously been very careful not to bump
them while they were growing, but now they were starting to itch and
he knew that he just had to rub them on something. Tentatively at
first he rubbed them on a small sapling.
| It felt good so he just
about wrecked that sapling and started to rub on another one further
along the hilltop. As he rubbed his itching antlers he also
urinated on the ground and rubbed the scent glands below his eyes on
the trees. He was instinctively marking his territory. He now no
longer wanted anything to do with the other stags; in fact he seemed
annoyed in their presence. Soon the first frost fell and a cold
snap enveloped the mountains. He felt great and a low roar came
from deep in his throat culminating in a growling roar that echoed
around the mountains. Then an answering roar came from the next
gully. He was angry; this was his territory and his alone. Running
over the crest of the hill he came face to face with another stag.
This stag had larger antlers, as he was much older; his larger body
size was more than a match for the well-toned body of this young
opponent. Running straight at the older stag, the young stag pushed
and heaved as their antlers locked together. The patch of lantana
where they fought was reduced to a trampled mess for nearly thirty
yards in circumference.
Then suddenly, the young stag took off across the hills, leaking
blood from a nasty wound in the shoulder. The old stag followed him
for a few paces letting out a rumbling roar before turning back to
the three hinds that stood watching in awe. Rounding them up, he
took them over the hill where he mated with them. They were his
girls and he would fight to the death if necessary any intruders
into his domain. The young stag made a nuisance of himself over the
next few weeks, trying to entice a hind away from one of the older
stags but without success.
The next few seasons came and went with
this big young stag growing stronger and really making his presence
known in these wild mountains. The last couple of years he had been
successful in procuring his own harem of hinds, putting his good
genes into the mountain herd. Twice now, hunters had tried to sneak
up onto this magnificent specimen of a red stag but to no avail, as
he was wily and wise.
He knew from past experience that these man things could and would
destroy him if they could. Once a wily hunter calling to him,
challenging him on his own turf had lured him into rifle range, it
was only a small shift of the wind that betrayed the hunter and
saved him. A scar on his right shoulder from a hasty shot, told
just how close he had come to ending up on that trophy hunterís
wall. This year his antlers had grown so large that it was a burden
just to carry them around and manoeuvre them between the trees and
bushes, but his neck muscles were strong so he handled the extra
weight quite easily. The rut came and by the time it was over, he
was absolutely worn out. He had many bruises and holes in his hide
from fights with young strong stags, he hadnít eaten properly for
weeks and he just needed plenty of good food and rest to
recuperate. Even though at six years of age he wasnít that old an
animal, over the previous few years he had put his all into
defending his territory and gathering as many hinds as he could.
His genes would flow in this particular area for many years to come,
but one wily old hunter had, unknown to the stag, been watching him
secretly over the past few years. This hunter had watched from a
distance and waited, hoping against hope that no one else should
luck upon this beautiful beast. He was a true trophy hunter and
waited until this stag had reached full maturity. This hunter knew
that from now on the stag could possibly grow a lesser head in the
coming years. He knew the stagís movements precisely and could tell
within reason where the stag would be at any given time. Well most
times anyway, except that time of the year when they just seemed to
disappear for a while.
He had decided that the stag had passed his
good genes on within the herd over the last few years and there were
a few good young stags starting to show promise in the area. These
young stags would be able to take on the servicing duties that the
old stag had been performing. Now was the time to pit his skill
against the wily old stag. Keeping an eye on him from a distance
was one thing, but getting to within rifle range after the rut was
finished would take all of his skill.
There was a slight zephyr at play this
morning as the hunter sidled along the steep ridge. A cool mist
wisped amongst the gullies as the sun started to peek over the
horizon, lighting up the land in all its splendour. Keeping high,
as he knew the fickle mountain breezes would waft upwards as the sun
rose; slowly he topped a small spur. Suddenly the twitch of an ear
alerted the hunter, there not more than 200 meters away was a hind.
Looking intently through his Ziess binoculars, nearly twelve more
hinds became evident. Most were hidden from view at first behind a
small patch of scrub. It was only the twitching of an ear that had
alerted him; otherwise he might have stepped out into the open and
blown his chance at the mountain monarch. This was where experience
came to the fore; a lesser hunter might have been looking for a
whole deer and missed that ear twitching entirely. He was in a
perfect position and in full camouflage so sitting down he watched
the herd through his binoculars. The big stag was nowhere in
sight. Where was he? Surely no one had shot him since the last
time he had seen him three weeks ago?
his principles were a little too high; maybe he should have shot him
while the rut was still on. Then the hunterís heart gave a little
beat of joy, for there he was in all his majestic splendour. The
great stag moved slowly out from a small stand of box. Walking
stiff legged he circled his harem, going out of sight for a while
behind the small clump of scrub. Then, content that everything was
as it should be the great stag put his head down to feed on the lush
green shoots. Looking through the lens of his powerful Leupold
scope, the hunter marvelled at the sight of this majestic animal.
His finger was on the trigger of his tried and proven old 30-06
Mauser, as once again he counted those points on the great stags
head. At least seventeen long points. For three years now the
hunter had watched this stag grow; now the time was right to take
his well-deserved trophy.
Slowly the hunter lifted the bolt on his
rifle, his mind in turmoil. Maybe just one more year, what was one
more year to this hunter? Maybe the stag would grow a better head
in the next season if the season were better than this one? What
was happening to this hunter was something that eventually happens
to all of us if we are true hunters. We start to care more for the
animals we hunt.
| The love of the bush and
the love of being able to watch such a great animal in its own
environment is something that eventually gets to you in such a way
that often you will take a photo turn around and leave the animal in
peace. That is what this man did. Shouldering his rifle he took
out his camera, took a few photos, then turned his back on the
trophy of a lifetime and started for home.
Ted Mitchell Snr
Photo of large stag was taken on a large game estate, even so it
took four days to get this photo.
The male of the species is
called a stag, while the female is called a hind.
The rut or roar usually
starts 101 days into the year, which coincides with the full moon in
April. It usually takes a cold snap to start them off properly, but
if you wish to arrange a trip ensuring that the roar has started,
then arrange it for the week starting on the 11th April
and you canít go far wrong.
The oestrus cycle for the
hind is approximately 18 days.
The gestation period for
hinds is approximately 240 days.
The offspring are called
fawns or calves and are born with white spots that disappear after
approximately six weeks. They start eating grass at approximately
two weeks of age supplemented with motherís milk for many months.
Older stags tend to move
away from the hinds in bachelor groups in winter.
Stags start to lose their
antlers each year toward the end of September.
They are usually fully grown
out again by January when they start rubbing the drying velvet from
The colour of the antlers is
dependant upon the terrain the stags live in and the types of trees
they rub on.
A somewhat rarity is a full
grown stag with no antlers; these are called Hummelís and should be
culled to stop their bad genes entering the herd. In saying this
though, sometimes a hummelís offspring will grow antlers as normal.
Hinds can bark at you or
some other form of danger at any time of the year.
Stags only roar during the
rut and are mainly quiet the rest of the year.
The ginger coloured patch
under their tail around the backside is called their caudal patch
and stands out when they are running especially as the sun hits it.
The red deer unlike other
species does not use its tail as a warning signal.
A red deerís hearing is
excellent and this along with their excellent sense of smell and
good vision make them a challenge to hunt out of the rut period.
During the rut a red stag has only one thing on its mind and will
readily come to a call from a hunter. At this time of year the hind
will be the one to give you away as they are ever vigilant.
Hunt safe, hunt smart and be
a conservation hunter.
ďThis is a fictional story,
but in saying that, the photos are real photos of real deer and this
scenario could be played out in many theatres of the bush. We
should all strive to be more like the fictional character in this
story and be more conservative in the way we hunt. If we shoot all
of the immature animals, well, there just wonít be any big ones out
there, as they wonít get the chance to grow out.Ē
Ted Mitchell Snr
Australian Hunting Net