Coming out of Issue 11 I had one thing on my mind – the roar and rut. My anticipation for these months was really high with epic hunts planned, yet it somehow turned into the worst roar I’ve had in years. I’m not exactly feeling down about how the last few months have gone, I just feel more frustrated. Not at myself or anyone else, it’s just an interesting job I have that heavily relies on wild animals being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
At the end of March we were all set to start filming the hunting for one of our next films. On this mission we had Khan Adam and Jared Hammond in front of the camera and behind the rifle. While Josh Boyd-Wilson and I were behind the cameras. I always set a high standard for what I want to create, and this year I was pretty determined to feature a film that involved a representative trophy red stag hitting the ground, and capturing it all on film. Jared and I were scouting maps and gathering information to find an area that would give us the best chance of finding a big mature stag. We ended up deciding on an area in the Rakaia region, knowing full well the amount of pressure that place gets from foot and aerial hunters but there’s still every chance of finding a good animal. Those mountains are something special, once you step foot in that valley, it’ll leave you wanting to come back for more. And maybe that’s because I always feel like I haven’t seen everything those scrubby faces have to offer. Khan also has high expectations for his hunting and what he wants to deliver for a film, so the two of us felt a little different on this hunt, a feeling that you shouldn’t have on any hunt. People do often ask me if working in the hunting industry has ruined hunting for me – the answer is kind of complicated. No it hasn’t ruined hunting for me when I’m the one hunting and my only purpose for the hunt is to get some exercise, take some time off, and look for an animal to take. But when the pressure of filming a hunt is there, then yeah it can really ruin hunts for me. And on this particular trip, after only two days of hunting it started to set in that we hadn’t picked the right location to give us the best chance of securing a good animal on film. The animal numbers just weren’t there, it was stinking hot and the stags weren’t roaring at all. And with this time of year being so precious, we decided on day three that we might as well pull pin. It was even more deflating to see that the party who hunted the same catchment after us had shot three very young stags – I do hope they enjoyed their time but I honestly don’t see the point in shooting such small and young stags, it just ruins it for every other hunter. And if you’re that desperate to shoot a deer, why not just shoot a hind? I think I’m just a little salty about it after that trip, but it’s a part of hunting public land here in New Zealand. This is probably a great time to thank our sponsors for the film – the team at Ridgeline and Outdoor Sporting Agencies who distribute Zeiss optics and Sauer rifles. They understand what we do and how difficult it is to film a hunt. So they sit back and let us do our thing, but also take on feedback and deliver us with some incredible gear.
I think that if I had planned that trip with the same guys and I wasn’t filming, we would have stayed there for the full week just wandering around, eating food and finishing our bottle of Fireball and port. So I do often question if it’s worth it filming hunts on public land, but shit, when it does go right, it’s the biggest high you can feel. So at this very moment before we print issue 11, Khan and I are working out a new plan to film a mid winter stag hunt. We still have high expectations for this and we’re determined to make it happen.
After leaving that trip disappointed, I had to plan another hunt. So I headed down south with the intention of trying to capture some stock red stag footage to fill in parts of the film. Once again I started to get excited the day before leaving, but at 3am the next morning I woke up feeling pretty sick. I packed the truck anyway and got on the road with a hot lemon and honey drink thinking that it would somehow magically make me better. Later that morning my pack was on my back, and I began hiking up the hill trying to ignore the feeling of wanting to throw up and wiping my nose. But after an hour I had to call it quits because I had finally caught covid – and that shit rolled me. So while I sat at home for a week, scrolling through social media and looking at all the stags other friends were shooting, I planned another quick hunt down south but this time I was going to be carrying the rifle.
It was glorious hunting on my own, in my own time. I scored the perfect weather and managed to catch the tail end of the roar on a station that I had some access to. The property was littered with deer and held a few beautiful stags. But the problem was that I wasn’t interested in shooting something 500m from a track, so I tilted the spotting scope up to glass the tussock basins above all the scrubby front country. For me personally, the terrain that you’re hunting in adds to the class of the trophy and so taking the easy animals didn’t really spark my interest. On the second evening I spotted a beautiful stag tucked up in the head of a big basin a little over a kilometre away. This hunt still wasn’t particularly difficult but the next morning I left my tent and started the climb into the tops where I would spend the day trying to locate this stag, but man I struggled with my post covid lungs getting into where I last saw the stag. I struggled even more with getting used to how light my new Sauer 101 Highland XTC rifle is, because I made one hell of a rookie move leaving it halfway up the hill where I originally had my lunch break/glass. That was heartbreaking backtracking down the catchment to try to find it, even more so than when I realised the stag I was after had moved out of the catchment I had seen him in. I’ll skip over this next part, but basically I was exhausted and found myself bush bashing down some steep, bluffy and very scrubby faces – some of the worst scrub I’ve been in. At this point it was dark and I still had a long way to go till I was back at the tent. After some time navigating through some small but continuous bluffs – I looked at my hands and thought “where is my rifle”. Yup, I had forgotten it again, I had put down at some point making my way down but I couldn’t remember where. I did eventually find it after about an hour but man, that was a hard pill to swallow. It’s also the beautiful thing about hunting – it really tests you and there’s no other choice but to deal with what’s in front of you. You can’t just hit pause and deal with the problem later. I can easily laugh about it now and admit I’m a real kook for doing that.
And that’s where the duck shooting comes in. Opening weekend for me is glorious, because I’ve got amongst a great crew of duck hunters who are passionate, safe and dedicated to it. It’s the only hunting I know that guarantees great banter and a lot of action. I don’t really get behind the shotgun because I simply enjoy photographing the weekend and delivering the boys with a gallery of images to remember the hunt by. I don’t know enough about duck shooting to do a write up about it, so just enjoy the images along with the rest of this issue. Thanks again to everyone contributing and to everyone for picking up this issue.
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