8: CALL BIG RED

canstockphoto3674234written by WITT BECKMAN

The first time I heard a bull elk bugle and then spotted one up close, I was hooked for life.

Typically, I hunt during the rut, the mating season which runs from the first of September through the middle of October, when the bull elk are competing for breeding rights. The bugle is a challenge call from one to another. Hunters can use this to locate bull elk and sometimes call them into very close distances.

Using a cow call, the sound of a female elk, also draws a bull elk into range. Though I’ve been hunting elk for the past 35 years and absolutely love it, I’ve always wanted to hunt red stag in New Zealand. Similar to elk in many ways, red stag are physically comparable in size and appearance as both have huge antlers.

Red stag, though, have more points to their racks and they roar. Their rut, more commonly named the Roar, is from mid-March through the end of April.

Like elk, hunting red stag is done by calling and returning vocal challenges, then stalking or calling them into shooting range. The wind is a major factor and hunters are always jockeying for position to keep the wind in their face. I’ve chased elk sometimes all day in the mountains of Colorado, Idaho, New Mexico and Utah. It can be very exhausting, but the scenery is breathtaking and the chase is one of the most enjoyable things I’ve ever done.

When I finally see a red stag in person, it will be during a big-game hunt in Stravon, touted to be New Zealand’s finest hunting destination, as well as in its amazing backyard, the Te Wāhipounamu South West New Zealand World Heritage Area. Calling Big Red in its natural habitat would be a once-in-a-lifetime trip and arguably the most extraordinary hunting experience on the planet.

Maybe one day I’ll get there. stravon.com