“That was the hardest hunt I’ve ever been on,” Jeremiah exclaimed, as he hobbled in Sunday evening after his 3 day Easter weekend hunt.
He says that after nearly every hunt these days, mind you. For him, the memory of the exertion seems to fade over time, while the reward doesn’t diminish, making hunt comparisons tricky. He worked his tail off for this one though, I’ll give him that.
The long weekend hunt has been on the calendar since before I can remember. It’s the “Roar,” you see, and the Males–deer and men alike–go just a teenie bit batty. For entirely different reasons, of course. The red stags actually roar to claim their turf and their harem. The men roar too–with some guttural barks through a bit of vacuum cleaner hose–to rile up the stags. It’s the time of the year when the stags make their presence well known while at the same time they’re completely distracted with a higher purpose–sex. And they happen to be sporting antlers as well.
Jeremiah headed out to his place (that will remain unnamed), after much studying of the river gauge charts. It had been rainy a couple days before and the rivers were running high, but the forecast was decent and the first river crossing was the biggest one–if he felt ok about that one, he’d not get into any more trouble later on.
Turns out the crossing was nerve-wracking, “balls high,” but passable.
This was the Valley of Choice because he had found big cast antlers there on previous hunts, and had scored a hunting permit (lottery system) for that area for the four-day weekend.
He drove out Friday morning, walked in 6-7 kilometers, and set up camp. A roaring stag had been tantalizingly close on the walk in, but inaccessible on the wrong side of some cliffs.
Take two Saturday afternoon was up this valley, and sure enough Mr. Roar was there.
You look at these hills and you wonder what the deer are eating, but there’s apparently a lot of green grass in the valleys where the streams run.
What is the stag doing crossing these scree fields?? Leaving nice foot prints, keeping track of his ladies, waiting for them to be ripe, in this case. This stag had six fine gals with him, but they were lucky–the hunter wasn’t after just meat for the table. If you squint really hard and imagine, you can see the brown spot laying down near the bushes at the bottom of the scree slope. Jeremiah made his way carefully up and around the ridge down-wind of the fellow, then crawled, commando style, down through the brush for half an hour, bringing him into shooting range.
He’s big, isn’t he? The stag, I mean.
The back steaks were as big as those of a steer, and despite the massive antlers and testosterone-laden state, the meat was good. Jeremiah really needed some buddies to help him pack it all out.
But since he couldn’t convince anyone else to hunt this weekend with him, he packed what he could out by himself.
His original plan was to carry out meat, head and enough of the attached skin to make a furry mount. The massive load proved too heavy, even for this intrepid hunter, and the skin was eventually left behind. I escaped another hairy head on the wall by the skin of my teeth, it seems.
There was a saddle to navigate over on the way back to camp, and the load was so heavy that he took it in sequential stages: Pick up head. Walk 100 meters. Drop it on ground. Track back to pack full of meat. Lay on pack to strap it on. Roll onto hands and knees. Take deep breath. Heave upwards to standing position. Count footsteps until reaching the head. Drop meat and have a rest. Repeat. He had half a smile left for the photo, and enough energy to humor his wife with a selfie.
The poor blighter is holding the weapon that killed him. We have two active children and besides the NZ gun rules don’t allow for open gun mounts in the house, so this won’t be the permanent fate of the antlers.
No odd carnivore rituals here for the dinner after a successful hunt–just quick practicalities for a tired hunter. The river was lower on the way out, and a dinner of fish and chips the out-of-the-bush reward the next day.