New Zealand Red Stag — Hear Me Roar!

If you love pursuing bugling bull elk in America, then take that passion international and book a rut hunt for roaring New Zealand red stag.

New Zealand Red Stag — Hear Me Roar!

My passion has always been hunting big game animals in North America, but a foreign destination hunt can be a good changeup to hunting here in the states. It isn’t often that I get the opportunity to try to do a hunt abroad, but when given the chance, I’m always up for doing something different.

One of my all-time favorite pursuits in America is an adventurous elk hunt. There is just something special about hunting a bugling elk. Being able to call in such a large animal that typically doesn’t let his guard down is amazing, no matter how big the bull. So when I started planning my next big journey overseas, I wanted to go somewhere that would match that type of intense hunting experience. 

I considered a number of different hunting options during the process of deciding where to go and what to pursue. I’m easily swayed to a big game hunt just about anywhere on the planet! Chasing screaming bull elk, moose, sheep and, of course, giant whitetails all over the country in November and December, is a typical year of hunting and filming for us.

From September to February we are chasing the hunting seasons all over North America. From March to August, we find ourselves looking for something to hunt. I have gone on many off-season hunts from bear hunting in the spring, African adventures, and exotics in Texas to name a few. This go-around, I wanted to hunt some type of rutting animal with big antlers. I start getting antsy for a hunt come spring, and the crew knows it is time to take a trip.

Although public land hunts are available, the vast majority of hunting in New Zealand occurs on hunting estates or other large, privately owned tracts of land.
Although public land hunts are available, the vast majority of hunting in New Zealand occurs on hunting estates or other large, privately owned tracts of land.

Downtime Is Primetime

For this trip I asked a few of my buddies to go along with me on a red stag adventure in New Zealand. I wanted to bowhunt red stag during their rut when they are roaring. It would be similar to pursuing Rocky Mountain elk if we could hit the rut right.

We could do this in March, right in the middle of our time of year when we don’t have anything to hunt on the home front. I’m very fortunate to travel on amazing hunts while filming with our TV shows ,and I’ve always been intrigued with red stag and going to New Zealand to hunt them, especially during the rut.

This year I decided to stop dreaming of a red stag hunt in New Zealand and finally make it happen. To make it even better, my buddies and I decided to take our wives and make this trip more than just a hunting adventure. My wife has never accompanied me on any of my big hunting trips, and I’ve been traveling nonstop the past 14 years filming hunts in various locations. We were excited to get the planning of this great adventure started.

Hoping to call a mature red stag bowhunting-close, the author decided to take his trusty Excalibur crossbow across the pond for this epic adventure.
Hoping to call a mature red stag bowhunting-close, the author decided to take his trusty Excalibur crossbow across the pond for this epic adventure.

The Same But Different

As I stated previously, one of my favorite trips each year is hunting elk with a bow. It’s impossible to out-do a good elk hunt, especially when you can get up close to those animals during their annual rut ritual.

You can hunt red stag almost like an elk by calling them. Just like elk, you have to catch red stag in the right mood during that special time of year. You can call the red deer by mimicking the sounds of their females (hinds). You can also make the sound of other males (stags). Because you can’t run down to your local hunting retailer to purchase red deer calls, I would have to rely on our outfitters and guides for some insight on using calls. The hunting style might be like elk hunting, but the roar of the red stag sounds nothing like a bugling elk. It was time to learn how to use some new calls.

Even if it made the hunt a little more challenging, I decided to take my Excalibur crossbow on this trip. I wanted to go at this with the mentality I’d take on a typical archery elk hunt in the States.

Since I had very little knowledge of New Zealand, I had to do a lot of research on the country so that I could plan this trip in the best way possible. You have to remember that New Zealand is in the southern hemisphere, so our spring is their fall. The weather would be pleasant, and it would be like taking to the mountains here in North American in September and October.

Our group had booked a trip with Nine Yard Safaris on the North Island of New Zealand. The North and South islands of New Zealand are very different in regard to the terrain. The North Island in some areas can be somewhat mountainous, with beautiful vegetation and rolling hills. The terrain has incredible grasses, making everything very green. It just looks like the perfect grazing habitat for wildlife and livestock. They also have some areas that have very dense forest and a lot of farming and agriculture areas.

A large portion of the hunting in New Zealand is done on hunting estates or the large privately owned tracks of land. They also have public-land hunts. 

After talking with the owner of Nine Yard Safaris, Ian Lowe, back and forth for a few months, we decided that we would want to bowhunt one of these privately owned and managed estates. I wanted everyone to have a great hunt and a trip to remember. 

In New Zealand, the hunting is heavily influenced by the European hunting culture. It is also very similar to what you might expect when you go to a large portion of Africa outfits. Most of the private lands are large acreage, high-fenced properties. They talk about it as the only way to control and manage the wildlife. You have to remember that all these game animals were imported to New Zealand. There was very little to no wildlife on the islands when the first settlers landed.

It’s just a different world of hunting compared to what we have here in America. We typically wouldn’t hunt a high-fence area, but in New Zealand, it is the norm and these properties make up the majority of the managed land. I loved the thought of trying something different, and the thought of adding another thrilling experience to my hunting campfire stories.

When taking a large group, especially when some in the group are new to bowhunting, the goal is to make the experience comfortable and rewarding. Nine Yard Safaris offers excellent accommodations.
When taking a large group, especially when some in the group are new to bowhunting, the goal is to make the experience comfortable and rewarding. Nine Yard Safaris offers excellent accommodations.

Animals Galore

In talking with Ian Lowe and planning out our adventure, he told me you don’t have to be in true elk hunting shape to be able to take part in pursuing red stags in New Zealand. That said, you must be in decent hiking shape in order to work at chasing down a good-sized stag. The terrain in the area we’d be hunting wasn’t super steep, but it did have some elevation changes.

You could decide to really work hard climbing all day trying to call in a stag, or you could spend a lot of time driving in a truck, stopping often to glass and locate a good-sized stag that way. It is very similar to Africa, because there are a lot of other game animals to pursue on these properties besides just the red stag, so the adventure would make for a very target-rich environment. 

In addition to red deer, New Zealand has sika deer, fallow deer, feral sheep, turkeys and amazing fishing. Other than needing a gun permit if you plan to bring a firearm along on the hunt, there isn’t any type of hunting license that is required in New Zealand. There are no draws or extra cost associated with being able to hunt.

The lodging with Nine Yard Safaris is absolutely astonishing. The house we booked was one of the nicest hunting lodges I’ve ever seen. Just like a high-quality African safari, the service side of this adventure was topnotch on all levels. They had daily laundry service, a full-time chef, two or three people working in the house to help with logistics, and the guides were extremely knowledgeable. Every single person we encountered was welcoming and excited to have our group. This is the perfect hunt to bring your wife and other family members along. I can honestly say that anyone would be extremely comfortable on this hunt.

I’ve always said that the ENTIRE experience on a trip is what makes the trip, not just the quality of the hunting. Spending time with the folks at Nine Yard Safaris won’t disappoint. From the time our group arrived until we left, they made sure we were having the trip of a lifetime.

Rut = Roar

Since we opted to do this hunt in March, the red deer would be in full rut and their roar would be on. We planned this entire trip around getting to experience the roar. When I started this adventure, I wanted to go at this with the elk hunting mentality, and we hit it perfectly.

It was like we were bowhunting in the Rocky Mountains the last week of September. From the lodge we could hear the stags roaring nonstop.

Ian decided to get me set up on some wallows and for us to brush in a ground blind within bow range so we could try to take down a big stag with the crossbow. I’m extremely confident shooting my Excalibur out to 60 yards at a target, but when hunting, I really want to keep my shots within 40 yards. Even though these crossbows are extremely fast, it is no different than hunting with a vertical bow — a lot can happen after you let a bolt fly.

As we stalked toward our ambush spot the first day, we encountered a giant roaring stag that got us a little sidetracked. We ended up trying to make a stalk on him, but we just couldn’t get within bow range. He was fired up and calling continually. The stag just had a few hinds with him and wouldn’t break away from them. Each time Ian threw out a call, the stag would answer us. I didn’t have any doubts about the area Ian suggested after this first encounter. It definitely got everyone in our group eager to hunt.

We built our blind around the wallows and the sign was incredible. It looked just like a big elk wallow — you could smell the stags all around it. There wasn’t a single tree or bush within sight of this wallow that wasn’t ripped to shreds. I knew if we could put in some time at this spot, we’d have a shot at a big stag. 

The wallow was in some thick timber on the side of fairly steep hill. Because treestands aren’t really an option in New Zealand, we cut some brush and made a nice spot to hide about 25 yards from the wallow. The stags were so fired up that not more than 10 to 15 minutes would pass without us hearing a stag roar in some direction. I knew that one would have to come in to us at some point.

A Grand Entrance

After sitting about 3 hours in the blind, I heard a stag roaring that seemed to be talking more often than most of the others we could hear. Each time he seemed to be getting closer and closer. I looked up on the horizon and I could finally see him. He was truly a magnificent looking animal; he was completely sky-lined and backlit.

He tipped his head back, roared and then started to walk down the hill, pushing his two hinds. They were coming straight down to our wallow. The hinds ended up getting to the water’s edge first, and walked right out into the water. The stag was a little cautious as he got closer.

He hung up 65 yards up the hill in some thicker cover and was thrashing the bushes. It was almost like he was calling for his girls to come back to him because he wasn’t going to come into the wallow. The two hinds didn’t seem to care about what he was trying to get them to do.

Thankfully, he broke his frozen posture and started down the hill toward our wallow. As he approached, I ranged the edge of the water where I thought he would enter. I slid off the crossbow’s safety and was ready for a shot opportunity — finally!

The stag got into the water, and just a like a big bull elk he proceeded to thrash everything he could touch. As he left the wallow, he walked up the bank where we were sitting and gave me a perfect 25-yard shot. He looked enormous in my scope. 

When I hit the stag, he took off up the hill the same direction he’d come from, then dropped after only 50 yards. I was in shock — I’d finally got my giant red stag, and I got to use my crossbow.

The best part was when Ian and the other guys came to pick us up, and we had that big stag on the ground. Being able to share the experience with my wife and good friends just topped all my expectations.

After witnessing quite a show of rut behavior near a wallow, the author was rewarded with a 25-yard shot. The massive stag ran only 50 yards before dropping.
After witnessing quite a show of rut behavior near a wallow, the author was rewarded with a 25-yard shot. The massive stag ran only 50 yards before dropping.

An Amazing Adventure

This experience is one I would recommend to anyone who wants a great international big game adventure. Ian Lowe is a true professional and understands how to orchestrate a once-in-a-lifetime hunting experience.

Ian and his wife go out of their way to make sure you’re able to plan the perfect New Zealand trip. This even includes the non-hunting portion of the trip if you want to get out and be adventurous in New Zealand. Ian and his wife are the reason this trip was such an incredible experience for my wife, our friends and myself.

If you want a great New Zealand hunting experience, contact Nine Yard Safaris and Ian Lowe to book your next hunt.


Comments on this site are submitted by users and are not endorsed by nor do they reflect the views or opinions of COLE Publishing, Inc. Comments are moderated before being posted.