Of Red Stags by Larry Weishuhn
Of Red Stags
by Larry Weishuhn
“One of these days!” But in saying so, I seriously doubted it would ever happen. At the time I was looking at a painting of a red stag, roaring in a dimly lit Scottish glen. My wife and I had only been married a few days when we saw the painting in an antique store in the Texas Hill Country.
“If we don’t eat for two weeks, we can probably afford it! Do you want it that much?” she questioned.
“No! Actually, I was talking about some day hunting red stag.” I replied. She smiled.
Sometimes dreaming prayers do come true….I was suddenly awakened by loud “braying”. Rousing from a sound, dream sleep, for a moment I thought I was back home in Texas reliving my youth when we weaned calves, cows lowing for their separated offspring. As the “fog” cleared from a lack of sleep traveling from Texas to the North Island of New Zealand, I realized the “roaring” was not domestic cattle but something far different.
“They’re rather vocal this morning!” said Paul Bamber as I walked into the kitchen of his Wanganui Safaris’ lodge. Then with a smile said, “Unlike the feminine, sounding squeal of your wapiti, our red stags make a more masculine, manly roar.”
“I cannot argue! Not sure why y’all call that sound the stags make a roar, but indeed it is a rougher, gruffer vocalization than the high pitched bugle of our elk.” Responded I, pouring a cup of coffee then followed Paul on to the gallery just off the kitchen. Stags roared in all directions.
“We’ll take it easy this morning. After breakfast we’ll head to the back country. Thought you might need a bit of time to acclimate this morning and knew you would want to shoot your single-shot to be certain it was still sighted-in. What caliber did you bring?”
“A .30-06, shooting Hornady’s 180-grain SP (This hunt took place several years ago, had it been today I would have been shooting Hornady’s 178-grain ELD-X Precision Hunter, and my rifle would have worn a Trijicon AccuPoint scope.). Will that kill a stag?”
“Depends where you hit him!” again Paul was smiling, “Let us make certain your rifle is still zeroed, then we’ll hunt feral goats. Have several on the southern part of our property we are trying to remove. That will give you a chance to truly see some of the up and down terrain we’ll be hunting when you go after stag.” Sounded like a good plan. “Mark Haynes is going to be your guide. He will be here in a few minutes.”
I returned to hunt with Paul’s Wanganui Safaris a year later, then made other hunts to New Zealand with Gerald Fluerty of Wildside Hunting and Shane Johnson with Four Season Safaris. Each hunt I took a larger antlered stag than the year before. Between those hunts I also hunted red stag in Austria on the famed Rudurschl Reserve long hunted by the Hapsburg family; Argentina/Patagonia with Rafael Taglicosa; in Sweden with Stefan Bengssten, Scandinavian Prohunters, and finally in Scotland again with Scandinavian Prohunters. Each excursion pursuing red stag has been memorable.
Over the course of those hunts for the magnificent red stag I learned much.
Red stags make a deep, gruff roar rather than a high-pitched bugle made by bull elk or wapiti. Red stags are animals of the forest, wapiti originated on the plains. The reason these essentially “close cousins” sound differently is because a gruffer, deeper, guttural sound carries better in thick forests. The high-pitched bugle made by elk carries farther in open areas.
Both red stag and elk are delicious and needless to say great fun to hunt and most rewarding. Both too, can produce big antlers with darkly stained beams and points which are ivory tipped. Another of the differences between these to is an elk’s main beam sweep back and at the tip down. The red stag’s main beams sweep back and then forward near the tip, often forming a crown.
Personally I love the antlers of red stags. Although there may be some similarities, they are all different. Most big 6x6 bull elk all pretty well look the same. One cannot truthfully say that about red stag antlers.
Venison-wise, most red stags are not as large of body as are bull elk, but they taste equally fantastic!
I mentioned earlier some of the places I hunted red stag. My early red stag hunts were in the high country of the Southern Alps and the European Alps, only in Argentina did I hunt them on reasonably flat land. I always kept hunting Scottish red stag (the smallest of the red stags) as one of the places to hunt when I possibly could not climb as well as I did when I was younger. Erroneously I assumed the Scottish Highlands were high but relatively flat and rolling. If they are, I certainly did not hunt in such an area! My red stag hunt in Scotland was near vertical and tough! I loved it, but certainly paid a physical price.