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An Eye to the Future

In certain parts of their range, sika hinds need culling to retain a balanced population and for the health of the bush and the herd.

If I was to label myself from a hunting perspective, I’d call myself a ‘meat’ hunter – for several reasons … but mainly, because I like eating, and as for my protein choice, a juicy piece of wild venison, in my opinion, is hard to beat on the taste scale! Basically though, any activity that involves food is right up there on my list of worthy things to spend time on. Thus, when I first started hunting, the end goal was always filling the freezer; antlers were not on my list of motivations.

Why I Hunt

Certainly, over the years, I’ve developed a passion for all things hunting related – meat and antler and horn. The ability for a set of antlers to bring back memories and stir emotions of a hunt gone by is hard to compete with – I totally get that. Having something tangible to dwell on is a different feeling to the knowledge of being able to provide healthy, organic, traceable food for the table that’ll no doubt get consumed by the family.

However, the more I think about why I hunt, I can’t but feel that there just seems to be something visceral … instinctive … about the process, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels this way. I’ve struggled to find other sports, pastimes – call them what you will – that come close to hunting.

Whether you have a foot in both camps or are motivated more by trophies than sourcing food, each hunter is part of a like-minded group. It’s becoming more important that as a group, we look after our own. I’m not just referring to other hunters, but also the land and wildlife we all get to enjoy.

Game Management

Each year, the Roar season brings greater opportunity in the form of increased animal activity; because of that, even this self-confessed meat hunter isn’t entirely immune to the lure of the hard antler and the excitement that this time of the year can bring.

It’s a great time to be in the hills or the bush; however, this does of course bring an increase in hunter activity. So, why not use this to our advantage?

Let me explain. Rather than another article about how to secure trophy stags this Roar, I’d like to throw down the gauntlet and suggest this is also a great time of year to target the ever-increasing hind/doe population in certain herds and locations.

It’s no secret that in some parts of the country, we have an overabundance of deer. As hunters, I believe we have an important role to play in supporting game management efforts of the industry stakeholders. An important part of game management is controlling the numbers of breeding-aged females; the science on this has been done for us by numerous industry experts. Take the Sika Foundation policies plus the various ‘management hunts’ the NZDA promote; all involve culling of breeding-aged female animals for herd control.

I’m not suggestion for a moment that you pass up that trophy stag this Roar for a breeding-aged female – not by any stretch of the imagination! But if there’s an opportunity to do more …

Many of us like to do our part for conservation, and this can take on many forms – such as getting involved in the various trapping programs currently occurring or becoming involved in management hunts, culling a few goats and so on. As a community of hunters, why not – should the opportunity present itself – make the most of the number of us in the hills this Roar and take a few hinds/does along the way?

I’m sure many of us do this already. But please, do some research on the area where you’re going to be hunting, and see if there’s a need to assist any management efforts. Talk to the various industry stakeholders, like the GAC, Sika Foundation, NZDA, etc. Also, use your observation skills whilst out hunting – does there seem to be a large ratio of hinds in the area? If so, how about spending a day or half a day concentrating your efforts on culling some of them? I don’t expect all hunters will agree with me on this, but that’s okay … this is, of course, just an opinion.

Strategies

Tactics for this can be easy, as if you’re hunting in a group with mates and you come across an open area that contains a stag and several hinds. Once you’ve gone through the obligatory exchange of arguments as to whose turn it is to have a crack at the stag, the non-stag shooters can be set up ready for taking any available hinds.

Other tactics include outlining priorities for the trip, such as age of the stag you’re after, close encounters and experiences you’d like to have on the trip, catch up with mates, time-out, relaxation and so on. Maybe set your top two priorities, then once these have been met, focus your attention on harvesting a couple of hinds. Let’s face it … tasty hind meat is much nicer than rutty old stag! And if you didn’t get an opportunity to shoot a stag for whatever reason, that hind meat can certainly help ‘bank’ brownie points once you arrive home!

Another positive is to imagine what harvesting more hinds could do in certain areas for the Roar experience the next year and the quality of stags seen due to more abundant feed during the velvet cycle.

Additionally, it helps overall how we’re portrayed by non-hunters. If for every stag posted on social media, or photos shown to friends and family, there’s harvested hinds along with it, this opens conversations about conservation and the role we as hunters play in game management.

Talking with Ben Brown, a regular contributor to NZRod&Rifle, prior to writing this article, we discussed strategies to use if you’re worried about spooking the big stags by shooting hinds. Ideas we came up with included shooting any hinds in a more sound-containing area only, like a gut, narrow creek, or opposite ridge, etc. Or why not stay an extra day and target some meat animals? Perhaps move a few Ks out of the area you’re chasing stags in, or even look for hinds on the walk out?

There are lots of pros to the harvesting of hinds during the Roar; I see this as a win-win scenario. As modern hunters, I believe we need to be mindful and educated as to what the future holds for generations to come and keep an eye to the future and the bigger picture.

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