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Red Deer (Cervus elaphus) are a close cousin of the larger American elk or wapiti , Russian maral, and sika stag (Cervus nippon). These amazing game animals, originating in Europe, have been introduced around the world as “exotics” from New Zealand to Texas and Canada. The largest native herds with the best trophy quality are found in Hungary, Germany and Romania, with Scotland being a close fourth for a smaller antler size but the most fantastic stalking experience.
Breeding season known as the “Roar” is magical time.
The roar takes place around September to October depending on weather in the Northern Hemisphere and opposite in the southern hemisphere. Preferred hunting method during the rut is spot-and-stalk and calling. Most stag hunting will be focused around the ‘roar’ or rut. In New Zealand, this takes place from late March through April. Roaring stags can be hunted in a similar way to bugling elk, and calling an aggressive stag in is an awesome experience. As with all species there will be year to year variations with the exact timing of the ‘roar’/rut.
Early season hunting can also be good. Like mule deer and elk, the stags are often found high above treeline, fattening up before the roar. I would wait until February to ensure that the stags are in hard velvet or starting to strip. Some older stags will come into hard antler earlier, but I think it’s best to ensure they are well and truly ready to strip, as summer temperatures can quickly ruin a soft velvet head.
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