What is the Best Red Stag Hunt?
What is the Best Red Stag Hunt?
I hear this question almost every day, what is the best red stag hunt? There are many factors and no single hunt is best for everyone so let’s dig in and find out what is the best hunt for you and why.
If I play the word association game with you ask where to go for stag, most hunters say New Zealand because it’s burned in our brain by the hunting shows on TV and the internet but is it the best place to hunt stag? Is Argentina better? Are you a purist who only want wild, free ranging, native stags? Then we need to shift to Europe like Hungary where the largest free range herd in the world lives.
How big is big? Safari Club International categories a gold medal stag at 300 1/8th . Since stag and elk are in the same genus but a smaller cousin, how did stag get bigger than elk? Breeding and protein. Would you be happy with a giant wild stag under 400” or a high fence monster above 500?
So what’s best for you? Maybe it’s an archery hunt only, but you want to go to Scotland…sorry the UK outlawed archery hunting, maybe you want wild stag only in NZ but are half the size you dream of because they are of Scottish descent, not Hungarian bloodlines; so it that the hunt for you?
As someone who have devoted himself to specializing in providing red stag hunting advice, I have a ton of options…but which one is right for you? Let’s start by listing the categories of terminology I hear on a regular basis and then explain what they actually mean.
- Free Range Stags
- Wild Stag
- Fair Chase
- Estate Hunts (High Fence not to be confused with private Scottish estates)
- Native Red Deer
- Northern Hemisphere (Autumn seasons)
- Southern Hemisphere (Spring Season)
Free Range Stags
The term free range generally means wild but it’s not always the case, it can be that they are running free but were not born wild. Africa is a good example, some animals are 100% born wild on a very large high fence reserve, but are born wild within the fenced area. Some are captured wild and moved in to the fenced reserve, or even bred in captivity, then traded. These stags will “go wild” very quickly once with the rest of the herds.
Wild Red Stags
This terms is what you think it means, wild; born free, never fenced or bred. However, these stags may have had some help along the way with restoring breeding populations, fed over winter,or even had water sources made available to them. Are whitetail deer truly wild if they are fed special protein and mineral blocks along with eating high protein food plots to grow bigger antlers? What if they were bred then released into the wild?
Fair Chase Hunts
This term is most often misunderstood, most think it is synonymous with wild but it’s always the case. Fair chase can mean it runs “wild” in a large enclosure, but it can be small as well. Boone and Crockett uses fair chase as a term to mean no fences, which could even be low cattle fences. In the end the term needs to be explained on the hunt you’re asking about. We focus on very large estates over 2,500 to 30,000 acres before we really call it fair chase. If it’s a 3,000 acres island and born wild, is that fair chase or wild?
This is always associated with high fence and I am not against the high fence estates, but I just want to make sure clients know the difference ahead of time. For example, in NZ around 90% of the hunts are high fence, bred, bought and sold. The next statement from my client after I explain that fact
is: “well, as long as it’s a really big area”. How big is big? In NZ the largest enclosure on the south island is 1,500 acres but most are 500…so is this the hunt for you? Well if you want the largest stag in the world there is only one place, estates in NZ! The new world record is over 800” and it’s with our outfitter. Texas and many other states offer good alternative high fence hunts as well, but nobody beats NZ.
The term native only means it is endemic to that natural born region; Scotland, Hungary, France, Germany etc. The season would be July/August to October or even January with rut being September/October depending on the country. This is most popular with the purist looking for an excuse to vacation and hunt in Europe; perfect for bringing the family.
Stags have been planted all over the world, but are wild only in a few like Argentina or New Zealand. Argentina is my favorite because they have been introduced almost 90 years ago to La Pampa, and we have a flat rate on big stags without trophy fees on 37,000 acres of free range wild stags.
Northern Hemisphere (Autumn seasons)
Best for native, wild and estates hunts in Europe, but can be high fence hunts in the United States and Canada also.
Southern Hemisphere (Spring Season)
Argentina and NZ Late February to July, with peak rut in late March to Early April.
So what is the best hunt for you? For native purist its Europe but no archery in Scotland. Hungary and Spain are great and legal for archery, but is your guide an archery hunter? Probably not. In France we have specialty hunts for archery stag with flat rates.
For the biggest stag in the world its NZ estate hunts for sure. Want a native giant? Then its Hungary, complete with hefty trophy fees that could break the bank at $10,000 plus. The biggest wild stag for the lowest cost its Argentina and without jet lag because its straight south!
Maybe you have mobility issues, or budget is the main concern, perhaps you’re a farmer and can’t get away in the fall so southern hemisphere is best or a rancher who is calving in the spring…so don’t ask what is the best hunt, ask; what hunt is the best for you?