Hunting Red Stags in March and April is without doubt one of the most exciting things we as hunters do. This time of year the hills come alive with noise and activity and along with the excitement this can also become one of the easiest times to tip over a big stag. This article is aimed at just covering the basics, to assist the new players to the roaring game and perhaps refresh some points for the old hands.
Every year from around mid to late March, Red hinds begin cycling. At this time they begin ovulating, producing a scent that tells the stags they are ready to start mating. This is a very important point to note as it means that the Stags come to the hinds and not the other way around. So if you find that throughout the rest of the year you are finding hinds in a certain area, there is a very good chance that during the roar a stag will show up to mate with these girls. And on the other hand if you have been pursuing a certain stag for the last few months there is a good chance that you will struggle to find him during the roar. Stags are known to travel long distances to their rutting grounds each year and seem to always return to same area. Therefore if you miss a shot or a chance at a certain stag one year, don’t distress as in all probability he will be found in the same spot the following year.
During March the stag will arrive in his area for the rut and start to round up his hinds. He likes to have a group of hinds to himself during the roar and will excerpt most of his time and energy protecting them from other males during this time. This is where he leaves an opening for the hunter. The biggest, badest stags are the ones who control the hinds in any particular area. This is because they can fight off any other younger boys that want a crack at the girls. Therefore the hunter can try to imitate another stag trying to come in and mate with his hinds and draw him out.
In short, stags roar to communicate with one another and suss out who’s big and in charge. A new stag coming in to try and mate with a group of hinds that already have a boy looking after them, issues a sort of challenge. He and the current alpha male roar at one another to try to figure out who is tougher. If the new stag thinks he’s got what it takes to beat out the old boy, he will come right in on him and the two will fight to decide who gets the girls. The hunter can do the same thing by roaring at other stags and issuing a challenge to come and fight. Obviously from this point if you manage to roar the stag in close to you, or roar your way in on him you can then take your shot or choose to leave him and try for a bigger animal.
Early morning and late evening are generally the best times to be hunting stags. The animals seem to be much bolder with less light and during the day they tend to be in more of a rest mode as the sun heats up. In order to cool down during the day they will use little muddy pits called wallows. Wallows are flat, wet muddy areas that the stags scratch up and make this time of year. They are usually a few meters by a few meters in size and if you come across one in the roar you will likely find a wealth of footprints and splattered mud around. This is a very good spot to try to roar in a stag as they visit their wallows on a daily basis and will normally be not far away. As well as using these mud pits to cool down the other use and probably the main use is covering themselves in their male perfume. During the Roar the stag will produce his own potent perfume in the form of urine which he will squirt on his stomach regularly and also into his wallow which he then roles around in. He does this to tell his girls that he’s the one to breed with and let the other males know that he’s the king pin.
There are a number of ways a hunter can approach the roar. Firstly you can hunt as normal without roaring yourself and let him tell you where he is. This technique is very effective as he is a lot more unsuspecting as you approach him, however it can be very frustrating as well. One of the problems with this style is that he will often roar sporadically if there is no competition close at hand so you can easily lose track of him when he goes quiet. The other technique is to roar at him as a competing stag. With this method you move in on him or vice versa if he seems willing to come to you, roaring at one another. The down side to this is that he will know where you are as he comes in and will be doing everything he can to try to smell, and see you before he gets too close. The second he realises you’re not a stag he will get the hell out of there.
What is probably the best method is a combination of these two. Stags seem very comfortable communicating with you at distance, however in closer than 100 meters or so they often become very cautious. This is especially true with the older more cunning boys. Quite often once you are in close they will shut up and try to sneak around the back of you. They do this so they can cut back across your trail and try to sniff out what you are. So therefore roaring at him up to that 200 to 100 meter mark then shutting up yourself can be very effective. This makes him very nervous as he knows you are close but he isn’t sure where. He will keep roaring at you trying to get a response so he can pin point you, in the mean time you can sneak right up on him and take your shot. Also another way of doing it is to have your hunting buddy sit back 200 meters or so and keep roaring at him as you sneak in. This is very useful as all his attention is focused off in the distance and he won’t be expecting you to pop up in front of him. With this style of hunting you must be very safety conscious though. Under no circumstances is the one doing the roaring allowed to shoot as he doesn’t know where his buddy is and the shooter must be very careful that he identifies his target and only shoots in the opposite direction to his mate.
Roaring can be done quite simply with cupped hands, a drink bottle with the end cut off or an old PVC pipe. Specially designed roaring horns and cow horns are nice and they make a great sound but are not absolutely necessary. The easiest way to learn how to roar is to simply imitate the stags around you or to jump on YouTube watch and listen to videos of stags.
Although a bit of a boring point, it is so necessary that the point of safety is stressed. So many hunters kill each other unnecessarily each year and with the number of hunters in the bush during this time you need to be on full alert. Always assume that you are roaring at another hunter until you can positively identify your target. It is amazing how realistic some hunters roaring is and with electronic copies of real deer being used these days, there is simply no way you can be sure what you are hearing is the real deal until you see it. Don’t be afraid to wear bright colours to make yourself stand out. Deer don’t see colour like we do so although you think you can be spotted a mile away in your blue T-shirt, you blend in perfectly well with the bush around you to the deer.
We would love to see you’re results, so please send us some pictures and stories when you get home and there might even be some free stuff in it for you.
Be safe this roar and make sure you enjoy it!
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