The New Zealand Fishing and Shooting Gazette: “Amongst the Red Deer at Lake Hawea”

Amongst the Red Deer at Lake Hawea
by Robt. H. Scott, Lumsden
Volume 1, No. 2, December 1, 1927, Wellington, N.Z., pp 17 & 18

Lake Hawea is situated in the north-west of Otago, and is reached by a good road from Cromwell, the rail-head. The lake presents a pleasing picture, being surrounded by mountains, in parts bush-clad. A large herd of red deer roams the country on all sides of the lake, and some excellent heads have been secured here. The lake is also well stocked with rainbow and brown trout, which add variety to the sport obtainable. An accommodation house stands at the foot of the lake, and a fine motor-launch on the lake gives welcome aid in getting to the chosen camping site.

The spot chosen by our party for the centre of operations was at The Neck, about half-way up the lake, and an excellent camping ground it proved to be. Water and wood were in abundance, manuka scrub for bedding, deer plentiful, and, wonderful torelate, those pests of the camper–sandflies–few and far between, enabling us to swim and sunbathe with impunity. The country is steep, covered for the most part with fern, and bush in patches; most of our stalking is in the open–a pleasure appreciated by one who has spent days in the bush trying to catch sight of a stag’s points. The climate here is drier than in the regular bush country, and swamp is unknown.

Stalkers Camp at The Neck, Lake Hawea, and some Trophies of the Hunt (original photo, page 18).

In country where deer are numerous, early rising is easy, and that without the use of an alarm clock, for in the rutting season, the stags are liable to trouble one’s slumbers long before daylight. For a day’s successful hunting an early start is a big help, for, early in the day the stags are to be found on open country and at a low altitude. Later, when the sun gets hot, they seek shelter in the bush or take to the breezy mountain tops. So, in camp, we are astir at the first flush of dawn, and taking our rifles, each departs in the direction of what sounds to him the most promising roar. My friend selects a throaty roar, which we had heard behind the camp on two successive nights, while yours truly follows the lakeside until hearing what sounds like an old stag up on a ridge, he decided on a stalk.

The wind is on our backs, so we pass the bottom of the ridge and turn up the gully behind, where the going is rough over boulders hidden by fern. However, the wind takes any sound away from the stag, and the gully provides good cover, and his Highness sends out his challenge every few minutes, and carefully guides the stalker. Presently we leave the gully, and climb the side of the ridge, keeping a good look-out, for now our quarry is within range. Stepping carefully and pausing often to keep cool and retain a steady hand for the shot, we are nearing the crest, when a hidden stick snaps beneath one’s foot. How loud it sounds! Surely that must frighten the stag away. We stop with eyes and ears strained to catch any signals. Then comes a rustle in the fern, and there he is 30 yards away, staring at our faces. Curiosity has brought him to investigate the sound of the broken stick, and proves his undoing. It is a case of a quick but sure shot, and the beast presents the best mark. He bounds away apparently unhurt. A miss! Surely not at that range. We scramble to the top of the ridge, and with relief find our aim has been true–a pretty ten-pointer is our reward. We take the head off, for we must have something to show for our work, although we know it will never be mounted. Camp is reached again at nine o’clock, with an appetite fit to take breakfast and dinner all in one. Our friend reports that his stalking of the old stag proved him to have only one antler, so he had transferred his attention to a more promising animal, but without success.

However, the day is not done yet, so after the inner man is fortified, we climb the hill to the north, and with field-glasses observe two stags across the gully, but pass them by as not worth our climb. The stags, too, have quietened down, so after resting, we wend our way back to the lake and have a refreshing dip. Our thoughts once more turn to food, and the cook gets busy with venison and pots. As the sun sinks in the west we take our fill, and very good it tastes to our keen appetites. Perhaps the hunter has a greater appreciation of the flavour of venison for having secured it himself. A cheery fire, a pipe of good tobacco, and contentment is ours as we discuss the day’s events and tomorrow’s hopes. There is always a big stag in our dreams, and who knows but the morrow may bring the fulfillment of the hunter’s ambition–a head worth while.

Bibliographic information

Title: “Amongst the Red Deer at Lake Hawea”, The New Zealand Fishing and Shooting Gazette
Author: Robt. H. Scott, Lumsden
Edition: Pages 17 & 18, Vol. 1, no. 2 (Dec. 1, 1927)

The New Zealand Fishing and Shooting Gazette