HUNTING RED STAGS NORWEGIAN STYLE PART 1 of 2

How do we hunt red stags in Norway and what gear do we normally use? Here's an insider article on how we should solve the situations that may arise.

Let me me start by saying this - this is my own technique to hunt red stags, I know there are several more ways of doing it but i can not speak on their behalf..

The red stag is a hunter's dream for many, and a very elusive creature. Sometimes it can be the hardest animal in the world to find, and some other times, it will be just magically there.

How do we get access to the hunt?

Red deer hunting in Norway is not classified as trophy hunting, but management hunting - therefore you have to hunt all of the different categories. The place where I hunt is the hunting grounds of my uncle Arne. He is not a hunter, but as the land-owner he can give me access and allow me to hunt in his place. My uncle Arne is part of a group of landowners who cooperate in their farming; the area on which the permits are based is much bigger than his land - farms are not very large on the North West coast of Norway, so this is standard procedure.

On a typical year, we hunt about 14 red deer - and a normal count looks pretty much like this:

  • 4 fawns
  • 4 one year old's, two females and two males 
  • 3 adult does
  • 3 adult stags 

There are several hunters in our area, so we seldom get a chance to shoot stags; I am quite used to this - and have never really been hunting red stags as trophy, so I take them as they come, as long as I feel they are a good representation of the species.

So, how do I hunt deer? Here are some deer-hunting tips and strategies

We use two hunting strategies: we either take them in the field, or we stalk them into the woods.

The hunting in the field is the most common. We set up blinds, in good position to scan the field, and we take turns on sitting watches in the mornings, evenings and, if the moon is right, during the night. That's why you'll commonly see large optics on the rifles: we need to gather as much as light as possible to see the hunt; late in the season, the frost and snow on the fields makes it easier to see the animals, even at night.  

Hunting in the night is special. The deer is relaxed, without skittishness. This makes the hunting very safe. You will have time to take your pick, or decide to just watch them interact with each other. Red deer are very interesting animals :)

The second technique is to stalk the animals in the woods. This is where experience and skill comes into play; it's you against them, and you have to outsmart them. Not an easy task! 

Before the season starts, I go into the woods to gather as much intel as I can. Are the paths at the same place as before? What have been the changes in the shooting paths we have used before? What is new, have they moved to a different area?

And now, one of my best personal deer hunting tips.

- Do not shoot an adult doe in the woods. These are the ones that teach the young ones what path to walk. You'll have them in the area more. When I started hunting, I shot too many of these and they disappeared from those areas. After I left them alone for several years, things went back to normal.

What do I shoot while stalking, then?

Mostly management bucks and 1 yearlings. They are easy to identify and easy to carry back home :)

My best experience, to date, while stalking stags

I woke up that morning with a text message from the leader of the hunt: the last big stag had been shot during the night. I cursed to myself but decided to go out anyway.

I got out in the woods about 07:00, taking the track I felt was best considering the wind pattern that day. It was late September, the leaves had turned yellow and red, but most of them were still on the trees. 

I stalked the animals for about 55 minutes - in this area the terrain is steep and demanding. I got to the area where I knew they usually are at that time of the day, but saw nothing. The vegetation was extremely dense, to the point that you had to forcefully press on to get through. The wind was on my side and as I pushed through a brush I got to a small clearing, of about 20 meters in diameter. To my amazement, there was a BIG stag lying under the tree, bedded down, half asleep. He had no idea I was there watching.. I crouched down, he was not more than 10 meters from me. I sat for a couple of minutes and started hearing other deer around us. The vegetation was so dense he must have thought I was one of the satellite bulls or does behind in the brush.

He was a creature worthy of admiration. Old, with had 13 spikes, 6 x 7 with 3 in a crown on the left and 4 on the crown to the right. Based on the other stags I had helped butcher I calculated he would be about 150-160 kg cleaned-out. The biggest I had seen to that date.

He was just lying there, regurgitating feed and chewing. His eyes were closed and he was facing the sun, getting warmth after a chilly night. I sat there for almost 15 minutes admiring him - what else could I do - we had no more stags to hunt for this season. He was a gloriously beautiful animal. 

I decided I had to get on with my hunting, so I knocked on a tree. He jumped up, looked directly at me and grunted, 3 times. Our eyes were locked for 5 seconds - I wondered if he was going to charge, so I had my rifle at the ready - then he spun around and vanished in a blink of an eye. I never saw him again.

Hunting is not about killing, it is about being close to nature and acknowledging the wonders that are there. The management hunts we do are meant to preserve the genetic balance on the herds. If we don't hunt, disease will set in, biologically faulty genes will be passed onto next generations, allowing a slow weakening of the heard, of the species. The cold and snow-filled Norwegian nature is hard enough, and will not take lightly on a weakened species. Hunting is our way to weed out the traits that, ultimately, will challenge the survival of the red deer. When you are confronted with such a magnificent animal, that need becomes instantly clear.

 

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All the best.

Oscar Haugen
CEO GRS Riflestocks AS

(This post is the first part of a two part series. In the next post I will write about the different hunting setups I use in the field.)