By: Jo Ann Nunez

Scott spots two more red stags, gets my attention and says, “Come on, we got to make our way up the hill. They are behind us.” We crawl on our knees as he gets me into position. Scott says, “Get ready he is coming.” Again, I nock my arrow and clip my Scott release onto my loop. I am not nervous at this point because this is the third time I have nocked an arrow.

Suddenly, a red stag appears to my left. Scott says, “You can take him. He is twenty five yards away.” As I begin to stand and draw my Mathews Passion, Scott says, “There is another red stag on your right at twenty five yards and he is bigger, take him! Take the shot when you are ready.”

Before coming to full draw, I redirect my focus on the red stag to my right. I look at him and he turns and looks at me briefly then he looks away. I place my pin just behind the shoulder and confirm that I am level. I release my arrow and I connect. I hear the arrow hit and watch it bury into the red stag. However, my arrow placement is further back than I anticipated. All I can think is what happened? I reach for another arrow but my quiver is on the face of the hill. I also realized I forgot to turn on my camera!

My bow was set up with the Texas Boar Bracket, which allowed me to attach the video camera into my riser but I was so focused on my shot that I forgot to press the record button. We can see that he is badly hurt as we see him stagger away. I turn to Scott and he says, “When you released the red stag you were aiming at lunged forward to fight with the other stag on your left.” Scott says, “Let’s get your arrows and make our way in front of him for a follow up shot.” At this point, I am dejected but know that I have to get another arrow in him.

As we make our way up the other hill to get into position for another shot, I cannot help but beat myself up for not connecting like I had practiced. We cleared the hill and there is no sign of the stag. I am really beginning to panic. I know he is hurt and we need to locate him, Where is he? Scott says, “He must be at the face of the hill. We are ahead of him. We have to go down the face of the hill and locate him.” Now the quest to find my stag intensified. Here is where the experience of a guide is very important.

As we backtracked, Scott used his binoculars and quickly located my stag. He says, “I got him. I see him. Can you see him?” I reply, “I do not see him.” He whispers, “He is to the right of you. He is about sixty yards.” Suddenly, I see some antler tips moving. Scott says, “You are going to have to slide down in a seated position and I will tell you when to stop.”

I begin my descent in hopes of getting a follow up shot. I look up at Scott and he signals for me to stop and get ready. He lets me know that I am thirty-five yards away. We patiently wait for the opportunity.

The red stag finally stands up and I see that my arrow is still in him. However, he lays down again behind a bush. A few minutes later, we see him get up and Scott says, “Here is your chance.” I see him ease forward as I draw back my Passion. I release and my arrow connects. After the shot, all I could see is a set of huge antlers gracefully lay down in slow motion. He gets up one more time and runs down to the bottom of the hill. Scott comes down to me and says, “Good job on the follow-up shot. He is hurt badly, let us give him time to expire and not push him. We will find him here in the morning.”

Author with her trophy Red Stag. Persistence pays off.

On the drive back to Ann’s, I was still in shock. I was happy that I was able to harvest a red stag but upset with my initial shot. I was so disappointed with my first shot that I did not allow myself the opportunity to celebrate. In my mind, I had dreamed of this hunt for months and had practiced the shot over and over but the hunt did not happen as I had practiced. As we all know, 3D targets do not move even though there are times when we swear they do. For me, my shot reinforced the idea that things can change in a split second and being prepared for a follow up shot is critical. In this situation, I was extremely grateful that my guide, Scott Thomson, was able to get me within bow range but most importantly he had the experience and knowledge to locate my fatally wounded stag and get me a follow-up shot.

The perfect end to an incredible day.

Scott said, “Well, what are you thinking?” I replied, “I cannot believe it. I think I am still in shock and I will feel better once I see him tomorrow. However, I do think this evening I need a Speight.” After my shower at Ann’s home, I sat down for a wonderful steak dinner, salad, and celebratory beer. I said my prayers thanking God for an outstanding first day and the wonderful opportunity to hunt in New Zealand before I retired for the evening.

I woke up on day two of my hunt knowing that we were going back to the field not to stalk but to retrieve my red stag. Once again, Ann had prepared a hearty breakfast as we gathered around the table to discuss my harvest. I was finally starting to feel anxious. I think I consumed my breakfast in record time. After breakfast, the drive to the field seemed longer than the day before. In my mind, all I could think of was ‘I sure hope we find him’. Then at that moment Scott said, “I know exactly where to find him.”

As we approached the area where we last saw him, I heard Scott say, “Yeah, there he is mate!” My magnificent red stag was right where we last saw him the night before. It was at that moment, I realized my quest for a red stag in New Zealand was now complete. I was in awe and could not find the words to describe how it felt to see just how magnificent and beautiful the red stag was at that moment. He was even larger than I imagined and much more majestic than I recalled. After we took pictures, Scott said, “So what are you going to do now that you got your red stag on the first day of your hunt?” I replied, “I am going to see the beauty of New Zealand.”

The next twelve days I spent sightseeing in New Zealand was incredible with all the beautiful sites that included the Southern Alps, the rain forest, the waterfalls, the crystal clear streams and rivers, the glaciers, the Tasman Sea, the Pacific Ocean, punting on the Avon, Gondola ride to the Summit of the mountain, tram rides, the Tranzcoastal and Tranzalpine scenic train tours, sunset sail boating in the harbor at Auckland, and the wonderful whale watching in Kaikora but nothing could compare to my first day of bow hunting in New Zealand.

This hunt would have never been possible had it not been for the Lone Star Bowhunters Association and the generosity of their outfitter, Scott Thomson of Southern Hunting Safaris. Scott worked hard and did a fantastic job to get me within bow range. I have the greatest admiration and I deeply appreciate Scott’s knowledge, experience and passion for bow hunting. I have no doubt that when the opportunity arises to return to New Zealand, Scott Thomson of Southern Hunting Safaris will be my outfitter.

If anyone is planning a trip to New Zealand to hunt a Red Stag, Bull Tahr, Chamois, or any other New Zealand game then contact Scott Thomson of Southern Hunting Safaris and give him the opportunity to serve up an exhilarating hunt for you. My thanks also go out to the volunteers of the Lone Star Bowhunters Association for their dedication and efforts. The Lone Star Bowhunters Association is a wonderful organization that is dedicated to preserving and promoting the sport of bow hunting in Texas as well as introducing our youth into the sport of archery. Support the Lone Star Bowhunters Association and attend their annual banquet because you never know when your dream hunt could be yours by simply raising your hand.

Also, thanks to  Mathews Archery and Scott Archery. Using the best equipment helps ensure a rewarding hunt.

NOTE: CHRISTCHURCH was hit with a major earthquake. Anyone wishing to donate to the relief fund is encouraged to go: Christchurch earthquake relief fund.