|My Account||CLUB Visa Account||Wish List||View Cart (0 Items) $0.00||Checkout|
Author: Craig Boddington
Roar or bugle, Argentina or Scotland, wherever you hunt red stags or whatever you call it's mating song, it is sure to be an adventure.
The lilting, three-note bugle of a rutting bull elk is one of the most distinctive and seductive
sounds in nature. The European red stag, also very vocal, is closer than a cousin to our elk.
Both are members of the cervidae family of round-antlered deer, and for many years they were considered separate species: cervus elaphus, the red stag; and Cervus canadensis, the American elk or wapiti. It turns out, however, that they can (and do!) interbreed freely, given the chance, so most modern authorities consider them as just one species, Cervus elaphus. So the red stag is almost an elk, or vice versa. With differences. No American hunter who has ever heard it will forget the bugle of a bull elk. European hunters don't call it a bugle. They call it a "roar." Okay, but that's just a word. So what if the red stag is a little smaller in the body, more reddish in color, and with slightly different antler conformation? Surely they must sound the same!
The roar of a red stag is so different from an elk's bugle that the first time I heard it I had no idea what it was! It was in Spain, 20 years ago, and I was walking through a little valley on the first evening of the hunt. I heard this incredible bovine bellow just up the hill. I paid no attention; I was looking for a red stag and distressed cattle weren't my concern! My Spanish guide stopped me, pointed up the hill, and with a (honest) section of cow horn, replicated that ferocious, drawn-out, one-note call. It's a wonderful sound, but it's not a bugle and it's really not a bellow. It's, well, a "roar" that would do a lion proud.
The smallest red stags are found in Scotland's harsh moors, scarcely bigger than large mule deer and hunted very much like caribou in the tundra-like country. Stags on the European continent are larger, with mature bulls approaching a bull elk in size. Voice and body size aren't the only differences; the red stag is more uniformly reddish-brown in color, and on the best stags the antlers will have a distinctive cluster or "crown" of points above the third point. The best European stags are said to come from the Danube Valley and from still-wild areas in Romania and Bulgaria.
However, it is a little tough to tell exactly where red stags leave off and elk begin. When you get far enough east, as in Kazakhstan, the deer are big-bodied, more pale in color, and the antlers may or may not crown. These animals are usually called maral stags. Go farther East, into the forested hills of Mongolia, and the maral stags - now often called Asian wapiti - are indistinguishable from American elk, and even sound the same (they bugle rather than roar). This difference in sound is believed to have evolved because of different habitat - while the bugle carries better in country that is hillier and more open.
Argentina is another story. Down there the population is almost entirely free range, and while
the best Argentinean stags don't rival the best from eastern Europe, the average is very good and
the hunts quite economical. Actually, a red stag hunt in Argentina was one of my very best and
most memorable hunts ever, a horseback affair in big, open country that backed up to the
foothills of the Andes. I didn't get a genuine monster, but in a week's hunt I took two very
nice stags, saw a lot of game, and had a wonderful time.
In Europe, the stags generally roar in September, but in the Southern Hemisphere, the seasons reverse, so April catches the rut in both New Zealand and Argentina. This offers a unique opportunity for a good off-season hunt...although it can cut into the turkey season a bit!
Most of my stag hunting - on four continents now - has been during the roar. This is not essential, but it is clearly the best time. The hunting gets far more difficult later, with the bulls retreating into the most remote hideouts to lick their jousting wounds and recover some energy. And of course, as the rut wanes the likelihood of broken antler points increases. It's okay to miss the rut. Especially in Europe, the game management is so effective that most hunts are expected to be successful regardless of condition. But what a shame to not hear the stags roar!
As is the case with elk, hunting varies depending on the country. In thickly wooded terrain, which is the case in much of Europe and New Zealand, the roar is extremely important for locating stags. Sometimes they will answer a challenge and come all the way in, and sometimes the roar is used for locating and stalking - just like elk. In more open terrain, typical of Scotland and Argentina, the hunting is done by glassing and stalking - and timing the rut exactly is not quite so critical. But wherever you are, the time of roar is the best time, simply because the sound is so wonderful!
One full moon night in Austria's Tyrol, I was staying in a cabin with stags roaring all around. It went on all night long, one of the finest serenades I've ever heard. The sound does seem different in Scotland's open hills, and in Argentina's open heather. But it's still a wonderful sound wherever you hear it, almost like an elk...and in some ways even better.
Your complete source for more Cabela's News, and updated hunting and fishing articles.