When I was little, I never thought I would make it to New Zealand. Of all the places I had ever wanted to go, it was the one place I most wanted to visit because it holds some of the most beautiful country and some of the largest animals in the world. In 2011, my dream finally came true.
After a few short months of planning and corresponding with Wyatt McBride of Spey Creek Trophy Hunting, we were on our way! As we drove through the gates of the Spey Creek Trophy Hunting grounds, we could already hear the famous sound of the fallow deer’s croaking and the mindboggling sound of the red stag’s roar. Before we’d even gotten to the gorgeous lodge, I was ready to jump out of the truck and walk to the top of the mountain so I could finally lay my eyes on the animal I was dying to hunt — the red stag.
When we were finally ready to hunt, I set out on a hike to the top of the closest mountain to scout with Wyatt, my head guide, Jeff, my dad and Jake, our helping guide/videographer. When we got to the top, I felt like I was sitting on top of the world. It was hills and mountains as far as the eye could see and then I heard the words I had been waiting hear for the past few months:
“I’ve got a stag!”
Not only was I thrilled that I was getting to see an animal that I had never seen before in my life, but he may potentially be a shooter though it turned to be just a young bull.
As the afternoon progressed, stags, fallow deer and a goat or two popped up along the ridges of distant mountains. Wyatt saw a chamois on a distant hill and, while he wasn’t what we were looking for, we decided to hike over and look to see if he had any friends.
As we hiked up the other side of the mountain, we reached the edge of a little knoll and I saw something that raised my heartbeat and put me in shear awe — a chamois.
“Hey! Hey! I have a chamois,” I whispered so the animal wouldn’t hear me.
“Where?” asked all three men simultaneously.
After explaining where this chamois was bedded, all three guys set up their spotting scopes and binoculars to see if it was a mature chamois. After a few short minutes of scoping out the chamois, I heard the few words that sent my heart racing.
“We need to kill this chamois! I think if we get up on this knoll you will have a better shot, Madie,” explained Wyatt. “It will still be a long shot, but you should be able to see his vitals.”
I was ready! By myself, and with my father a few yards behind me and Wyatt and Jake filming, I snuck up the ridge. I had gotten to where I thought I needed to be, but the knoll hid part of the chamois’ body so I continued to belly crawl toward the other end of the knoll. Finally, I was where I could see the animal. My dad handed me his pack and told me to lie down and get steady. He also told me the chamois had lay down and that it might be a little longer wait. He didn’t want me to shoot because all I could see was the top third of the animal.
“He is about 368 yards away,” my dad said. “Aim where you want to hit. You have made this shot a million times! Just breathe in, steady your crosshairs and pull the trigger when he stands up.”
I was taking deep breaths and following my dad’s advice when I realized I could shoot him while he was lying there. I knew I didn’t have much to aim at and, in my opinion, it was better than waiting until dark and him never standing up.
“Hey Dad! I can shoot him lying there,” I said.
“I’m good Dad! I got it!” I exclaimed. After contemplating it, he finally said I could shoot, but I had to make sure I had a steady shot and that I was aiming where I needed to hit. I took a few more short deep breaths and put my crosshairs right at the hair above the rock. I was nervous, but I didn’t want to wait any longer and squeezed the trigger.
The chamois jumped up and rolled off the edge away from where any of us could see him. Almost simultaneously, my dad, Wyatt and Jake jumped and yelled, “You got him!”
They all ran toward me hooting and hollering. I had shot my first New Zealand big game animal and I couldn’t have been any happier! Even though I wanted to run over there and see the animal I had just shot, we made a group decision to split up. Wyatt would go high and Jake, my dad and I would go lower. We would meet up and one of us would carry the chamois out to get pictures.
The chamois ended up not rolling down the hill, but stuck up top on the path that Wyatt was taking. Wyatt grabbed my animal, threw it over his shoulders and headed our way. When he got there, I finally saw the chamois I had waited months and months to shoot. He was a 10 1/2-inch long buck. He was an absolute stud and a great way to start off our trip!
Six days into the trip, we were still looking for my stag. Up to that point, we had seen lots of stags, and many of them were of a quality that anyone would shoot in a heartbeat. But I was being picky and wanted one that I really liked. For me it wasn’t just about the score, it was about the style and look of the stag.
We were sitting on a hill scouting down in a big draw where they saw stags every day when all of a sudden, our guide, Andrew’s, walkie-talkie started talking! It was Wyatt, who was scouting for stags in another area of the ranch for me since I was the only one who hadn’t shot one. Wyatt told Andrew that he had a “decent” one that we needed to come see. With that information, we packed up and met Wyatt on top of a nearby hill. Wyatt was there looking across a valley at the other side of the mountain with his Leica spotting scope.
He instructed my dad to look in the scope and tell him what he thought. My dad peered through the scope at a stag that was laying in the shade of a large rock slate.
“He looks like a big one!” exclaimed my dad. His tone was very hesitant, as if the stag was a little larger than Wyatt’s previous description. With my dad’s statement, I definitely wanted to see this so-called “decent” red stag. What I was about to see was the largest red stag I had seen the entire trip!
“I want that one!”
That’s all that I could say. I couldn’t think of anything else. I was in awe of this extremely large creature! We all decided that we were going to get closer and ensure that this was in fact the red stag I wanted to take. We were inching up the mountain when the stag started to get out of his bed and move around. He started becoming restless and we were worried he was going to take off and leave.
I finally inched up to a short rock ledge where I could see the place where we had last seen the stag. All of a sudden, we saw his antlers sky-lined on the top of the mountain not even 500 yards away. We set up the spotting scopes and video cameras, so we could guarantee that this was the stag that I needed to take home with me. Wyatt and Andrew each set up a spotting scope, Jake set up the video camera and my dad and I sat there and waited. Wyatt and Andrew both got excited — this was the stag everyone had been looking for – a red stag that was going to score in the high 500s.
“This is the big one Jeff. You wanna see him?” asked Wyatt.
“Yes I do!” exclaimed my dad. “That one looks a little bigger than what we had talked about!”
Wyatt then proceeded to explain that this stag was in fact the one my dad told me I could not shoot no matter what — there was no option of shooting this red stag. Although for the three months prior to our trip, my dad had continued to say no, I set up on my pack in prone position. I was getting anxious wondering if my dad would ever let me shoot this incredible stag!
As I was getting set up, I hoped that the stag would come toward the edge of the rock cliff on top of the mountain he was on. But he soon disappeared.
As soon as he was out of sight, I asked my dad, “Can I shoot him? If not it’s okay. I’m just glad I got to see him.”
“Yes you can shoot him,” my dad relented. “No point in hiking all the way up here and not shooting him … I mean, he is an absolute giant and if you don’t shoot him, I will,” Dad replied.
With that statement I “beared down,” as my dad would say, and took deep breaths because the next time I saw this red stag I was going to shoot him. We waited and waited and then we saw five stags come around the edge where we were hoping the huge one would come from, but he wasn’t with the smaller ones. When I say “little,” I mean stags that would score anywhere from 300 to 400! Finally, we started seeing his massive antlers coming over top of the hill. Soon he was walking across the open slope like he was on a mission.
“Are you steady? Just aim right on his shoulder. You have made this shot six thousand times! He is only 362 yards away honey!” This was my dad’s way of calming me down.
Finally, he stopped. He was now only 336 yards away! I took a deep breath and … BANG!
“You hit him! Shoot him again! We don’t want him getting away!” yelled Wyatt and my dad.
“Good shot! Madie. You got yourself a great red stag!” explained Wyatt.
With that last shot, the stag hit the ground. He rolled down the hill about 30 yards and stopped, and all I could think was that I had just killed a red stag. I was shaking so badly that I could hardly breathe! I just wanted to run up that last little bit of the hill and put my hands on the stag that I had dreamed my whole life about shooting!
When we walked up, we were all in awe. It was gigantic! Wyatt and Andrew figured he scored between 590 and 600.
After getting back to the lodge, everyone admired my stag before we took him up to the horn shed and measured him out to see what this famous Spey Creek Trophy Hunting red stag scored. It took us almost three hours to score this monster!
“Congratulations! You shot the new world record red stag! He scores 632 inches!” John, the outfitter, told me.
I started jumping up and down, incredibly excited! Needless to say, that was all I needed; there was nothing that could make my trip any better. After that day, we ended up shooting a few more animals, including two gorgeous tahr. My sister also shot her first big game animal, a fallow deer and a red stag that scored 450 inches. It was actually larger then my dad’s red stag!–Madie Demenske