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A roaring good time

A herd of fallow deer. PHOTO/FILE

GIANINA SCHWANECKE

Autumn brings a bountiful harvest — there are pumpkins in the patch, walnuts on the trees and grapes ready to be picked.

There’s also plenty of meat in the bush for those handy with a 0.308 rifle.

Between the middle of March to early May, those venturing in the bush may hear the distinctive grunt of a stag in the roar.

For the initiated, the roar is the breeding period when male deer grunt and roar to exert their dominance over territories, challenging younger rivals for the female hinds.

It’s one of the biggest dates in the hunting calendar, with more than 5000 hunters expected to take to the bush.

It also coincides with a significant increase in hunting incidents during the autumn season.

Every year there are more than1000 hunting-related injuries and and an average of about four deaths.

While a 200kg stag armed with spiked antlers chasing you off their land is no joke, the real danger posed to hunters is from other hunters.

Wairarapa NZ Deerstalkers Association president Martin Amos describes the roar as the time of year that male deer become more vocal as they challenge rival stags.

Martin Amos and 10-year-old son, Rhys, with a red deer. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

“It makes them more aggressive and territorial.

“A lot of guys want to get out there and shoot themselves a trophy stag.”

He said some hunters had a tendency to get “overexcited”.

Having grown up in Nelson, Amos has been hunting since he was just eight years old, and five of his six children have followed in his footsteps and are keen hunters.

But when it comes to pulling the trigger, he knows that no meat is better than no mate.

“It’s not the gun that kills the person but the person behind the gun.”

Through his time with Land Search and Rescue he has been involved in two fatal firearms incidents during the roar.

Amos said the danger related largely to hunters misidentifying their target.

“The stages are trying to make a lot of noise and hunters try to mimic that roar.”

Department of Conservation spokesperson Jim Flack said there was a significant increase in people asking for hunting permits during the roar.

“It goes from a call every now and then to several a day. It’s a big time of year for the hunters.”

He agreed with Amos about the dangers of misidentifying a hunting target.

“The big problem is that you are at a time of the year where hunters our trying to attract the animal to them.

“In the worst situation you have two hunters roaring at each other,” he said.

A recent report, ‘Hunters Tale’, by the Mountain Safety Council documented the causes of hunting deaths and injuries from 2004 to 2016.

Is shows most of hunting-related injuries, search and rescue operations, and fatalities occur during the roar.

Almost 90 per cent of North Island big game hunting fatalities involve a firearm, and almost 40 per cent the result of hunters misidentifying a target.

The last Wairarapa fatality was in 2012, near the Aorangi Forest Park along the Southern coast, and involved a man in his 20s.

However, the report showed that falls were the most common cause of death while hunting.

Of the 41 deaths between 2007 and 2016, most related to a fall [11] or misidentified target [9], followed by hunters accidentally shooting themselves [8] and drowning [7].

Big game hunters — those who hunt deer, goats and wild pigs — hunt in a range of environments including semi-open farm land, bush edges, river flats and fully-forested bush areas below the tree line.

Understanding the dangers of the roar is not only important for hunters, but for anyone who enjoys time out in the bush, Flack said.

“We are concerned about the hunters but also the trampers and other people in the bush,” he said.

He said it was important to keep to the marked walking tracks this time of year and to talk to your friends, talking as you moved to alert any hunters nearby.

“It’s about being careful,” he said.

Despite the dangers, the roar is a well-regarded tradition and staple for many hunters.

For Amos and his children, including 10-year-old son Rhys, going hunting provides some much-needed downtime.

“The roar is a little bit of bonding time for males. They get together for three or four days of hunting and get away.”

He said it was also an important source of food and his family mostly lived off venison.

“Venison is our main source of food.

“Stocking up the freezer is also a very important part of the roar. Make sure you take as much of your animal as possible.”

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