Regular client and good friend Brendan White with his father and friend were hunting sika stags with me and we were targeting something a bit different - a nontypical red/sika crossbreed stag I had seen that had characteristics of both species.
Glassing for the stag the first afternoon
He had a very distinctive roar that allowed me to pick him out. We found him one evening but he was in an impossible position to stalk as he had lots of hinds heading out to feed in front of him from the scattered scrub patch they had been bedded down in for the day. There were far too many animals to have any hope of getting within conventional rifle range so we left him to see if our luck would change in the morning.
Arriving back there on daybreak, the valley was full of cloud and although we could hear him, we couldn't see him. We waited and waited until the cloud started to thin a little and then we spied him heading back up the face. Once again there were too many animals around that were visible one minute and disappearing in the cloud the next to have any hope of stalking in closer. We decided to take him from here with one of my specialist rifles. I set the rifle up and got everything ready while the stag disappeared in the cloud again. "There he is" Brendan said and he jumped in behind the gun while I ranged the stag at 834 yards, 15 degrees downhill, 3000’ pressure altitude, 50 degrees F, and I guessed about 8mph of left to right crosswind. I dialed 12.25 moa of elevation and 2 moa of windage into the Nightforce and got ready behind the 80mm Swarovski spotter. The stag was facing down wind which doesn't give you as much margin for error if you underestimate the windage required. This is exactly what happened with the first shot, as Brendan aimed in the middle of the shoulder but the bullet struck just in front of the brisket having blown a little further than my estimate. At the shot, the stag trotted around the hill then stopped quartering away looking back. Dropping another round in I told Brendan to aim at the crease as I dialed in another half a minute of windage. This shot was right on the money and the stag went down and disappeared behind a small scrub bush.
Brendan watching through the scope to make sure the stag didn't need another shot
Packing up the gear we headed over there which took a little while due to the distance but when we got up to the stag I was shocked to see that he wasn't the animal we were after! He was very similar, another crossbreed, but not as large as our stag. Not being able to see clearly through the mist, we had shot the wrong stag! Brendan took it in good heart and was pleased that he had pulled off a nice shot. The 180 gn Berger had done its job well as usual, still expanding despite the range.
The wrong stag!
Spelling the area for a while, I checked it a week later and sure enough the big stag was still there so I contacted Brendan and he was extremely keen to come and have another go at him. He wanted that big nontypical!
Heading to my usual lookout for this valley, after a couple of hours glassing we found him again. We had been hearing him roar but although lots of other deer were in view, he had been hidden in a fold on the face. Over a mile away, he was a little far for the conditions even with my big gun, so we dropped down to a lower knob which was the closest place to shoot from without crossing over to the same face all the deer were on, which would've meant a far greater chance of spooking the animals. It was very calm and I knew we could take him from here even though the range was about 1200 yards so I set the gear up again. Ranged at 1205 yards though the Russian LRP-3 rangefinder on a 10 degree uphill, the density altitude was just over 3000’ again with little wind. I dialed 22.25 moa elevation and no windage and Brendan got in behind the gun while we waited for the stag to expose his shoulder which was partially covered up by a scrub bush.
Brendan set up on the right stag this time, waiting for him to expose his shoulder
I roared at him a couple of times and eventually he turned nicely head-on into what little wind there was broadside to us and Brendan touched off aiming in the middle of the shoulder. I watched the bullet arc through the air and hit the stag perfect for height but a little far back. It doesn't take much wind to shift a bullet at that range. The stag disappeared out of sight behind some brush and we waited to see if he would reappear. Looking closely I could see shoulder hair through the bush and described to Brendan where to aim. He fired again but there was no reaction and I was sure he was out for the count.
Brendan looking pleased when I called his 1205 yard shot as a good hit
We headed on over and we let the dogs do their work and they found him dead where he had disappeared from view. The first shot had done the damage penetrating right through the body with good expansion again and the second shot through the scrub bush hit right at the bottom of his chest. With congratulations all-round at a magnificent stag and a wonderful shot, it had turned out to be second time lucky for Brendan!
The big stag with eight points and white spots like a sika, but the antler configuration and skull length were more like a red.