Argentina Red Stag Hunting
Red Stag Features
The red deer; Red Stag when you refer to the male; (Cervus Elaphus) is one of the most popular big game hunting species of Europe and it is also Argentina’s most sought after Big Game trophy.
Red deer are ungulates mammals and ruminants characterized by a four-chambered stomach. The males (red stag) reach 1.5 meters height, 2.3 meters length and they usually weight in excess of 200 kilograms. Their legs are long and slim but strong and the neck is very well developed and it is particularly thick in the mature stags since they have to support a big rack that can weigh up to 16 kilograms. The silhouette of this deer is very strong in the front part of the animal and turns thinner in the back. The ears are wide, the eyes big and the tail short. The color of the skin, which gives the name to this deer, is reddish in most of the body but the coat is lighter in the womb. The hinds (females) are smaller and graceful with big ears and no antlers.
These deer have very good sense of smell, sight and hearing.
They have nocturnal habits and if they are still active during the day they stay in the protection of the thick bush. Its natural habitat is the forest, where it gets food, protection and shelter but it also can be found in open grasslands or planted areas where they only remain for a short time while feeding. They run very fast so their speed is the best self-defense mechanism that they have. They are very good jumpers and swimmers so fences and rivers don’t represent an obstacle for them.
During the rut season the males challenge the other stags with a strong sound (a mix between a lion and a bull) called a roar. The main purpose of the roar is to establish the supremacy of the stag over the other and to build their harem of hinds to reproduce. It usually takes place early morning and late evening but there are some places where stags have no hunting pressure and they can roar almost all day long.
The roaring season is not an exact science but it generally begins in the second week of March and finishes in the second week of May but this depends on of many things like weather, light, food availability.
The trophy of the red stag is its antlers. A good trophy stag is composed by the burr, the tines and the crown. A mature stag has long and massive antlers with a rough texture. The color depends on the resin of the trees where the antlers have been rubbed.; for that reason the stags of La Pampa province have lighter antlers than the stags of the mountains of Patagonia.
Each Red Stags antlers are unique, even between brothers there is no way to find two stags with the exact same antlers. The genetic improvements have been recently made in Argentina along with the best bloodlines from New Zealand animals have boosted the trophies to the highest level in the world.
There are different methods to measure the quality of the trophy; the most popular in Argentina are the SCI and the CiC measurement systems.
Red stag introduction in the country
This species was introduced in Argentina in the beginning of the XX Century by Pedro Luro who was advised in this project by the Duke of Montpensier. Mr. Luro made a first attempt in an island of the Parana River but it was totally razed in a big flood that took place in 1905.
For his second attempt in 1909 Mr. Luro choose one of his ranches of La Pampa where he finally introduced red stag of the best blood line available at that time, together with other European big game species like wild boar and roe deer. He also introduced pheasants for bird hunting.
The first group of stags came from the land of the Count of Schonborn (Carpatian mounts –Hungary) and from Marau of Corintia (Karnten, Austria). The best of the best at that time.
He fenced a large section of his ranch San Hubertus (today Parque Luro) where stags and boars found the perfect habitat for them and immediately began to thrive. Unfortunately roe deer and pheasants were easy prey of the local predators (pumas, foxes and so on) and they didn’t make it. When Pedro Luro passed away this place was abandoned and after a while the fences were broken. The game, already abundant over there, spread out all over the province of La Pampa where we find a great population of them roaming around in total free range.
More or less at the same time (1911) Mr. Aaron de Anchorena made a different introduction in the mountains of Patagonia. The exact place was Victoria Island, inside the Nahuel Huapi Lake which gives the name to the Nahuel Huapi National Park. This island covered by forest also provided the necessary shelter and food to let this species flourish in a different environment of Argentina.
Between 1917 and 1924, which was a few years after the successful introduction of red deer in La Pampa, some individuals of this first group were transported from the Estancia San Hubertus to the Estancia Collun-Co located in the mountains of Patagonia (Province of Neuquen) as well.
Distribution of the red stag in Argentina
The most populated free ranged areas of Argentina are La Pampa and Neuquen provinces.
Despite that there were more red deer introductions in other areas of Argentina, those provinces, where this species flourished are considered the most popular hunting areas in the country.
On the current map of red deer distribution in Argentina we can also find significant numbers in San Luis, Chubut and Buenos Aires provinces. There are some other areas where they also can be found in fenced areas like Santiago del Estero, Mendoza and Entre Rios.
Red stag hunting is challenging and goes back hundreds of years on the European continent. The best way to hunt a red stag trophy is stalking or chasing them.
The hunting day begins well before dawn as it is convenient to be near the places where the stags are roaring. The hunter has to be close to the stags before sunrise to avoid unnecessary movements that can attract the attention of the animals. Likewise, this is the best time of day to listen to the roar and choose a sound that promises a good trophy.
Some guides use calls to manage the stags while hunting. This call is made from a tube that helps to the hunter to simulate the sound of the deer’s roar. Skilled guides can make the stags stop when they run, turn the stag to one way or another, to make it stand broadside for an easier shot or even to make them coming to the direction of the hunting party.
Depending on the characteristics of the place, hunters can expect long walks (either in the bush or in the mountains), so the choice of footwear is very important to climb mountains, cross water courses and avoid thorns rocks. Another important part of the equipment (apart of guns) are binoculars because they help a lot to judge the quality of the trophy as well as to recognize the geographical attributes of the area you are hunting.
As we mentioned before, the two more traditional red stag hunting areas of Argentina are La Pampa (bush hunting) and Patagonia (mountains hunting). Hunting is great in either one or the other but it is totally different in each region.
The main difference of Patagonia is that the hunters can spot the stags from the long distance and therefore when they start the approach they know exactly the kind of stags that they are stalking.
In La Pampa, a big part of the hunt takes place in the thick forest where the hunters can not see the stag until they are very close to it.
According to the current regulations both bow and rifle hunting area allowed in Argentina.
In the mountainous region of Patagonia the hunting is conducted by horseback riding or 4wd vehicles since it is necessary to look for the animals in the high part of the mountains. Some ranches, like ours, have firebreaks and roads that allow the hunters to avoid those exhausting climbs but once at the top it is still necessary to make the trophy’s approach by foot.
Since a big part of the hunt is spot & stalk one of the most important tools for the hunter in this region are the binoculars and the spotting scopes. The local people say that in Patagonia mountains hunters hunt more with the eyes than with the feet because it is essential to stay quite in a spotting place at the top of the mountains trying to find at the distance a sign of deer. Once the potential trophy is located, the approach begins. The stalk should be done by walking very carefully to a convenient position where the hunter could attempt a good shot.
The shooting distance in this region can be fairly far with an average of 250 yards but if the hunt is done in the forest the shooting distance is much closer with an average of 80 yards.
Regarding guns, the wildlife department of Neuquen province requires a minimum caliber of .308 Win or bigger. Due to the shooting distance and the body mass of the stags we rather recommend a magnum caliber like 7 mm Rem.Mag or 300 Win. Mag. but some hunters prefer to shoot something like 30-06 or 270 Win. that also work very well. .338 Win Mag would be another good option for this hunt.
The region of La Pampa is where stags were introduced for the very first time in Argentina. The environment of the province changes according to each region. There are areas with deserts, salt lakes, short bush, grasslands suitable for cattle breeding, rich soil for agriculture but the area where the major concentration of red deer is, is the bush of the central area of the province where the Calden forest (native tree of La Pampa) prevails over the other species of the local flora.
The terrain is mostly flat with some areas of rolling hills so hunters use to find this hunting region much more “friendly” than the mountains. Thus, hunters have a much easier time in reaching the places where deer are roaring.
Despite that still hunting represents a big time tradition among the local hunters, the real red stag hunting experience begins in the roaring season (March to May) when the hinds are in the peak of the mating season so the hunters stalk the stags in the bush of Calden guided by the sound of the roar.
The hunting day begins leaving the camp still dark. The hunters are taken to the best roaring spots in order to hear what is going on at that moment so hunter and guide stay out there listening in total silence listening to the roaring. In a good hunting place a hunter can hear more than a dozen a stags roaring in a reduced area at walking distance where the vehicle stop. They should remain quite in the same place until they hear a roar that promises a potential full trophy and, still in darkness, they very slowly start to walk in the direction of the selected stag. The plan is always the same: to reach a spot very close to the chosen stag before the first light of the day and wait there until they can see enough to judge and eventually shoot the stag. The walk inside the bush in the first lights of the day with the roaring chorus is an unforgettable experience especially in the last stages of the approach where it is fundamental not to be discovered by the females who are attentive to any noise or movement as they are in charge to protect the male which is focused in its craving to procreate during the mating season.
As for guns, in general terms we don’t recommend fast calibers with light bullets because most of the shots are taken in the bush and if the bullet hits any twig or bush it could deflect and miss the stag. 30-06 is a great caliber for the bush but some hunters rather use something stronger like 300 Win Mag or .338 Win Mag which insures great power and very stable trajectory even in the bush. Another very popular caliber in La Pampa is the .375 H&H due that it is useful for stags but also for water buffalo also very common in this area.