For years I have wanted to hunt Rusa deer. They are a unique deer and I’ve always felt the need for a new form. So when an auction hunt at the Safari Club Convention last year turned out to be a Rusa deer hunt on Mauritius Island, I was all in and we walked away with the hunt! Now if you’ve never heard of Mauritius Island, you are not alone. I had to look it up and found it to be a fairly small island off the southeastern coast of South Africa. It’s actually beyond Madagascar and about a 4 1/2 hour flight from Johannesburg. They allow bowhunting there so my plan was to hunt with a bow and have my wife hunt with her rifle (she used their rifle as getting your own in can be difficult) to make sure we actually got a deer! It would be all spot and stalk so I had no idea if I could get one with my bow.
Man what a beautiful place! There are two choices for accommodations. You can stay in a hunting camp lodge or in a 5 star hotel along the beach. Duh. We chose the hotel (guys this is a great place to take your wife). The following photo is the view near one of the many restaurants:
Now that you are really feeling sorry for us let me say that this is the first time that I have ever stayed in anything like this on a hunt. Quite nice actually!
Our first day of hunting started out great. We were seeing lots of animals and we attempted many stalks. But we always seemed just out of bow range (I did not want to attempt a shot over 40 yards). Then at last light we made a stalk on a monster stag and we were able to get above him at a mere 20 yards. Perhaps too close as he busted us and ran out to about 30 yards and stopped for a quick look back. I can remember the whole thing seeming to be in slow motion as I released an arrow and watch helplessly as the stag took off. By the time the arrow arrived it hit him just in front of the rear legs, but with penetration to the feathers. As bad as it all was, we were pretty confident that if we left him and came back in the morning we would find him not far away.
By mid afternoon the next day however, my confidence was shattered. We had a bunch of folks looking and we criss-crossed the thick brush in every direction, but to no avail. Lionel (my PH) assured me they would find him in the future but my excitement for the hunt was dashed. I decided to turn things over to my wife as she checked out the fine Blaser rifle and Ziess scope combination that is made available to their clients. She made a great stalk on a beautiful stag and a perfect 80 yard shot. Success! A huge stag with long thick hair and rutting neck. I now had some much needed reference for a new form.
After the first day incident, I had decided not to try for another stag with my bow but Lionel was having none of it. He assured me we could get close and I could get it done with an arrow. So off we went again. This time we got behind a bank and made it to within 20 yards of a stag feeding in a field and I shot while his head was down. He ran about 80 yards and keeled over. Things were looking up… more reference. Both stags were of completely different sizes which made it even better.
With 3 days still left in our hunt we came up with a final plan. As you can see in the above photo, my deer had a deformed antler and a fairly thin haired cape. I decided to try for one more deer. We would look for a nice representative stag and then, I would need some time to get photos of live animals to aid in my sculpture. I was completely fine with not getting another deer but I badly needed the live photos so the last two days would need to be reserved for that.
As it turned out, the next day found us in a valley of roaring Rusa deer. They were crazy into the rut and the sound reminded me of years ago getting in the middle of bugling elk in my home state of Colorado. We got within 30 yards of an occupied stag and he went down in moments after the arrow hit.
This one was a dandy stag with nice hair and sized right in the middle between the first two. Perfect reference! Now I could spend the rest of our time getting study photos of live deer. During the rut Rusa deer are known for their display behavior of twisting grass into their antlers to make themselves look more impressive to other stags. I was hoping to see and perhaps even get a photograph of this behavior. Wow. Almost every stag we saw was displaying in some way. The following are a few photos…
These guys were hard at it but the grass was so tall that when they crashed their antlers together their heads were out of sight in the grass. So here they are facing off.
Roaring stags were everywhere!
This heavy duty stag has a Common Myna passenger.
Are these guys cool or what! Notice the rain drops in the background.
Ok, so I know this is not a Rusa deer… it’s a Fruit Bat, huge compared to any bat that I have ever seen. Doesn’t the face remind you of a Chihuahua! About the same size too.
Well, as they say, all good thing must come to an end, and we headed back to the US. But guess what, it wasn’t over yet! A few days after arriving home I received the following photo… Lionel had found my first stag!!
This deer is an absolute giant. And he found me a new cape so this one will make it on a new form as well.
Sometime in the future when I get the skulls, antlers and capes back, I will do a follow-up article on the sculpture of a new form for these critters. I’m looking forward to that.
All in all it was an extremely fun hunt and Lionel is a GREAT guy, an extremely knowledgeable hunter, and just plain fun to be around. If you have any interest in a hunt of your own, I am glad to answer any questions you might have, or you can contact Lionel Berthault at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out their web site at www.lechasseurmauricien.com.