We started off before dawn, driving for a few kilometers until we reached the end of the perimeter road. We parked the pick-up truck under a group of trees. We started walking windward, headed for a small patch of forest we could see a few miles away. A large herd had been spotted in the surrounding area the day before. As we approached the forest, which lay a little further up a slope than our position, we realized that it was not that small, nor that open, for that matter. We talked in low voices for a bit, discussing the terrain and the strategy, and then we moved deeper into the bushes.
A little after we had entered the thick of the forest, we heard the faint cough of a stag, which sounded some 400 meters away. We were going into a dangerous area, because the females would be alert and ready to bolt. Using every resource we could muster and shielding ourselves behind calden trees and bushes, we edged our way forward checking every palm of land. Marcos went ahead and I kept less than a foot behind, stepping on his footprints and praying I did not break a dry twig. As I searched the field through my binoculars, I spotted a female grazing and another some 100 meters away, crossing a path. Suddenly, the stag crossed a clearing so fleetingly that I never even got to lift my rifle.
The time had come to risk the last chance: Marcos signaled to me to move forward on my own, so as to avoid any unnecessary noise, and pointed towards a thick calden some 50 meters away. I dragged myself inch by inch until I reached it, and then I stood up, looking for a place to support my rifle. Just then, the stag passed trotting again before I could do anything. I wanted to take a glimpse at the antlers before I took the shot, but when it was not moving, its head was hidden by the foliage. So, our tension kept rising and, to make matters worse, the herd was slowly moving away, seeking the thicket.
As time went by, there was little morning left for me to make the hunt. If the stag did not roar again soon, maybe he was not going to do so at all, until the afternoon.
I moved forward again, on my hands and knees, for several meters, until finally I could see him well enough to see that it was a 12 or 13- point adult, vigorous male. I moved forward again, with rosetas sticking into my knees and thighs despite the thick gaiters provided by Marcos, until I had the stag in sight. Knowing well that I would not have another chance, I stood up to take a standing shot. While I prayed for the stag to stay still for a second, I took the shot and saw it disappear from sight.
Marcos arrived moments later, and he told me that he had heard the stag’s collapsing noise, like a heavy bag falling to the ground, and we walked up to it: it was a huge, 14-point animal with very thick, symmetrical antlers, one of the best red stags I ever hunted.
With Marcos’s assistance, it had been an almost perfect hunt, in tough conditions and with a stag which roared very little.
When, a little past noon, we arrived at the lodge sweaty and exhausted and with the magnificent head behind us, the rest of the guests and the staff gave us a loud cheer.