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Locked Topic The Fallow files (Read 17101 times)
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sonofthemist

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The Fallow files
Oct 28th, 2011 at 3:02pm
 
Intro  I started hunting fallow at the age of 17, at South Kaipara Heads. Fell in love with these small deer of the coastal swamps, leaping away like gazelles.  Fifty eight years later, I have lived a consuming passion for fallow -- hunted all the ten herds of New Zealand, and understood the ways they utilise the differing habitat.  I have lived throughout N.Z. which helped cover the herds.  Later I kept a captive herd of twenty fallow for ten years.  All the color phases and in hard antler.  They taught me a lot.  I shot the ultimate buck (a fluke) four years ago, so now I just photograph them.
  But now I'm an old man, still active, and I think it's important to spread the knowledge I have gained. The following four papers are intended to do that.  Paper 4 has some information that is new to this country.  I thank the moderators for supporting my idea.
The first paper Son of Moose whilst a true story, was designed to teach the seasonal movement pattern of the fallow deer.  As I write, the bucks have all left the does (lower North island) and will grow their new antlers in an area where they feel secure.  They will be joined by one or two satellite bucks.  Enjoy.  The photos are all wild deer with two obvious exceptions.

                              SON OF MOOSE -- dictated 28th April '09
  I live in a farmed area near the Wairarapa coast.  Hill country, what they call limestone. The area that my whanau and friends roam over is owned by four families of those humans.  They call us "Fallow deer".  Our tribe have generally been persecuted by humans but in this little area, it's not too bad.  There was one tragedy a year or two back tho, when two of our leaders (Monster and Moose) were killed by humans with the bang-sticks.  We try to live for the present, so I mustn't talk about that.

My life has been good.  At 5 1/2 years old, I am big and I am strong.  My antlers are heavy, long and well spread.  30" by 32" in human figures.  I have the beautiful palmations which I know are attractive to the does.  I know how to use them too, in fact I killed a 3 1/2 year buck last week.  I only have two does, and this stranger tried to intrude.  Actually he had broken one of his antlers above the brow tine, so perhaps I was a bit harsh.  I got angry.  His dead carcase looked like a pincushion.  Usually if I croak call over one of my scrapes, the young bucks will run away.  This one should have, it's not my problem.  I need to mate.  Neither of my does is ready yet and that big old white-throated buck is holding most of the does in the next valley.

These Kanuka valleys.  They are what makes our tribe's home country so good.  We will never leave -- Fallow deer do not roam, we are home-bodies.  In fact our family groups of does raising their fawns, and the young boy spikers,  will live in the same gullies all year round.  It is fertile grassland, with plenty of food.  And the lush grass grows beneath the high canopy of the kanuka trees.  The families can hide there when they need to.  Personally, I only spend half of the year with the family.  In the Springtime, when my antlers have dropped off, I always team up with a couple of the other bucks of a similar age to me.  We move away to an area of rough, less accessible country where we can feel safe.  It doesn't take much food to keep 2 or 3 of us going.  If we have to, we can travel fast to food 'cause we don't have the distractions of fawns and does.
I enjoy those "boyzone" periods, we stay there until mid-Autumn when it's time to go back to the doe country for a bit of 'nooky'.  Our new antlers have of course grown by then.  We polish them in late February.

We were late coming back from our 'boyzone' country this year. Only got here a fortnight ago. The weather was kind, food was plentiful and lush.  We knew there was no hurry -- the does would cycle late this year.  White throat Herd buck arrived back at the same time.  He's older than me (he's 6 1/2) and he's real big. Caution required.  I've set up at this steep slope of bush at the head of the gully, watered by a stream.  It's the home of this fruity looking big ginger doe.  And that black girl has come to my croaks. I'm two kilometres away from Herd buck's stand, with his group of 12 does and fawns.  I'll be OK.  I fixed that one antlered buck didn't I?

The sun's getting a bit low.  5.30pm in human terms. Maybe it's time for a nibble.  Maybe soon.  Too comfortable yet, here in the scrub.  "Bark, bark, bark".  "Bark,bark,bark".  What the hell is wrong with black doe?  She's being barking like that for two Tui songs.  I'd better just wander out and have a look.

Meanwhile, the old Fallow fellow is hunkered down on a sheep track.  150 metres away.  Camou clad. Very still. Camera ready.  Been there for 15 minutes since he heard one single croak from the mature buck.  5.15pm.  The melanistic doe scented him when she crested the hill above. "Bark,bark,bark". She didn't stop for at least two minutes, and was largely hidden by a tea-tree bush.  Not a photo prospect but out of the corner of an old eye, the hunter saw the huge ginger buck walk out of the scrub.  Superb. A top class trophy.  DS240+.  Click, click, click.  The middle photo was good.
Discovered. He is the son of Moose.  The right antler clearly identifies him.




  

The fraternity of shooters is rather like the fraternity of blind men -- each one walks alone.&&: Ian Niall.
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The Fallow files ---- part two
Reply #1 - Oct 28th, 2011 at 4:15pm
 
Colour phases of Fallow deer

I have a very longstanding and deep interest in Fallow deer. In my discussions with hunters and reading hunters' forums, it becomes obvious there is a very poor knowledge/understanding of the colour phases of our fallow deer. If you re-read this piece until you really understand it, and study the pics, it will help. Remember the pics are of wild deer so maybe they aren't perfect.

We have ten traditional fallow herds in New Zealand, with at least three other satellite herds becoming established.  But all of these herds will be one of four colour phases.  In some cases there will be seasonal colour variations, but these basic colour phases are the same the world over.
  The most common colour, especially in the South island herds, is the melanistic (black) phase.  The deer is basically black all over, tho the belly and throat lighten to a dark chocolate.  In summer the black coat gleams, but that is normal to the summer coat of all animals.  Melanistic.  Here's a pic of a summer coat melanistic. She's beautiful.


  Common colour phase is the name given to the ginger (summer coat) fallow with white spots.  Plentiful in the Wanganui & Wairarapa herds, and present at Te Puke.  In the case of Te Puke, this is the socalled "Spanish fallow".  There is no such thing. Forget about it.   The correct name came about because this is the most "common" colour seen in Europe.  Especially Britain.  This pic is a melanistic with a pair of commons:

The bright ginger we see in summer tho, darkens to a treacle color in winter, and the white spots are much less evident. This seasonal darkening confuses a lot of hunters and farmers.  I'll show two pics of exactly the same deer in both their summer, then winter coats.


Note too, the black stripe which surrounds the tail and scut (bum) of the Common color phase.

  The Menil color phase brings about the only confusion in this discussion.  It too is ginger with white spots. It doesn't go as dark in winter tho. Once uncommon in N.Z., menils have become more numerous after thirty years liberations of deer farm animals. Menils were included in the imports of the Fallow deer farmers Assn.  Two things identify a menil as against a common color phase animal: the white spots are much more prominent and they form a horizontal line at the belly;  the second difference is easier to pick -- the common phase black tail stripe & scut surround is missing in the menil. Plain brown.
Here's a pic of a Common doe bum on to you, but unfortunately the menil beside her is facing you!  Wild deer.

   The fourth and final color phase is pretty dramatic.  White color phase. As in a sheet.  All over. They are not albinos, just a color phase.  Present in several of our herds, but always in low numbers.  Wakatipu, Blue Mountains, Wanganui & Wairarapa notably. They are protected in the Greenstone & Caples,  and should be conserved everywhere.  I've got fotos of wild ones but this pic of a park buck is too good not to use. Enjoy:

Seeing I'm trying to improve knowledge, I should tell you too that the deer do not turn white until 18 mths old. The winter spiker coat in other words. They are born a peachey color. Here's a skin. I didn't shoot it, a victim of TB testing!:


that's probably enough. Study the pics until u get it. Please.
  

The fraternity of shooters is rather like the fraternity of blind men -- each one walks alone.&&: Ian Niall.
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The Fallow files ----part three
Reply #2 - Oct 28th, 2011 at 5:49pm
 
Growing Fallow buck trophies ....
for you or somebody else.

It saddens me often, when I see the very young bucks which are shot by the typical N.Z. hunter.  And often with a comment about "rubbish head".  Rubbish! it's not rubbish, just young.  It's the Fiordland Wapiti situation over again.  A New Zealand fallow buck will not have a mature head until at least 6 1/2.  Say in the zone 6 1/2 to 9 years old.  So many of them are being shot as two year olds, just because they've got antlers.  I will elaborate on the growth pattern of the buck.
At twelve months old, obviously the little buck grows spikes. OK, but there are spikes and "spikes".  An ordinary little nondescript spiker, of say Wanganui domicile, might have spikes of 40mm length.  1 1/2 inches.  But shift to an area where the habitat is better,  and the original gene pool was good,  and those spikes can be 120mm.  4 3/4 inches.  It is pretty stupid to shoot a spiker of that latter type for meat.  It happens all the time.
   At 2 1/4 years, our buck grows his first set of proper antlers --- call him a two year old, 'cause he will shed at 2 yrs 10 months.  Pretty basic antlers, only say 340mm (13 inches) long.  Short front tines, with two rudimentary tines at the top.  Not a "shit head", he's just a teenager.  And the body size is the real clue --- just like an oversize spiker.  Here's a typical two year old buck:


   The 3 1/2 year old buck tho, looks more like the real thing.  His body is bulking up and he stands up straight.  His antler length will be about 18 inches (470mm),  carries about 11 or 12 points with narrow, slight palmation.  Here's an alert: the head is still noticeably narrow.  I call it the "straight antlered buck".  The reason tho is because his skull is still developing, and the pedicles influence the antler shape.
   A four year old buck tho (4 1/4 at polishing), will be looking quite good.  Antler length is still fairly short at about 20" or just over,  and light.  But he now has proper palms.  Fairly narrow, but at least he is looking like a Fallow buck.  His maturing skull (he's a 30 yr old in human terms) has given him a bit of spread.
A lot of this type of buck gets shot.  A pity, because he has yet to get the beam, length and palms which come from bone growth.  A developed skeleton.  One to three more years and he would have been a wallhanger.  A trophy to be proud of.  Environment permitting.  Here's a pic of a 4 yr old buck of the very good English park type.  DS200.  His light body is the give away.  He needs another two years.

Compare him to the body of this beautiful big wild buck.  It's a herd buck of about 7yrs:

and another young buck (4yrs I think):


So by letting them live long enough, this is what you are striving for.  A mature buck.  This is a World class buck shot aged 8yrs & going back.  Wairarapa herd.  DS 247 7/8:


From 6 1/2 to 8 yrs old is the optimum age for a fallow trophy in New Zealand.  It takes thinking hunters, as well as a good environment and genes to produce trophies.  And a bit of luck.
Think about it, can you discipline yourself?
  

The fraternity of shooters is rather like the fraternity of blind men -- each one walks alone.&&: Ian Niall.
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The Fallow files ---- part four
Reply #3 - Oct 28th, 2011 at 9:02pm
 
The Fallow deer rut

Yes, Fallow bucks are very aggressive.  Two mature bucks will go at it hammer and tongs.  I have seen a wonderful dvd sequence (ack. Bob Pittaway) of two big Wanganui bucks fighting, which lasted four minutes.  One big fella turned a complete cartwheel at one stage, then straight back into it when his feet hit the ground.  But this behaviour is not frequent, because unlike the Red or Sika stags, the buck is not croaking ("roaring") his challenge to other bucks.  As will be described shortly, his purpose is quite different.  Other bucks will be set up at their favourite places doing their own thing.  Leaving him to it.  During winter and spring, the bucks will put up with each other, but during the rutting season they just don't come together.  Even the younger bucks, they'll sneak around the groups, hoping for a miracle, but keeping well out of the big fella's way.
June behaviour:


The timing of the rutting season varies throughout our ten traditional herds, depending on the climate variations of that region.  Kaipara, Manakau Heads, Matamata, Te Puke, Wanganui in the North Island.  Nelson, Paparoas, Fairlie, Wakatipu, Blue Mountains in the South. Plus the emerging herds of Wairarapa and Hokonui hills.  There is a good two weeks difference from the warmer country commencement (Kaipara April 10th), to the latest at the big Southern herds in the colder country, Wakatipu and the Blue Mountains.  Those peak at Anzac weekend, April 25th.  And sure enough, the midway herds where I presently hunt (Wairarapa and Wanganui) are at peak about April 16th to 18th.  Obviously the defining point in this whole consideration, is when the does cycle. That dictates the heart of the rut.  And it seems to be affected by climate and presumably feed availability.  I am often told about bucks croaking before these dates,  but this is simply when the buck is making or remaking his scrape.  A casual "Hello" call to the girls.  It's nothing to what you will hear a couple of weeks later.
Here's pics of a good scrape and a mature buck at his scrape:



We need to look at the purpose of the scrape and the croaking.  I've already said the buck is not challenging his rivals.  As does the Red stag and the Sika.  The Fallow buck is simply advertising his presence.  He's calling the does "Come on over here for sex. I'm a big strong fella. You'll love it!".  And when he's succeeded in getting the attendance of four to six does, and one comes into oestrus, he becomes a lipcurling, croaking terror.  He will croak for a minute at a time, at less than five minute gaps.  And (like Red stags), the deeper and louder the croak, the bigger the buck.  Usually.
This says it all:

and it's a wild World class buck.

So here's a hunting tip --- with fallow, don't attempt to attract the buck by croaking at him.  All you will do is to scare the does with your unnatural behaviour.  And they'll alert the big boy.  The better technique is to simply home in on the sound of the rutting buck.  Very slowly and quietly.  Watch out for the does.  The main danger.  They are usually about twenty metres away from the buck and are alert.  He's not -- too busy showing off.
Some hunters tell me they've called a buck in.  Rubbish, they've seen a three year old that was scarpering from the big boy.
It's not hard to croak.  Just open your mouth and sharply inhale thru your nose.  The snort comes in your throat & shape the sound with your lips.  But why would you do it?
OK that's the croaking.  Now as to the scrape, note first that a Fallow buck does not wallow.  Fallow and whitetail are unique amongst our N.Z. species in that they simply make a scrape.  It marks their rutting stand.  They'll urinate in it and spread the resultant stink all over their face and neck.  Like a billy goat.  Presumably the does like it!

Look for the scrape to be in or close to the areas that are inhabited all year by the doe groups.  In cover which is adjacent to good grass.  Grazers as opposed to Red deer which by preference browse on shrubs and herbs.  Slope terraces or a grassy flat or clearing in scrub, will be likely places to watch for scrapes.  The bucks will freshen their scrapes about early March when they arrive back from their boyzone country where their antlers are grown and polished.   Now here's another hunting tip:  In a couple of the herds (I've hunted them all) where I have frequently hunted the same spots for years,  I noted that I would repeatedly see useage of the same scrapes year after year.  And not necessarily by the same buck.  So if your stalk on a buck goes wrong one year (and usually a doe has spotted you and barked),  you'll know where to look at the same time next year.
And after nearly sixty years of hunting fallow, I've just read the explanation.  The repeated useage is the key -- it's the site that's important.

Popular Terrace lek.

Environmentalist/photographer Erwin Bauer advises that Fallow are the only members of the Cervidae (deer) family to use leks. Lek is a Swedish word that has been adapted to describe a mating area established and defended by the male animal or bird.  It is for attraction displays towards the females at the times of approaching oestrus.  A well known example is the black co*k (black grouse) of Europe.  Once established, a lek is for all time.  And I read that leks are normally established in areas of high female useage. That ties in with my own observations.  I have seen one scrape that was used by three different mature bucks in as many years.
I should sell this information.  Donations will be accepted.

Another experienced fallow observer/hunter (Windust) has given me this excellent observation.  It's the lek scene in a nutshell: "This is the case on another large scrape on the same property.  Lots of croaking and parading about around the lek site, and doe groups that use the adjoining paddock area. Lots of younger bucks running around.  Once a doe is hot, the buck holds her and does most of his croaking from another wee pad down on a gorse face 150 yards away."

I'm sure if you think about these notes, you will find a scrape and at least get close to a buck.  Think tho before you pull the trigger.  It may well be a three year old buck that is sneaking thru the scrub. And he'll be far from a trophy.  But in another three years he could be a superb wallhanger -- as big as the big buck that he was sneaking away from. That you hadn't seen yet.  And think of the thrill if you had stalked the big one successfully. Too many fallow are shot just because they've got antlers.  Pathetic ones.  A buck needs to reach 6 1/2 to 8 years old for his maximum head. And they are wonderful trophies when mature.
Good things take time.  My passion. Wairarapa  DS 251 3/4, age 6 1/2

and "Moose", Wairarapa  DS 247. age 8yrs

and the 1904 Cunningham head. Blue Mountains. DS 231 3/4. This head went to Wembley. Probably a 7 yr old.


A postscript: Another Forum member, a very experienced hunter, said to me the other day that the Fallow was the future Red deer of New Zealand.  I think he's right. Farmers allover are clamouring for them and letting a few go.  Everybody needs to know how to both Manage and hunt them. In my opinion.
I hope this series has helped a few.





  

The fraternity of shooters is rather like the fraternity of blind men -- each one walks alone.&&: Ian Niall.
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Re: The Fallow files
Reply #4 - Apr 23rd, 2013 at 10:12pm
 
addendum to part 4 The Fallow Rut  by Edit 23/4/13.
When I wrote this section of the Fallow files, I explained the presence of fallow scrapes (but no wallows), and showed photos.  During this current rut I have had the fortune of watching a young wild buck (3 or 4 yr old) actually using his scrape, and took a few pics.  The previous evening whilst walking out in the dark, I came upon him grazing on a high slope with about six does, so I knew his scrape was active.
The actual scrape was of typical size, like one already pictured, but was two part each part separated by about 24 inches. In the first pic you will see he is just laying down in the front portion of his scrape. I had noted the previous evening the scrape is well and truly saturated with body fluids (not just piss) and he is giving his whole belly and lower body a thorough perfuming.  In the second pic he has gone to the next step of rubbing his chin, lower head & upper neck on the adjacent grass which is similarly stinking.  Presumably the does like it.  In fact as I type the wild bucks, and indeed my own farm hard-antlered bucks, are carrying a total color darkening of the neck & skull as a result of what humans would call disgusting behaviour.  That is the use of the scrape.  As I have already said, neither Fallow nor whitetail bucks use a wallow.


and the second process:


Thank you folks.
  

The fraternity of shooters is rather like the fraternity of blind men -- each one walks alone.&&: Ian Niall.
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