With the annual roar fast approaching, Barry Sharplin offers good advice on securing a hunting block and maximising its potential.

It feels like the ink from my last roar article is still wet! What happened to the year?

It’s not long now until the roar gets underway and hopefully you will be out there safely enjoying it. The following tips should make hunting the roar more successful for you.

Talk to farmers

A great idea is to undertake a reconnaissance mission before the roar starts – and don’t neglect your back doorstep. It’s amazing how many people drive past trophy stags on the way to distant hunting blocks.

I recommend door-knocking and talking to farmers. Spend some time on Google maps looking for blocks with a bit of bush, or areas close to large bush blocks that back onto DOC land you can get a permit to hunt.

Proper preparation and reconnaissance prior to the roar can pay dividends.

Pick a weekend to go asking, or call in around lunchtime when there is a good chance a farmer might be home. The number-one rule is to always respect their answer – permission to hunt is a gift not a right – but don’t let a few refusals get you down.

I am sure if you dress tidily and only go around to ask permission with no plans to hunt that day, someone will say yes. It only takes one ‘yes’ to make a day of being told ‘no’ worthwhile.

It pays to look after the farmers. Ask the farmer what he drinks and get him a box or two and maybe a bottle of wine for the wife.

One big no-no is turning up for a hunt with a heap of mates. Go on your own for the first few visits to the property, until the farmer gets to know you and realises you are responsible.

When he says yes to you hunting on his farm the farmer accepts a lot of risk because, if you have an accident, he could be liable. So make sure you don’t blow it and take the time and effort to earn his trust.

Be disciplined

Another important rule is to hunt only what you say you are going to hunt. So when you say you are going to hunt deer, HUNT DEER! Don’t shoot the pig that runs past, or that stray-looking cat by the old hay barn. The farmer might have been feeding it for five years to keep the mice away!

If there are pigs on the property, ask him if he minds if you shoot one should you cross paths, and how does he feel about stray cats? You might hate them but there is chance his wife loves them.

Be always mindful that one farmer’s pet should not be another man’s target. That’s a quick way to never be allowed back on a property again.

Find out if the farmer minds if you shoot a hind for meat. If he thought you were only looking for a stag, it’s hard to release a hind back into the wild with a bullet between its eyes. If the farmer gets the idea you’re not sensible or respectful, he can just as easily say no to you next time.

Use a camera

Game cameras can reveal a lot of animals you would otherwise not know were there.

If you secure a place to hunt, try and set up a game camera on a trail or over a wallow. This is a great way to get the big boy because if he is hanging around you are bound to get a shot of him on your camera if it’s in the right spot. The bonus of a camera is that it’s a bit like a set of eyes hunting 24 hours, seven days a week. It leaves minimal scent and is pretty darned quiet!

When you get a picture of that big guy, check the camera footage thoroughly. Look for what times he is on the camera. Is he doing most of his travel at night, early in the morning or on dusk? If he’s like clockwork on the game camera, then get near there early and put your back up to a tree and wait. Not for five minutes – sit down for a good hour or two. That extra minute or five you spend waiting could make the difference between looking at a set of antlers or a bald patch on the wallpaper for another year.

Seeing a glimpse of a stag on the game camera can keep you keen and making more trips than normal and I warn you now: it is addictive.

Game cameras can be good in DOC areas also. Find a good wallow or trail, set up the camera and leave if for two or three days, then go back and check it.

You never know what’s there until you see it for yourself. I’ve heard stories of six-pointers turning into 12-pointers overnight, but the game camera can be more reliable than your mate’s eyes.

Take your time

It’s important to find out where the deer are holding on a new property and which way the breeze blows up and down gullies in the predominant wind. It’s handy to know these things, as such knowledge can make or break a stalk.

Observe from a distance if you are hunting open farmland. Spend an evening with binoculars looking at a few gullies to see if anything decent comes out, but be sure not to give up hope. Just because you don’t see him doesn’t mean he’s not there.

Remember the PLB

Another good point I would like to make is check your Personal Locator Beacon (PLB). The batteries have a shelf life, so if you brought your PLB five years ago, its batteries may need replacement. This may be the case even if it has never been activated. It would be a bit of a bugger if the one time in your life you needed it, your batteries were well overdue and it didn’t work.

Many people forget to take their PLB with them when they’re hunting. A lot of people leave it in the hut, but I can tell you now it would be no fun dragging yourself back to the hut with a broken leg or two so you can activate the PLB in the bottom of your pack, just because you didn’t want the extra weight in your day-pack.