Editor’s Note: Pat Reeve and Nicole Jones’ TV show, Driven with Pat and Nicole, airs on the Outdoor Channel Tuesday nights at 8:00 pm and Friday nights at 10:00 pm EST. For the last 3 years, this husband- and-wife duo has won a Golden Moose Award for excellence in TV production from the Outdoor Channel. “Driven” features big-game hunting around the world, but its main focus has been whitetails. Pat and Nicole wear the Mossy Oak Treestand and Break-Up Infinity camo patterns.
We were hunting the south island of New Zealand with Rachel Burke of Leithen Valley Outfitters. We had hunted in Australia with Rachel’s brother George. Her family has been hunting and guiding for many years, and they offer a water buffalo hunt in Australia. Rachel and her husband Olly run the New Zealand outfit for the family. Neither Nicole nor I had hunted red stag, but we had hunted elk. Elk and stag are somewhat similar. Some friends went with us, and the plan was for Nicole to hunt and take her stag first while I filmed. Then I would try and take a stag. We were hunting in the post-roar, the breeding time for stags. Each morning we got up, climbed to the top of a ridge and glassed for stags on the opposite mountain. If we spotted one, we went down the mountain, walked across the valley, climbed the neighboring mountain and hoped to get a shot.
The hunt was scheduled to last for 2 weeks. We had been bowhunting, since Nicole wanted to take her stag with a bow. We had had plenty of encounters, but Nicole hadn’t gotten close enough to release an arrow during the first 9 days of our hunt. We had gone to New Zealand to do a TV show, so we needed to take a stag. I told Nicole, “Let’s put the bow down, and take the Thompson/Center rifle with us. We have to get a stag.” Our plan had been to take two stags and then leave that camp and go several hours away to hunt for tahr, a type of mountain goat. Since we already had spent 9 days trying to take a stag, I felt pretty sure that we wouldn’t be able to hunt the tahr. Our friends with us on the hunt each had harvested a stag, but Nicole and I had harvested nothing. At one point, Nicole had a really-big bull within bow range and was at full draw, but I didn’t have enough live footage of the animal to make a TV show. The stag had come in quickly, stopped and looked back. When we got back to the lodge and looked at the footage, we saw that I actually did have enough footage and that. Nicole could have taken the shot for a good TV show. I wasn’t very popular with Nicole that day.
I finally convinced Nicole to leave her bow in camp and take the Thompson/Center Venture break-open rifle with a .270 barrel. At one point during the bowhunt, we’d had a really-big stag in close but not close enough for a bow shot. I told Nicole we needed to go after that stag again with the rifle. The next day, the tenth day of the hunt, we found this big stag bedded-down on the side of the mountain with two other stags. The hunt was in the afternoon, and we hoped the stag would get up to feed. Suddenly I spotted movement and saw the big stag running toward us. He stopped for a split second, and Nicole took the shot. As the stag turned to run off, he took a big leap and cleared an 8-foot bush. He almost landed on a rabbit that came running out of the bush. The stag went down. He scored about 380 on Pope & Young.
Now it was my turn to hunt. I thought, “If I can take a stag, we’ll still have 2 or 3 days to go to the other camp and hunt for tahr.” Like Nicole, I was determined to shoot my stag with my Mathews Monster bow. During the morning of the tenth day, we had a few encounters, but couldn’t get a stag close enough to take with a bow. About noon, we spotted the stag that Nicole had wanted to shoot with her bow when I had called her off, because I thought I didn’t have enough live footage. This stag was bedded by himself and easy to identify, since his brow tines looked like an old manual can opener with hooks coming off them. I left Nicole sitting on the ridge where we’d spotted him, so she could film me as I tried to stalk the stag. We had planned to walk down the valley, walk around the mountain, climb up the other side and have the stag below me at about 30 yards. Once we reached the top of the mountain, I couldn’t see the stag. I looked back at Nicole. She was trying to give me all kinds of hand signals to let me know where the stag was. I was looking at her with my Nikon binoculars and trying to read her lips, but I couldn’t understand what she was trying to tell me.
We went up on top and started moving down the ridge. I spotted the stag in a gulley, headed-down again. As we got closer to the stag, he jumped up for some reason. I immediately went to full draw. The stag was at about 25 or 30 yards. I quickly settled my pin sight behind his front shoulder and released the arrow. Just as I shot, the stag reacted to the sound of the bow. He took a step forward, and my arrow hit a little farther back than I had intended. After he took the arrow, the stag ran across the hill and out of sight. I saw the blood coming out of his side and assumed I had hit an artery. After the shot, Nicole and I started trailing the stag. When we found him, I took a second shot. The stag scored more than 400 inches. I couldn’t believe that we had taken two stags in 2 days, one with a rifle and one with a bow. We went to bed that night and were headed for tahr camp early the next morning.