As I stated at the end of “A Wet and Wild Trip Through Europe: Part 1, Estonia,” my hunting friend David Hollingsworth and I packed up and flew from Estonia down to Romania, where we met three more Worldwide Trophy Adventure (WTA) clients/friends, Bert Moore, Eric Nicholas and Jim Sheehan.
I’ve known Eric and his wife, Amy, since college, and Jim has been to Botswana with me in the past. Amy came along with Eric, and Jim brought his wife, Joann, and they planned to stay a few days after the hunt to do a bit of sightseeing. Bert and I went to Argentina together a couple of years ago, so we had a great group for this adventure.
We all were hunting red stag and European wild boar. Unfortunately, David and I brought the warm, wet and rainy weather with us. Again, it rained every single day and night of the trip, the temps were in the 60s, and those conditions certainly put a damper on the red stag roar (rut).
We hunted in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains, and the terrain was steep, heavily wooded and challenging because everything was wet and slick. It was really appealing to me to hunt red stag in their native habitat and 100 percent free range. Most stag hunting these days is done in New Zealand (almost all fenced) and Argentina (50/50 fenced and free range), and many of the animals have been selectively bred to have incredibly enormous antlers that don’t really resemble a natural red deer.
On the first evening, I went out with a young ranger and we climbed about three-quarters of the way up the mountain behind a small village. We saw a female red deer, but didn’t see or hear a stag until we got back to the bottom. We heard a couple of roars that were a bit above where we ended our climb, but the clock ran out.
The next morning, we went back to the same area, and from the pasture at the bottom of the mountain, we could hear the stag, but he was already up in the thick brush on the hillside, so we headed to a different area up in the mountains. We saw lots of sign, but no stag sightings, and we heard no roaring.
It seemed that with the hot weather, the stags were rutting at night, and at most they would roar for about 1-1.5 hours in the morning and 1-1.5 hours in the evening during daylight. The hunting window was very short. After the morning hunt, we learned that Jim had taken a really wide stag just after daylight, so at least we were on the board.
That afternoon we went back to the area behind the village, and the skies were black and ominous. We had rain off and on, and there was thunder and lightning in the distance. A couple of the locals came out to talk to us, and one elderly lady told us that she had seen a big stag and some females in the pasture at the forest edge on a number of occasions, but it was always early and late.
We decided not to make a long hike due to the lightning, but we did hear the stag roar a few times on the mountain just before dark. My ranger was getting discouraged, and he told me that the next morning, we would go way up in the mountains to a remote area for a change.
It rained hard all night, and the next morning a couple of the guys decided to stay in. When the ranger picked me up, our outfitter, Marius Merutiu, decided to go with us since the guy he was guiding decided to stay in. The ranger told us that he had been out since 1 a.m. trying to cut branches and trees out of the road from the storm so we could get up in the mountains where he wanted to hunt, but the roads were just impassible. He apologized, and I told him not to worry as none of us can control the weather or its effects.
We went back to the area behind the village, and by this time I was sure we were wasting our time there. It was still dark when we arrived, and we immediately heard the stag roar, and he seemed to be lower.
We got behind a huge pile of hay and waited for some light, and while it was still quite dark, I could make out a number of deer still in the pasture at the base of the hill through my Nikons. I couldn’t see antlers, but one was running the others around, so I knew it had to be the stag.
We quickly made a move to another hay pile (these things are 10-12 feet high), and I was just hoping the stag would stay in the open until I could see well enough to shoot. He roared another time or two, and chased the hinds (females) all over. They were getting closer to the treeline, and I was worried they would disappear before I got an opportunity.
A couple of minutes later, I ranged the stag at 160 yards, and then I got my rifle up on shooting sticks. I could see the stag standing broadside looking to the left, so I placed the crosshairs just behind his shoulder and touched the trigger. In the low light, all I saw was muzzle flash, and I had no idea if my shot was true.
Marius said the stag was hit, and it ran holding a front leg off the ground. We quickly found the fallen monarch only 50 yards from where I shot him, and I must say I was pleasantly surprised. I was hoping to take a stag with a nice frame and maybe 6 points on each side. My stag was an 8×8 with a lot of mass, and his crowns were simply wonderful. Marius and the ranger were both ecstatic, so I knew this was a very big animal for the area. The stag had about 6-7 hinds with him, and Marius told me that only the biggest males would have that many females with them.
Over the next few days, we scratched out everyone’s stags even though the hunting was tough; I’m confident it was the result of the terrible weather that just wouldn’t move out.
Jim took a good-sized boar one afternoon from an elevated stand, and David took a good roe buck instead of a boar, but the other three of us still hadn’t seen a boar, and I only had a day left to hunt.
Marius organized a driven-type boar hunt for us, and I was really excited to get to experience this hunt so traditional in Europe. Again it was raining, but it was a great day. Bert got the first boar after it tried to slip past us in the open oak forest. It was well in front of the dogs and beaters, and it was about to break into an open pasture when he hammered it with a 300 Win.
The next boar bayed up with the dogs, and Eric went in and cleanly killed his pig with his STW in the woods. Not long after, we could hear the dogs bayed again, and it was my turn.
In an area where a cornfield, the forest and an overgrown field all came together, the dogs had a pig bayed in some incredibly dense bush. One of the beaters handed me a 12 gauge with slugs, but no sights, and I got down on my hands and knees and crawled just inside the brush.
I could see the big boar with dogs around him no more than 7 yards away, but I had to wait for a clear shot so I wouldn’t hit a dog. I wasn’t sure how to aim the shotgun, so I just looked down the barrel and pointed it where I wanted to hit. I aimed for his big head hoping to drop him, but just as I squeezed the trigger, he spun around, and I hit him well back toward the flank.
The boar broke out of the thick cover, through the corn, and then the dogs bayed him again in a huge clump of briars. I got Bert to hand me his 300 Win., and just as I came around the briar patch, the boar charged out at 10 steps. I pulled the crosshairs in front of him a bit and fired. The big pig rolled head-first, and the dogs were on him immediately. He was finished, and thus was our exciting boar hunt.
It was a great way for me to end my trip. That day I had another client, Mike S. come in, and when the weather broke, he too connected with a nice stag and a great boar that was the largest of the group. The wet weather made the hunting tough, but we all worked hard and took mature animals.
The culture and people of Romania were wonderful, and I definitely would recommend the hunt to anyone interested in a free-range red stag at a fantastic price.
Editor’s note: Tim Herald is an owner and hunt consultant at Worldwide Trophy Adventures (WTA). To book this or any other high-quality hunt anywhere in the world, contact Tim at firstname.lastname@example.org. WTA’s services are free; WTA is paid directly by the outfitter, and your hunt cost is the same whether you book directly with an outfitter or through WTA.
Images by Tim Herald