The Big Orchid
– Dallis Joiner –
My dad traveled to Tipiluke over 10 years ago and since then I have seen pictures and heard countless stories about the property. All I can tell you is that the photos and stories did not prepare me for such an amazing experience. Last week, I had the opportunity to take my wife to Tipiliuke and we were blown away. The staff, the land, the accommodations, the food, the hunting, the fishing… everything was incredible.
Our entire week at Tipiluke was amazing, but the highlight for me was the opportunity to Stag Hunt. I love the thrill of the stalk and finding “The Big Orchid” was one of my favorite hunts to date.
During the month of April, Tipiliuke usually enjoys sunny or partly cloudy weather with temperatures in the 60s. While we were there, an early winter storm rolled in, complete with snow, cold rain, and temperatures in the 30s. Despite the less-than-ideal conditions, we loaded up on breakfast (croissants dipped in dulce de leche, crispy bacon, and an espresso for me!), and set off in hopes of finding a beautiful red stag. Tipiliuke boasts 50,000 acres of mountainous terrain, so we had our work cut out for us. Our truck was loaded up with a fellow guest named Adam; a Tipiliuke intern, Fergus; myself; and a Tipiliuke Red Stag Hunting Guide legend Adrian. “Happy Adrian” has earned his nickname while guiding on the property for over two decades with an infectious smile on his face.
We drove up into the mountains and began hiking in the deep snow and high winds. After a mile or two, we came to a peak and peered into the valley below. Below we could see tons of wildlife, including cows, wild llamas, Russian boar, and over 15 Red Stags. Laying in the snow, we studied each stag, looking for the perfect one. After twenty minutes of careful consideration, we set our sights on a group of 3 stags about 500 meters away. The group consisted of a young 3-year-old stag, a “Muy Grande” with beautiful crowns, and an old “orchid” (any stag without a crown and only two points at the top of his antlers is known as an orchid).
With numb hands, 500 meters is too far for a clean shot, so we worked to get into closer range. My heart was racing as we crawled through a small cattle fence and then behind a small hill. After carefully moving 250 yards, we crawled behind bushes until I could see the stags. I slowly moved my rifle into position, looking at each stag. Most hunters prefer a stag with a full crown, but when I put the cross-hairs on the orchid, I was amazed. With beautiful chocolate antlers, great mass, and incredible character, he was a giant 4 by 4 orchid stag. I turned my head and mouthed to Adrian behind me: “WOW!”
After what felt like hours of studying the stags, I knew this orchid was the perfect stag for me. I slowly turned my head to Adrian, asking, “Listo? (Ready)?” He nodded in approval, and I slowly squeezed the trigger of my 300 Winn Mag. Despite a direct hit, the majestic stag ran 15 yards and stopped. This gave me a chance for another shot, which dropped the stag. This tough animal took two perfectly placed shots before hitting the snow, and needless to say, I was ecstatic! I jumped up and hugged Adrian, Fergus, and Adam, eager to run down the mountain and put my hands on my stag. As we approached, I was speechless… I had finally harvested a monster Patagonia Red Stag!
I would be remiss not to thank Adrian, Kevin and Mary Jo, John, and everyone else who made this once-in-a-lifetime hunt a reality for me. I can’t wait to be back next year!