Melissa Bachman In New Zealand

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Photographer John Hafner Tells The Tale As Only He Can

Not so long ago, John Hafner was a Realtree staffer working with the licensing and marketing folks. But everyone who worked with him -- and saw the images he captured with his trusty Nikon camera gear -- knew his true calling was photography.

Fast forward a few years and Hafner is one of the hottest photographers in the outdoors. Recently, he tagged along on a trip with Melissa Bachman to put Field and Stream hunting gear to the test in New Zealand. 

As always, Hafner came back with the best trophies of the trip: The images that tell the story better than words alone can. Below are a few of those images and a few words from Hafner about each. 

--Tony Hansen, Editor 

Image 1 of 9

Image 1 of 9

1 | The Hills

New Zealand’s postcard-perfect countryside is as beautiful as it is grueling. I burned lots of pixels -- and calories -- trying to do justice to the incredible views that greeted us each morning as we traversed these rugged hills.

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Image 2 of 9

2 | The Climb

Make no mistake: If you plan to hunt stag, be prepared to hike, sweat and hurt. Like elk, stag prefer the high country, and they’re much better at navigating it than you are.

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Image 3 of 9

3 | The Hunter


Melissa Bachman, host of Winchester Deadly Passion.

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Image 4 of 9

4 | The Light

New Zealand is no doubt a photographer’s paradise. The South Pacific sunrise seems to have a quality unlike anywhere else. 

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Image 5 of 9

5 | The Search


The hunt was equal parts hiking and glassing. Bachman logged lots of bino time in search of stag. 

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Image 6 of 9

6 | The King


Like a fabled creature straight out of a fairy tale, stag have a unique presence about them. Much like the elk that roam the Rocky Mountain West, these regal monarchs carry themselves with confidence. 
 

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Image 7 of 9

7 | The Ghost

A roaring stag is truly an inredible sight. This old warrior struck a stunning pose as he roared repeatedly before cresting the ridge and disappearing out of sight.

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Image 8 of 9

8 | The Evidence

Evidence of a quick kill and a perfectly-performing bullet. 

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Image 9 of 9

9 | The Finale

Finally, after several days of seemingly endless hiking, unrelenting heat and humidity, sore muscles and encounters that didn’t quite work out, sweet success. 

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