Kalispell Gunsmith Shoots World-Record Red Stag

By Beacon Staff

When New Zealand hunting outfitter Gus Bisset offered to take Gene Gordner on a free guided hunting trip that held the promise of a trophy red stag, Gordner figured there had to be a catch. Bisset seemed like a nice guy, but that nice?

Turns out that Bisset, who had met Gordner at Safari Club International conventions, really was that nice. The New Zealand outfitter saw an enthusiasm and passion in Gordner that deserved such an opportunity, free of charge. He also saw a .79 caliber 10 bore Jaeger flintlock rifle, custom-built by Gordner, that deserved an opportunity too.

So in March, Gordner, who had never hunted farther away from his Kalispell home than eastern Montana, traveled to the South Island of New Zealand with his trusty flintlock. After a strategically plotted pursuit, on only the second day of his first-ever overseas hunt, Gordner took down a massive free-range red stag with a perfect shot.

A few weeks ago, Gordner officially found out just how big his stag was: a Safari Club International world record for the muzzleloader class. Its score of 319 4/8 far surpassed the old record of 308.

“That was the greatest hunt of my life,” Gordner said last week from his Kalispell gunsmith shop. “I feel blessed.”

Gordner, a custom gun builder who works primarily with Kilimanjaro Rifles, made the .79 Jaeger three years ago. Built with American walnut, the rifle has a rustic appearance as if actually from a past era when muzzleloaders were regularly used. Gordner shoots competitively and is a deadeye with the flintlock, as he proved on his New Zealand hunt.

The hard part for a sharpshooter like Gordner wasn’t the shot – it was finding the stag in a foreign land, tracking it down and getting within shooting distance, all of which was accomplished thanks to the knowledgeable assistance of Bisset. Bisset runs New Zealand Trophy Hunting.

Gordner says guided trophy hunts in foreign countries cost thousands or perhaps tens of thousands of dollars. In this case, all he had to do was find a way to get a plane ticket and everything else was paid for.

Gordner holds the Kilimanjaro Jaeger .79 caliber 10 bore historical rifle used to harvest a world-record red stag. Lido Vizzutti | Flathead Beacon

“I would have never been able to afford it,” he said, adding: “Gus and his wife were such gracious hosts.”

Bisset located the large stag – a male red deer – on the hunt’s first evening with a spotting scope. Bisset and Gordner had seen a number of nice stags already, but once they saw the 7 by 9, 650-pound behemoth they began devising a plan for the next morning. They were accompanied by a video cameraman shooting a hunting video.

Bisset and Gordner woke up early and traveled down to the river bottom below where they had seen the stag. They began sneaking, moving quickly before the wind changed. After a couple of close calls, where the stag was just out of shooting range or darted before a shot could be taken, Bisset got Gordner to within 120 yards – a long shot for a muzzleloader.

In the video, Gordner takes a standing shot and a huge cloud of smoke erupts as the rifle goes off. As the smoke clears, Gordner sees his trophy laying dead on the hillside. Both the rifle and Gordner’s aim had proven true.

The video ends with Gordner playing guitar and singing cowboy tunes. He’s clearly a happy camper.

For more information, visit www.kilimanjarorifles.com.

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