The Republic of Mauritius is an island country off the eastern coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean. It lies 500 miles east of Madagascar and encompasses roughly 780 square miles, about the size of the State of Rhode Island. A volcanic island rimmed by coral reefs, it features a central plateau surrounded by mountains. Rusa deer were introduced to Mauritius from Java, Indonesia, in 1639 by its Dutch colonial governor. Rusa adapted well to Mauritius and today number in the thousands. For the past two years, an operator from France has been quietly offering hunts for these deer to Europeans, who also come for the white-sand beaches, first-class resorts and marlin fishing.
The operator is Lionel Berthault, and his hunting company is called Le Chasseur Mauricien, which means, the Mauritian hunter. Berthault is a young man in his 30s, but has hunted since a teenager and has extensive experience in wildlife and habitat management in France and other countries. After hunting in 20 different destinations, he fell in love with Mauritius and moved there about five years ago. Since then, he has managed to secure access to more than 12,000 acres that sustain a large population of deer. In his short time in operation, he has managed to host 150 guests and taken 35 gold medal stags each year during classic spot-and-stalk hunts and another 30 on deer drives he operates for two Mauritian hunt clubs. The majority of the rusa deer are found in the southern side of the island and in the mountains. Berthault conducts his hunts in the Bel Ombre area over old sugar cane fields that have been left fallow and are now overgrown with grass. The deer live in the thick surrounding jungle and come into the fields in the afternoons to feed and breed. The terrain is hilly, and some is quite steep. Berthault can make the hunt as physically demanding as a client wants, with lots of hard hiking and climbing to spot and stalk deer. He knows the areas frequented by the deer and puts hunters in place to glass for good stags. The cover........(continued)