Hawke's Bay rural station owners are preparing for the potentially dangerous side of the annual stag "roar" as poachers line up their properties for illegal hunting expeditions.
"There is a very real danger to the landowners," rural policing senior constable Pete Gimblett said.
"These people [poachers] just don't get it. They treat it as open slather - they think it is their right to go onto someone else's property to shoot deer."
As well as putting hunters who have permission to go on to a station and the owners at risk, they are putting themselves at risk due to their furtive movements, Mr Gimblett said.
Martin Brenstrum, who works as a guide on Ngamatea Station off the Napier-Taihape Rd, summed it up.
"For the hunting guide and client it's unnerving and frightening to have shots go off unexpectedly nearby and to hear a bullet thump into a hillside - when you thought there was no one else in the area you chose to hunt in."
Mr Brenstrum said the poachers, who often struck at night and appeared oblivious to the danger they posed to others, were unlikely to be put off while the justice system was so light on them in terms of penalties.
Patoka farmer and property owner Oliver Nicholas agreed.
"The justice system is too soft. These people are armed trespassers."
He said he caught up with a group of young men who he spotted going on to his land at night about 10 days ago and pursued them.
"When I caught up with them and they saw me they just took off ... they were up to no good."
He had no doubts they would return as they had little to lose.
While poaching incidents did increase at his time of the year Mr Nicholas said Christmas had also been bad as illegal hunters cashed in on the black market for venison and other meat. He had also lost cattle and sheep to poachers.
"The last six months has been the worst we've had for a long time. Just recently we found several deer carcasses and we've lost sheep - as have the neighbours."
Illegal hunters gained access to his and his neighbours' properties as they could be accessed through a road which led to hot springs which attracted people. Most incidents were at night, with poachers spotlighting and often using noise suppressors on their rifles. He said a lot of spotlighting often went on near the springs.
"These guys don't think. To them it's a game but to us (landowners) it's no bloody game at all."
Mr Brenstrum said during the roar there could be up to three organised and guided hunt parties in areas on Ngamatea where poachers had crept into. He said it soon became clear they had been at work as areas where stags were known to have been were found to be empty - and no roaring was taking place.
Guides and legal hunters also came across headless stag carcasses where the poachers had gone for antler trophies.
"The laws need to be much tougher for recidivist poachers, Mr Brenstrum said.
"The punishments need to be incrementally tougher and tougher each time a poacher is caught - at present the punishment is hardly much worse than a slap on the back of the hand with a wet bus ticket."
Another hunting guide pointed out that the maximum fine for illegal hunting under the Wildlife Animal Control Act was "a laughable" $500 fine.
"Yet disorderly behaviour is $2000 and a possible three months' jail."
Mr Gimblett said there was clear danger to landowners and legitimate hunters and said he had a simple question for trespassing poachers.
"How would you feel if someone went across your front lawn carrying a high-powered rifle?"
He said because of the large expanse of affected terrain across the Bay it was difficult to pin down poachers, but he was carrying out enquiries into one recent incident. Landowners were also watching, and listening for, vehicles moving through their areas at night.