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Born Hunter

NZ South Island 2019

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So as a few of you know, I've recently had a few weeks hunting around New Zealand's South Island. I did all sorts so not really sure where to put this thread but the main hunt was Himalayan Tahr in the Southern Alps so I guess this 'Big Game' section is as good a place as any. In addition to the Tahr, I hunted pigs with dogs, shot duck on the opening day from a mai mai, fished for sea run trout, lamped various grass munching pests (possum, rabbit, hare) and generally experienced rural and wild New Zealand.

Firstly, I have to thank @Tyla for putting me in touch with Kurt, a local farmer/hunter based near Invercargil who essentially guided me on this adventure. We all have our moments on here but I do believe it pays not to be a bell end and Tyla putting me in touch with Kurt is another instance that really reinforces that to me.

 

 

So, Tahr!.... These big mountain goats were introduced to the South Islands Southern Alps back when we didn't know better, like much of NZ's large game, and without predators have done really quite well. They inhabit the snowy/rocky tops during the day coming down to the highest tussocks of vegetation on the mountain to feed a few hours before darkness blankets the valleys. They can be found feeding again in the morning before ascending back to the safety of their extremely treacherous alpine beds. Their natural predator in their native range is the Snow Leopard, but in NZ their only predator are hunters mad enough to go after them.

A dream hunt of mine for a few years has been a mountain hunt and Tahr is probably the cheapest one to do, mostly because the Department of Conservation (DoC) consider recreational hunting a primary tool in the control of this invasive species. Recreational hunting, for sustenance, sport or trophy is endorsed and pushed quite heavily by DoC. It's a bit of a cultural shock for a Pom to see such support for fieldsports by a Government. A Rocky Mountain Bighorn hunt in Montana on the other hand would probably cost ten times as much as an off the shelf guided Tahr hunt because they're not invasive and a load of people in the US want to hunt them. Going self guided, or as I did informally guided by a local works out cheaper still.

The original plan was for a week in the West Coast, dropped in and extracted from our allocated Tahr block by helicopter. Due to a number of reasons, weather being one, we made the call to knock this on the head and hit the East Coast (of the Alps, not the island), the Canterbury High Country. I'm not getting anymore specific than that as although we were hunting public land, kiwi's guard their hotspots! :laugh: East Coast meant no helo in and that we might be sharing the country with other hunters....

So six hour drive north through the night, arriving at one in the morning to the first DoC cabin, sleeping bags out aaaaand f***ing dead....😴 Possums on the roof would occasionally wake me up but I was pretty much dead to the world until about 8am when I heard Kurt bringing me a coffee from the truck. We then pretty much had 10-15miles of fairly serious off-roading to as close to the head of the valley as we could get. Here's a few pics...

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At this point we got our shit together, food for 2 nights on the tops, checked the rifle was shooting where it was pointed and had a late breakfast before our ascent to where we would camp. Now apparently the typical way hunters go after Tahr is to glass from the valley bottom, living in the relative comfort of a log fire heated DoC cabin and then 'shoot up' with light kit to a shooting position before darkness or before the Tahr ascend out of reach. The way Kurt likes to hunt them though is to pack in with tent and food to where the Tahr browse so you can hunt pretty much continually, rather than wasting time and worrying about light.

Edited by Born Hunter
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I didn't quite know how far we had to go and it was probably for the best, I think we covered about seven or eight miles zig zagging up the hill side with 100lt rucksacks and rifle, first through bush, then through thigh high tussocky spikey shit, then through rocky bouldery alpiney shit...

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....until finally we reached the spot he had in mind, just about high enough to find patches of snow for water but more importantly it was positioned between two large amphitheatre-like high valleys either side that fed into the main valley that we had just ascended.

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And looking back across it was f***ing beautiful!

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We set up camp, got some snap on the go and immediately started glassing. The Tahr were due to descend for their evening feed any time.

I found it really hard to get my eye in to begin with, Kurt was pointing out animals that sounded obvious but f****d if I could see them. Also you could hear the rocks falling and scree running from the Tahr starting to move, it was quite a cool sound in such a massive sheltered valley. We seemed to find most of the action in a particular one of these two high valleys so set about on a evening stalk into it. We saw a lone nanny really low quite early on which was apparently out of character. Bit more distance and glassing and we were starting to see small mobs with bulls across the other side which required traversing a few ravines, shoots and scree before we were anywhere close to settle down and watch events play out.

 

I seem to have hit an upload limit? Might have to bare with me folks...

Edited by Born Hunter
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Sorted.... I think. Right...

This is pretty much where the evening played out. We watched two small mobs with a bull or two party to each slowly descend, hoping that they would close distance for us.

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As the sun began to drop we moved as far forward as was practical with now one mob in particular at something like over 500m (I guessed no more than 350 :laugh: :doh:). That mob had a single mature Bull, real dark skin, hard to tell horn length, not that that was particularly important to me.

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We waited and watched and our chat became a bit more serious... He was at 450m now and I was just seeing how comfortable I felt for a potential shot on my first Tahr...

He was hanging around 450 and I was just holding those crosshairs on his big sturdy shoulder keeping my nerves at bay and just getting a feel for it all. I told Kurt I was confident with the shot if he was confident with the ballistics side of things. There was a slight angle on the shot so he dialled in 4.5moa and I settled down again with a 300wsm chambered ready to do what I had travelled to the other side of the planet to do. I could hear Kurt speaking words of advise but I pretty much just zoned out and focused on the the shot like any other.

Bull Tahr can be tough and take some lead, they can also not take much at all... In this instance the rifle went boom, just as I got the tahr back in the scopes field of view I heard that very pleasant 'wop' of a chest shot (rather than the dull thud of a gut shot or the nothing of a clean miss) and watched him stagger down the scree while cycling the bolt (I had read somewhere to just keep hitting them). In no time though he was down and I could hear "Well done English!". That was f***ing awesome! No whooping and hollering or owt, but big smiles and handshake!

Now, it was probably minutes rather than hours from dark. That Bull was going no where but was likely an hour away so Kurt said to leave him till morning, we'll have another hunt on the way to him. That was the benefit of camping in the Tahr's back yard, rather than a hut.

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We got some more food down us and I pretty much found a comfy spot and just took it all in. Kurt checked the weather, rain forecast to come in for the rest of the week from tomorrow afternoon which put a bit of urgency on the next day as we had forded the glacial run-off at the valley bottom about a dozen times getting in and a heavy rain could trap us.

PS the night sky was f***ing incredible. The milky way was so vivid compared to home. I would have stayed out all night but it didn't mean much to Kurt, lol, who wanted to get his head down and I didn't want to wake him so I enjoyed it for a few minutes and got my head down too.

Edited by Born Hunter
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Sometime in the morning before the sunrise we were up for some more freeze dried cuisine in preparation to find our kills and maybe drop another. I forgot to mention that just after I had shot mine another mob right over on our right was stirred which had a reasonable bull for Kurt. With his second shot he appeared to drop it into a ravine, so we had two to recover.

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As expected we found the mobs again with a couple of bulls as possibles. One bull in particular quite close to where Kurt had shot his the night before had a lovely bleached mane. We moved into a shooting position and I estimated the range but he wasn't as obliging as my first and was quartering away, I decided that my broadside shot may never come so if he stopped I'd shoot angled away from me. This was a mistake and I got caught up with confidence. I either missed or bellied him (can't remember) and he started charging down hill, which fortunately brought him closer. I had another three shots with two hits which looked good before he carried on down hill out of sight.

So at this point we have potentially three bulls down but all except my first one are un-sighted. That was enough trigger time, now for some graft.

That last bull, my second, was the first one we found. Chuffed to bits, first one recovered. I've always found getting my hands on the quarry very fulfilling, it kind of completes a hunt for me. Not something I usually talk about but it's personally meaningful. I imagine it was to our ancestors as well, as even for hunter-gatherers hunting for sustenance getting their hands on the kill made the objective of a meal a done deal. I wasn't hunting for sustenance but making contact with your kill is still fulfilling, far more than pulling the trigger. Anyway...

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Kurt whipped out his tape measure to asses the horn length and he was quite chuffed with himself when he read 12 3/4 inch on both sides. A 12" bull is considered a benchmark amongst kiwi Tahr hunters with many not having one on their wall yet never mind a virgin Pom. So he had a right to be proud for guiding me onto a reasonable specimen. My intention was to fully skin everything for rugs but I was told that any kiwi who shot such a good bull would without doubt be sending it to the taxidermist so not wanting to offend and also wanting to follow tradition I agreed to cape it for a shoulder mount.

I'm not a big one for 'trophy shots', I think I only have one other photo of that type and that's from my first days roe stalking with a mate, but again it's part and parcel of such an epic hunt and Kurt knows how to take proper ones so here's a few from the several dozen he took.

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Edited by Born Hunter
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Before we began to cape that bull we both set about looking for the other two bulls. Kurt went up and into the ravine while I went down and across to the scree where my first bull from the previous evening should be laying.

Found him, BIG dark skinned animal. Both horns just topping 12".

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Edited by Born Hunter
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We met back where we parted at the first recovered bull and having both found what we were looking for we went to process Kurt's animal first.

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Finally we finished with my second bull. That cape around my neck was surprisingly heavy. Kurt had a pack to haul back to camp and I had that cape around my shoulders and the rifle. The horns nearly blind you and the awkward loading on the shoulders makes it hard to breath and negotiate alpine terrain, lol.

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But this was the easy part...

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Once back at camp, we refuelled and packed our bags. This time our bags were absolutely brimmed! 100lt packs which weighed so much we needed to help each other to our feet. I asked Kurt how much he reckoned our packs weighed and he was around the same figure I had in my head. They were f***ing heavy! The pack didn't really fit me, it would slop from one side to the other and throw me off balance, if I slid on anything it was hard to stop, I was fatigued, the terrain was f***ing deadly and I just had to concentrate every step. Tahr hunting like this is hard work, people fall to their deaths hunting in these mountains every year as far as I'm aware many more fall and seriously injure themselves.

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From the point at which I put my pack on to begin the descent, racing the incoming weather, I didn't take any photos. LOL. I learnt over the next several hours that photography is a luxury. LOL

Edited by Born Hunter
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So that was my NZ Tahr hunt. We faced a bit of adversity, had to change plans, it was over in a few days, we just beat the rain and we had fantastic luck. But then Kurt knows his shit and those people tend to 'be lucky'.

For those wondering, we didn't harvest any meat. I think it's important to be open about that and explain why. You might not like it, you might think I'm a filthy trophy hunter and that's fine. Be respectful and we'll have a discussion about it. Basically Kurt's opinion was that mature bull Tahr meat is not worth the effort, it's a hunt for the skins and horns but first and foremost the experience of a true mountain hunt. Tahr hunting is sort of the pinnacle of rifle hunting in NZ, if you hunt Tahr you're a serious hunter. That's what Bull Tahr hunting is over there. If you want a meat animal then you shoot a meat animal. There's so much choice of big game to go at I got the impression that he see's no point in harvesting the meat from poor meat animals. That sort of goes against the grain a bit over here I guess. My other hunts, which I'll write about later were all on good meat animals and so the meat was harvested, processed and made up some of the meals I had while there.

As I have said, recreational hunting is a primary method in the Tahr control plan. There's a bit of controversy between DoC and kiwi hunters over this as obviously DoC want all the Tahr gone, along with the deer, pigs, chamois etc but hunters want them as a resource. A resource for local kiwi hunters, a resource for commercial outfits etc. Tahr bring money into these places! If we were totally on board with DoC's objectives we'd have shot a heap of nannies and kids too but the attitude seems to be that given the helo contractors are wasting whatever they can get their sights at there's no point in helping them.

Anyway there's a bit of politics I picked up.

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3 hours ago, riohog said:

were next  alaska/?

 

I'd love to! I could spend months either there or Montana hunting Rocky Mountain Bighorn, Dall, Rocky Mountain Elk, Mountain Goat, Caribou and legit spot and stalk Bear. But america is SO expensive because the demand in the hunting market is massive. I mean that's great because hunting dollars fuel their conservation efforts and they have probably the best conservation model in the world. But it doesn't leave much opportunity for a lad from a working class background like myself. I mean I'm doing alright considering but I'm not exactly wealthy. LOL

I feel an adventure over there without a rifle though is on the cards.

Next hunting adventure will likely be Scotland. But I'm really looking forward to a three dayer on the bucks this weekend! Pack the wagon and hit the road, can't wait.

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Brilliant write up mate, I'm very pleased it all worked out so well. You write very well, makes me feel very slack that I've barely written anything about my trip 😒 I'm looking forward to the next installment

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23 minutes ago, Tyla said:

Brilliant write up mate, I'm very pleased it all worked out so well. You write very well, makes me feel very slack that I've barely written anything about my trip 😒 I'm looking forward to the next installment

Cheers mate. So you should, I was looking forward to hearing about it! :laugh: Nah posting on here is a personal thing, if a few hadn't of asked I wouldn't have bothered. Was in two minds anyway.

I'll post a bit more tomorrow.

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Oooh one final pic from the east coast, probably my favourite. 

 

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