Last month Lindsay, Martin, Russell and I headed south for our annual Tahr hunt. We had almost a week at this year so we were determined to achieve a few different goals. After a coming within inches of it last year, our first priority was to get Lindsay his first Bull. Secondly we wanted to gather a much bigger bag of meat to take home this time and finally the ever lingering desire to shoot a 12”-plus Bull.
Lindsay and I caught our flight out of Wellington early morning and were greeted by an excited Russell at the other end, an hour or two later, Martin arrived and we loaded up the Cruiser and trailer and bounded towards the Alps. The usual gear checks and panicking about what we may have forgotten faded away with the sound of the Taxi blasting up the valley.
A Weeks Gear
After two scenic flights in the four of us were making a rushed effort to unpack our gear and set up for the week in order to get out for an hour or two’s scouting before dark. Early indications were good as we lay glass on the first mob of young Bulls for the trip within just a couple of Km of camp. We also picked up a few nannies up high so we were able to head back to bed for the night with the relief that there were still Tahr in the valley this year.
A Welcome Sight
The next day granted us an opportunity to stretch the legs on Russell’s new gun and gather the first bits of meat for the trip. After a morning glassing and assessing we weren’t able to find any big mature animals so we pounced on the chance to make a play at a couple of young tender ones. Russell and I were sent off down the hill and up the other side of the river while Martin and Lindsay sat back from the spotting point to radio through instructions for us while we were covering the dead ground. Within an hour we were cresting the head of a steep shoot and coming into sight of our targets. Russell had been doing a lot of practise at longer ranges with his new rig over the previous weeks and with a lot of open and exposed country between us and the young bulls, it was time to put it to good use. We set up for an approximate 20mph crosswind and at 502yards. He sent his 139gn SST crashing into the middle of a shoulder. An absolutely brilliant shot in the raging Nor-Wester. We climbed up to his young Bull, took a few photos and dealt to the camp meat. Although it was no trophy, to Russell the shot itself made it a Trophy. All the practise and preparation that went in to pulling off such a long shot in windy conditions was worth the effort.
Russell’s Long Shot
The next day Martin and I made an assault on another group of younger Bulls. We spent hours glassing in the morning for the big boys but after no luck we decided to try and lock down some supplies for the freezer. Ideally we wanted to go home with two animals each to keep us fed for the next 12 months, and this looked like an opportunity to grab 3 of them. These Tahr were camped down in the rocks up high at the top of a tight gully and climbing up underneath wasn’t going to be a smart option. We made a plan to drop down river and climb the hill on the other side of the gully, sneak along and shoot from up above them on the other side. Amazingly everything went to plan and we were even greeted by a perfectly refreshing snow flurry at the top of an arduous climb. As we reached the edge of the gully we looked down to see the three of them now feeding out on the open faces below the bluff. With them now looking in great shape for the recovery mission we wasted no time in despatching our ammo. All three hit the deck in good positions and I radioed through to the other two members of our search party to meet us down in the creek below to assist with the meat extraction.
With a good chunk of meat now bagged up in the ice cold river, we made a plan to really cover some turf the next morning and try and get some glass on something bigger. As luck would have it, things went to plan. A few hours up river a mob of nine big mature boys were spotted feeding their way down a face up a side creek. We were able to close in to a nice vantage point on the other side of the main river and set up for some serious assessment. After a lot of discussion we were happy that two of the Bulls met the trophy mark. One of these two suddenly and unexplainably got spooked and bolted full noise up the hill behind him, leaving the equation simple for us.
It was decided that I would make a go at them solo, mainly due to the fact that they were going to have the upper hand on me as my only option was to approach them from the bottom of the gut they were holding in. The other three sat back glassing and issuing commands over the radio nervously as I made my attack. After a heart racing half hour or so I was sneaking round the corner underneath their gully, trying to make contact with them. The first Bull that came in to sight was the look-out and he had a clean bead on me. I hit the deck and quickly set up my rifle and gear. I found him in my scope and with his mate, standing on the tiptoes looking down at me and whistling in panic. I was gutted that I couldn’t see the big boy through the glass and as they started to panic I spotted the big brown bear step out from around the corner, there was absolutely no hesitation from 7mmWSM as it cracked out, up towards the chest of the big animal. As he careered down the hill, Martin radioed through that he was on his way over to help with the recovery. However there was no way I was going to stay put. I strapped on my pack started my race up the hill. I was ecstatic to find him belly up in the tussock and watch my tape-measure continue to extend out past the 12” dash. We radioed through the news to the Lindsay and Russell and spent the next hour or two with photos and caping out.
The following morning we were forced to have a rest by the sleety weather and fog making visibility almost non-existent. Tahr sandwiches made and the time passed pleasantly as it gave the legs a bit of a break. Later on the weather broke and it didn’t take Martin long to get out and spot his second freezer filler just up river from camp. A loner bull wandered a little too far from safety and that was all the invitation Martin and I needed to start our stalk. A perfectly placed, long shot found the center of his shoulder and he tumbled off the rocks down onto the shingle slide. A simple recovery meant that with one day to go we had achieved all our goals for the trip, bar one.
Ready For The BBQ
The final day, there was no uncertainty about what we were setting out to achieve. Once again Lindsay had spent the trip running around with us insisting we did the shooting while he sat back and watched. He was going to shoot his first Bull today no matter what we had to do to make it happen! We set out early and it was immediately clear that it was going to be a tough day. The wind was down, there was no cloud and the sun was getting hot already. This simply means the Tahr will all be bedded down in the rocks up high and we’ll have to climb. After a morning of walking and glassing we decided to make a play at the first two we had spotted for the day. They were set up just below the top of the mountain but at least they were sitting in a very small rocky face that would make recovery possible. It took a lot of water and mammoth effort by the older guys to get up there but it was all worth it when closed ourselves in to our shooting spot at just under 450 yards.
Lining Up In The Rocks
Tension was high as Lindsay set up behind the gun and all three of us were holding our breath and crossing our fingers as the bolt closed. Through the binoculars and scope the four of us watched a thundering ripple splash out across the shoulder and chest of the Bull seated high in the rocks. As he tumbled and slid down the shingle scree below, a wave of adrenaline washed over the four of us and the screams of celebration ensued. We were all ecstatic. Another happy recovery and photo session and it was back to camp for one final night before our pick up the next morning.
A Huge Trophy In Our Books
We were so fortunate to be able to take a trophy bull and fill our freezers for another year and I was especially ecstatic to see Lindsay put down his first Bull. I can’t wait to go back next year, I love Tahr Hunting!
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