Last week I headed South with Lindsay (Dad), Russell, and Martin in our annual effort to track down a Tahr or two. After Air New Zealand decided to send us to Auckland on the way from Wellington to Christchurch, we arrived three hours late in a mad dash to make it to our hut before nightfall.
After more dramas that don’t need explaining we reached our hut for the next few nights and crashed out. The first day started with all the excitement I could need to keep me charged for the rest of the trip. The four of us popped up the hill behind the hut and immediately spotted a mob of about a dozen mature Bulls pushed down nice and low by the heavy fog. I’d pulled the straw for first crack so myself and Martin set off up towards them, and sent Lindsay and Russell up the River further in search for others.
Unfortunately we had the wind at our back and no easy cover in any direction so sneaking up on them was hard. As we closed in to about half a kilometer or so, the Bulls decided it was time to move and started their assent. Fortunately they weren’t too spooked and kept a fairly low pace as they climbed. This allowed the two of us to sidle behind a small mound of cover and scamper in close for a shot. As we crested the only cover we had we were spotted and this time they were less than impressed. With just over 300m between us I was forced to abandon any attempt to set up the video camera and get busy behind the rifle. By the time I had cross hairs on the boys most of them were getting out of range and they were all on the move. I picked the Bull I thought to be the best and let the 7mmWSM ring out. A couple of shaky paces and the first Tahr for the trip was rolling down the mountain side.
Martin and I clambered over to where he fell and dragged him down to a nice grassy flat patch for further inspection. Although the tape on the horns didn’t quite reach the trophy mark I would be lying to say I wasn’t happy to have him sitting next to me, and the meat for the rest of the trip taken care of. Lindsays voice came over the Walkie with questions and congratulations, followed by instructions to get back down the hill as more had been spotted up river. So a few quick photos and some butchery and we raced back down and headed off to join the others.
After dropping the head off, hanging the meat in bush and climbing the next set of hills we finally caught up with Lindsay and Russell. Parked up at the base of the shingle fan on the other side of the gully were about half a dozen Nannies and a pair of Bulls. The animals looked quite content where they were and Martin and I were pretty eager to give the legs a rest at this stage so I set up the camera and did a little bit of filming while we planned our attack route. Russell was on the gun now and with more cover to deal with this time around, we were able to sneak in undetected and set up for a shot. Russell let rip on the Bigger of the Bulls and with a well-placed follow up shot from Martin he dropped and the celebrations began.
I couldn’t believe how lucky we were to have two Bulls to the floor on the first day, but this wasn’t to be the norm for the days to follow.
Russell’s Bull again fell slightly short of the trophy mark but for him it may as well have been a 15 incher. He has put in a huge amount of time chasing his first Tahr over the last few years and this boy is going to hang proudly on the wall at home.
After more photos and knife work we packed up and made the trek back to the hut for a Tahr-sandwich dinner, and a few celebratory beers.
The following day was a lot harder. We spent hours in the morning glassing all the way up the valley with only a few spotted way up high in near impossible to reach areas. It wasn’t until later in the afternoon that Lindsay got eyes on the mob of Bulls from the day before, parked up high on a sunny outcrop. Once again we were left with no possible way of sneaking in on them without being detected. It was made worse by the fact that I had rattled them up yesterday. With nothing to lose we crawled our way in through the tussock. We were 611 yards away when they got to their feet and started make a move. Martin dropped in to position quickly dialed up the scope and we made the call to take the shot. Although he is well practiced out to 1000m with his .308win the wind was quite strong and we had to be quick. I called out his windage and he sent his 150 grain pill flying up the hill. A beautiful “smack” sound came bounding back and we had the third bull for the trip.
We had a bit of a bastard of a time getting up to do the recovery but it was all worth it when we got eyes on him close-up. There had been no mistaking this time around, the big boy was an absolute beauty and comfortably surpassed the trophy mark. We skinned him, removed the head and headed back down to another round of cold beers. This was really turning out to be a brilliant trip and with 3 out of 4 ticked off we were pretty stoked.
The final two days however we just weren’t able to seal the deal. Despite a huge amount of effort and a lot of animals spotted we just couldn’t close in on a big Bull for Lindsay. Although he certainly wasn’t complaining with the result, and being at the front of the list for the next trip should keep him happy for the next 12 months. All in all it was a fantastic trip with scenery that never ceases to amaze. Now we just can’t wait to do it all again next year!
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