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Thread: First time Tahr

  1. #1
    Member dale's Avatar
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    First time Tahr

    Hay guys this is a article myself and @WillB did for the Rod&Rifle magazine. Enjoy

    My twin brother Justin and I arenít new to the Southern Alps and all the magnificent wonders this kind of country can throw at you, but this particular trip was going to be a special one. For a few years now I had been sharing pictures and stories of our adventures with friends, and while most were excited to hear about it, they didn't think they could ever tackle this kind of country themselves.
    But for two good friends, William and Jit, this only started a fire within them. Both are two decades older than me, but passionate deer hunters with years of experience. We tried several times to plan a trip but work commitments and weather got in the way time and again. Fast forward a year or two and I got the fire started again with talk of a South Island tahr hunt. Both William and Jit said bugger it, this time we're going come hell or high water. This being their first ever alpine adventure, they had both excitement and nerves playing on their minds in the days leading up to their departing flight from Wellington. Checking and cross-checking, making sure they were prepared for whatever the South Island had to throw at us. Some restless nights for sure!
    Day one, Justin and I met William and Jit at Queenstown airport and we all climbed into "Big Red", our 80s series Landcruiser VX, and headed for Mount Cook, where we had an appointment with the helicopter at 2pm. In the blink of an eye we were at our desired location and as the sound of rotor blades dwindled into the distance a sense of calm descended: this magnificent valley was to be home for the next six nights. The first evening was spent glassing and assessing the surroundings and picking up a red deer for dinner. We knew the forecast was set to turn for the next two days.
    Days two and three had us travelling up the valley, stopping and glassing as we went but with not much to note. Only small numbers of tahr were spotted, proving the tahr control plan had significantly reduced the numbers of nannies in this valley over the last year.
    The evening of day two the weather really took a turn for the worse. With the tent getting flattened by gale force winds and driving rain we pulled the pin and retreated at 5am to the closest hut, to wait out the next full day of bad weather. Fortunately there was a good selection of Rod & Rifle

    magazines left by previous hunters, as well as a Jack Reacher novel. William read us bed time stories.
    Day four and with all the bad weather now behind us, we got straight down to it. We quickly spotted a small group of tahr feeding high on a bench - offering an epic and relatively accessible stalk for two newbies. And what better way to do it than side by side. We headed up through steep bush to get onto a spur and slowly worked forward, making sure not to get spotted, until we were in position on a patch of level ground with 5 young bulls feeding peacefully at 350 metres. Finding a good rest and checking the range, we had everything lined up and Jit and William counted down together. Two shots rang out as one, and with two animals down the newbies had just been rewarded with their very first alpine animal. Hi fives and congratulations were in order, as even though they weren't the biggest of trophies, so much had gone into getting to this moment: for me this had been my most satisfying and rewarding stalk in a long time. Watching two friends get their first tahr was more emotional than I expected, and the looks on their faces will be in my memories for years to come.
    Justin and I left the two to process their game while we headed further up the ridge in hopes of finding a bull on the bluffs up ahead. And we soon had a bull in sight. At 800 yards the spotting scope told us he was worth a closer look. We ducked out of sight and sidled around the face and managed to close the distance to 400 yards. This time it was out with the binoculars. First impressions were of a smaller bull. But when he turned his head I got a big surprise: a pair of horns sweeping out and then hooking back in, and bases stacked up with growth rings. This was at least a 7-8 year old bull! This monarch of the mountain had eluded hunters and helicopters for all that time, but now he was within reach. For insurance we both lined up on him and on the count of three we let rip. The shots rang out and with two solid hits the bull collapsed on the spot. We knew this was going to be a bull of a lifetime. Ground shrinkage didnít happen this time: we whipped the tape out and it flew past my benchmark of 13 inches to measure in at 13.3. With huge smiles on our faces and pats on the back we were looking at our best tahr yet - and better still, both our bullets had found the mark. This big old bull was destined for the wall. You cannot get any happier than this, out hunting with your best mate, shooting your best bull yet, with the sun blazing in a clear blue sky over some of the most beautiful country New Zealand has to offer. And to think that most will never get to experience this.
    We made quick work of the head skinning and made a bee-line back down the ridge for a late lunch date with the guys. We spent the rest of the afternoon glassing and spinning yarns and planning for the days to come. We spotted two bulls on gently sloping faces well up the valley, but it was too late in the day to go after them so a plan was made to find them in the morning.

    Day five had us all up early. Both parties climbed to the head of the valley, trying to catch up to the two bulls spotted the night before. But no dice. Most of the day was gone before we spotted a small bull in the early afternoon, perched high in some not so inviting bluffs, well out of reach. We glassed all day, but again it was clear that the recent culls have drastically reduced tahr numbers, as no more were spotted. Having said that, the scrub above the bushline was heavily damaged by browsing and the cull was needed. There are still plenty of animals up there, as you will read!
    William and I headed back down stream to try our luck on the local red deer population that were showing up most evenings. We quickly spotted some in the distance and although we tried to stay out of sight as we worked down the riverbed towards them, they caught wind of us as the katabatic flow kicked in, and ran to the safety of the bush. We continued downstream, stopping every so often to glass the hills. Then on a tussock face we spotted two mature bulls still in full winter coats. One in particular was showing large mass in the body and good horns, but he was about a kilometer away, and with the light starting to go, it would involve a massive effort to get to him. It was doable, but we needed to act fast.
    I set off across the swollen river, keeping myself balanced with my rifle as I hopped from rock to rock. The water was roaring, running fast with snow melt, pushing up and over the rocks, and it took a little footwork before I was safe on the other side. I looked back - William was still on the far bank. I could read it in his eyes; he wasn't confident he could follow. He shook his head - sorry mate. But I totally understood. Safety comes first and it was the right call for him. You should always believe in yourself, but you should also know your limits. For everyone's sake. He smiled and waved me on.
    Adrenaline pumping, I pushed up a gut on the other side. I wanted to get into a position where I could get eyes on the bull but I had a long way to go and not a lot of time. The gut was steep and I was hopping over rocks and large boulders until I hit a side spur which led up out of it and onto a shelf. It was all dead ground but I had Justin on the spotter and on the radio, to talk me in. He had eyes on the bull and I was pushing as hard as I could to get there in time, gasping for breath. By the time I came out onto the shelf he'd moved out of sight into a second gut which cut across the shelf about 100 metres ahead. I pushed on, keeping low, peering over every bush. I got to the edge of the gut and spotted him feeding with another smaller bull. I quickly assessed him again through the binoculars and I could tell he was a good bull, dwarfing his companion. I had closed the distance now to 120 yards and set up for the shot. My heart was hammering with effort and excitement but the shot was good. The bull didnít even seem to flinch as the 162 grain 7mm caught him right in the engine room. He fell in a heap and slid down the rocky slope of the gut. Light was now almost gone, so I made the decision to come back next day with the others. We could assess him together.

    I made short work of the descent back to the river and we returned to camp in great spirits. I had a restless sleep that night, wondering what the next day would bring.
    Day six was another early start. Our last full day. I was already feeling a little sad that it would be soon over. On the other hand, I was looking forward to a hot shower and clean clothes! Low cloud blanketed the valley floor, but we climbed high, in the hope that the sun would burn it off. It wasnít until midday that blue skies returned. We sidled the terraces I'd crossed the night before and found the bull, lying where he'd fallen. Time now for a group photo: this was exactly what this trip was about. Getting some first time tahr hunters into what the Southern Alps has to offer! He was an old boy, over 9 years old and measuring a whisker under 13 inches. Justin quickly caped him out while we sat and glassed, looking around in awe at the vertical terrain these animals call home. How effortlessly they move around it.
    We climbed higher now, to 1200 metres. We stopped for lunch on a tussock-clad hilltop with a 360 degree view of Paradise. We glassed the faces and basked in the sun and let time slip by. It was Jit's turn to shoot, but only a few small bulls could be seen on the bluffs above us and we didn't take a shot. William climbed high after another group of bulls but they rumbled him and an offhand shot went wide. By now afternoon was turning to evening and we were about to wrap it up when we heard whistling from a nearby crag. For a few maddening minutes we couldn't spot anything but then a mature bull stepped out. Jit lined up his 7mm Blaser Mag and it dropped only a stoneís throw away from us, an easy retrieve. You could not wipe the smile from his face! It was a good 12 inch head. Congratulations were in order all round, a great effort from all. With heavy packs, we made our way back to camp where we yarned the night away, sipped a little whisky, and relived the last six magical days. What an adventure it had all been.
    Day seven and our final morning. We packed our belongings and soon we were soaring above the hills we'd sweated and strained to climb. I was left with a sense of accomplishment. Sometimes when you first set out, you feel a bit anxious.You donít know what to expect. But this always fades to amazement. This country is spectacular and showing Jit and William what we have right on our back doorstep for the first time is what this trip was all about. Animals taken was a bonus but to spend quality time with a group of mates is what realy makes a trip worth it. The four of us are different ages and walks of life, but our shared love of New Zealandís wilderness brings us together.
    To anyone who is thinking of visiting the back country, I say go for it. Believe in your capabilities, know your limits, ask questions, have a plan B, make the memories and share them with all hunters alike.Name:  CF40717E-3774-48E4-82F5-87D53B722548.jpeg
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  2. #2
    Member dale's Avatar
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  3. #3
    Member dale's Avatar
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  4. #4
    Huk
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    Awesome
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  5. #5
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    Great write-up! Nice pictures too. Have your mates considered writing their own version of this trip? It's always nice reading a first-timers account of a memorable experience.
    dale likes this.

  6. #6
    Member dale's Avatar
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    Jit likes this.

  7. #7
    Member Danny's Avatar
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    Well done bro! Appreciate the read and those pictures are of great quality and are definitely meaningful.
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    Dan M

  8. #8
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    Good story and wicked pics, but, there, the scenery lends itself well to the cameras eye.
    Great trophies and a life time of memories for the newbies too.
    Bloody well done.
    Off for a Tahr hunt in 13 days myself!
    dale likes this.

  9. #9
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    Well done getting some top trophy tahr.They are not easy game up there.
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  10. #10
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    Top stuff great trip and read, some real nice bulls there alright.
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  11. #11
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    My first trip down south was in there @dale beautiful spot and a lot of memory's with good mates. Shot my first tahr in as well.
    Would love to go back with my son
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  12. #12
    DBD
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    Absolutely full of awesomeness. Some cracker pics there. Thanks @dale

  13. #13
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    great write up Dale .
    Congratulations on the big bull , And nice photos as well.
    dale likes this.

 

 

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