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  • 7 Post By Speill

Thread: A good time, and a first..

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Te Atatu

    A good time, and a first..

    Firstly, no pictures, because I was slack at pulling the camera out, and anywhere that looked like deer (lots of places) I had the rifle in hand not the camera.

    I thought I better post this up, because I had enjoyed reading (and learning) from the others that are good enough to post up here.

    Well, I spent the week 14th - 21st April in a hut inland from Wairoa, south of Lake Waikaremoana, and a couple of nights in Wairoa on the way through (much more fun than that sounds at first glance..)

    The hut we stayed at is pretty cool, in some ways like a standard hut, but others... LED lights?! Wetback on the stove, meaning hot water showers, and no boiling the billy to wash dishes. Excellent! Nicely setup. Oh, and a big insulated icebox for beer, and we took salt ice in, so everything stayed cold. And the biggest camp oven I've ever seen. And damn we ate well..! We arrived in Chris' Hilux, towing a very full trailer with the beer and food and other stuff - road in rough, but dry, dusty, and manageable. I think the trailer would have bottomed out a fair few times though. Pete came in on his quad.
    A lot of the land around has reverted to DOC land, or is more correctly DOC administered land.

    Chris and Peter both commercially hunted deer in the meat hunting days - and these days both hunt reds & pigs with 22 cal bullets - 22-250 old school lever action for Chris, and a very nice modern Sako laminated .223 for Pete. Hard case old school bastards, but fun.
    Chris showed me around - even on the farmland (hut is just on the edge of the farmland/DOC land) there is immense amounts of cover available - manuka everywhere, patches of regenerating native bush (the area had all been logged many years ago) and gullies everywhere. Some of it was very steep, bluffs here & there, a few big slips including one that went from right up by the top of a major face to the very bottom, (maybe a km or more?) and had left huge boulders damn-near the size of my house exposed.

    Most of where we hunted was DOC land, but even walking the tracks close to the 'whare' there was deer and pig sign. Being April, this was the third week in a row the whare was in use by the extended family so quite a bit of hunting pressure. There were certainly deer still there - two were seen by others in our party, but they were armed with only a ruger 22, looking for rabbits, within about 200-300m of the whare, in daylight hours, moving at speed. Unfortunately by that time, Chris and I had been gone for hours.. Two others were seen by Pete and Holly (Shane's 16 year old daughter), he was armed with his Sako, but again, they were moving at speed, no shot.

    And I have to give it to them - Chris and Pete both worked bloody hard to try to get me my first red. Out of bed, cuppa, and on the move. They had a few smoke before and in between doing most things.. The first gate (the area had been farmed, but some parts were reverting to bush and DOC control) was maybe 200m away, but fresh deer prints in between the hut and there, from at night. Also some substantial pig rooting. Bush to your left, very very thick, and clearings, manuka, mixed bush and grassland to your right. So you know that they're there, and it's generally being quiet and walking quietly, and pausing at the gaps in manuka to look out and see if you can see them, rather than just busting out into full view. .

    We took the quads on some old logging tracks either down into the solid bush (DOC), or up through the edge of the farmland, and then back into DOC land. Certainly jolts a few impurities out of your kidneys..
    We quietly walked tracks, overlooked grassy clearings, pushed through wet manuka. We (tried to) stalked silently in beech forests, we slipped like ghosts through areas of native bush. Other areas with manuka, crown fern, bush lawyer etc we rustled, scratched, pulled and pushed considerably less silently. We rode quads. We walked and put the k's and hard yards in. We glassed regrowth areas from grassy mounds. But we didn't see deer. Oh, and we glassed grassy mounds from regrowth areas. And we didn't see deer.

    The second night in it had rained a fair bit, and it kept raining on and off after that for most of the week - thankfully a lot of it fell at night.
    We saw wild cats (2), plus there was another seen by someone else - none shot, they move fast too... I was stalking down an old track by myself (Chris had waited up the top to inhale a smoke) in an area of manuka and multiple small clearings known as the grass skids, and paused for a listen. I could hear "something", so was standing entirely still. Two little black pigs appeared only about 7m away, and came towards me, got to less than 5m away, just noseying around. I moved my safety to off, and aimed, scope was on 2.5 power, but chose not to take the shot, because I was looking for deer. So I just watched for more than a minute. Very cool. One could see me, and was trying to make out what I was, and then finally smelt me, and "woofed" and bolted, the other had not got my scent, and just bolted because his brother or sister had bolted.

    We shot off on a decent loop walk the next morning, starting in the same grass skids area. On the track before you could rightly see bugger-all. Up to the first gate, (that's where we saw one black cat, and where two deer were spotted, but not by us) and super quietly through that. Up round the bend, now on the farm proper, sheep and cattle, but still an area that holds deer, so full alert and looking. Wind swirling quite a bit - in your face one moment, then next on the back of your neck.
    Through the second gate, now into a DOC area, no farm animals, the skids area (logging reference) and 25m of manuka before a clearing opens both uphill on your right, and downhills to your left. Fair bit of pig rooting, with some obviously big unit pigs moving a lot of soil. Deer shite & prints. Down through the clearings towards the stream. On one of the previous trips to this area, I heard a stag roar on the far side - Chris tells me it's super thick in there. It was a fair way away too, but the first red deer roaring I have heard - ever, so pretty cool.

    We pushed as quietly as we could through manuka and crown fern, started to get into the beech forest down by the stream. I saw another 3 little black pigs, again about 600mm long total length, they had been sleeping against the base of a tree, just waking up - but they moved fast too. Again did not try and shoot, because we were after a deer.
    It's a rough area, up and down as you cross lots of small side-feeder-streams, which while small, tended to be steep sided. A lot of it is still wet from the rainfall from the night before. Lots of windfall or snow broken stuff too. Following a track - not a marked tramping style one, but a deer one. Some of it has been partially opened up a couple of minimal tracks using a slasher in the thickest stuff - once opened to that minimal extent, the deer use them and keep them open. I shudder to think how much hard work that was.
    Over the stream - slippery but no slips for us, thankfully.

    Next up, a seriously big wallow - but not used in the last few days. The recent rain was not all mixed in, even though I had read that after rain stags went straight to their wallows to re-scent them. At this stage we are probably somewhere below where the stag may have roared, and even the track was thick. Above us was a jungle. A steep, wet, nasty jungle with supplejack, bush lawyer, fallen trees etc. Fairly uninviting. And we didn't hear him roar today. We came thru places where we could actually smell deer, but again none seen. None heard departing either.
    Some higher spots now as we rose above the stream. A few roars let out by Chris at appropriate high spots, but nil response - he was told that apparently "last week" they were going off. Bah humbug. My roaring sounded like a strangled goat, so I mostly left it to Chris.

    Down and over the stream, and up fairly steeply. Stopped for a bite & drink on a bald clay pan amongst manuka high above the stream - the only place I actually pulled the camera out all the time we were out. Shots of bush and mist - cool, but I suspect they won't give you any idea of the scale and downright coolness of the place. I love it.
    Then back into the bush, stalking along amongst crown fern, normal fern etc. More of a normal track now, I think another logging track from long ago. Another wallow. But again, not all recently stirred up.
    I knew where we'd pop out, as Chris had pointed it out on one of our other jaunts - on a old logging road (now well overgrown) downhill of the hut, having done a big loop around.
    Popped out on that track, but then a little further on, slipped down off that logging track into some small natural clearings where the deer, with some help, had cut a track to link these.
    Big nettles (ongaonga?) some of which showed browse damage through here, plus the usual bush lawyer, crown fern, fallen or broken trees etc, and the "track" marked in patches by blue spray paint on the trees, but sparsely enough you needed to keep looking for it.

    Some nice fresh tracks and shite through here. Rifle in hand, and stalking and trying to be alert all the time really - didn't want to be the jafa that wandered along with the rifle on his shoulder and missed the shot. That alert status is bloody tiring - not just you that you are being alert, and still keep your head up and your eyes and ears open, but trying to walk slowly & quietly, place your boots where they won't make a cracking sound, and I think even that controlled footfall in rough ground is a lot more work on the muscles.

    Half an hour down through here, of slow careful movement and looking - sign but no deer. Still that changeable bast'd wind still swirling around..
    Chris was swearing away and muttering mutherfluckers (I may have mispronounced what he was actually saying..) fairly regularly. I think (hope) he was referring to the deer. He was certainly surprised that we didn't see any. He comes up to the whare fairly regularly, and I gather sometimes they are just standing on the track looking at you - just not while I was there.. Back onto the old logging track, and then out onto the main quad track. Saw another wild pig, again just a little one - skinny and small - again heard it before seeing it, it was in the bush off the track, happily noseying around. These six pigs on this trip were the first wild pigs I have seen as well.

    On Tuesday night Ian & Jason had arrived well after dark, in the rain, with their quad & trailer. They were serious bush hunting Wairoa dudes, good blokes. They spent all day in the bush off the track chasing roaring stags. Ian described it as hearing stags, and you stepped off the track and they stopped roaring, stepped on the track and they started again. They'd gone way the hell down the track miles further than we had, stepped out in the steep wet bush, and came up naught. They too were frustrated. At least they got closer to roaring stags.

    Now, if you've read down to here, I guess you would be feeling my frustration. I felt I had worked hard, been out in the right areas, and at the right times, and had seen sign, even got to smell deer, but hadn't seen diddly. After being shown the lay of the land, I had been out a couple of times by myself, mostly sticking to the tracks particularly for my evening walkabouts, given I was coming home after dark. The morning ones I felt I had a little more lee-way safety wise. (ie less likely to be bushed at night, which would have been most unpleasant..) I had my GPS and my compass, and pack with a bit of gear in it - headlamp, little survival kit etc, plus jacket, and rangefinder and binoculars when not in the bush. I think I had the right gear, barring a fleece pack - my Macpac canvas jobbie was very comfortable, and kept my gear dry even in rain and wet bush, but that canvas was noisy when pushing through the manuka or beech.

    Thursday morning came and went, and still hadn't seen anything except sign and pigs. My week was running out.. More heavy rain was forecast, so the quads were going to stay in, and the 4wd ute go out early.

    Had been to Tawa flat before, with Pete. I think he is 68, but damn fit, walks faster than I wanted to. Apparently very handy with the Sako. It's an area that had been farmed, but is now reverting to scrub. Thursday late afternoon I took the quad off by myself up through the farmland and left it before I got to the gate high above Tawa flat. Only maybe a km or 1.5km, but all uphill to there. The gate is the edge of the farm, DOC from there, and a track that goes through I think joins up with the Waikaremoana track somewhere.
    From the gate, you wind down around a bush face. Old deer tracks, plus some recent, all over the road, plus pigs. More so than any other part of the roads or tracks that we'd seen.
    Although there's bush each side of you, you can also see mixed manuka and farmland, over on another ridgeline, 200m away? so I again glassed all of this, while also keeping an eye on the road both ahead and behind. As you come around you can see other little gaps, clearings and holes in the bush back behind you, below the road, ample hiding places, plus shelter plus food. To my (admittedly untrained) eye, the whole place screams deer.

    I came round and down, through a cutting, followed the track down. There is a spot where you can look out down to a sheltered little clearing with a wallow under a tree. Extreme caution displayed, sneaky-sneaky, but nothing there. Carried on down, more tracks over the road since the rain, including pigs. I was walking as quietly and carefully as I could down and around the corner, further down Tawa Flat (not really very flat at all except in comparison to the mountains around) I could see clearings under big stony bluffs. I glassed everything I could, all the time expecting to see deer. Round the next corner, and oh wait, what's that over there..? I could just see a part of a deer's hind quarters, next to a bush, on a little patch of grass over the stream. Yellow-ish portion between the tail, red haunches. The head was down, feeding, obscured by the bush.

    I crouched down behind a young manuka at the edge of the road. She moved, so I could see more of her (thought it was a she) and had time to glass her, and watch. For what seemed like ages she was either mostly obscured by the scrub in front of her, or had her arse towards me, and I didn't want to take a 'Texas heart shot', and as she was unawares, I could wait. She was fully alert though - ears were flicking, and at some noise down the valley further her head was up and ears swivelling. She was still frustratingly behind a bush, but that meant I had plenty of time to range her. I was 112 - 115m away - pretty much zero for the Norma 156gr Vulkan bullets I had. (1 inch high at 100m, pretty much spot on at 25m, and about 5-6inches low at 200m, and dropping fast - big heavy bullet, flys like a brick, I need to go back to the SST's)

    There was a foot high ridge beside the road, but below the road was a fringe of manuka, which was frustratingly reached high enough to stop me lying down and taking the shot prone without firing thru scrub. I got my pack on the ridge in front of me, even tried standing it on end, still not high enough. A very minor scrape on the canvas was heard by her, and the eyes were looking down the valley - luckily not at me, and the ears were working and swivelling again.
    But she saw nothing, and after a moment relaxed a little again, resumed feeding. I waited and watched. Finally the arse turned around, she was side on, and she had her neck extended out feeding, now facing 180 degrees from how she was when I first saw her, and I could see more of her. Perhaps 5 minutes of watching her.. I can tell you my heart was fair pounding for a while, deep breaths Richie..
    I had decided I had to kneel to take the shot, as it gave me the elevation I needed to get over the manuka - even with that I was not sure if I would hit the scrub in front of me. I tried standing alongside the manuka, but that was "a bit" unstable.

    I got in my most viable kneeling position while she faced away. As she turned a bit more and faced south, I tried to steady my nerves (bearing in mind that I think this is the first wild red deer I have ever seen, let alone aimed at..) I aimed, and breathed. I aimed again, and squeezed. Boooooom, long and loud echoes from the big vertical rock faces all around. My deer (I thought) appeared to hunch or stagger, but bolted into the manuka! I don't mind telling you I swore quietly - the shot "felt" good but I thought that where I aimed (rear crease of the shoulder, 1/3rd of the way up) 'should' have dropped it - if it hit. That nasty moment of self-doubt - had I pulled the shot? I hadn't taken a shot kneeling before. I felt a bit sick about it.

    I got the binoculars out again, but could see nothing in the manuka. Chris had told me that if I shot one over the stream, to come back and he'd show me the way over. Said it was a bitch.
    I walked down off the road, a little gulley led down off the road and I came across 4 recent deer hocks, hair on still, starting from 1m down off the side of the road. Reasonably recent kill? And an empty Carlsberg bottle. Pick your rubbish up you bastard. And further down a deer skull totally cleaned of meat or hair. Lots of big pig rooting too. There was a worn non-human track, but it rapidly got very very steep, as in vertical, and tight, and by myself I wasn't willing to risk going down where I could see no bottom, had no idea of what was below, and light was fading. So I retreated.
    I hung some loo paper on the tree next to where I had shot, so I would be able to see from the other side where I'd shot from. And walked back up the track. These tracks had seen quads, with quad tracks evident from before the rain - it seemed to rain most nights from Tuesday onwards, plus on and off during the days.
    I went back up the track, still keeping an eye out for deer, but moving much faster. Back on the quad, and down the track to the whare. Fully dark by then, nothing much showing of the moon. Told the assembled troops, but with no deer to show for it, got a fair ribbing and perhaps fairly deserved?

    Chris, Pete, Holly and I went back next morning, and 100m further on, found a way down a massive slip, which had gone over the stream and made an effective dam, up through manuka and bush lawyer to the little clearing. And there was my deer. The shot was good - in fact I am surprised he - for it was a yearling male - moved at all. The bullet went in and straight out the other side, in the crease behind the leg, just where I had aimed, (bloody happy at the shot, considering) and broke a rib. Lungs were toast. The damn thing had run into the bush, and then obviously felt the hurt, done a u-turn and tumbled back down onto the same bit of grass as he was shot on - just a little further along, beside a bush, and out of sight from the side of the stream I shot from. Travelled perhaps 5m, but ended maybe only 3m away from where he was standing. Although it was a cool night, the gut was a bit bigger, but Chris's call was the backsteaks and back legs were good. Front legs were deemed no good. I took Chris at his word on all this, bearing in mind he has a shit load more experience than me in these things.
    No photos because I had not taken my daypack which had my camera in it. And hadn't had my cellphone either. I have a shot of the back legs and backsteaks hanging in the killing shed. And some good memories.
    That's it. My first red seen. And shot. Can't wait to get out again. Big thanks to Shane, for inviting me, and Chris, Mary and Pete, Shelly, Holly, Jason & Ian for a bloody good time.

  2. #2
    Member sako75's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Awesome. Well done on your first. That trip will always hold a special place for you

  3. #3
    Member geezejonesy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    near stratford
    good job rich
    Rule 1: Treat every firearm as loaded Rule 2: Always point firearms in a safe direction Rule 3: Load a firearm only when ready to fire Rule 4: Identify your target beyond all doubt Rule 5: Check your firing zone
    Rule 6: Store firearms and ammunition safely Rule 7: Avoid alcohol and drugs when handling firearms

  4. #4
    Member falconhell's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    good stuff rich How did the horn work?

  5. #5
    Almost literate. veitnamcam's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Great read Congratulations and well done on your first
    "Hunting and fishing" fucking over licenced firearms owners since ages ago.

  6. #6
    Another young huntress
    Join Date
    Nov 2012
    Congrats on getting your first red

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Te Atatu
    Quote Originally Posted by falconhell View Post
    good stuff rich How did the horn work?
    Mate, I need some serious practise..!

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    East Coast
    Great to see your hooked

  9. #9
    OPCz Rushy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Nor West of Auckland on the true right of the Kaipara River
    Big read but great story thanks for the writing of it.
    It takes 43 muscle's to frown and 17 to smile, but only 3 for proper trigger pull.
    What more do we need? If we are above ground and breathing the rest is up to us!
    Rule 1: Treat every firearm as loaded
    Rule 2: Always point firearms in a safe direction
    Rule 3: Load a firearm only when ready to fire
    Rule 4: Identify your target beyond all doubt
    Rule 5: Check your firing zone
    Rule 6: Store firearms and ammunition safely
    Rule 7: Avoid alcohol and drugs when handling firearms

  10. #10
    Member Scouser's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Hell of a yarn, spiel, well done very descriptive, still waiting to bag my first 'wild' deer so i understand what it means to you.......
    While I might not be as good as I once was, Im as good once as I ever was!

    Rule 4: Identify your target beyond all doubt



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