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Thread: A month of winter hunting

  1. #1
    Member JoshC's Avatar
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    Apr 2012

    A month of winter hunting

    Winter can be a tough time to hunt, animals can be hard to find, the days are short and not to mention the weather fickle! Even so, I quite like the challenge of a winter hunt, so still try to make the effort to get into the hills after tahr, chamois or deer as regularly as work and other commitments allow.

    Compared to previous years this one has been a little slow, with virtually no proper hunting being done post roar through to mid June. The last couple of weeks though have been back to business as usual, topping up the freezer and ticking off a few hunting requests from mates off my list.

    Following completion of the roar, stags and bucks will head to feeding country and try to replenish nutrients and condition lost during the rutting period. This is a great time to find a stag, and usually by mid June they are in fairly good eating condition.

    A quick trip to a local spot one frosty morning saw me glassing into the sunny faces of a manuka and scrub filled gully. It wasn't long before a stag caught my eye, but he was clearly onto to me, watching me with curiosity.

    Young stag sunning himself

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    As I was hunting with my .223 I really needed to close the gap to within 200 metres for a decent shot, so with eagerness I quickly scrambled through the bush to get closer to the stag. Unfortunately by the time I had arrived at a vantage point suitable for shooting from he was gone.

    Still keen to get onto a animal for the freezer, two nights later I was sitting glassing the same gully system. This time Pip had come along for the hunt and was as keen as. With less than an hour of daylight to spare and with no sightings of deer things were not looking good. Still it was a nice warm evening for mid winter and the dog was enjoying herself. Then as if on cue, her nose hit the air and minutes later I spotted a young stag climbing up through the scrub opposite me heading towards a open tussock clearing.

    Without needing a second thought I was settling in behind the .280 and as soon as he stepped into a clear area of grass/tussock I sent a pill in his direction. Rearing up and rolling over backwards it ended as quickly as it had started and we had prime fat covered venison to take home.

    Stag for the freezer

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    A week later the itch to be out hunting had once again become unbearable, so off up the road I headed for a day hunt on some local public land. A recent skiff of snow had started melting and with a fine day forecast I was hoping to find another stag out sunning himself after the cold snap. With a couple of muesli bars in my pocket and dog at heel I headed up into a likely looking gully. The wind was good as we hastily made our way towards the creek head. Wet snow, and sopping scrub made the going not so enjoyable but I pressed on.

    Rounding a bend in the creek Pippa started winding so into stalk mode we went. A few hundred metres we'd covered with no real sign of an animal when I heard the unmistakable crashing of deer through scrub. Stopping, semi ready and watching in the direction of the noise two hinds climbed out of the scrub up above me and stopped to look back at their intruders. I wasn't interested in shooting one so tried to snap a few photos, but between getting the camera wet, it fogging up and my hands being cold the photos weren't to flash!

    Red hinds

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    Unfortunately they were the only deer I saw for a days hunting, so returned home wet, cold and empty handed! But the itch had been scratched somewhat.

    The following day I had arranged to meet a mate and his brother for a quick overnighter chasing chamois or deer. They hadn't hunted chamois a lot, so this was more an opportunity to try and find a few and learn about them rather than shoot a couple for meat or skins. But with the chance of a reasonable buck floating around given the time of year, we were all quietly hoping to find one to take home!

    After couple of hours in the truck we were soon hiking up the steep hill into our chosen hunting grounds. With an hour of daylight left to spare we pitched our tents in the snow near a frozen waterfall and eagerly made our way to a highpoint suitable for glassing for animals. As darkness fell only one chamois had been spotted, but it provided us with optimism for the next day of hunting.

    Phil & Pip glassing for chamois

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    Up early before daylight we were again climbing into chamois country and it wasn't long before we'd spotted animals. A couple of small groups of chamois were seen as well as a couple of deer feeding on the bush edge down below us. We watched intently, glassing systematically for signs of a decent buck chamois. After several hours glassing we resigned to the fact that the day was running out and we were unlikely to get onto a larger buck given the hours in the day. We decided to stalk in closer to a group of younger chamois and get a few photos, then snuck out and headed home keen to make a trip back as soon as possible.

    Chamois families

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    Mid week and a call from Mal had us planning a short day at work in hope of a quick hunt in the hills out the back of home to blood his new X-bolt. The following day and a quick drive up to the chosen area and we were immediately on the lookout for a deer. With the wind playing games, we had to make a large detour in order to make our way into our hunting country unnoticed. By the time we'd done this time was not on our side as we hunted our chosen gully and darkness quickly approached.

    With Mal in front we hastily stalked the bush edge. I was walking slightly down hill of Mal and as it happened I stumbled onto a hind and yearling Mal had walked right past. They hadn't seen me, but were watching Mal sidle around the hill above them. I tried to get Mals attention, and pointed the deer out with frantic hand gestures and facial expressions. By the time he had worked out what I was getting at the deer had bolted straight back into the bush.

    We continued on, and after half an hour of seeing nothing a dark shape on the horizon caught my attention. Closer inspection with my Swarovski's confirmed my suspicions as they clearly picked up the spiker feeding about 1km away. We took off at a trot hoping to cover as much ground as possible and get within 300m for a good shot. Soon we were sneaking over the brow of the next hill and immediately saw the deer feeding over into the next gully. Bugger!

    Contemplating our options we were surprised to see another deer walk out of the bush and into the open within range! This was a stag with a ratty head, and Mal quickly lay over his daypack with his new rifle and hit the stag well with a shot through the shoulder. A second shot wasn't needed but secured the animal for sure. A quick photo session before dark, then we boned the animal out on the hill and packed the meat back to the truck.

    Mal and stag

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    Please note that the rifle is not pointing at him

    To top off a fairly busy couple of weeks of hunting I sent Tim a message on Sunday to see if he wanted to come up for a hunt on Tuesday afternoon/evening. Tim for one reason or another had had unfortunate luck with recent hunts with me, missing several opportunities at a deer. Always keen, Tim arrived ready to roll in the late afternoon and we were soon hunting.

    Several guts and gullies were checked out with no sighting of deer in an areas I regularly see them. Things weren't looking too good and we were trying to work out our best option, when I spotted a dark shape in a clearing only 200 metres away! A quick assessment with the binos confirmed it to be a fallow spiker. Hunching down we waited till the spiker fed behind some scrub before we dropped through a small gut onto a ridge closer to the animal from which Tim could get a steady shot from.

    Waiting for the spiker to reappear from behind the scrub was a bit nerve-racking as we thought that maybe he'd fed back down into the gully out of sight. But no, fortunately for us he fed into sight and the pill from Tim's 7-08 cleanly took the spiker through the shoulder and he had his first fallow in Southland.

    Tim and spiker

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    So that concludes a month of winter hunting for me down here in Southland/Otago, and because winter down here lasts a bit longer than a month I'm away this weekend back after Chamois, then next week off on our annual winter trip down to Stewart Island, followed by a late winter Tahr hunt. Who said winter was a quiet time for hunting again?

    I'm drawn to the mountains and the bush, it's where life is clear, where the world makes the most sense.



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