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On the tops

On the tops

Winter time

Winter time
Time for doing


'Begin doing what you want to do NOW ! We are not living in eternity. We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand- and melting like a snowflake'

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Echos from the past 5

Andy marden /Comet hut
More from the diary.......Twelve months of Cray-fishing behind me, and I’m back shooting deer for a living, this time in the Kaweka ranges,[A scrubby range west of Napier] I’ve changed my rifle. It’s now a sako vixen, in .222 cal.with a cut down 19” barrel. I also have a different dog, his name is Toby, and he is a red merle.Australian cattle dog.
Kuripapango is the new base camp, and it’s nestled in just off the Napier - Taihape road. After my initial interview with Wally Dayton [environmental officer, Kaweka ranges] I was sent along to see Russell Hulme, ranger in charge of the deer culling operations at Kuri. One time deerculler who hunted ten consecutive seasons in the Tararuas. I spent the remainder of the day with Russell. Packing my gear away getting the low down on how things are done the usual dos and dont’s. After breakfast the next day, we took the landcruiser, up to the Burns range This is where the winter’s operations were taking place and was introduced to two of the forestry’s guns. Rupeey Vandervoort, and Selwyn
The next couple of weeks, were spent in the re toughening up process, after 12 months lobster fishing, the bodies computer has to be reintroduced to climbing mode! Even wearing shorts again.
The cold wind the abrasive scrub took care of toughening the skin. The hairs on the legs were introduced savagely to such delightful plants as hook grass, which render your legs, to Kojak head lookalikes in very short order.
There were plenty of deer, on the Burns range, but the job was to rid the place of sheep A sheep shooter! What next?
Generally what you saw you usually shot, unlike deer and even goats. Wild sheep maybe, but still sheep. The difference being, the tips of the ears were now the proof of kill, not the tail which is just as well. The prospect of walking around with a few daggy tails on my belt was not exactly inspirational.
I was high up on the Burns range, in a stiff breeze, overcast conditions, and gunmetal sky hunting the many clay pans that abound the area. When I spied a lone ram, some 100 yds. Beneath me, quickly bringing the compact 8x20’s to bear. I could see he had a double curl to his horns. Now standing there in the open, with the wind plucking at his shaggy unkempt fleece, he could well have been a trophy Dall ram, high up in the Alaskan wilderness.
I’m afraid that is how it seemed to affect me. As I closed the gap down to around 50 or so yds, I noticed that my heart was racing far too quickly, the cross hairs on the leupold 1-4 scope where dancing around, enough to give credit to Fred Astair. I of course attributed this to the high winds! The first 50-grain emissary merged with the landscape, [Somewhere!].
The ram, in full flight now, was reluctant, to stop, but stop he did.
It was a hunter awash with woe that ejected his third empty case, and was able to take his proof of kill.
It was often windy on the Burns range. Offsetting that was the fact that most days dawned dry. Which is always preferable to that vertical precipitation .
The Following winter, [and the year escapes me at the moment,] was the first liberation of the upland game bird ‘Chukor. I was camped with two different guns, Dave Pratt and Andy Marden, and we had a bet on, as to who could bag the first Chukor. Not the cleverest of ideas, but an insight to the level that sheep shooting can reduce a man to. I won the bet, but it was a sorry bird, that was paraded, and then hastily buried that same sorry evening.
I am a big fan of the .222 and had two wonderful years, using it to deadly effect, shooting both red deer and sika in the Kawekas But two things for me built my confidence. Firstly the N.Z.F.S. supplied us with American brands of ammo. DEFINITELY not designed to give you an edge for deer hunting. Too fragile!
I would trade my quota of rounds. Brady and Collings of Wellington would usually supervise the transaction. Exchange them for 50-grain nosler projectiles, powder and primers. I would then reload my own. The nosler bullet being a lot harder and less likely to fragment as easily as the varmint type American counterpart. [Paul Roopee Van Der Voorte used to use Sako rounds to deadly effect. European rounds being the a good choice also.]
The second big edge I had was my dog, In the likely event of not hitting the target as sweetly as you’d like and the deer putting some distance between you. The dog is the one that is more likely to track that animal down, quicker and more effectively than any man.
[These days, I am a lot older and not running a dog.I also do not get out on a pro.basis as often as I would like. I only shoot one animal so the tool is the .308 cal., but again in a Sako, and the surname is Forester. The both rifles are, however identical in as much as they are both Using leupold scopes, cut down barrels ,and being Sako’s,.... weight and balance being reciprocal. Also sight picture being familiar it is not a problem to switch from one to another.]
Te Pukeohikarua, Harkness and Tussock huts were the main targets, for deer reduction in my day. Te Pukeohikarua in particular was a great favorite of mine. [It unfortunately has changed quite a bit these days].
I once spent 4 weeks on the trot hunting from that hut. There are so many watersheds available close to hand. It wasn’t too long before I was able to suss out, exactly where the small pockets of red deer lived. I regarded this as great advantage continuous sika hunting can wear a man down. Often was the day I would say to myself, right I’m on reds today, and would find them so much easier to hunt, almost like having a w/end off. Looking back on my success in the Kawekas, I would in fact pinpoint my advantage over my fellow cullers, as being just that! The ability to find and shoot the much easier red deer. My tallies at the end of six weeks would almost always be at least close to half-and-half red/sika ratios. Whereas, my contemporaries would tally maybe one third of my overall tally, but would feature all sika tails!
The roar is a magical time of year, and as deer cullers we were no exceptions. This was the highlight of the year, make no mistake.
The weather of this particular rut, 1980? Seemed to roll on, everyday similar to the last, in as much as they were cool, and mostly dry always overcast but unfortunately, with the arch enemy, the everpresent wind to make things a little interesting. It made a contrast to the days of summer, those long endless, hot, dry trips where a man would lie in his bag in the late morning, gently coming awake to the drone of a few dirty big blow flies. The cullers alarm clock! Not to mention the gentle but progressively, urgent thumping of Toby’s tail against the hard wooden floor of the hut.
This particular day, on closing the hut door, to heavy overcast weather, gun metal Grey sky, with more than a threat of the vertical moisture. Windy too, picking up all the time, and cool enough to be wearing the ole swanny all day. Which is a sure indication winter is round the corner, and the easy days are behind you.
Anyway, the dog and me decided [telepathically] that we would be better off down East creek. Way down, out of this swirly wind. Anyway creeping along, Indian like [and that was only the dog], for there was fresh sign a plenty. Deep down into east creek,we were now out of the worse of the wind, here there was a gentle breeze, blowing the right way,which was in your face!! Although looking skywards the clouds were fair scudding along. We were following not too far behind a sika stag. Then the unmistakable stench of deer, like a wall of smells you physically had to push yourself through. Toby warned me with his eyes, as we eased ourselves out of a small, only trickling creek “Watch those big size 9’s boss” he screamed, in the noiseless-pollution. I warned him back just as noisilessly.
Barely moving, side by side we eased into an open corridor in the bush. And there, standing at the end of it stood our stag.
No more 20 yds separated us. He was looking me right in the eye; I would have had a bowel movement if I’d thought him similarly armed.
I eased the sako up slowly but fluently expecting him to take a hike any second, the crosshairs found his head. Christ am I really going for a head-shot? Why not it’s filling the scope pressure on the trigger,!!!
Still looking at the deer in the scope, my mind racing,....... and a misfire? I don’t believe it .
I don’t believe that the stag is still there looking at me. Trying to be as fluent as possible, expecting the deer to move anytime. I managed to reacquaint myself with his image, once again. Ejecting the offending round and chambering another, again the trigger squeeze.
A little more emotional pressure was experienced this time.
I was rewarded with a Boompha. The dog the deer and myself didn’t move a muscle, the report still ringing in my ears.! I worked the bolt, levered in a fresh round, and put the rifle back to my shoulder.
That’s when he took off Breaking branches just crashing headlong through the scrub. The dog gives me a withering look,....... I don’t remember reading that in the script he muttered.
I was understandably shaken. You do not miss from that range. I could still hear the stag clattering away, albeit further with every stride .
It must have been pure frustration cos...... I sent the nasty one after him, with a ‘GET HIM’. Toby vaporized he just didn’t go, he simply didn’t exist for me. That dog didn’t usually have to be told to go chase deer. So when he actually heard the words, well let’s just say he never said what? Pardon? Say again?
I was mentally thrashing myself with the biggest branch I could find, when I heard the barking. Quite loud, which sounded very much like a bail. I jerked myself into the present and steamed off down hill in the direction of that wonderful barking. Under and over logjams, tearing through bush lawyer and the like, in and out of creeks. The barking would often stop and start again further away, so I would go as fast as I could toward the noise stop then listen then go again. Eventually breathless and battered, I arrived at the river.
The barking was deafening in the confined space. Looking downstream I was rewarded with a wonderful action scene. The stag, head down was charging Toby, in the middle of the stream. Toby was half swimming the water was splashing everywhere the sako was up in a blur. Too fast cos the .222 round found the space between deer and dog.
A geyser of water leapt upwards between the animals. They neither batted an eyelid, although I suspect the dog’s thoughts on my marksmanship are unprintable. Finally the next time I drew a bead, marked the end for the stag. I reached them; the stag half-immersed in the river slowly drifting downstream, with Toby hanging off its rear end. I just had to examine the head for my own piece of mind, sure enough a hole straight through both its cheeks.

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view from "Riverstone Cabin"

view from "Riverstone Cabin"
Hope River