hunting link

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'

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Echos from the past 3

? Roberts and Earl Marshall taking a breather on the main range.

...More from the diaries
The summer season did finally arrive, and the Tararuas were, where it was meant to happen.
We were taking in the view from the track that winds down from Winchcombe bivvy,up towards the Tararua Peaks......... I remember Earl saying, “if it’s all like this I’m packing it in”. Meaning those hills look bloody rugged.
They indeed were, but neither he nor I packed it in…or at least not that day.

Gary Hansen and I had spent four eventful days at the old Alpha hut. The last day before we were to head off across the main range, dawned fine but with clouds banked high across the length of Marchant ridge. It could only mean one thing, a North Westerly, and when they blow, you might as well stay indoors, ..and stay indoors, Gary and I did. But when you are keen, and it’s your first season to-boot, and the skies are still blue then you do as I did, and that was what I was getting paid to do,... hunt.
So therefore when I left the dress circle and headed for home a few hours later, with 3 redskin tails on my belt and a load of backsteaks, I was one very pleased hunter.
Although the wind had been wicked all morning, blowing first one way, then the other.
The fickilness of it, made me certainly entertain thoughts, that were far from complimentary to my mental state of health.
...... That is until I stumbled on a hind, yearling and young one, in a deep sheltered gut. With the sun glinting off the ejecting rounds,.....I laid them low with four shots.
The day before, saw me half way down Quoin ridge in the headwaters of the Eastern Hutt River. Glassing the surrounding countryside. When I spied a stag, sporting a good rack of velvet. The range was I guess around the 500 yards mark. He was on a slip, feeding and enjoying the morning sun.
Now that’s long range by anybody’s standards. It was easy to cut the distance down, due to all the depressions in the landscape between the deer and myself.
The range now was about 70 yards. But even at that short a distance, and with the .270 still reverberating around the surrounding mountainside. ….. I had that sure feeling I’d missed. No tell tale thwock, nor any other obvious sign of a hit. Just the stag making a headlong dash, to the creek bottom and out of sight.
Now the Mauser model 2000, is a fine hunting rifle, but unfortunately has no half cock arrangement, although it did have a click safety. There was no excuse for what was to follow. Although the deer didn’t show any signs of a hit I have always made it a policy of mine to follow up on every shot regardless. So it was in this vein, that saw me quietly sneaking down through the thick undergrowth on my side of the creek.
The last thing I remembered was seeing this huge rock looming up before me, .......then I was blind and on my back in one movement. The echo of the shot was fading into silence.
Finding myself in this situation instantly convinced me that I’d shot some part of my anatomy. I stayed for some minutes mentally scanning my body, and waiting for the pain to short circuit all that.
Putting the pieces together afterwards told the story. Pushing through the heavy scrub, I was holding the rifle in my right hand at arm length pointing forward. When I guess a twig or piece of branch had entered the trigger guard and set the round off. The bullet hit the rock, sending rock fragments back into my face, with enough force and shock to send me over on my back.

Winchcombe bivvy was the next venue .It was dawn and I had elected to hunt the headwaters of the Hector. Gary was to hunt the bush on the Waiohine side.
On arriving at Winchcombe the evening before, we’d spied a red stag way down in the Hector, headwaters. Too far away for a hunt in the light that was available that evening, hence the dawn approach.
This was first light, on a beautiful clear day. The sun was an hour or so away from rising so Gary and I went our separate ways. I was away through the thigh high snowgrass, back up the ridge we’d traveled the day before. My plan was to travel for 20 minutes or so, then drop down the hector side into the headwaters and make my way to roughly where we had seen the stag. Making my way down the steep dew soaked tussock in the early morning was exhilarating to say the least. The need for stealth and speed. Was of paramount importance Before the morning gets too late.
The draw back of morning shooting in summer is just that, always trying to beat the clock. But the plus, is just the sheer excitement of the new day and what might lay ahead.
Within about 100 yards of the valley floor, I spied a movement around 300 yards. Bino’s up, sure enough deer A stag in fact, was it the same one?sure looked like it.
He was Reaching high into the tree, to feed, the sun just starting to bathe the valley floor with it’s warming rays, bringing to life the soaking tussock stems, festooning them with sparkling diamonds.
I vaguely took in the rich tapestry that the elements were providing for me.
I was quickly planning my stalk, the hardest part being the initial 100 yards, which was very exposed. Fortunately the stag was quartering away from my position and also my side of the valley was still in deep shadow, so making use of every advantage the contour would afford me, I skipped forward soon covering the first leg of my journey.
There was a couple of dry creek beds and some stunted trees and assorted scrub between us.Easing out of the last one I estimated mentally that I should be in a very comfortable shooting position [range wise]. I edged my head over the lip, and the stag was still there, full bodied ,grey velvet head thrown back occasionally balancing on hind legs and thrusting himself upward in search of the more palatable pickings. He was indeed a fine sight, standing there, belly deep in tussock, deep red coat contrasting with the vivid green of his dinner table.
I almost missed the hind on my side of the Hector stream. It might have been embarrassing. So intent on the stag was I, that I had completely missed her.
Her cream rump patch led me through her right front shoulder, crosshairs wavered then settled, bang...thump....’ she was down.
The stag’s rump was disappearing out of sight I, was up and chasing after him as soon as I’d recovered from the recoil. Splashing across the Hector, grabbing fistfuls of tussock on the other side, heaving myself up just in time to see the big fella, being swallowed up by the stand of bush. I dashed along the flat, veered left, and climbed swiftly to a grassy knoll, overlooking an almost circular patch of bush about the size of a tennis court, completely isolated in the tussock landscape.
Unless he’d sneaked out the other side whilst I was climbing the knoll, I would have him trapped, [at the narrowest point he would only have had to make about 20 yards to reach the main body of bush]. A branch snapped in the middle of the patch, and I relaxed a little, I wasn’t going in, he would have to come out, I was holding all the cards. After much hollering and shouting and lobbing stones, he emerged. Cautiously stepping out at the further most point, 10 big points of velvet. A head, neck, then the whole body looking over his shoulder at me all the while.
The sun was well up at this time and the whole valley floor was bathed in luxurious sunshine. He had reached past the last line of stunted leatherwood, when the .270 spoke.
I tailed both animals, took two sets of backsteaks, and started the long hot climb out of the Hector. It was maybe a half hour later and my rifle was slung over my shoulder when a hind, who was obviously hiding up until then. Lost her nerve and bolted downhill on an opposite spur to me. It seemed an eternity
until that Mauser was settled into my shoulder and my first shot kicked up rocks behind. Ejecting the empty case, and sending the glinting brass out and to the right of me. I quickly sought the hind again in the 4x Pecar scope. This time leading even more ahead of her I touched off another 130-grain emissary. A solid thump, a couple of cart wheels and she was rolling against a rock in a cloud of dust, mortally hit.
We had a good couple of days at Winchcombe, the weather was good and the hunting was likewise.

N.Z.F.S. echoes from the past

More from the diaries......... 2
My next recollection takes me down to the Rimutaka ranges, in the Wairarapa. Employed now as a hunter for the N.Z.F.S. It was winter again, but this time we were on goat hunting operations. After being dropped off at the road end by the then ranger in charge, [Vince Duckett] with instructions to meet up with Earl Marshall Who’d already been in for a week? I set off in good spirits; pack on, rifle in hand, and a brand new adventure round the bend of the river.
Earl turned out to be a tall rangy, young and very fit type who was enjoying his first season as a hunter. He was, with some relish, looking forward to the summer and getting a look at our block in the Tararuas.
Goat shooting, I found can at times can get quite hairy [no pun intended.] I was to find out how so, one mid afternoon, high above the ????? River. So high in fact, that the river way below resembled a very thin ribbon of blue. There in the bluffs and crags was I, hot in pursuit of one of our smelly friends. Blindly following where he would lead, when I noticed that I was now being very careful where I was placing my feet and hands. So much so, that I stopped, glanced down and with some consternation noted that the ribbon was directly below me. Save for some 20-ft. of severely sloping ground heading in that direction.
Just after the thought occurred to me, [what in the hell am I doing here?sort of thought] my feet had lost what little traction there was available to me at the time. I started to slide, gaining momentum too quickly for any other reaction, other than a blood-curdling, scream. With formula 1 like acceleration I cleared the edge and soared into vacant space betwixt crag and river. I parted company with my beloved Mauser .270, but instead of hitting water miles below; as I fully expected. The fall fortunately was broken by shingle, deep loose shingle. I estimated I’d fallen, around twentyfive to thirty feet ,and it took me some minutes before I was able to locate my half-buried rifle.
Everything looked fine scope wise, a dent or two, some blue lost, but otherwise the steel Pecar 4 power was just fine. The Mauser likewise, some dents and scratches but otherwise ok. How it was going to shoot however, I was yet to find out. My leg was deeply cut, high on the right thigh, requiring a few stitches. There of course was no Doctor [never mind the fact I didn’t have an appointment] on hand; I would just have to let nature take its course. Earl and I were to spend the remainder of the winter in the Rimutukas, camping together and most times sharing the goat tails.

In the Begininng.......

From my Diaries in the 1970's and 80's...... 1
It all started in Brisbane [Australia] when I stumbled across the book entitled Pack and Rifle by Phillip Holden, the book described the life of a New Zealand deer culler employed by the New Zealand forest service. The author went on to describe his day to day life being paid to hunt deer for a living. In this day and age [the year incidentally was 1974] it astounded me to say the least. I’d no sooner read the book, than I was myself applying for a position as a hunter . The much-awaited reply was dropped through my letterbox, in the suburb of Kangaroo point . With regret [the letter stated] Mr. Garnett, without first interviewing you, it’s not our policy etc. etc. etc. The letter being signed, Ian Logan P. I. C. ,Noxious Animal Control N.Z.F.S. Palmerston North. To cut a long story short, I was face to face with Mr. Logan within the week! The resultant chat had me cooling my heels for a week before journeying up to a very small town in the central Nth. Island called Mangaweka. Penetrating further from Mangaweka alongside the Kawatau river toward the ranges and you eventually arrive at the base camp for the deer hunting operations, which is called Kawatau.
It was here then, that the field officer for this area, Henry Dorrian took me in the winter of 74. I met Henry outside the PO in central Mangaweka as arranged. After a few pleasantries I was told to stow my gear in the back of the Toyota. He had a few things to attend to and said he would not be too long. “Get yourself a beer”, and I will call back for you in half an hour. I’d had a few beers before I caught sight of Henry again. In fact there were two Henry's.
Kawatau base camp was sitting hard up against the bush edge. I remember my thoughts as we arrived at the base. Am I actually in Deer country?. I kept repeating the question to my self, already knowing the answer, cos the answer was all around me, spectacular mountains stretching for ever in most directions.....snow capped too. The awe in my expression must have been obvious for all to see.
I was introduced to the lads who seemed a great bunch. Henry stayed the rest of the day. In fact, to help settle me in, the night also. The next day I was to be put to work as a track cutter. This was the prime job of the Ruahine hunters in winter. It entailed a six-day week with Sunday off. The Sunday [I had decided ]was the day I was to learn the art of deer hunting. I gleaned much information and advice from my work mates during the coming weeks. And put them into practice on the weekends. Photo point ridge was the area that yielded my first deer. High above the Kawatau river in mid winter, late morning, just a little above the deer enclosure on photo point ridge, saw me slowing to a halt to examine fresh sign in the form of two sets of deer slots, and fresh droppings. Making as little noise as possible, I followed the well-marked route of the deer. Through the sparse trees above me I could see the snow covered tussock. The breeze thankfully, was blowing directly into my face. I had stalked carefully through two shallow gullies, when my nostrils picked up that unmistakable smell of deer! Moving even more carefully than ever now. Barely moving I snuck over the slight rise that was both a mixture of snow grass and beech, to be confronted by two heavily bodied stags. Facing quarter away, but looking back over their shoulders, their eyes locked on to mine. Just for the most fleeting moment, we stood face to face. Then with a heavy grunt they forged ahead, one just trailing the other over the lip into the next gully. Somehow I reacted at one with their movements, and as the second stag disappeared over the lip, the 30/30 reticule of my 4x Pecar scope picked up the stag just behind the shoulder. Swept forward and at the same time I squeezed the trigger of the Mauser 270 cal.rifle. After the blast, and recovering from the recoil, I heard much crashing of a big body forging itself through scrub. Silently praying it was only one body escaping, but denying myself the euphoria, of believing I had finally nailed my very first deer. Unable to contain myself any longer, I sprinted forward, almost tripping over the fallen beast. I must admit to quite a few emotions right then, including a deep sense of regret and remorse. The head turned out to be a reasonable ten pointer. It was promptly chopped off and I’m afraid, chop being the operative word, no hint of meat being taken either! This was pointed out in no uncertain terms by Henry Dorrian later that evening. Making my way down through the bush, with the Kawatau River almost in view, I stopped for a breather. Looking across onto a face of crown fern, I was surprised to see a neck and head of a red deer appear as if by magic [hind] two shots later, and the two hinds had completely disappeared. I searched high and low, but to no avail. It remains as much a mystery to me now as it was to me then.
Before crossing the river that day, I was to lose my puma ‘rabbit’ sheath knife, but it was still a proud and tired track cutter that returned, to the Kawatau base camp that winter evening.

view from "Riverstone Cabin"

view from "Riverstone Cabin"
Hope River