Ed Bright at Mangatainoka
Enjoying a nice early morning cup of tea, with some recreational hunters at Te Pukeohikarua hut ,I was surprised early one morning by the arrival of Ed Bright ,who at the time was second in charge of the Kaweka forest park I bid him good morning from deep within my sleeping bag, and made sure he had a nice mug of tea, in his hands ,more by delegation than physical endeavour.
After much banter and general craic ,Ed suggested I join him in a trip down to the Mangatainoka hut ,as he hadn’t been before and would like some company, at first I refused saying I was far too comfortable here, but the more he coaxed me the more I got to thinking , that this guy is second in charge of the whole operation, and although he is asking me very politely ,it’s coming across like a nice order.So reluctantly ,I agreed ,one night ain’t going to kill me, and then I can head off to the Tussock hut via the mangatainoka stream, whilst Ed. Was intending to make his way out to Makino etc.Another advantage being this hut was pretty damned full now, and a man likes to have a bit of space to do his hunting .I had my vietnam pack ,ready in an instant ,cleared the food back in the cupboard ,grabbed sako and the dog , and along with Ed’s dog the four of us took off.Now I was having a lot of trouble with my rifle at this time, in that the ejector was not working .The extractor would pick up the empty case, but as I drew the bolt back, there was nothing to spin the empty case out of the rifle, i.e, the ejector was stuffed. What would happen ,is that the whole bolt with the empty case attached would come completely out of the breech, I would then shake the case free or else kn ock it against my leg, then try and put the bolt back , as quick as possible,pickin g up the next round . [which was again not quick.] Definetely not a repeating rifle ,more a case of a blackpowder cycle!
We had been travelling for about an hour now ,and it was getting around for late morning ,having just covered a large piece of semI open bush in which Ed rightly remarked ,there was a hell of a lot of sign about, we entered the more typical bush for the area. I was looking for a likely looking spur to take us down to the mangatainoka stream and hut. Toby was quite keenly looking over the right hand side of the spur, and shortly after started winding quite strongly, all this was missed by Ed as he continued his conversation albeit in a very low tone, but still sounding to me as if he was yodelling !I made a pace or so over to him,and nudged him whispering that I thought there was a deer over the side. ’I'm going with the dog down to check it out I said . Looking slightly bewildered he nodded ,and silently beckoned his dog to him.
The bush certainly wasn’t too thick for which I was relieved,but made for slow progress ,cos it was a fairly steep slope that I was descending, and that mean’t the cards were firmly in the deers hand .
Toby was loving the aromas, his head jerking back in a series of jerky movements,I was now positive there was a deer somewhere below me,scanning the bush ahead, on a line that the dog was indicating, and straining my ears for any sound that I could pick up, I detected a rustle of leaves somewhere ahead ,then I saw the movement of a neck and head reach up and feed from a low lying branch, it was a stag.Sako was up and spitting fire,the deer down and out ,but more bodies unseen were crashing away,the dog in hot pursuit ,despite my protestations to the contarary.
I had tailed the animal, and was making the last cuts in the meat that I intended taking with me, when Ed arrived. After hearing the shot ,he made his way down to me, and was full of praise, which I guess was nice to hear .We yarned awhile ,waiting for the mutt to come back, finally with a tongue 60ft. Long ,and panting like a locomotive, he was along side ,a growl from me soon had his ears laid flat along his head ,and a shuffling ,belly rub along the grass,was his verson of an I’m sorry gesture.Then we were away again.We followed the spur for a good distance ,before it dumped us in some creek,that didn’t look half bad to travel in, so that’s what we did .We hadn’t been going long ,when Toby started acting up in the best possible way ,and was indicating, which in this neck of the woods ,means DEER. I shot a glance over to Ed. And his dog,not a flicker from either of them, [to be fair Toby and me are a team,both fit and hard and experienced ,in the day in day out grind [pleasurable]of hunting deer], and getting paid for it!Ed and co.were on a gentle walk about.
I alerted Ed to the fact that rounding the next tight bend in the creek, we could confront an animal.Rounding the bend carefully,I saw on a patch of initially open ground,runinng into firstly short scrub,a nd then bush,30/40 yds.above the creek ,two red deer hinds looking straight at us, range was over the hundred yards, sako was up and made the necessary introductions, first deer dropped as though poleaxed, and rolled “all legs”,until a log jamb halted her momentum, I pulled the whole bolt out and shook the empty case free, inserting and picking up the next round, cursing at the lack of fluency and speed. The remaining deer was surging uphill , after the first shot, so by the time I had the leupold cross hairs trying to cover her body ,she was just about being swallowed up by the bush. Ed fired at that moment, and I got one away ,but judging by the reaction of the hind who was still going uphill,they were not telling shots.I was really lamenting my rifles shortcomings, as I was only half way through my six week trip,so there was obviously more frustration in store to contend with.
We reached the hut a short time after, and I spent a good night in Ed’s company ,in the morning after breakfast we farewelled each other ,with he going downstream,and the merle and me going upstream , to find the spur that was to take us to Tussock hut.P.S. I REMEMBER LYING IN OUR SLEEPING BAGS, SUPPER FINISHED AND THE TILLEY LAMP EXTIGUISHED AND ED. MAKING THE COMMENT ; WHAT A DAG, YOU UP HERE A WELSHMAN 13000 MILES AWAY FROM HOME ,NO FAMILY HERE, AND UP IN THE BUSH CHASING DEER- HE HAD A POINT!!!!!
We were not in a rush that morning, the dog and me, we were in cruise control, sometimes you are at one with the bush, nevermore so than when you are pro. Hunting on a six week stint, and around the three week mark, you are definiteley getting there.I might disagree with a lot of things with Russell,but although I hated with a vengence that first day of a six weeker,come the third to fourth ,I was always benefiting with fitness ,coordination ,concentration, and probably worse of all smell.Being a solitary type I used to thrive on this life style, the biggest regret I have always had, was that I was not born a Kiwi.
Any way ,with the passing of time I don’t remember If Toby was indicating or not ,but we noiselessly rounded the bend in the stream ,and surprised four sika hinds,feeding just out of the streambed, as the echoes of the shot resounded in the confines of the creek, a hind was rolling, down the shallow incline towards us,two deer ran directly uphill,as I was struggling with that problem bolt, and the remaining deer ran straight past us and down stream, I hollered the dog to stay put, he amazed me by obeying for once!finally chambering the round ,I let fly ,kaboomph, the hind momentarily disappeared around a bend , then to my utter dismay ,came trotting back towards us on the other side of the creek, tension was high, the bolt came out all right ,but the case would not come free, I then rolled it against my stomach,then slammed it home , the hind was filling my scope, and she was just trotting ,I missed! She passed that close to me that I could have clubbed her.Only twenty yards further on ,and she’s up on the bank,climbing quickly ,then she pauses and looks back,i’ve just finished the drama with reloading yet again ,but it’s really starting to get to me now! I’m finally taking up the final pressure on the trigger,and just at the vital moment the hind lunges forward ,causing me to miss again,this time however there is no opportunity for another crack. How many go’s do you need anyway?All of a sudden my day’s is clouding over.
There are enough variables in hunting as it is,but to have equipment that’s not functioning properly is not quite the cat’s pyjamas.!!!