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'

Thursday, June 25, 2009

1000 ft. Slide

4.30 A.M. I am awake, well at least my eyeballs are uncovered. Another three quarters of an hour and the happy alarm will sound. Well at least I’m saved that soul jarring experience, I reflected , as I wrenched myself free of the warm duvet. The cold air was like a knife against my bare skin whilst I groped for my clothes. My pack was ready to go and propped against the back door. Included this time was my trusty ice axe, for there was much snow in the region I was heading for. Bodily functions and cereal breakfast later, and in that order, I brace myself against the severe overnight frost. The engine coughs and splutters into life and the headlights illuminate the whiteness down the drive.
I have a long day ahead of me, and it will be daylight by the time I reach the road end. From there I am looking at eight hours of burning “Makalu” Boot rubber before I will reach the hut of my choice.
I hoist my pack onto my shoulders with a grunt and melt into the encompassing green void. Immediately obvious is that DOC had been nowhere near the route since the snows of last August. Windfalls were a constant source of irritation, to be skirted round or clambered over with monotonous regularity. The creeks needed all of my attention too, for the rocks were coated in ice lying in wait for the unwary.
It is the middle of May a magic time for the chamois hunter. For the next couple of months high up in the alpine meadows these animals will come together in various small units and complete the age old cycle of procreation. The hills with their white mantle of snow about their shoulders take on an extra allure at this time seducing the hunter into their embrace. For me there is no better place to be than in the backcountry when the wintry winds blow. Gone are the tourists and summer visitors the crowded huts and busy tracks. I guess I am just an unsociable old git and getting set in my ways, but again I was always the solitary type when shooting for the forest service some thirty years ago. Mind you it positively helped you to have those credentials in that work environment.
It‘s after two in the afternoon and I am beginning to wonder where this hut is and how much longer I’ll have to plod this never ending track. Plod being the operative word. Must have been the early rise, I console myself. It doesn’t happen often in my experience, but at precisely 3.30 p.m. the hut was in my face. I say doesn’t happen often when I say I thought at least another 30 minutes to go , and like this time it is sooner rather than later! Anyway my grin nearly cut my face in half.
I had taken a “wet” in the last creek. I had slipped on an icy rock and ended up knee deep in the cold waters. I was annoyed, for up till then I had kept a dry slate for the whole of the trip and I hate wet boots freezing overnight that have all the give of a steel bar in the morning.
The first thing on the agenda is a fire. The wood box is full, so in no time there is a sterling blaze afoot. The steam rising from my mini kettle tells me the next treat is ready. A couple of rounds of bread topped with vintage cheese and you can call me Steve, king of joy.
It is Tuesday, and according to our man on the weather last night Wednesday is bearable, Thursday deteriorating with rain in the evening and Friday positively crap. I’ll have to make the best of tomorrow by the sounds of that. The boots are lined up with the inners pointing towards the bonfire in the hearth, and socks draped dutifully alongside. With the logs crackling and sparking and the flames rearing up the chimney, I dive headlong into the scratcher. The other thing I failed to mention about winter is the long nights, and I am looking forward to that part.
Just on daylight, the blinds under my eyebrows part. I have no real plan for the day, only to head upstream and at a likely spot strike upwards for the tops. The snow is ankle deep and a lot softer this morning. Jim Hickey mentioned a frost. Strike one against the weatherman! I notice the sky too is clouding over. The ubiquitous windfalls didn’t disappoint however. I plod around three hundred yards up stream and the going is not getting any easier, when I come upon a creek. The decision is made. I am to head to the tops using this artery. It is a hard slog upwards. The slushy snow under foot, also the branches full of the stuff falling down on me at every opportunity. It takes the better part of two hours before the tops materialise. What a brilliant feeling breaking through the last of the scrub to see a series of gullies, with feed showing through, despite the heavy snow in places.
I labour up the ridge I am on, to a point I reckon will give me a good vantage point to glass the surrounding country. I have covered maybe half of this distance when a chamois buck materialises on a spur across from me but slightly higher in elevation. My eyes are drawn to his head, and I instantly register disappointment. I am looking for nine inch or better. The chamois up till now was looking directly at me, but then he turns his head back in the direction he has just travelled. It was at this time I reassess his head, and decide he is close to the nine inch minimum I am looking for. I lie down into the snow and support the rifle on a handy rock and squeeze off a 150grn. Sierra match bullet in the direction of the buck. I register the hit, within the four power “Leupold”. The chamois flinches diving headlong towards me, He’s temporarily out of my line of sight in the intervening gut only to reappear on a spur no more than sixty yards distant. My next round is a sierra 110 grn hollow point varmint round, which I had sighted in and was printing around two inches to the left of the 150’s. I had wanted to replace the 150’s on chamois after a series of poor results. This was now my opportunity to test the new round. Applying pressure to the light trigger the 110 was airborne and looking for trouble. Taking the buck in the chest he drops without ceremony on the spot and didn’t even twitch.
I make my way over to the animal, negotiating drifts up to my waist at times. Upon arrival I reach for my tape and measured a neat nine inch on his hooks. I remove his head and back steaks and push them deep into my day pack.
I then decide to head for the ridge the buck was on when I first engaged him, and look into the gut and beyond. The going is hard and slow there is no need for the axe in these conditions. The gut is wide at the top and narrows at the bottom before disappearing into the bush edge some four hundred meters below. Judging by the bush damage there obviously were huge avalanches ripping through here in the winter months. I climb until I am level with the top of the gut and pause to scan across the four hundred yards of country. There are rocky out crops, some scree , tussock and scrub.... and two chamois! Now how the hell hadn’t I seen these characters before now? They are Approximately two hundred yards away, blending in with the rock and snow patches. The forms bounced into focus in my 8x20 Leica compacts. Now one of these guys is sporting a decent set of hooks, I thought. Was that another buck? I couldn’t be sure. I have my pack off and Sako was across it pointing at the bigger of the two. There was another 110 in the breach. Let’s see how you perform now Sierra. I then gently close the bolt. Fifty grains of 2208 powder is ignited the instant I caress the trigger. The 110 grn. round is sent arcing to its target. The animal visibly shook on impact. Nevertheless the two take off together at the sound of the shot. Then after ten or more yards the stricken one collapses in a heap and go’s headlong into the snow chute. The animal’s velocity increases as it speeds across the top of the snow. It leaves red smudges in its wake at intervals of around the 30 or 40 yard mark. It continues plummeting down in this fashion for some six or seven hundred feet before coming to rest still seemingly on steep ground. I watch for some time as the uncertain survivor picks its way slowly away from my position.
I re shoulder my pack and continue upward, deciding I would retrieve the chamois on my return to the bush. Some minutes later there is movement at the far end of the gut. I go to ground and confirm the movement as two chamois heading in my direction. They are in no rush, but even so are making quick progress. 200,,.. 150..., 100..., 50.., the yards were being eaten up at an impressive rate. Out of sight now they would gain my spur any minute. My camera was out and waiting. A young animal materialised in front of me, followed by an older male some seconds later. They look unsure at me from a range of twenty yards. Realisation quickly forms on their features that perhaps I am not their mother after all. The camera is recording it all.
‘We’re outta here” was their combined opinion translated in a flurry of movement. Snow was kicked up in their wake as the forms continued past me and out of sight over the next ridge.
I continue my climb to better the picture of the surrounding mountains. The mist and low cloud though is hampering my vision. Eventually in very low visibility I am forced to backtrack, and make my way to the point of my last shot. I scan the long snow chute with the 8x20’s but cannot locate the chamois. Further inspection reveals more red stains on the snow, disappearing out of sight. I descend diagonally into the gut, using a zigzag approach in the deep snow. I eventually come upon the initial resting place for the animal. I then begin to follow the sliding marks downwards. No footprints at least I register, he/she has at least not miraculously recovered from the shot and is not likely to be engaging in escape and evasion tactics. I am concerned though for the narrow chute was heading for an unseen drop.
A few yards more and the animal was espied, sprawled amongst some rocks on the edge of the huge drop off. The chamois had slid the better part of a 1000ft.
It turned out to be a she...I am gutted upon inspecting her. I take her meagre 8.5 inch hooks, her skin and back steaks.
With my daypack full, I then melt into the alpine scrub, and seek
a safe route down to the valley floor.

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view from "Riverstone Cabin"

view from "Riverstone Cabin"
Hope River