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, July 16, 2009

Southerley wind /M.I.A.

Evening shadows began to lengthen as I emerged out of the bush and onto the river flats. Parts of which still had a tenacious covering of hoar frost. My Polyprop top was seemingly competing with the surrounding whiteness bearing witness to its exceptional wicking properties. The evening chill was starting to bite, but to stop now would be foolish as the hut was a mere hundred yards away.
Once in I set about the lighting of the fire. There was precious little in the way of firewood handy so it was back outside resulting in a mini forage in the surrounding bush. Sometime later and the Fire was lit and a brew started. Then I threw some warm clothing on and I was a different man.
The next day would be a full tramp into my destination. It passed uneventfully.
I awoke in the darkness and immediately switched on my Petzl headlamp. The beam revealed the walls in the hut streaming with condensation. The foot of my sleeping bag was also wet and clammy. I swung my legs over the edge of the bed and slipped my down jacket on, my breath expelling in great clouds of vapour. The gas was ignited on my stove and I completed my dressing whilst waiting for the water to boil.
Closing the hut door in the bleak light of the morning I stepped into the sombre bush. The wind had picked up over night and now there was a strong southerly buffeting the upper canopy. Great I thought if it is blowing this hard here it will be really uncomfortable up there. Up there as I looked I could see the clouds fair scudding across the sky and plumes of snow being whipped up and carried northwards at pace. The bush floor was carpeted in icy snow and it neither diminished nor did it increase with the higher altitude gained. Eventually I broke out onto tops. The day was long and fruitless. I did not feel the sun on my back until around two p.m. Not an animal was seen. My camelback froze and then when it eventually thawed it would not close. The residue of the bladder leaked onto the front of my coat and immediately turned to ice. There was one high though looking across the valley I spied an area that was lavishing in sunshine from early morning right through the day. It also was more sheltered from the prevailing winds and best of all there was a lot more feed showing through the snow.
It was to that spot that I was trudging towards at first light. Conditions were ditto yesterday i.e, fine but with strong Southerly winds. I was thankful to emerge out of the bush after an hour and a half climb. I could see the sun was just lighting up the peaks high above. The 360 degree views were breathtaking I was surrounded by lofty pinnacles of rock all attired in their white winter best. The gusts of wind would drive up plumes of snow and carry the spindrifts swirling into the clear sky. All this landscape was backdropped by a sky the colour of which was the most intense shade of royal blue.
Where I stood on the edge of the bushline the trees were subjected to the will of the wind. They creaked and groaned under the onslaught .The wind whistled through them like a banshee. It was at times enough to make a man feel a long way from home.
My watch told me 1400 meters of altitude had been ground out. I had put a fair amount of tussock clad gradients behind me when I arrived on the edge of a near vertical series of ridges and spurs. To look at them they would not be dissimilar to an inverted ladies fan. They were clad in the usual mixture of Tussock and Hebes,Speargrass and Flax and probably a whole lot more flora that my uneducated eyes could detect. Add to that, dollops of snow ice and rock. The invisible sign said “Chamois town” in big bold letters. Suddenly movement above me and it looked like the animal was onto me. My pack was off and I extended my body over it rifle pointing expectantly. There! Just a half animal to shoot at “boompha”- missed.” Easy with the empty Lapua case”! Jack in another round “boompha”- thud this time my ears called a hit as the chamois disappeared from view. There was more movement on the second ridge over another animal was blatting over it and finally slowed on the third spur along only to look back for some time until yet another animal joined up. They then mooched over to the furthest skyline ridge, before feeling safe enough to stand their ground. They stood their ground for an hour according to my ever right Pathfinder. Lighting out for pastures new was not on the agenda.
I was the first to tire of the silly game being played beside which I had been lying in a patch of snow all the while. I eased up into a crouching posture and felt every muscle and bone creak with the effort. This aging process is alright for cheese I thought. I started to move and let my arms mimmick a walking motion eventually moving out of sight of those twin sets of piercing eyeballs. I guessed they would have been all of 400yds away.
I climbed under and past the location of what I hoped was my downed beast eventually topping the ridge again much higher up. I inched up the last few yards on my belly and peered through the wind blasted tussock towards where the two sentries were seen last.
Sure enough nothing had changed. Though with altitude the distance between us had shrunk somewhat. 300yds was the considered separation of space now. I duly placed the Macmillan stocked rifle atop my pack and playfully took the shot. I then took the scenario a step further and thumbed in two Sierra match rounds. In recent outings these projectiles were letting me down too often and especially on chamois. However with the mixture of rounds I had on me these were the only ones I could rely on at this distance.
With surprise I was listening to the report and seeing the chamois fall. He looked to be hit too far back. I could see his upper torso struggle to regain its former balance. His mate lit off.
This is about the time when you rely on your former experience to carry the day. Instead I tried to finish the job from where I lay. I am left with rounds not properly sighted in, a 4x scope, only a 1/3 of an animal to shoot at- ask yourself?. Two shots later with snow that sprayed up in front of the chamois he decided enough is enough. He lurched to his feet and disappeared over the spur.
So now I have no choice but to don crampons and climb up and around the yawning gully and sidle across the steep ice clad slope and then climb down to where I had last seen the stricken one. I am now at the 1600 metre mark and climbing when I sight his mate zig zagging high above me. He looked reluctant to tread the road he was on and was constantly stopping and looking down at me. Eventually though he found a route through the high peaks and disappeared over into the next watershed.
Meanwhile I have reached the height I need and now it was all about putting all my faith into my crampons and ice axe to sidle my way across and down. I am now experiencing no wind whatsoever the sun is reflecting off the ice and there is a total silence about me just the crampons biting into ice. It is hot. I am sweating freely some of which is exertion and some I fancy is fear.
I eventually reached the spot. Straightaway blood was found stained onto the snow. The gradient leads down into a snow chute and I inch my way over. I was half expecting to see the form of the animal in that gulley somewhere. There was nothing no animal no blood and no tracks. I then casually looked upwards and there higher up the slope was a blood trail. The slope was on end and all ice I was front pointing and using my axe. This doesn’t look good I mused. I crested the incline and then all was revealed. I took out my binos for confirmation. The blood trail led in exactly the same way as his mate had gone.
“Ring ring” It dawned on me the animal I had seen leaving this watershed was the wounded one all along.
It left a sour taste in my mouth. I hadn’t lost an animal in over thirty years in fact I recollect I was in the employment of the Forest Service and shooting every day when it occurred last. On reflection I didn’t need the animal it was more a case of a bit of target shooting to see if I could. Hunting is not about target shooting !
It certainly took the edge off the day and indeed the trip.
I found my initial kill on the way down and took its smallish head and some meat. I passed two hinds under separate circumstances on the way out I took their photos and felt better for it.

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view from "Riverstone Cabin"

view from "Riverstone Cabin"
Hope River