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, February 5, 2009

First deer for Lachlan

The Stewart family arrived at Triple Tui via Nelson Lakes Shuttles. I was mowing the front deer paddock, when I spied the bus heading up the long drive. Disengaging the P.T.O. to the slasher, I jumped off to greet my new guests. It was around 10.30 A.M. and the day was already becoming hot, as I shook the hands of father and son Peter and Lachlan. They had booked an additional two night hunt in the quest for Lachlan’s first deer. Serena, Peters attractive wife was next with the formal greetings followed by the eldest daughter Rebekah, Kaylea and young Ivan.
The luggage was soon unloaded , which then left the family plenty of time to explore the rest of the property. Meanwhile Peter and Lachlan had a quick bite to eat, before joining me to load the Nissan.
We were soon on our way farewelling the rest of the Stewarts, who had come over the river to see us off.
Locking the car at the road end we then eased into our packs and began the tedious march into our designated area. The sun by now was high into the sky and beat down relentlessly. It wasn’t long though before we eased into the cooling sanctuary of the bush, to follow a track that was to lead us high up into the sub alpine tussocks. Some hours later, we again left the bush and were once again greeted by the harsh afternoon sun. This time we were confronted with a long steep ridge spiralling high above us, and it was then down to the basics of one foot in front of the other as often as you can, with mind locked in neutral. As we gained more altitude we became aware of a cold breeze that embraced our sweating bodies, plummeting our core temperature accordingly. The tolerance to the cold varied amongst our small group, but it wasn’t long before all three of us had donned a windproof garment of some sort.
We rested in a sheltered hollow for a spell ,before cresting the windy ridge and dropping over the other side. An hour later the wind had again abated , and soon the pores were open and leaking.
It was around 7 P.M. and we were almost at our proposed campsite, the bush edge was no more than 200yds away, and we were easing around some creek heads with some expectancy , deer droppings were liberally scattered around providing some confidence of deer activity recently. We eventually reached our campsite, with no sightings of our quarry. We parked up by a largish tarn and we soon had the one man tent erected in which Peter and the young 14yr.old Lachlan would share for the trip. I had my bivvy bag, and was looking forward to a couple of nights out under the stars.
The rifle we had with us was my Sako Vixen .222 , loaded with Barnes 53 grn hollow points. Peter had pointed out during our phone conversation some weeks earlier, that Locky had only up till now shot various .22 rimfire rifles , and he was concerned that we did not introduce him to flinching via a heavy calibre. As My only other deer rifle is a Sako Forester in .308. It left little more to discuss, So it was agreed , that the little vixen would do the job.
Just as the last star was fading from view, the little kettle started gushing steam ,there was also much stirring from within the Macpac. Morning greetings were shared in whispered tones, stiff joints were stretched and much yawning and farting expressed. Then with breakfast done and dusted and the light good enough to shoot in, we three singled filed into the contours of our mountain world in search of a deer for Locky.
An hours travel and Peter dropped off the group, deciding there would more chance of Locky realising his aim, if there was less movement and noise going on. Three is, I agreed a big number when hunting deer, even on the tops. Thirty minutes later, and I had allowed myself and Lachlan to drift too far apart, as we negotiated a particularly steep and rocky chute. Just then a rattle of stones reached my ears, and I jerked my head up and scanned the rocks high above me. I soon picked up the movement of a lone young chamois buck, he was onto us and was vacating the area at a brisk rate, it could not be described as running but he wasn’t loitering either . I looked behind me and Locky was 80 to a 100yds away, head down and concentrating on his footing. Frantically whispering in the loudest voice I dared, and moving my arms about, he finally spied the animal just as it crested a small saddle, some four or five hundred yards away. I was pleased he got to see it.
I waited for Locky, and then we crested a small spur, that afforded us a good view of a large creek head. We hunkered down in the tussock and began to glass the area in front of us.
It was some five or ten minutes later that I spied movement and colour, and one deer became three in a very short time. A Female hind, yearling and bambi were feeding some distance away from each other, but were converging together quite quickly and making for the bush edge. Distance is very deceiving on the tops, however I estimated the deer to be 800yds plus. We kept glassing some more to make sure they were the only three around. I asked Locky if he wanted to stalk them....”I don’t mind” he replied. I took that as a yes.
We kept a wary eye on the deer and stopped often as we made our way to the bush edge and out of sight of the animals. It would now be a twenty minute stalk with no reference to the animals at all.
Finally reaching our planned shooting position, I quietly poked my head around the last tree before the tussock took over and was rewarded with the sight of three deer together in a shallow depression, but very close to the bush edge. The yearling and bambi were quartering , but the hind was full broadside to us nibbling high into some sub alpine scrub. The shot would have to be taken off my shoulder with Locky sitting behind me. I passed the rifle to him on half cock and whispered my plan, which was that when he saw me sit down, to come and sit directly behind me and put the rifle on my shoulder. The range to the hind was around 160 yds, and I was a little worried, but thought it too risky to try to stalk any closer.
Locky slid in position closing the bolt, as the rifle settled on my shoulder. I was aware of the barrel arcing in big circles with the corner of my eye, I thought he is going to miss or wound for sure. It was the hind I told him to go for, we could not risk waiting for the yearling to move broadside. KABALM ! the deer collapsed as if pole axed, and only twitched spasmodically. I don’t know who was the most surprised me or the remaining yearling and young un. We eventually had to shoo them away from their fallen mother.
I pumped the young mans hand and congratulated him on his first deer. What a way to start your hunting career. One shot kill with a .222 ,high up in sub alpine country on a beautiful summer morning. I was silently gutted about the decision to take out the mother, but felt the risk too great, to delay further. That said, it was photo time and my hands could barely Stay still long enough to press the shutter button on the camera, I had the shakes.
We walked over to the fallen one, and took a few more photos, and to see where the projectile had entered the animal. The shot was slightly high, but behind the shoulder area, the amazing thing was the exit hole, was dead inline, and big enough to see without peeling back the skin. 53 grn Barnes? You betcha ! It was then time to bone out the hindquarters and remove the back steaks. We then lay back and took in the scenery, mountain vistas in every direction. We snacked on some biscuit and waited for the meat to cool off some before packing it away.
I suggested to Locky that he shoulder the meat as far as he could to camp, stating if you are man enough to take the shot , then you are surely man enough to carry the meat out.
It was a good hour and a half struggle , mainly up hill for the lad, he never complained, although clearly tired especially toward the end. The day pack he was carrying was ill fitting and hung well below his waistline . I could have and perhaps should have relieved him of his burden, but thought his memory of the day would be so much the better for the fact, that he was able to bring his kill back by himself to his waiting dad.
There was much discussion throughout the long hot afternoon, and much praise heaped deservedly on young Lachlan.
The evening stroll was aimed at a sighting of the chamois seen earlier in the day , but proved uneventful.
Early the next morning Peter and I left Locky still in his feathered tomb, to retrace the footsteps of the previous day, with the hope of securing an animal for the senior member of the Stewart duo. Again we sat down and glassed , and it wasn’t too long before I spotted first one and then another of the wild breed. It was a hind and yearling around two hundred yards apart, but clearly together , high up on a tussock shelf hundreds of yards away from the sanctuary of the bush. We were in deep shadow, glassing the sunny face, and it would probably be at least an other hour before the warming rays of the sun would reach our vantage point.
I asked Peter if he wanted to make the long stalk, and he declined saying it was too far and also that we had really enough meat to be getting on with . Fair point I mused, so we settled back to watch the show. I wondered where the bambi was. They slowly fed and made their way downwards, the yearling a couple of hundred yards lower in altitude, but steadily making it’s way down to what looked like an impenetrable wall of rock, I was wondering aloud to Peter just how they were going to negotiate that band of rock, which looked impossible to breach, no matter how often I scanned the surrounding area.
Meanwhile I was drawn to the hinds location and she was climbing again, and seemingly searching the ground ahead, I muttered to Peter that maybe she was looking for where she last put her bambi down. She covered what looked like a good hundred yards upwards, when suddenly her head bent low into the tussock to sniff, my glasses then picked out a neck and head of the little one. There then followed a few minutes of licking and nuzzling, before the hind turned back down the hill on a different tack to the still feeding yearling , leaving the bambi high up in the tussock.
Within minutes of reuniting the pair started to cavort around, playing some game of tag, where one would chase the other , until the roles were reversed, they would sometimes lash out with their hind legs, and periodically nibble some morsels in between the frolicking, All the time slowly but surely making their way to that band of rock. Then suddenly without warning they raced down a steep bush clad spur, I was able to follow their progress, intermittingly through the gaps in the canopy, a pause and then they emerged out in the tussock briefly across from us about 300yds distant, The dead hind from yesterday a scant 20 yds away from them. I guess they must have winded the body, for they then returned back into the bush, and we did not see them again.
I had dismissed the bush spur as a means of getting through the band of rock, but with hindsight, if trees can grow in an area ,then there surely must be a chance of a trail through them, A valuable lesson learned in any event, and also a possible stalking route for the future.
We picked our way out of the watershed and returned to camp, to find a very relaxed Lachlan. We ate an unhurried lunch and packed away our gear. It was just after midday that we started the long hot climb for home

view from "Riverstone Cabin"

view from "Riverstone Cabin"
Hope River