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'

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

12 deer and a chamois

The long climb to the tops was an arduous one, the sun beat down relentlessly which resulted in copious amounts of precious fluid lost. The continual sucking on the platypus umbilical was a necessary attempt at redressing the situation.
It is early March and The mission is to locate a stag on the tops, before the roar sets in. The forecast is good for the next couple of days and looks Ideal for camping on the high tops.
The long climb over , the time has now come to descend down the opposite side of the range to where I reach my campsite in a knackered state. It doesn’t take long however before the tent is erected and a hot cup of tea is firmly entrenched in my hands. I sit in my tent doorway and revel in the surrounding mountain vistas. Sleep will not be long coming tonight.
I stretched my arm out of the tent doorway, turned on the gas, and placed my already filled kettle on the primus. The stars twinkled in the still night sky, although there was a hint of light emerging on the peaks across the valley from where I lay. The scalding tea tasted good in the quiet predawn, and I had plenty of time to contemplate the day ahead. I finished my cuppa and with the still warm contents of the kettle ,emptied them into my dehy cereal.
Breakfast was already a thing of the past, as I absorbed every available bit of moisture from the thigh high tussock, I was wading through. Every stride was new ground for me physically, although I had been here many times via the map over the preceding months.
My destination was a large amphitheatre of tussock, rock, scree ,and avalanche debris .Two creeks forming a y tumbled from the high tops and merged just above the bush edge. The distance measured some two Klicks from side to side.
Ninety minutes past very quickly , and a lot of ground was covered before what I reckoned was the final spur, lay just ahead, and from there I would be able to cast my eyes on the reality of my map planning.
As always though, after breaching the spur, I found another 100 or so yard s further would enable me to fully eyeball most of the nooks and crannies in the neighbourhood. So it was , that I found myself ,in a narrow finger of beech, and sweating like an over ripe bananna.
I took off my day pack and lay back with Leica trinivods in hand, to scan the ground ahead. I had to wait awhile though because due to my exertions the sweat pouring off my brow was misting up my binos.So I gave my bare peepers a work out on the nearer bit of country whilst I cooled down.
It was about a half hour later, that I picked up my first deer, in fact it was two, a hind and bambi a full 2 klicks away and much higher in the open ground, than I would have expected. Then came a hind a lot lower , but still a long way away from the bush edge. Then lastly even higher than the first two and almost on the ridge top were 4 more.
The time I noted was 9.15. I also noted that these deer were very strategically placed. They were well spaced out, protected throughout the length of the creek they were in By a precipitous looking ridge on their south side. Catabatic wind from beneath, and a natural eddy from the north favoured the animals. The only stalking route seemed to lean to an approach from above. I lay their watching those deer until 12.40, when some of them were starting to bed down. In all that time the uppermost group of four had only descended a mere 200 yds or so.
I had finished my lunch and was heading back to camp with the thoughts...maybe tomorrow as a challenge, I should try and work the huge distance around and come at the four from above....hmmmmm.
I arrived back at my tent around two p.m., peeled off my clothes and lay atop my sleeping bag and sweated and semi -dozed the afternoon away. Around six thirty I donned my boots ,didn’t bother with the socks and grabbed my rifle and wandered about 50 yds to an inclineing rock, on which I lay prone. I was looking down into the tussock headwaters of a creek. I hadn’t even raised the binos to my face, when three animals materialised directly under my position, feeding amongst the tall tussock and alpine scrub. It was the usual family order of mother ,yearling and bambi. It was the mother I singled out, as I placed the cross hairs a little lower down on her body than I normally would to compensate for the steep angle.She lunged foreward at the shot and continued runinng for some twenty yards, before pawing the air with her front legs and settling down. The remaining two animals stood unmoving and uncertain. I took a quick bearing on where the hind had fallen and then had to return to my tent for my knife. When I returned, there was no sign of the youngsters, so I began down climbing the rocky face, to retrieve my meat. I flushed the bambi not long afterwards, and she made strongly for the security of the bush. Now where is my deer? It never fails to amaze how a large animal can completely disappear in tussock, and how an area you have seen from above can take on such different proportions when down amongst it. I must admit to a frustrating half hour scouring up down and sideways, before eventually finding the heart shot beast.
The next morning the sun caught me high above my campsite, blocked by a wall of rock. I managed to find a route around eventually, but then had to descend under a series of sheer rock faces, before being able to ascend again to the prominent ridge, that would eventually lead me to the four deer, spied yesterday.
It was while I was negotiating a steep loose scree, with the inevitable rock fall that is associated with such actions, that a lone chamois appeared on the skyline in front of me and stared intently in my direction. “What’s all the noise then ‘? He seemed to ask, before ducking back over the ridge, and out of sight. Feeling slightly abashed ,but consoling myself with the thought chamois are for winter who cares....yeah right.
Breathlessly regaining the height I had lost , I was now on a sharks fin of a ridge which plunged away to nothingness on the western side. My thoughts were constantly changing throughout the long journey...I will, I wont, let’s just see what’s over the next hump etc. Three hours of constant travel and it was only at this point I believed I was actually going to carry this stalk out.
The day was warming up considerably, I had already discarded the "Tahr "anorak and now I paused to take off my gaiters. The sun burned out of an azure blue sky and the panoramas and vistas were all pure mountain tops as far as the eye could see. The only breeze was pure catabatic, drifting up from the warming valley floor. Indeed good news for one who’s plan was to hunt down toward his quarry.
Eventually the southern most creek was espied, this was the one that held the seven deer from the day before. My bearings were two distinct rocky outcrops , with which I was now level and about 300 yds away from, it would be only a short time before I needed to glass the way ahead. Just as I was slowing my stride, a red form materialised under a shady depression the other side of the creek and around a hundred yards lower in elevation. Exactly where they were spotted yesterday I mused, that is if there is four of them. I edged out of their line of sight and carefully closed the distance. The final part was to down climb a rock band and ease myself into a gut and from there contour around a flatish part of a spur. This I duly did, and half on all fours and half crawling, I positioned myself for a look into the creek. They were up about 20 yds from the creek bed and paired off under two identical shaded entrances of rock. The two on the right were yearling females, the two I was more interested in turned out to be a 4pointer and spiker. It was a teenage group, after all. Ah well I have come this far, the target I decided was to be the 4 pointer. Trouble was the spiker was alongside him, blocking any chance of a shot. I took off my day pack, rested the Ultralight mcmillan stocked sako .308 atop and waited.
They were pretty chummy, licking and sniffing each other, couple of gay boys I thought absently. At last the spiker moved enough for me to see the shoulder of the older male. Tenaciously clinging to the sight picture, I touched off the shot, sending the 150 grn sierra match hollow point on its 200 plus yds journey. An almighty crack as the projectile hit the rock behind the stag. The shot was a good one, had it gone straight through? No real sign of being hit the two dropped to the level of the creek and were mightily confused as were the two yearlings 50 yds higher. The Lapua case spiralled up and out to the right,, and another round rammed home, Kaboomph, pause, a slight look of discomfort on Mr.4, but still standing.Exit stage right messer Lapua, and no. Three handload rammed home. Kaboomph, this time ole 4 points was levelled. Hmmmm
These guys were some green horns they just stood about for an age, so I thought to sneak in a further 100 yds and take a few piccys. Rising over the next spur with camera at the ready, I was confronted with 3 deer in la la land. Eventually I stood up and talked to them, they were still reluctant to leave! By this time I was thinking my meat would go off in the heat, If I didn’t make for the fallen one.
I was taking the first back steak, when I looked over my shoulder, I could see the three of them huddled about some 100yds away and barking intermittingly. It was at this point I remembered my camera had a movie facility, which I had never used before. Up shot was, I took about a minutes worth of footage for a documentary entitled How not to behave in front of a loaded rifle if you are a deer.
Job done it was time to retrace my steps outta there, besides it was getting close to lunch time. I found a piece of flat ground , with a great view back down the creek, and the true right slopes all the way to the bush edge. I could still see the deer , by now no more than specks, they had met up with the hind and bambi further down the creek, and all were now picking up the pace and heading for the bush edge. Not before time I thought....deary me.
It was pleasant sitting up here in my eagles nest surveying the massive tract of country that lay before me, but eventually the sun persuaded me to shift my stumps, turning up the volume heat wise considerably in the next hour. So it was with some regret, I re shouldered my pack picked up sako and trudged back more or less the same way that I had come. I suppose I had covered about a third of the distance back to camp, when I noticed a saddle up against the ridge, that I had traversed on the way in, only I had missed the saddle and climbed a lot higher than I needed to. If I went through that saddle I mused it would mean I could actually head down hill right now, instead of this gruelling never ending climb . Problem was that maybe my route down would end in a series of bluffs that I could not negotiate. Oh hell who dares wins...or something on those lines, I started my descent. After a half hour of travel, my heart was in my mouth, as I could see ahead of me that the ground that I was on, came to an abrupt end, and dropped into nothingness. It was with some trepidation that I covered those last remaining yards to the edge, to peer over and into the creek below. All was ok, not exactly plain sailing, but with some carefull down climbing I was sure I could safely reach the bottom. A small jump had me waist high in a band of luxurious tussock, I made a few tentative steps through the high stuff, when a hind jumped right up in front of me staring uncertainly, another rustle of grass, and the bambi was beside it. Placing my rifle down and throwing off my daypack, I was in a frenzy to find my camera, all kind of precious stuff was discarded , like my Leica binos, spare rounds, head torch, to name but a few, I could hear meantime, the wild ones departing. At last my camera...would be at the bottom!! Got the picture though, just as they were crossing a large rock strewn scree. They again were reluctant to leave me, barking and carrying on for some time, until eventually they disappeared making toward the bush edge.
After stopping a while to take my boots off and let my feet get some precious air, I started the long hot climb into the saddle and through , and down the other side to my campsite. Exhausted I sweated out the rest of the afternoon and evening in the Macpac. Tomorrow I was scheduled out.
I awoke to a heavy mist, I breakfasted, and toileted and then packed away my soaking tent . It was still the sombre early hours , as I started my climb up through the stunted tussock clad ridge. An hour later, and I could see wisps of blue overhead, and then rock faces started to form to my right, and then all of a sudden the main range ahead sprung out to greet me, carpeted in golden tussock, with a cobalt blue sky as backdrop, and I was at last out of that all enveloping crud. Looking back I could see a huge white carpet of cloud, with the first rays of the rising sun, bringing light to it’s edges.
I finally surmounted the thin bladed main range, with the cloud below me on both sides. You would have to be made of wood, not to be in awe of such surrounding spendour. I feel a song coming on....‘Who will buy this wonderful morning’...the words from the song in the film Oliver, sprang instantly to mind. I wasn’t tired, but I sat down, and drank my fill of the beauty that was mine that morning.
With the sun climbing higher, I was treated to the spectre of the Brochan on the way home, I had an identical buddy stride for stride with me, across the high tops, until all too soon, I was to bid him goodbye and descend back down into the gloom by myself.

view from "Riverstone Cabin"

view from "Riverstone Cabin"
Hope River