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, January 20, 2011

A Goat hunt with Gerrit

Gerrit is on holiday and celebrated his 56 birthday not so long ago. One of his presents from his wife Evelyn was to be a days hunting with me. We decided on a goat hunt and duly set off from home at o7.00hrs. on the 17Th January.
We planned a full leisurely day with day packs filled with lunch and snacks. Gerrit has little experience of hunting but wanted to taste the Kiwi way of doing things.
We arrived at out destination and headed into the hills. The rest of the morning was spent climbing high into the bush. There was scant sign around and the scrub was wet after a night of rain. We topped out at 11.30 and goat droppings became common on the animal trails we were following.
A series of bleating off to our right caught our attention and we slowed to a halt. Unfortunately the wind was blowing behind us and the scrub looked impenetrable anyway. So we decided to climb a little higher and skirt around in a semi circle to look for more accessible country on which to drop down on our quarry A series of bleating off to our right caught our attention and we slowed to a halt. Unfortunately the wind was blowing behind us and the scrub looked impenetrable anyway. So we decided to climb a little higher and skirt around in a semi circle to look for more accessible country on which to drop down on our quarry.......We spooked a black and white nanny shortly afterwards and the last we saw of her was here white backside markings bobbing in and out of the trees making her steep descent into another catchment.
Thirty minutes later we found what is best described as an eyrie. It was an open area about 10ft by 4ft. It was situated right on the edge of the bluffs with a fearsome drop straight down on the rocks below. It gave us a tremendous view of the surrounding countryside so we decided to stop awhile and do some serious glassing. A few minutes later I spotted a large Billy goat some 5ooyds away feeding on a grassy slip. We watched him for a few minutes until he ambled off the slip and sought the sanctuary of the cooler bush. It was by this time around noon and although we could hear bleating quite close by we were more inclined to rest up and chew on some energy bars.
The sun beat down relentlessly so I suggested to Gerrit if we found some running water it would not be a bad time to have a bite to eat and cup of tea.
We made our way off the bluffs and down into the bush until we found a nice shady spot by a stream. We wiled away the afternoon talking about this and that and enjoying the peace and tranquillity of our surroundings.
At four thirty it was time to climb the spur away from the creek and go find an evening goat or two.
Five thirty saw us atop a large flat rock with a commanding view of the open areas around us. It wasn’t long before a nanny and two kids appeared on the bluff terrace directly in front of us.
I asked Gerrit if he wanted to take a shot and he nodded in the affirmative. The range was 201meters. We laid our day packs on top of each other to provide the rest he would need.
With fingers firmly in my ears I said fire when ready. At the sound of the shot the nanny and two in toe bolted across the face....a miss I called to Gerrit. They slowed and the nanny came to a halt...try again I urged. At the sound of the report I could see the goat was hit. It stumbled but then surged forward and then was lost to view in the bush.
We waited ten minutes and then I gave the good news to Gerrit that we were going to climb up into those bluffs to find the animal.
Around forty minutes later we edged across the narrow ledge the animals had taken in their escape and were nearing the bush where we had last seen her disappear into we then heard her anguished cries. We hurried on and despatched her where she was lying up.
The initial shot we found was a couple of inches back from being a good shot.
The rifles zero will need to be checked.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Hunting with Erich

I received a phone call from Greg and it was from London asking if we did guided hunts here at Tripletui. I replied in the affirmative. He went on to say that his girlfriends father Erich was a keen hunter in his homeland in Germany and that as he and his wife Inga would be joining Greg and Stef in New Zealand for Christmas it seemed as if it might be a good idea to include a day hunt as a xmas pressie. We discussed rates and the time Erich would be allotted and the fact that Erich was really keen to experience the Kiwi way of doing things and was not necessarily expecting to shoot an animal.
I explained that at this time of year a night camp would be necessary and that obviously I couldn’t guarantee an animal. I could provide all of the gear that he would need for the trip however. So it was agreed that they would bring him down at midday on new years day and pick him up at midday on the second.
Erich would be from what I have read and been told by Gregg would be the typical European hunter who is steeped in the traditions of hunting and is very respectful of the animals that he hunts. On meeting him I was impressed by the firm handshake and steady eye contact both went a long way to convince me that I would enjoy this man’s company over the next 24 hours.
We rummaged through his clothing and I advised him what to bring and what to leave and we left the property at around one p.m.. The journey passed quickly with Erich filling me in on his general hunting history and way of life in Frankfort. He spoke excellent English.
Three or four hours later we were looking over a tussock clad valley and pondering our next move. I was keen to traverse a few more ridges before making camp and although Erich was nodding his agreement I nevertheless sensed a reluctance in him. I said hey Erich we don’t need to go that far if you think it is too much for you. I would much rather you tell me now that you think it too far than for you to collapse on me further down the track. We can always set up camp here and go hunt the other side of the spur across from us. He seemed to warm to that suggestion so we scouted around for a camping spot and set up our fly and laid out our sleeping bags and generally made camp.
That done and daypacks filled we dropped down to the creek with our water carriers and filled them and left them there for our return. We then carried on up the other side of the creek through waist high tussock and flax to a bush spur leading diagonally out of the valley and up to the exposed tops.
After about forty five minutes of travel we sat down on a small bench with a great view of the opposite side the valley. Erich took off his boots and socks and we spent the time taking in the vistas and glassing the surrounding country. Above was a series of tussock, flax and scrub gullies merging with the main creek and ascending to the unseen tops. Below was the undulating bush line. There were large areas of scree and tussock above this. The sun was behind us and lowering at the end of a long day highlighting the ground to our front . High above the cloud was scudding across the sky propelled by the 60km winds and mist was beginning to eddy down from the tops.
Flowering flax were everywhere and with it were the busy Tuis. They kept us entertained with their flying antics and melodious chirping. Their colourful plumage enhanced and highlighted by the strong light was spectacular and engrossing.
As time went on and the shadows lengthend the insidious mist was more prevalent blotting out the landscape above us at times only to rise and clear moments later.
I was glassing the shadows of the bush line below our position when Erich tapped me around the knees and pointed in the direction of two animals making their way out of the creek above us onto a scrub filled spur.
They were chamois. We exchanged the Lecia 8x20 binos a few times as the animals climbed steadily and away from us. The rangefinder initially called the range at 260 meters. I asked Erich if he wanted to shoot or if he wanted to stalk them.
He said he would like to stalk and if we didn’t get them then so be it. The second animal took an age to disappear from sight and we waited patiently finally he disappeared into the shallow gut.
Erich meanwhile was struggling to get into his boots and socks. Eventually suited and booted we then dropped down into the creek and the plan was use it for cover and to mask any noise we might make. The curtain of mist fell again dropping visability to sixty yards or so as we laboured upwards.
Some ten minutes or so later after climbing numerous small waterfalls I was slightly in front of Erich and I came to a halt. I could vaguely make out a shape up ahead that looked very much like one of our boys. Sure enough as the mist parted the animal could be seen on a small rock browsing with his head facing up hill and away from us. I quickly took off my day pack and laid it just out of the water in the creek bed and beckoned Erich up to where I was standing. No matter how he positioned himself he couldn’t make out where the animal was and couldn’t find a comfortable position to shoot anyway. The minutes ticked by as I desperately tried to get him comfortable and for him to take in the chamois form.
I lay down alongside him and repositioned the pack he then rested his left elbow on my back [he his a lefty] and sighted in on the animal I plugged my ears with my fingers. Upon the shot I raised my head in time to see the chammy peal of the rock face and drop into the creek. Meanwhile Erich had ejected my prized Lapua case into the ether and was ready for the follow up. The recoil had disturbed his sight picture and he hadn’t seen what I had.
I reassured him that the animal was down but even so it was two tense hunters who climbed up to retrieve the prize and it wasn’t until we were almost on top of him that he materialised into the inert form of our hopes.
A broad grin crossed Erich’s face and I congratulated him on his fine shot and humane kill. We took the backsteaks and 8 1/4” hooks a fine representative head for someone who had not even seen one before this day. I will organise the bleached skull look and ship it to Germany when it is completed.
A quick photo shoot in the gloom and it was a hurried departure as the night was closing in quickly. We arrived back at camp tired but satisfied in complete darkness.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Markhor Eterlou 45 Litre day pack....Review

40 Years ago a day pack to me would simply mean a Pikau. The very simplest of which would see a hessian sack being utilised. Two small stones placed in each of two corners. A length of string tied into a knot around the stones, and the remaining string looped around the top of the sack.
There is nothing wrong with that set up today either, for the bush hunter. The alpine hunter on the other hand requires a bit more out of his daypack. He carries far more in the way of gear and is therefore more than often away from his base camp for longer periods. Two essential items I first look for in a day pack for alpine environs are a means to hold water and a rifle scabbard.
Being at times a long way from water the first consideration is a water bladder which means in our pack we will need a pouch to hold it.
If you are a chamois and Tahr hunter and consequently find yourself in very steep country at times then a scabbard is a might handy piece of equipment to have on your pack also. There are often occasions when two hands are necessary for climbing and although a rifle can be slung it is never comfortable and constantly moves around and therefore snags more easily. Also if you do a lot of hunting in winter as I do there will be times when you will be using an ice axe whilst negotiating steep icy terrain. This is where the scabbard really comes into its own. In the event of a fall [heaven forbid] the scabbard again is preferable to a slung rifle.
The pack ideally must be as light as possible for we will be carrying it and all of its contents for considerable periods of time. Of course it must also be comfortable with all the necessary adjustments and padding needed to provide that comfort. The outer finish is important too, we don’t need materials that scratch and scrape to alert our quarry. Lastly some thought on compartments and pockets that are user friendly and designed for the Intended use.
Although weighing in at a hefty 4lbs my choice of pack has to be the Markhor Eterlou 45litre. Ideally I would have preferred a pound or two lighter in my day pack but as an all over package I don’t see anything currently on the market to equal it.
Its nearest rival would be the Eberlestock X1A1 but that is heavier still, it does not have a top lid [unless you pay extra] it already is a lot more expensive. It did not have the same amount of user friendly pockets and compartments and it was 10 litres inferior in volume. Pretty damned important when you are transporting that trophy Tahr head and cape down a precipitous slope
The Markhor is a sturdy, quality made pack the finish is a 100% Polyester “silent” material, finished in a cammo real tree hardwood colour. It is pre equipped for a hydration bladder and also boasts a rifle scabbard. The lack of an ice axe loop was a minor hindrance, however for the price I would have liked this to be integral. A short trip to my local saddler solved this problem.
What I like is the fact I can mount my two Buck folding knives on either side of the hip belt which means I can draw either without having to take my pack off. I like also the two elasticated pouches low down on the pack on either side at kidney level. This is an Ideal place to store your camera and compact binoculars or ammo pouch. Again these can be accessed without the need to take off your pack. There are two zippered pouches on the hip belt also. I have yet to find a use for them. Low down centre back, and you will find the zippered compartment that houses the pouch that cradles your rifle. Further up the pack at centre and three quarters up are the padded straps that support the stock of your rifle. Still lower on the pack is yet another zippered compartment and this houses the waterproof cover that fits over the pack in a deluge.
On either side of the pack at shoulder blade level there are two oval flat Zipped pockets of small volume that would be ideal for maps and compass, gloves, spare ammo etc.
The lid is of generous proportions and again zipped. There is an orange bag also that can be fixed on the lid via Velcro and tie downs and acts as a safety option. The main compartment can be annexed off with the integral draw cords if needed and there is access to the lower compartment from the outside via a zippered compartment. Using the full main compartment recently I found it handy to transport my bull Tahr head and cape out in comfort. The chest strap has an integral whistle in the buckle what for I don’t know, but its there.
The one thing I was not too happy with was the scabbard pouch. I found it to be too flimsy in its construction. Whilst returning back through very steep country on a recent Tahr hunting trip the pouch was constantly getting rubbed against rocks and scree and looked quite thread bear after only three days. This again was addressed at the saddler the same time as the axe loop and the inside of the scabbard pouch was sewn with a heavy duty canvas the price was $40.00. Still cheaper than the nearest competitor! All in all I am very pleased with my purchase. I should like to add that is a totally independent review without any material gain.
As a foot note to this article the New Zealand importers John Vaughan & Co. have Advised that the manufactures have agreed to strengthen the pouch after this article.

International gear manufacturers often under- estimate the toughness of NZ conditions. -
At a Glance Specs.
Top of the Line, High quality pack- Fully Adjustable harness- Camo Realtree Hardwood colour- 100 % polyester "silent" material- Mesh back for ventilation- Rifle Holster with 'Butt Bag'- Pre equipped for a hydration bladder- Fluoro Orange Top cover (removable)- 2 Large Side pockets + detachable Scope bag- Large multi compartment pocket on rear of bag- Pocket on waist strap- Waterproof zips- 45L Capacity- Chest strap with built in whistle- Waterproof.
I have since used this pack in the bush a couple of times and I.M.O. I find it not suitable at all. The waterproofing strips alongside the zips have worn away already and the ties attatched to the zip pockets constantly get snagged on scrub whilst pushing through which result in the pockets opening and a very high possibility of losing the contents.
It still is my number 1 alpine pack, but is retired from all bush work.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Two Winter Skins

My eyes were open at 3.15 a.m. I spent the next hour alone in the darkness waiting for time to tick by. At 4.30 I got up and dressed and went down and crammed some breakfast down my neck. I later filled the sheep manger with a bail and let the sheep into a fresh paddock. I opened the gate for the cow so she could access the two bails of hay I had put into the covered yards. It was about 5.20 when the Nissan slipped off the property with lights on full into the blackness of the night.
There was not much traffic on the roads at that hour and it took me an hour and ten minutes to complete my journey to the road end. It was still dark as I released the straps on the trailer that were securing my quad and with motor running eased her in reverse onto the hard ground. I secured my pack on the back and slung my rifle on my back and eased the Honda out of the car park. I negotiated the farm tracks and had to dismount occasionally to unhook the electric fences to proceed. Eventually after a while I entered the bush and that is when I heard a slight grating in the left rear wheel and that was only a short time before the wheel fell off.
The daylight was still in its embryo stage but the light was enough for me to assess the situation and to my utter disbelief I discovered that all four nuts holding the wheel had disappeared into the night. My mind raced back two weeks to the time I had had a puncture and taken the wheel to town to be fixed and obviously when putting the wheel back on I had failed to retighten the nuts after taking the jack away. Bollocks.
I shouldered my pack and started the long walk back to the car park with the intent of bringing down the car and trailer and somehow hoping I could get the quad back on board the trailer. On reaching the car park I was about to leave with trailer in tow when I spotted the station owner. I hailed him and told him of the situation. He replied that he might be able to find some spare nuts in the work shed and told me to hop in and we would both have a look. I was amazed at his response and very grateful that he was offering me his time. He ended up taking four nuts off a vehicle that was parked up and we left for the sick quad.
In no time the wheel was back on and instead of me returning home with my tail between my legs I was pursuing my journey over the rutted bush track on the first leg of my journey. I left the station owner with the promise of me posting down to him four new nuts on my return home. “Just have a good trip” he said. Some ninety minutes later I parked the bike up and hoisted on my pack and started the second leg of a journey that was to take me the better part of six hours to complete. It was mid winter but the track was clear of the white cold stuff it was instead clinging to the high tops of which I would occasionally glimpse through elevated open spots on the track. I would be up there this time tomorrow I thought idly with any sort of luck and I would fulfil the mission of either a good set of Chamois horns or a good skin either would suit me down to the ground.
Completely knackered I reached the hut at 4pm I took off my pack with great relief and grabbed the hut bucket and went to the river to fill up. The pocket rocket was soon doing its job and a mug full of tea was soon prepared. I donned my mountain hardware down jacket and all was well with the world. My daypack was readied for the early start I had planned and it wasn’t long after that I had my dinner and retreated to my pit.
I closed the hut door and entered the darkness of the new day with the help of my head torch. The plan was to head downstream for 30 to 40 minutes before cutting up into the bush and climbing for the tops. It was a long arduous climb before I finally broke out of the bush into a flax covered gut that merged with the tops some two hundred yards higher up. It was in the gut that the presence of the serious snow made its presence felt. It was ice encrusted and would initially take your weight and then give way and leave you floundering knee deep. This coupled with increasing alpine scrub made for very slow going. The daylight was already two hours old and a light snow shower had started as I finally broke free of the alpine scrub. The snow underfoot was beginning to thin also and there was increasing areas of grasses and shrubs up ahead that were free of their snowy mantle. Good news I thought as the ridge I was making for was sheltered from the S.W. wind and was easterly facing which meant it could be the ideal place to find a chamois or two. Making progress on the edge of a scree I steadily climbed ever upward Stopping often to scan the terrain above and to the sides of me. I topped a slight rise and immediately froze in mid stride. Four chamois were sighted with heads down feeding hungrily around a hundred yards away. I ducked down behind the rise to try to get a more detailed picture and picked out another beast on the skyline a further 100yds to the side of the feeding animals and she was looking directly at me. We eyed each other for some moments before I finally slowly sank down to my knees and crawled slowly away and out of sight. Once out of sight I planned a route that would take me around and hopefully on top of all the animals seen so far. I wasn’t sure how the wind would be once I topped out but would have to hope for the best. Ten or fifteen minutes later and I was crawling to the edge of the lip and scouring the country ahead for the animals. Again I locked onto the steady gaze of the alert one and again she was boring into me. I lay prone in the snow and watched her intently for some minutes. Eventually her alertness waned and she started moving towards me. She had covered perhaps twenty yards when two kids appeared from nowhere and followed her. She was I hoped coming to join up with the animals I had first sighted but at the moment were under the lip that I was lying atop. The wind was not all it could be as it was gusting from my back and drifting on an angle towards but hopefully higher than where the animals were feeding. There was nothing I could do about that.
I waited until she had covered enough ground and was out of sight before I crawled slowly towards the lip. Before I could wriggle to the edge, a young nanny appeared high and to my forward right directly down wind of me her head came up abruptly and without further ado was sprinting away. There was a ripple of unease amongst two more of the animals that were in my line of sight as they stared firstly in my direction and then in the direction the nanny had taken, After a few moments though they resumed their feeding. Meanwhile the escapee was whistling and carrying on, always on the move she stayed some two to three hundred yards away and slowly started to cover a 180 degree arc. She would often stop and stare at me. I lay prone watching her, the holes in my leggings letting the snow in and chilling my body. Eventually after about ten minutes she returned to the fold and settled in as if nothing had happened.
I now made up my mind that upon reaching the lip and eyeing the group, if no buck was there worth taking then I would take a couple of skins. Crawling forward my movement caught the eye of a nanny not more than thirty yards away her head came up sharply and stayed riveted on me. I wasn’t going to bluff my way out of this one so shouldered my rifle and let loose a 130 grn Barnes. She dropped pole axed and then all hell broke loose. At least ten animals were in motion all up until then hidden by the overhanging lip I was on. They were escaping down wind into my slipstream. Up until that moment I had been dragging my daypack behind me in the snow to be ready if needed for a hasty rest to shoot from. Now it was needed I draped myself behind it and rested Sako on top. I quickly scanned the mob as they reached the 100yd mark and there was no sign of a buck within their ranks. The nanny about five back started to slow her forward momentum and the duplex settled on her back. She paused and the light trigger was pulled toward me. The report and thud were one and she collapsed to the ground and slid down a gently sloping rise leaving a trail of blood in the snow. The rest of the mob did not look back.
I skinned the two animals. I also took a couple of back steaks to supplement my dehydrated rations. I then laid the skins hair side up in the snow to hasten their cooling whilst I enjoyed my lunch of sardine sandwiches and chocolate dessert. All too soon it was time to load up and find a route down off the tops.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Bull Tahr Hunt

The phone rang and I picked it up. Steve Garnett? Yes I replied. “Deer on my Doorstep” the book by Colin Davey came the voice, yes? I said warily my mind working overtime. The names Glenn, Glenn Soroka and I sent you a copy many years ago. The fog was slowly lifting, but still not quickly enough. “Remember the Kawekas early eighties at Te Pukeohikarua hut” he went on. “Me and my mate Pete...... a huge snowstorm”....”Yes of course” I interrupted.
I was in my second season culling and these two guys descended on my office at Te Puke and we sat out a two to three day snowstorm together. The hut at that time was an open fire affair and the southerly wind would sweep down the chimney with malicious intent. We three would be huddled staring into the embers and in unison would rock to and fro with the coming and going of the downdraft of smoke. They were good company. I remembered When it was time for them to leave they asked for help to navigate the tops in the deep snow and slashing wind, and I remember taking them down as far as the Harkness hut. I remember Glenn promising to post on a book I had been looking for, for some time, and I was amazed and grateful on returning home after that trip to find the above book.
We went on reminiscing for sometime and eventually Glenn mentioned that he had a young workmate that was helping him at his work , and that he was Canadian and was going home shortly. He was wondering if I would like to accompany them for a Chammie or Tahr hunt.
Now this was pretty good timing and apart from a Uk trip I had planned for the end of May to my daughters wedding, I was available.
I was indeed planning a Tahr trip of my own. Anyway We exchanged a few emails and planned on an early June trip if the weather was kind to us.
Glenn and Brooksie arrived late Saturday afternoon on the 5th June. The forecast for the week ahead was perfect. We were heading for the West Coast and perfect was no mean feat for that neck of the woods, in fact the previous week saw fine weather on the coast albeit very windy, whilst the rest of the country suffered much rain. All in all the gods were indeed benevolent.
We yarned a while over a coffee and biscuits and then set off for the five hour journey south. We arranged enroute to stop a night in a back packers, it was the White Heron actually in Whataroa. We made good time. On arrival we sorted out our gear one more time in manageable loads, and were abed at around midnight.
James Scott was booked to fly us in at o830hrs on Sunday, and we arrived at the car park at o820. It was to be my first sojourn into the Southern Alps. I measured them from this distance with a high level of respect, the dark green bush level looked to be a quarter of the overall height of the mountains. The higher levels were steep and precarious looking. They looked far more menacing than most of the country I was used to in the Nelson Lakes and they were cloaked in snow and ice.
While we waited for the chopper There was a distinct chill in the air, but I at least was snug in my gaudy red down jacket, I must admit I was impervious to Jack’s nip.
The chopper arrived on time and we quickly loaded. Brooksie got the prime seat at the back with all the food and equipment and for good measure he got Glenn’s dog “Shiva” on his lap such are the joys of youth. I was wedged in the middle front and Glenn was up against the door.
Under ten minutes travel, and we were at the head waters of a creek looking for a camping site. All I could see was rock, rock and more rock. We eventually landed on a small level area and proceeded to empty the chopper we then confirmed our departure date and farewelled the pilot.
The two tents were up in no time. I got a two man to myself and Glenn and Brooksie shared the other. The mountain radio was set up the food stored in the rock bivvy, and we had a home. Glen had nominated himself as “the camp bitch” apart from being out of sorts, he was a veteran of at least four other Tahr escapades, and had bagged amongst others a 13” and a 13.5” head He had his resident pot licker too to help out in the kitchen
The three of us then had our glasses trained on the peaks high above us. Glenn found a bull way up in the distance on a ridge and I found one a lot closer again on a ridge with a few nannies as company. Although mine was closer, it was in what seemed to be more of a precarious position and the creek that would offer the quickest route to him looked impassable at this early stage. So we opted for the first one and it was an opportunity to stretch the legs and physically cover some country and get a feel for the land. Brooksie and me set off at around 11.30 to see how close we could get to the faraway bull.
It took us an hour to top the scree that was adjacent to our camp, a journey I thought would be 20minutes max. We had picked a route with the binoculars that seemed very feasible with only a few areas that raised question marks. However the binocular route and the physical route were two different things, and many a time we had to back track and find alternative means to progress. It was 1630 hrs when we topped the ridge that the bull was last seen on, unfortunately we were a lot lower down on that ridge, due to chosing an easier line, and even this line had us hanging on by our fingertips and being very religious .Looking into the next gully had me experiencing a pang of vertigo. We were hoping for a scree to descend, so that we would not have to backtrack the way we had come, but all we got was a vertical plunge of sheer rock wall to the creek bottom. Above us on the ridgeline were huge broken slabs of rock, which if even we had the time to climb the physical effort needed was beyond us. We off loaded our daypacks and scoffed our late lunch and wondered what the hell lay in store for us on this trip. Whilst we relaxed, we took in the immensity of the faces and sheer wildness of it all.
We down climbed with much care and mutual encouragement and arrived at camp slightly chastened by our experience. Glenn who in his role of camp bitch and chief observer was shouting “Hey Brooksie I have found a bull for you, take a look” So we three took up the glass and viewed the bull on the somewhat easier face down side of our camp. It wasn’t long before we spied one or two more as the shadows lengthened.
I was impressed with my first viewing of the shaggy patriarch of the mountains he looked more to be a grizzly bear at distance, with his long and rangy mane sweeping the ground. I was slightly disappointed with the country he was in however, seemingly more suited to chamois,and not the heights and crags I was more used to reading about. I made up my mind there and then that the bull I was to shoot would be in more testing country and I was more than happy to see Brooksie realise his quest .
The next morning after breakfast we resumed the glassing and again saw the bull of the night before, or at least one similar. I then started to scan high into the crags further upstream and was rewarded with a magnificent looking bull making his way horizontally towards the bottom of a steep rock shute encrusted with ice and snow. Meanwhile Glenn was shouting to Brooksie to get his arse into gear and stalk the bull on the scrubby face opposite us. “Are you coming with me?” Brooksie asked, before I could answer Glenn said “go by yourself, you’ll get it, you will learn nothing going with Steve”, I wasn’t sure how to take that to be honest, but decided that it meant it would mean more to the lad to stalk and shoot it himself rather than be led by the hand so to speak. So with that we separated and Brooksie aimed for the scrub above our camp and I pointed my nose toward the snow shute.
After a hard climb of about an hour and a half I started to enter the shute. It was about then I heard the first of three or four shots going off. The third and fourth were spaced out over the next hour, The lad’s into his bull I mused.
The going looked reasonable enough. I looked high above me and the top of the shute was just out of eyesight, doing a dog leg 7/8ths of the way up. I firstly checked all the nooks and crannies above me for any sighting of the bull, but was not rewarded, so I began to climb it was upward ever upward. About half way up the shute I started encountering black ice and more snow, I was thankful I was using my new “Markor 45” litre day pack which enabled me to stow my rifle in it’s scabbard at the back, and use both my hands, for I was now climbing more. On one precarious pitch when I was hanging on by toenails and fingernails, and thinking seriously about using my gums!
One slip would mean a fearful plunge down an icy slope and clattering into a huge rock at the bottom. I then noticed my fingertips on both hands had gone white as snow, and then the pain started. I had been so preoccupied with my predicament that I had had my hands immersed in the snow for far too long at a time and contracted a mild frostbite. I found a thin ledge to balance on and I quickly thrust the offending appendages deep into my fleece shorts, ah the agony and the ecstasy. They took an age to regain their circulation. It was at this point that I knew I was not going to retrace my footsteps, for better of for worse I was going up. I hoped and prayed that when I got there I would find an easy route down.
I was finding it increasingly difficult the higher I got, the holds were getting smaller and smaller, and I was full of anguish and uncertainty as to the outcome of the day. Eventually With the end in sight I came up against an unsurmountable obstacle. It was a black ice encrusted rock that overhung my position. I tried umpteen times to get around, but could not get in a safe enough position to commit myself for fear of the yawning drop below me. There was a shallow cave to my right and I retreated there to nut this problem out.
Looking up to the roof of the cave I saw daylight, two small openings were apparent. I took of my pack and rifle and wedged myself up a chimney of rock until I was within arm reach of the openings. I figured if I could remove enough rock I might be able to squeeze through one of the openings and so leapfrog my earlier position. I braced my legs against one wall with my back to the other and pulled out four huge rocks and let them slip between me and the rock face, they cascaded down the shute breaking into smaller pieces and taking even more rocks with them. I managed to clear quite a wide shelf which I could then clamber up on to. I was overjoyed to see that it was indeed possible for me to squeeze through the openings. I then shimmied down to my pack and brought that up and pushed it ahead of me through the opening and then followed through myself.
Ok, I am still moving, I tried to convince myself. I still had a couple more hairy moments before finally topping out onto a ridge that was so thin, that it took my breath away. Despite its lack of width, there were fresh Tahr tracks running over it! The other side plunged straight down. I took off my pack to rummage through and found my lunch, two snickers bars! I had forgotten to load my bread and sardines. Worse my camelback had lost its mouth piece somehow in the climb and the whole contents of water had soaked through everything. I have a valve as a back up after a similar incident last year, but I had had the valve on open....bugger.
It was midday and no water and if that was lunch I had had it! I now needed to concentrate on a way down, and there was no way I was going to tread the tracks of the Tahr! So, treading a path under where he went I followed in his general direction and that I found quickly became non negotiable, so I retraced my steps back to where I had lunch. I took a breather to admire my surroundings snowy peaks in every direction a blue sky windless and best of all you could hear a pin heart was beating though, and loudly too. I slipped carefully in the other direction and spied the same prints descending diagonally into what looked like a deep snow gulley, that in turn descended aggressively toward steep scree and eventually the creek floor...if only I thought. The Tahr had not gone down the gulley, as I could see his prints ranging ever higher. I carefully followed his tracks, squeezing past overhanging rocks until I made firm contact with the gully. The snow was deep and I sighed with relief. I faced inward and kicked steps using the steps I’d cut in turn for my hands I gradually descended. I am going to make it I thought!
I eventually reached the scree and then sat down and glassed the opposite mountain. A nanny was seen standing on the main ridge looking down hill and away from my position. After an hour of further glassing I spied a decent looking bull with a range of nannies. Decision made I was going to stalk them, firstly I glassed a suitable route amongst the sheer rock face. Most of it I could see was unclimbable but there was one chance.
It took an age to make my way down the remaining scree, always conscious of where I wanted to start my climb up the other side. I was starting to ascend the other side when I notice a young bull high above me poke his head over a huge rock and look down in my direction I froze for some minutes until he lost interest and pulled his head back in. The climb was far from easy but eventually I was nearing the crest of the final spur, the wind was blowing up my arse and I was frustrated after all this effort to be denied at the last hurdle. Then I heard some snorting and whistling and knew my number was up, I reached the top and saw some tail ends scurrying across the rock faces, mostly nannies. I had already taken my rifle out of its scabbard before topping out, but had somehow joined the top strap of my pack through the sling of my rifle, so when the bull fleetingly showed itself I became entangled and by the time I got myself organised he had vanished. Mark that down as a new gear mistake!
I decided I had climbed quite enough for the day it was now 3pm and high time I started hunting instead of climbing. The plan was to hunt my way back to camp, mostly down hill which suited me fine. I was glassing a creek way down on the opposite side of the mountain I had climbed when I spied three or four nannies. That will do me I thought the route to the creek was easy and fully out of sight I quickly made up the ground. After some minutes I edged slowly over the lip on my stomach and there were five nannies and a bull in full view gorging themselves in the short scrub and grasses. Now this was only a young bull and not really what I had come all this way for I had come a long way however and one in the hand is worth .
......I placed the .308 on my pack and dropped the animal, all hell broke lose unseen nannies erupted from everywhere but best of all a huge mature bull stood up on my side of the creek. In an instant I saw his long shaggy dark brown pelage and decent bone, I cross haired him and sent Barnes on its way. He collapsed in a heap and didn’t even twitch. The shot had hardly stopped reverberating, around the mountains when a huge thunderous roar assaulted my ears that more than matched my rifles feeble croak. Looking across the valley in alarm I noticed a huge fissure appear in the snow behind the glacial front I thought for one second that I had started an avalanche, but no other movements were detected.
I quickly moved over to the fallen one and hurriedly took the usual snap, too hurriedly I found out later. Time was getting on already well after 4pm. I started to cape the animal, but due to the impending darkness, I had to leave him half done. The gloom was upon me I had no torch and it was a long way back to camp. I picked my way off the steep face and by the time I was in the scrub it was totally black. There was much hilarity making my way through the monkey scrub etc......not!
The lads had left on a flashing head torch for me to reference in the creek bed and it made a huge difference. I called out when I was a couple of hundred yards from camp and out of the darkness came a light carried by Brooksie who escorted me in. I was totally knackered. I learnt Brooksie had been unsuccessful with his day having missed his target. Bed was a great place that night.
Mission the next day was to finish the job of last night. Brooksie was heading in the direction of his misfortune of yesterday. We teamed together until we came to the bottom of the first scree then he angled across the face and I began the long climb to the tops. I topped out after an hour and a half climb then dropped down the other side for the short walk to the bull. I made blade cuts on the stiff one. and managed to cape him and severe his head. I stowed the head and cape in the Markor and beat an early retreat for the camp. Just as I was starting the climb around twenty nannies and young bulls appeared way down where Brooksie was hunting. They ran across me around 150 yards below me. I stopped and retrieved my camera and snapped off some shots. They weren’t stopping that’s for sure. Just as I was thinking Brooksie must have nailed the bull, he appeared herding another few nannies in front of him, stopping below me to pose for pictures. I eventually tired of him and carried out the slog upwards.
With camp in sight, I heard a curse and looked over my shoulder and was surprised to see Brooksie on my heels. ”What ya know”, I greeted. Frigging Remingtons he spat out [He was not overly fond of the breed]. “What happened? “”I took a shot and then could not eject the case, it is jammed in the chamber” he moaned.
We later found out that the rounds reloaded for the trip were only neck sized and too big for the chamber. Brooksie ran the rest of the rounds through the rifle and found 50% were to be discarded due to being too tight. We ejected the problem case with a tent peg propelled by a rock at the barrel end.
The rest of the day was spent fleshing and capeing my bull, before salting and folding away. We measured the bone and it went 12 and 1/8th.
The last day started with Glenn pushing the lad out of the tent in the dark and making him a feed that would keep an army on the march for days. He badly wanted him to get a bull. Daylight broke and the glasses were trained on the hill. A suitable bull was found and Brooksie was away with instructions ringing in his ears. I had decided to have the day off and watch the lad’s performance. I had killed one too many bulls anyway.
We watched Brooksie make the scree and were frustrated that he could not see the bull which was 200yds away and slightly above him. We saw him lie down and point his rifle, but not at the bull we could see. It finally dawned on us after we gave him loads of abuse, that he must have spied one himself. Two shots, rang out the second of which sounded solid, and we watched Brooksie traverse the face to the further ridge. When he reached there he gave the thumbs up and we could relax. The Canuck had his bull. He was home shortly after midday and a couple of hours was spent knocking his head and cape into shape the head went 11 ½. It was 1500hrs and with a quick consensus it was decided we would call up and see if we could hitch a ride out a little earlier than expected. We were told to be ready in 30 minutes........ Man we flew around camp.
We enjoyed a beer that night and the boys were on the ferry next day back to the lesser island.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Roar time Take 2

Part 2
A week has gone by this time the forecast looks more stable. The roar this year will have to take a back seat to an area I have badly wanted to explore for a few years now, and who knows this area might produce as well.
It’s now day2 and I am back in residence with Hennessey up and water collected. The weather is fine and settled. This time glassing from camp does not produce an animal and the afternoon goes by with no action. Day 3 A cold night has produced ice covered tussock and my hands soon become numb after numerous pull ups on the steep slope.
It takes an hour of climbing before I top the ridge behind camp, an hour filled with anticipation, for the view over this ridge has only been seen before only on a map and never confirmed with my baby blues.
At last I top the ridge and I am rewarded with a fine view of tussock stretching far and wide. Gullies, creeks, spurs, tarns and rock faces, all need to be minutely inspected with my binoculars. I search around for a likely looking spot in the shade, where I can sit down and scan the country ahead.
It was perhaps 40 minutes later that the colour red stood out from it’s tawny surroundings,at the same time I was aware at last of feeling the warming rays of sunshine on my back, as the sun begun to climb the morning sky. The red colour turned out to be a hind and alongside her materialised another two animals, looking very much like hinds as well at this range. The range was extreme, maybe a mile or more. I dismissed the animals and began my search closer to my position, but frequently rechecking on their position from time to time. After a substantial amount of time spent re-examining the country in front of me, it became evident that these three animals were the only ones I could find.
Even at this extreme distance I could see that the animals progress would soon be halted, by what looked like from here as a huge non negotiable chasm., so I scanned some more with the binos to try and ascertain an alternative route that the animals might chose, after some minutes it became obvious that they were making progress parrelell with the chasm, and at the same time dropping in height and heading toward the bush edge.
I quickly mapped out a route that would bisect theirs and took off on a very long stalk. There was not much need for stealth at this range, more of need to close the considerable distance involved as quickly as possible.
I suppose the range was in the vicinity of 800yds when I slumped to the ground and produced my binoculars to recheck on my redskins. Now I could see one at least carried some antlers, or more to the point spikes for he was only a spiker as further inspection confirmed. It looked for all the world as if a spiker was holding two hinds during the roar. Tut tut where were all the macho ones? I watched the trio for around ten minutes as they picked here and there fussily , occasionally reprimanding one another and then frolicking together in child like play. All the time they seemed consistently to be making for a sharp scrub covered spur that gave way to bush and eventually leading to an open tussock terrace and eventually a sparkling fresh creek.
This is precisely what I gambled on. The fact that they had spent all morning on the tops, they were now more than likely very thirsty. They were ready for some water. Taking no chances I found a deep water course and dropped altitude using this vehicle. Combined with the very high tussock, I was able to keep well out of sight as I continued on my course.
I eventually found a rock that was over looking the tussock terrace at the foot of the spur opposite. I took off my pack and levelled my rifle. The range was around 150yds and I lay in wait. Occasionally I would glimpse a body through the heavy bush as the animals made progress.
At long last a hind materialised out of the bush, the spiker was about to follow, when suddenly he looked over his shoulder and waited. The second hind appeared behind him and he waited for her to catch up and then pass him. Hind 2 was now in the open, I waited for the spiker.
Finally he showed himself, like some wily old royal stag, cagey to the last. The cross hairs settled on his shoulders for an instant. The shot struck and his front legs left the ground and arced high above his head, he then crashed sideways to the ground.
The remaining hinds barked and carried on a bit before finally departing, into the safety of the bush.
Day4 had me packing up camp and sidling my way out, up the big rock scree into the saddle. I was in deep shadow and making good progress. Some movement across the scree drew my attention to 5 chamois moving uncertainly in the sunshine. They were looking my way but unable to ascertain what I was due to the sun in their eyes.
I glassed them carefully and picked out a buck with a nice set of hooks. Not incredibly big but a good downside curve going I estimated around the 8” mark.
I levelled the stubby .308 over a handy rock and took the buck in the shoulder.
No sign of a roar this high up, but satisfied that another piece of country and been seen and covered.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Roar 2010 Part 1

It was an arduous journey into my chosen campsite. I bypassed the solitary hut and ascended the steep ridge to the tops with a heavy pack. Three hours later had me reaching my first waypoint.
I had with me my Hennessey hammock instead of my usual tent for this trip, mainly due to the fact that my eventual destination was in very steep country and would be unlikely to afford me a place to pitch it, also it was about time I used this bit of gear. I have owned it some years now and it has only previously seen one outing
Unfortunately I was still very much on the tops when I decided to camp for the night so left ole Hennessey asleep in the bottom of the pack , and just decided to bivvy the night instead I awoke the next morning to a coating of frost atop my bag.
I rolled over and lit the primus and waited for it to boil whilst still snugly wrapped up in my feathered tomb. I lay there watching the early morning unfold , I was above the densely misted valley bottom looking across the divide at my equally clear mirror opposite mountain range. Everything was still in deep shadow, with only the slightest hint of gathering light emerging over the distant ridgeline to the east , heralding the dawn of a new day. It is a great time of day lazing away the early moments with the anticipation of the scalding tea to come and even breakfast too before stirring the stumps and reluctantly leaving the cozy nest
My gear was packed and I was ready to move out at 0830hrs. The plan was to sidle just above the bush line for an hour. Next there was a steep inlcine climbing away from the bush edge that I had to climb to reach a saddle which would permit me entry into the next watershed. The sun was gaining strength on my back all the while and the sweat was beginning to flow, finally I was in the saddle and able to scan the whole headwaters of my chosen piece of country I sat down and bisected the area with my binos for a likely place in which to set up my camp. I could see immediately that water would be a problem, for the nearest creek was about a fifteen minute walk from where I proposed to string out my hammock in the trees.
Never mind I mused, it doesn’t seem as if I have any choice anyway I shall just have to fill up my water bladder and make the repetitive journey for water. I slung my heavy pack atop my shoulders and made the long arduous journey through the tall wavering tussock and scrub meandering across the huge amphitheatre of open tops.
Two hours later I was at my proposed campsite and set about making it my temporary home. A brew, and a bite to eat. I then filled up the bladder in the stream and then stretch out in the tussock and glass the basin for any sign of game for the rest of the afternoon. It was so relaxing to rest my weary muscles and stretch out in the sun kissed alpine grasses, alternately sleeping and glassing the vast open country.
Some time later I was brought to my senses by some rock fall to my rear, I swivelled round to witness two chamois cavorting down from the heights, seemingly playing a game of tag. They ended up with tongues rolling and gasping for breath around 160yds from my position blissfully unaware of my position. Camp meat was high on the priority at this time and it was with these thoughts that had me rolling onto my stomach and laying my pack infront of me before resting my .308 atop it. Picking out the nearest animal I then laid the duplex reticle on her shoulder and squeezed off the shot. She raised her front legs into the air and fell sideways as the 130 grn Barnes found it’s mark. The other animal was in full stride and making good headway up the nearest scree, with hardly a backward glance he was soon out of sight.
In due course I wandered over and retrieved my meat, it was a good start to the trip.
Later that night the heavens opened and rain fell with monotonous regularity on my flimsy shelter. Around three in the morning I had shipped a couple of inches of water in my hammock, due to the fly not being properly centralised. It was a cold and wet hunter that greeted the mist clad moist dawn
It had been a long cold wet night and a decision had to be made, my sleeping bag was saturated, and by the way the day was shaping up, it was unlikely I was going to be able to dry it out. I hung around until 10.00 hrs. I then finally made the decision to call it day and head on out.
I decided instead of traversing through the waist high soaking tussock, to head for the tops via various screes. I headed high into the weather and the visibility deteriorated accordingly. I lived in that peas soup for the rest of the day, before finally making the hut at 1740hrs that evening. Everything was drenched in my pack. I reluctantly slid into my soaked sleeping bag that night and slept fitfully.
The next day was much the same, so I reluctantly packed up and headed out to civilisation.

view from "Riverstone Cabin"

view from "Riverstone Cabin"
Hope River