Mountain hunting in the southern alps of New Zealand is simply a bucket list location for anyone that keenly partakes in backpack hunting, it truly is a carnivore’s paradise. For Brooky the January trip was a return, but for me (Bourney) it was my first hunt in New Zealand and as I look forward to another meal of Chamois and dream of self isolation in New Zealand, it’s time to reflect and encourage others to give it a go.
The initial planning for this trip came about when we secured spots to shoot the New Zealand Mountain challenge (@nzmountainchallenge ). A competition where Brooky and the Human Tree had competed a couple times already with their Bolly UPH stocked rifles and done quite well. We had two teams booked in and we began talking about the trip and tying in some hunting with great anticipation, we were further embolden with excitement when the good lads at Orange Accuracy and Low Vis Gear were also locked in, was certainly going to be a notable Australian presence!
Alas, due to family reasons ‘Team PDI’ learned that we would be unable to shoot the match, so had to give up our spots. It looks like it was a fantastic competition and we would like to congratulate Orange Accuracy and Low Vis Gear for doing exceptionally well at the match! Hopefully when the current covid-19 situation passes we can catch up. While we couldn’t shoot the challenge with the lads in March, it didn’t mean we couldn’t go hunting earlier in the year.
With our focus shifted to a hunting trip, a quick look at schedules and the reality that it wasn’t possible for all four of us to make it, Brooky and I set mid January as the target window. A consequence of it being just the two of us, we focused on gear sharing and ensuring we would be as light as possible while in the mountains hunting. This also triggered a gear review and the comparison of shared items to only take what we felt were the best for any given situation, we then got to test our choices and will continue posting reviews on a number of items we decided on.
We also figured being of similar fitness and having similar hunting styles, we wanted to do the hard yards, plans were laid for two distinct hunts, a 3 night hunt primarily for Chamois (in an area that also held red deer, pig and goat) with the option of extending by a night if required and a 2 night Tahr hunt, again with the option to extend if we didn’t extend the Chamois hunt.
In going to New Zealand for a mountain hunting trip rather than a hiking trip one must ensure that the primary tools for hunting, your rifle and ammunition, can come with you and that you will be legally able to hunt. Furthermore we intended to bring whatever meat we could back with us, so had to look into some additional requirements.
Step one is book your flights, all remaining paperwork is dependent on entry and exit dates as well as the flight numbers that will be transporting the firearms. Be aware that booking a last minute trip is simply not possible and you should allow a minimum of 30 business days prior to departure to lodge all your documentation, an added bonus is that generally speaking the prices of flights are generally cheaper the earlier you book them. Be aware that some airlines are more ‘firearm friendly’ than others and we use Qantas as it is the most straightforward.
Unfortunately our government websites can be difficult to navigate and make sense of in terms of requirements so initial advice is to simply call your local border force office. Actually do it, call them, you can use the document links below but reality is you shouldn’t take anyone’s advice on the matter except from Border Force themselves, so simply give them a call. At this point if you are using this post as a guide and after trying to navigate the ABF site have ended up confused, try this link while it lasts instead to find your local office number: https://www.abf.gov.au/help-and-support/contact-us/offices.
Once you have spoken to a Border Force officer you will have probably started the process of getting an exporter ID or if you are like us and already have a ID in their system then you can simply apply for your permits together via an email to your local Border Force office, for South Australians like us for example, we emailed all of these documents to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- B957 Export declaration and a B957a Export declaration supplementary page(s)
- Scans of the rifle registration (remember that pink slip you put in a draw somewhere??), and your firearms licence
- DEC07 Restricted Goods Permit
- Copy of flight itinerary
Once you have received your permits you will also need to notify the airline and obtain a dangerous goods permit for your ammunition. This is where travel with Qantas makes it really easy, they clearly spell out the requirements and you can apply for the permit online; Qantas Dangerous goods approval form. As your intent will also be mountain hunting, be aware that batteries, power banks and cooking stoves etc, are also classified as dangerous goods and you must follow the requirements and limits to fly with them (See the full list and requirements here; https://www.qantas.com/au/en/travel-info/baggage/dangerous-goods.html )
One final step (a reminder is on the top of your approval letter head from border force) is to remember to call ahead to the international airport customs office to notify them you are coming with a rifle, that way they can ensure they have someone certified for firearms available so that you may actually clear customs. Note, its the international airport, so the location you leave Australia from, not from your initial boarding location, if you are checking in with a connecting flight, make sure your baggage only gets checked in as far as to the location where you will have to clear border force.
New Zealand End
Thankfully our mountain hunting destination is significantly more straight forward when it comes to the permit process and rather than go into detail, simply go here; https://www.police.govt.nz/advice-services/firearms-and-safety/visitor-firearms-licence-and-import-permits. One catch is to remember to fill out a Export permit exemption; https://www.mfat.govt.nz/assets/Strategic-goods-forms/Notification-of-exempted-sporting-firearms-export.docx and lodge it by emailing it to; email@example.com. This can even be done when you are in New Zealand, but advice is get it lodged as soon as your New Zealand temporary firearm licence and Import permit is received.
Day of Departure
Stay on top of everything, meet all your packaging requirements and be upfront on what you are carrying, be clear when checking in that your goods can only be checked in to the end of your connecting flight (s) within Australia, you must collect your firearms and they must be checked by the ABF in the international terminal. Where ever you need a passport, you’ll need to get your firearms checked and have the appropriate paperwork.
Once you are all sorted kick back, take your maximum allowable weight carry on off your shoulders and start dreaming of your trip and lets move onto the epic trip that was, our January 2020 New Zealand mountain hunt
1) Made a plan, stuck to it.
New Zealand’s South Island really is a mountain hunters dream destination, Plenty of public DOC land available, large variety of game and even with the new changes to legislation, it is a very hunting friendly destination. We both had dreams of heavy packs of Chamois and Tahr filling our heads on the flights over and meeting up in Christchurch was quickly followed by a snowball effect of ambition being discussed.
With our heightened optimism we decided on an ambitious plan to spend the first day of our hunt for Chamois hiking all the way to the head of a river system. We didn’t see much during the initial trudge upriver except a friendly dragonfly.
With the mental boredom and physical exhaustion sneaking in towards the end of the relatively uninteresting trudge. We stopped for a refuel with Soy Crisps at a likely camp site approximately an hour short of the head of the river and our original planned campsite. We seriously discussed calling it a day and resting our wet feet and trying to dry some boots and socks before dark. Luckily we decided to stick to the original plan. #embracethesuck #embracewetboots
So with determination and mental strength from the power of Soy Crisps we continued the slog to the river head… our feet got wetter somehow and with the river becoming a steep gorge with thick brush we were forced into our first real climb to get over to our intended campsite. Slow, heavy and with unspoken frustration as we met a Manuka thicket we eventually skirted over a ridge and entered the valley head. With disappointingly minimal choices of open flat ground we figured we would make do in an open section between a couple beech forests. With our camp gear out, we headed back up the glassing knoll we passed on our way into the valley head to put in an evening glassing session…
2) Reward for extra effort
After the hard walk in, sitting on the glassing knoll above camp quickly rewarded our efforts. As the air temperature dropped, through the #leicaoptics HDB’s Brooky spotted the first game animals for the trip, 2 Red Deer hinds and a fawn. At over 1000m away they lifted our spirits and gave us an opportunity to get our ‘eye in’ for the glassing session. Then further away at 1300m the #swarovskioptik_hunting EL’s resolved a pair of Red’s. We then brought out the @deltaoptical.ir Titanium EDII spotting scope and @novagrade adaptor so we could have a closer look and identified them as a pair of spikers.
We systematically glassed the drainages, regularly returning to the fringes of the beech stands and river flat. After a couple hours of enjoying watching the Red Deer and adding layers to keep warm we resorted to eating some Soy Crisps to change the pace. Just after 9pm he walked out, nicknamed Jeremiah, he was a fat, heavy, NZ bush Red Stag. He waltzed out of some Beech into the river flat upriver from our campsite a mere 300m away. We watched him for 45 minutes until dark. As he was still in velvet the decision was made early to simply enjoy having a Red Stag of his calibre within range and filming him.
All footage captured with an IPhoneX through a Delta Titanium 15-45x65mm EDII spotter connected via the Novagrade adaptor.
It was an epic reward to an epic day in the mountains hunting and cause for celebration over the decision to push on earlier in the afternoon and stick to our game plan. When the light finally faded beyond being able to film (about 2145) and the rapidly dropping temperature emphasising the discomfort of our cold wet feet, we packed up. Descended to our camp, setup the #stoneglacier #skyscraper2p tent, boiled water for 2 in the @msr_gear #windburner, ate freeze dried meals, drank some hot chocolate and went to sleep dreaming of what the next day would bring.
3)Cold night, wet boots
Coming from Australia it’s always disconcerting when one experiences sub zero temperatures and a crisp frost in the middle of January. Thankfully the large vestibules of the #stoneglacier tent managed to keep all of our gear frost free. We were certainly singing the tent’s praises in the Nautical twilight as we layered up for a cold morning on the glassing knoll.
We Waited for civil twilight so that we could turn off our head torches and avoid spooking any game near camp while we ascended into position. It was about half way up, that the water in the boots made its way through the fresh dry socks and returned our feet to a cold, numb and pruned state. A feeling that would eventually become ‘normal’. With Brooky’s breakfast bar in hand, we nestled into the manuka and began glassing. It wasn’t long before the spikers we saw the night before appeared on the same ridge and then some excitement.
Having never seen a Chamois in the flesh I caught some movement in some bushes on an opposite face. Describing the small brown animals as playful and much smaller than a red deer it was in hindsight humorous when I declared that the first chamois had been spotted for the trip. Then the spotting scope got swung onto them and It was quickly realised they were a pair of hares, but hey, spotting a couple hares 1300m away, I was claiming the victory.
It got to a stage where spirits were starting to drop, where were these chamois? We started glassing further and further afield into terrain that was less and less accessible, thankfully to no avail in retrospect but the question remained, what should we do next if we don’t find any Chamois?
3) Follow the Sun
It wasn’t spoken, but with the rising sun warming lower and lower altitudes on the north facing slopes with nothing but half a dozen Red Deer and a couple Hares out, concern for our success was growing. Thankfully so did our hunger, so out came the soy crisps and lazier glassing, focus was shifted to simply panning along the sun line hoping to catch something eager for the warmth. Then like magic a Chamois buck came over a ridge a mere 500m away. With the spotting scope on the Buck it was a quick decision to take him. Thankfully the glassing knoll was a superb shooting location with a wonderful prone position easily built.
The range was measured with the #TerrapinX and the required data instantly appeared on the @kestrelballistics#5700Elite, 445m. with simply a breath of wind coming toward us down the valley it was perfect conditions and the Tangent Theta 315m was dialed in.
Then the waiting for the buck to present began… only for him to squat like a nanny goat to urinate. Questions quickly came up regarding it actually being a Doe Chamois, however no udder could be seen nor any fawns so the plan to take the shot remained and the wait for a nice broadside opportunity began…
4) Pretty sure it heard us.
Unfortunately for me, hearing protection meant I never heard Brooky’s answer to the question ‘Can we get to it’. It was about to turn into a long day… Also due to said hearing protection, I checked with Brooky loudly whether the spotter was on as well as his hearing protection, the Chamois turned and stared intently in our direction, giving the impression that it had caught onto our actions as we talked. When mountain hunting one must still observe the principles of staying quiet.
Unfortunately for the Chamois, queries were confirmed in the time it took the sound of the voices to reach it and the 168gr Berger VLD-H at 2950fps from the 284 Shehane mountain rifle was on its way.
5) Completely cooked
Brooky’s famous words ‘it will be a long walk’ turned out to be true. To get to the Chamois 440m away we had to drop back down to the river, climb 800m of elevation, sidle along the tussocks and brave the Spaniards (for those unaware they are plants, and they are sharp).
After a couple kilometres to travel the shot distance of 440m we reached him. A 8”+ chamois Buck. We quickly discussed our error regarding him squatting to urinate and wondered how often a decent buck chamois got to escape its pursuers just by taking a squat. We paused for some photos and marvelled at our future culinary delights. It is a superb feeling knowing that for the remainder of the Chamois hunt our dinners would be more than just freeze dried meals, fresh meat really does elevate a mountain hunt experience.
The @robert_herbert R&N blades #helium1 knife that we have becoime big fans of over the last few mountain hunts made short work of the little Chamois. To our amazement, in the time it took us to reach the buck, the meat had started to cook! The pale meat on the sun exposed side was scorching hot to touch, fearing for its quality, we quickly removed the shoulders, tenderloins, back straps and hind quarters.
Amazed by the contrast between the ‘sunny side up’ and the offside of the animal, we elected to distribute the meat over a bush for as long as possible until it had cooled to the touch. Unfortunately the New Zealand blow flies are very eager and the distraction of the gut pile started to lose its effect and we were forced to bag the meat and placed the meat bags under a shady ledge.
Needing a refuel we joined the meat bags in the shade, removed our boots and socks in the hope of drier boots, and had some lunch. Despite the hot sun being able to cook the meat of the Chamois, it was unable to do much in terms of drying before we finished our salami and cheese wraps. Hoping for a bit more drying action we recalled how true Brooky’s words were regarding it being a long walk and sat in awe of these awesome animals until the itch to look over the next ridge started to creep in.
6) Long way back
After a revitalising lunch, rather than simply heading back the way we came, we climbed up to a glassing spot we had passed on our way to the Chamois.It gave excellent visibility into the next stream head and it wasn’t long before we had more Red Deer in the glass and some enticing new country ahead. Picking a glassing spot below us that would open up a bit more of the drainage, we gave up a chunk of our elevation, descending to the exposed rock. It was a superb spot, with a wonderful shooting position as well as excellent views of most of the faces and stream flats.
We quickly relocated the red deer we had seen earlier and found ourselves a few hundred metres from a couple hinds and a Fawn. Then Bourney got to witness his first mountain pocket rocket in NZ. Watching a pig rocket through the tussock really is a sight to behold, Their athleticism is certainly above and beyond what one imagines they would be capable of if Australian pig country is the reference!
As had been the case throughout the hunt when glassing, we opened our snacks. As we crunched through our soy crisps the wind shifted slightly dragging our scent to the nearby Deer. They quickly became uneasy, the hind barked multiple time’s before starting to pick her way across the face up the drainage.
Filming the Deer as they kept moving, the Hind led her charges along towards some thick beech forest until they bumped a chamois 350m away out of its bed. We quickly got the spotting scope on the Chamois as in the bino’s he looked like a decent buck. He bedded back down but thankfully this time in a spot we could see. It was here that the Delta Spotting Scope and @novagrade adaptor really paid off. Being able to film the buck and then back up and look at the footage frame by frame enabled us to really analyse the animal.
As we made the decision that he was a great buck, he stood up and started to calmly graze along the face… unfortunately for the buck Brooky’s 7 SAUM was on him and with the #5700elite and #terrapinx giving rapid dial information, all Brooky had to do was wait for a lull in the wind.
7) More kilograms and kilometres
We watched the beech forest the buck had ended up in for a few minutes and packed up our shooting position. Confident of the buck’s location we descended down a rock scree that made the descent a breeze. On the river flat we began walking up the stream and bumped a couple Red Deer spikers that seemed relatively unfazed with the proceedings up to the point we were mere metres from them. After reaching the Beech we believed to contain the Chamois buck, we stopped on the edge of the forest, de-packed and discussed our plan for systematically searching the beech, ad hoc wandering with a rifle for a finishing shot if required is never advisable especially when mountain hunting, where the only recourse from a major injury is to hit an EPIRB. Thankfully it was an unnecessary process in this situation as we took a step closer towards the forest and there he was, piled up conveniently at the base.
He was a superb animal, a quality 10” buck Chamois with a summer coat that in hindsight we regret not keeping. The @robert_herbert Helium 1 knife again quickly broke down the buck. This time as we were in the cool shade of the beech forest which have branches that also make a convenient gantry we initially broke the animal down skin on for the major limbs. With everything removed then skinning took place at convenient working height, there are indeed many ways to skin a Chamois.
As the sun retreated from our location in the deep drainage we were able to move the meat out into the open where significantly more airflow meant the meat cooled and formed a drier outer layer significantly quicker.
After sterilising some water from the stream, we bagged the meat and redistributed the loads. With a buck each loaded into our #stoneglacier packs and being even further from camp than we had ever intended after that first rifle shot in the morning, we were under no illusions of what the afternoon had in store for us.
We simply trudged most of the way back to camp, rarely stopping to glass or partake in other common mountain hunting procrastination. First down the stream, then up the river, it was not long after turning up the main river we spied some shady beech trees and decided to hang the meat there as it would make the trip back to camp quicker and it was a convenient location to collect it on the way out. With packs significantly lighter the last leg back to camp was significantly quicker and it wasn’t long and we were on the ridge above camp and admiring how comfortable our beds below us would be.
Despite the long hours of daylight already past and the miles covered, we didnt follow our first instincts to simply collapse into bed. We stayed on the ridge for some glassing but unlike the morning not much was seen, so temptation for dinner overcame our desire to re-spot Jeremiah. We descended, fired up the Windburner and cooked a couple tenderloins. They drastically improved our dinner when added to the Back Country curry, it was a delicious end to a long day.
Despite our success, you never know what is out there if you don’t look, so we got up early and climbed back up the ridge for a glassing session. We saw a Nanny Chamois a few hares and some Deer but nothing to draw us from a plan of a walk out and dreams of guzzling some Gatorade.
So we packed up camp and climbed up and over to the main river and walked to our meat. Adding the Chamois to our full gear weight brought them up over 30kg each. It was at this point murmurs of being grateful for only two chamois been taken would have been noted.
It was a long walk out, our bodies hadn’t recovered from the day before and with the third day of wet feet they were soft and bruising on the river rocks. We both had some minor falls, Bourney tragically bent a pole on his second fall, forcing higher energy use just staying balanced.
We spotted a Nanny Chamois and her Fawn on a open face on the way out which is always nice to see, it also brought our tally up to 9 Chamois which we were very happy about. Finally we reached the truck, with dreams of Gatorade and the reality we had discussed drinking sugary electrolytes for hours we quickly loaded up and headed out. The Gatorade was everything we dreamed of, it gave us the energy for a gear explosion and the strength to stay out of our beds and cook up a delicious Chamois curry for dinner all the while, discussing our plans for the Tahr hunt. . The ‘v for victory’ sweat patterns on the lighter garments a final piece of art representing the epic Chamois mountain hunt we’d just had.
It was a slow start the morning of Tahr hunting, with feet feeling bruised and boots not quite dry we began the drive towards a new patch of mountains and a singular objective. To get to the NZ sock factory. It’s a glorious outdoors-mans paradise, superb merino hiking socks at a fraction of the cost, sure you have to dig through large boxes of pairs where both are Left foot socks, but the joy experienced when that pair of Right foot socks in the same size required is found…. exhilarating stuff.
On an absolute high we headed to our destination, the Rangitata. We had a stream picked out from maps however as we dropped into the river bed it was clear that the recent flooding had mixed things up a bit. The river crossings forced us to take our time and reduced our progress up river somewhat. When we finally did arrive at our intended tributary and began the hike it became clear that the flooding had drastically changed the landscape.
The current was high energy, plenty of ice cold snow melt and large boulders forcing us to take things very slow indeed. With deep pools dotted up the stream we regularly found ourselves doubling back some metres, crossing and re-attempting a path upstream
After several hours of carefully picking our way upriver, with feet sore, cold and soaking wet, we reached deeper water with cliffs to the south and a thick looking beech forest to the north. We pushed on upriver as we decided it would be superior to bush bashing.
Unfortunately the water got deeper and as the day waned with more snow melt came higher energy in the flows. With crossings well above our gaiters we couldn’t put it off any longer, we found a crossing point to a ledge we believed we could climb up onto the forested terrace and embarked into the Beech.
While the forest was thick and slippery, it actually required significantly less effort than pushing up the river bed, but there was a catch to this newfound progress rate. In Australia it’s the animals that can kill you, in New Zealand it would appear the plants have filled that role. Matagaori, Bush Lawyer and dreaded Spaniard thickets are all out to get you it seems. It is however undeniably beautiful and like all tough hikes it is strangely remembered fondly as if “embracing the suck” dramatically increases how much fun it was in hindsight.
The beech finally gave way to tussock and the mountains opened up. Progress was slowed not through terrain, but the temptation to glass the surrounding faces. It got to a point where Brooky prophetically sighed and stated, it looks like there will be Tahr on that face. So we used the ultimate hunting trick, we snacked on some soy crisps, 60% of the time, it works every time and this time was no exception.
A young Tahr pranced across a lower face kicking dust up and we quickly set up the Delta Titanium Spotting scope and Novagrade Adaptor for some footage. They are a cool animal, but this youngster was camera shy, he would only start playing and doing interesting activities when the spotting scope was aimed elsewhere!
Soon Tahr were materialising out of faces around us and we had eyes on 9 Tahr, from within max point blank range to 1800m+. They were all individuals or pairs and at significantly lower elevation than what we’d primed ourselves to be ascending.
As we moved from Tahr to Tahr in the spotting scope there was only one that stood out as larger than the rest and he was a mere 1km further up the drainage. Its at times like these when a spotting scope and the novagrade adaptor for filming really shine through as essential bits of gear. We were able to film the bull 1000m away and then analyse frame by frame, giving us a clear picture on the size of the bull vs the others. After doing so, despite a slightly smaller looking bull appearing a mere 200m away and giving ample shot opportunities, we decided to push up the valley for the meatier looking animal.
We passed a likely campsite on the way up towards the bull as we tried to stay hidden below the river terraces. Every couple hundred metres we would check the bulls position- he was grazing happily. As we reached the terrace below the bull we checked the range, 480m… but only 440m of equivalent horizontal range, high angle shots are common when mountain hunting. With that, we setup. Deploying the tripod and delta spotting scope, we quickly had the camera rolling.
With the awkward angle, I pushed forward another 20m to a more comfortable shooting position. The bull grazed his way across the face and gave some small shrubs a good thrashing until he finally popped into the open and posed for the shot. It hit him hard, the bullet destroying both lungs and fragments exiting. Yet such is their tenacity that he still manage to cover some ground with the mortal wound (maybe it’s their oxygen rich blood from living at such altitudes). It felt like an eternity but mere seconds passed and he collapsed dead. We moved to our planned recovery route, emptied our campsite gear and started the climb up to retrieve our dinner.
12)It was only day one.
It was a short, steep walk to find the bull. It’s amazing how well tussock can hide tahr, but after initially climbing too high Brooky found blood and quickly located him. A tahr bull really is a majestic animal even in summer coat. Sure there’s no long flowing mane, but they still have royal qualities, befitting to their lives spent looking down on all others but the birds, drawing hunters ever higher up the mountains hunting them.
We got to work, putting both the RN Blades Helium and Kestrel knives to good use. The first thing one notices is how thick the skin is on a bull tahr, skinning the quarters was more reminiscent of skinning a red deer quarter than a goat quarter. Both knives were maintaining their reputation as fantastic, the Kestrel was the better skinner while the Helium has the point for finer joint work and breaking the quarters down. As Tahr have a fair bit of mass to them we carefully moved him up onto a pronounced tussock and got to work using the gutless method.
After letting the meat cool in the evening air, we bagged it up and loaded it on the Stone Glacier meat shelves. They really are incredibly comfortable even when loaded, especially noticeable when negotiating down steep terrain.
We descended to our temporary gear dump and loaded it all back into our packs just as darkness enveloped us. With head torches on, we pushed back to the campsite we’d noted on the approach as it was a known decent spot. Unfortunately any drying of our boots was quickly undone as we attempted to navigate the river in the dark. After setting up camp and recovering from the descent, we pulled out the tenderloins and had an incredible dinner of fresh tahr tenderloin. Discussing the reality we came into these alps to mountain hunt, we were asleep before long, encouraging our bodies to recover before the ascent we had planned for tomorrow.
13) Up, up and away
After a great sleep we decided to hang around camp for the morning to glass the surrounding slopes. We had discussed making a move for the tops but decided that, based on day one’s success, we should spend more time glassing the faces easily watched from camp.
It wasn’t long before we were seeing tahr. Most interesting were a number near the top of our planned route to the tops. With no new noteworthy animals spotted over the previous day in the lower sections, we decided to get a closer look at the mob of tahr we could see up high.
With our hips feeling the loads and miles we decided anti-inflammatories and soy crisps were required prior to embracing some more suck. We filled up our water bladders, steri tabbed the water, bid our camp farewell and started ascending.
It was steep and the first section was a bit of a bush bash but it wasn’t as bad as we had initially feared, physically drained from the previous weeks’hunting did however keep our pace to a minimum. Thankfully we never encountered a route blocker, it was a steep but well vegetated climb that we readily tracked for future reference, even the Spaniard thickets were at a pleasant minimum.
After a couple hours we reached the lower sections of the tops. With panoramic views it didn’t take us long to start rallying up the tahr. It was a situation most mountain hunters dream of, low winds, just enough cloud cover to avoid sunburn, but just enough sunshine to be pleasantly warm, it was nirvana.
We setup a glassing position and got to work, rapidly passing 100 animals spotted for the trip, despite it being only the morning of our second day. Most interesting was a mob of 50+ tahr that had just grazed it’s way over into another bowl just out of sight. We felt we could get above the mob and would then have a good opportunity to get a good look at them, so after observing a number of small mobs 1000m+ away we started to ascend, aiming for the highest point on our ridge.
14) Kids in the playground
The mountain hunting trip to this point had been awesome, long hard days and fantastic rewards. If we were to write down how we had hoped for the trip to go, up to this point it couldn’t have gone better. Then it got better. As we reached the rocky peak we initially tried to swing around it in the direction we last saw the mob of tahr. We got bluffed out and were forced to turn around so then we decided to just climb, we reached the peak and crested… there they were below us bedded, some grazing towards us… a large mob of nannys and kids at foot.
It was an incredible experience, we quickly went about just getting photos of the kids playing, nannys constantly checking their surrounds and the odd pecking order arguments. Brooky dropped around to see how close he could get while I held fast as not to add to the potential for being busted. Brooky got within 10m.
We spent almost an hour with a mob of tahr metres away. Finally, they decided to move over into the nasty bluffs and we got to witness how effortlessly they could navigate the terrain. It was an incredible experience and it wasn’t even midday.
15) Pack up, pack out
We moved along the tops constantly spotting more tahr. We checked each mob with the Delta 15-45x65mm Spotter and quickly realised that we had basically found ourselves in the nanny and kid nursery. Our day one experience of seeing 9 bulls at lower elevations started to make more sense- the nannies had taken possession of the tops.
The rock faces these animals inhabit is simply incredible, their ability to hide in the crags and melt into the terrain meant we were dependent on on glassing to spot them. We also made great use of the Delta Spotting scope to pick them out, it appeared that every ridge we could see held some Tahr.
As it approached lunch time we marked a potential campsite and spent some time trying to plan our route down. We had a couple choices, we could head back the way we came, or push on and then descend what looked like a likely tussocked ridge between a couple scree’s. We opted to explore new ground figuring we had plenty of time to double back if required. it proved to be a great choice as it was a steep but very doable descent and once at the clean crisp snow melt stream we pulled up for some hard earned lunch.
Discussion focussed on the sheer numbers of tahr we had seen (150-200) as well as the plan for the remainder of our hunt. We moved back to camp and put in some more glassing. After not spotting anything but mobs of nannies and kids up high we had come to the conclusion that one bull tahr was enough.
Our bodies were certainly feeling the last week of kilometres and elevation gains. The decision was made to try and push back to the truck, camp there and head off back to Christchurch early in the morning so we had ample time for processing, packaging and freezing our meat for the flight home back to Australia.
With full packs and half a bull tahr each, coupled with the brutal chamois pack out a few days prior, we felt every step down that river. It became a trudge. We had been vigilantly taking photos up to this point… about an hour into the hike taking photos was well and truly forgotten. When we reached the truck, we simply spread out our gear to dry, rejoiced in the feeling of not having wet feet, cooked some tahr, ate dinner and promptly fell asleep.
Bringing back meat
Thankfully this is generally straightforward but requires planning and a bit of prep, firstly to ‘meat’ (#sorrynotsorry) the requirements, please see https://www.abf.gov.au/entering-and-leaving-australia/can-you-bring-it-in for the most up to date restrictions, but essentially, “Uncanned New Zealand meat is allowed into Australia if it is:
- sourced from sheep, cattle, goat, antelope, deer (including deer velvet), elk, moose, horse, donkey, mule, camel, alpaca, reptile, possum, rabbit, hare and llama,
- clearly labelled as a product of New Zealand
- not of pork or avian origin
- for the personal consumption of the importer
- imported directly from New Zealand to Australia.
- The product must be declared on arrival and may be inspected to ensure it complies with the above conditions.
Items that do not meet these conditions will be exported or destroyed at the importer’s expense.”
16) Bringing it home
We woke up early and began the drive back to Christchurch. Our conversation focused on a couple of things; primarily we reminisced about our successes and when we would return. Back in Christchurch we began preparing the meat for return to Australia.
We carefully broke it all down while cooking yet another curry, this time tahr tikka masala. Just like feeding non-hunters wild game for the first time, presentation is key for bringing meat home. We trimmed silver skin and cut the muscles to represent what many buy at their local butcher. We then refrigerated it exposed to dry it out some more before vacuum bagging and applying pre-printed labels. The labels had the processed date and that it was wild harvested goat and antelope for personal consumption.
We then distributed some meat to friends and family before utilising a friends deep freeze to get the meat we were taking home well and truly frozen for the return journey. To keep the meat frozen for the 12 hour return journey (including stop overs in Brisbane) we utilised our dry bags and down sleeping bags. Meat goes in a dry bag, that dry bag is then wrapped in a down sleeping bag, then the whole lot slid into an even larger dry bag. The Stone Glacier sky talus 6900 was invaluable for fitting it all in!
Now back in Australia we get to enjoy the beautiful meat and reminisce about a superb mountain hunt. Our gear performed marvellously; we intend on doing more write ups and reviews in the coming weeks, till then happy shooting!