"For me hunting is a hell of a lot more than just pulling the trigger. The relationships you build with people and the stunning parts of this country that such a small and minute amount of people actually get to see, and the emotional rollercoaster faced with every hunt. It’s this feeling that I am hooked on. And in this adventure, we got to do it all!!"
This trip is an example of all those things that define in my mind, the true love for the sport we call hunting. In fact it’s from a little while back but I remember it as if it were yesterday. Brief background check on myself…. Whinging POM, Loves the mountains and hooked on hunting…….
How you ask?? 12 years ago I met someone who I shot my 1st rabbit with, 1st hare, 1st deer, 1st chamois, 1st Bull tahr and has shown me what you kiwis call your playground. I will be for ever grateful to be shown everything Tom has over the years, and the trips and memories we have created.
Sorry but this trip is not about an epic 11inch chamois buck that made it to the the living room wall, but it’s the rug, the head and the memories we brought home that’s just as special. Over the years I have found the tahr rut to be one of my most looked forward too times of the year, in my mind it doesn’t get much better. I have always had a passion for the mountains and as my hunting addiction has progressed I can kill 2 birds with one stone. So as the ballot blocks were drawn, Bugger!! Tom and I had been denied the opportunity to pull a golden ticket into paradise.
This was not going to stop us though, No way! With maps out, an adventurous mindset and plenty of time on google earth, we hatched a plan. We purposely picked a remote and hard to get to piece of wilderness, all with the idea no other bugger would be there. We knew we were looking at a two-day mission just to walk into our chosen head basin, with 2 nights in there and a further 2 to get back to the truck.
As Wednesday night rolled around I had still not packed!! I knew I’d had to have all my gear in the truck before work the next morning, then drop dogs off after work and makes tracks for the coast ASAP. Cattle breaks were all up and multiple bails in feeders for the week ahead. All I needed was the wife to cut the wrap and reel in the tape. I’m sure I am not the only one out there that finds every trip gets harder and harder to get away for a lengthy amount of time. For me the stress and panic to leave everything at home gets to me. All until you’re in the truck, bags packed, and you know that the cell phone is shortly about to drop out of touch. Then the trip really begins.
Image @ Tom Overton
Tom was living on the coast at the time and had made the call to walk the 7 hours into a hut whist there was some daylight. I on the other hand had decided I could work all day, leave Wanaka, and then start the walk at 7pm. As I got out at the car park in the pitch black, and bumped into a spot lighter (different story I may say) who told me I couldn’t do what I had planned in the dark. This just gave me more grit and determination to catch up to Tom, ready for the big pinch the following day. As it happens by about midnight I was poked!!! I got some kip for a few hours then met up with Tom at about 6am for some breakfast.
Many will know that mid-winter mountain hunting trips involve a lot more planning and preparation. Not only with kit and heavy packs but weather too. As it happens we had quite a substantial river crossing in order for our plan to work at all. Luckily tom is all over the weather like a fat kid on a cupcake.
As we made our way up valley we were both extremely excited to get into new country. For me that mental battle and the emotional rollercoaster is what hunting is all about. Looking up and thinking it’s not possible to climb that vertical and then a few hours later looking back down on where you have come from… Priceless!!! The creek we decided to access the Glacier with was abysmal to say the least. Steep, tight and pretty bluffy at points. To tell you the truth there were many points we thought we had bitten off more that we could chew. We knew things were bad when we spent hours with packs off, pushing our way through the scrub, luckily it was all going to pay off. After 2 days we busted through and onto the tops. Writing this now, that moment and feeling is the memory of the trip. We put up camp at the base of the glacier just before it got dark. That night I don’t think I moved in my fart sack once, I was so knackered nothing would wake me.
As Darkness left, so did one of my socks!! Cheeky green parrots had decided to get a little rip shit and bust on us. The tent was pretty good but the good old dehi packets in the wings of the Tent and one of my socks had been the game of the night. I was so tired I didn’t hear a thing. Luckily no matter how heavy my pack is I always keep a spare pair in a dry bag with spare thermals for if and when it hits the fan.
As Tom and I left camp and crept over our closest ridge there was a FLASH in my peripheral… Chamois. It must have only been 500meters from camp. At this stage we had seen a lot of nannies, a few mature bulls (Nothing we had decided to chase) and then this buck. It was all a little more spook and shoot than either of us had wanted, the decision had to be made though, and quick smart. This trip for both of us was the adventure, the location, the mission and the ball buster to get into a spot we had never heard had been hunted before. It had involved researching climbing books and forums, a lot of work and I felt a memento of this trip was totally justified. I knew he had good hooks, nice base’s and a beautiful winter rug. Here we go, 7mm chambered, ranged and dialled. Breath in, Breath out…… (Tom speaks out) “He looks good mate, mature but I can’t promise he is over 10…. I pause and think again…. 10 was my magic Chamois number but this didn’t matter. We new he had good maturity, and had every chance to hit that 10” mark. This was to be my 3rd chamois I had shot and what an amazing mission to get to here. I breathed out and squeezed the trigger. BOOM!! Lights out.
Luke with his buck.
As we skinned the perfect winter coat off the buck, I knew my pack was going to feel pretty heavy for the next 4 days, and dam heavy by the time we got out to the truck at 7 pm the Thursday night. To say the trip was extremely worth it, is a massive understatement. Tom and all his knowledge were correct. The buck measured in at 9 ½ inches and sits in a prime spot in my house with his rug tanned on the living room floor.
As the next couple days went by we saw multiple Bulls with Nannies and a few more chamois. At one stage we watched a family group of Chamois come into view on the skyline. They peacefully fed there way on a diagonal angle down towards us, what they didn’t know was that waiting for them was a rather large mob of tahr. Consisting of 2 mature bulls, a handful of Juveniles and about 15 nannies. The reaction from the 2 bulls as the chamois came into their territory was outstanding!!! The 2 bulls went to town and chassed the life out of the 5 chamois. Kicked into touch is an understatement here. My words will give the experience we saw no justice but hopefully it’s an experience you fellow hunters will get to see. The animal kingdom is pretty special.
The upper Valley. image @ Tom Overton
On our last evening up on the glacier Tom decided to push around the face a little further. Here things started to get a little technical with crampons and Ice axes a must. He found a handful of Nannies with 3 bulls all trying to get into the action of the cycling nannies. Anyone who has been around these magnificent animals in full rut mode will know how exciting and entertaining they are. You can take some spectacular photos because of the distracted nature of a horny bull and his focus being all about the rut. This trip was no different with a young bull walking within meters of Tom and I on an exposed ridge.
As the evening went on Tom decided one of the 3 bulls had his name on it, just like springtime he was in a situation where he had multiple mature bulls together. This gave him the opportunity to judge and size the bulls off of each other. Comparing maturity, condition and horn characteristics. With a bit of time up his sleeve as the bulls grazed across the face, the choice was made that Tom would have a crack with his Sako 7mm Rem Mag. Needless to say, it all went textbook. An excellent kill shot and a cracker old bull with immense character to weigh the pack down for the big walk out.
Tom with his bull
Like most trips there is more than can be put into words about the weeks hunting. This had it all, the good, the bad and the ugly. This style of hunting has me hooked in so many ways. We worked hard, planned carefully and executed the trip safely. With the icing on the cake being the many photographs taken and amazing animals seen along the way.