Chamois are one of my favorite animals to hunt. They are curious, super intelligent and have the best eyesight of any game animal I know. Found virtually throughout the south island from Fiordland to Nelson but in generally higher numbers around the Westland glaciers, these animals you can chase almost year round as the capes can look great in both their summer and winter phases.
Here’s 10 quick tips designed to help those somewhat new to alpine hunting to get the drop on these smart critters.
This is one of the Chamois best defenses and they're known for spotting movement out as far as 800+ meters. Use any available cover and take your time, often it’s a case of getting into the right country then glassing from a good vantage point during the “prime time”.
2-Time of Day
Chamois like most of our game spend the day time mostly parked up chewing cud. You are far less likely to pick them up in your bino’s when they are bedded down. The first and last couple of hours of the day is where you should be focusing.
Get the best binoculars that you can afford because you’re going to spend a lot of time using them. Use your legs to get you into the right country and then let your eye’s do the walking. Spend a huge amount of your time glassing and don’t just glass over a likely area the one time.
Chamois have a tendency to always be looking downhill for approaching danger. Use this to your advantage if the terrain allows and get above them.
Like just about all of our game animals Chamois have a very keen sense of smell. Hunt into the wind or pretty much just come back another day.
Chamois live in a variety of country but usually favor the steeper stuff. Everything from Westland creeks at sea level to broken country well above the bush line. Look at maps, talk to an experienced hunter and do the leg work.
99% of the time you’re going to have to gain some vert to get into chamois country. If you’re not already hill fit then chasing Cham is going to get you fit. Know your limitations with fitness and the type of terrain you’re comfortable in. Luke here at PointsSouth thinks nothing of climbing up and down 1000m of vert for an evening hunt, fitness is important but you don’t need to go to that extent. Pick your objectives wisely and carry an epirb as well as the basics for an unexpected night out.
Mature bucks are more than often by themselves outside of the rut, so if you’re looking at a lone animal there’s a good chance it’s a buck. Females and juveniles tend to hang out in small groups and will often stay living in the same general vicinity, so if your finding family groups then perhaps this is a good spot to come back to in the rut (April/May).
Chamois are really inquisitive animals and curiosity has been the downfall of many a chamois. A fleeing buck will often stop for a quick look back, so be ready. Bucks especially during the rut sometimes can’t help themselves and will actually come and investigate something out of place. I’ve hidden behind a rock and waved my hat and had bucks come in close, and the dog is usually another major curiosity for them. It’s often the young bucks that do this so pack your camera.
10- Trophy Potential
Chamois are notoriously hard to gauge as their horn shape can vary a lot, it takes a lot of experience to get good at this. Generally speaking if a bucks horns appear to be 2-3 inches above its ears, then you are looking at possibly a 9-10 inch buck. It’s the hooks that make the difference, smaller “tighter” hooks won’t measure as long as deeper wider ones. Always look at the hooks and invest in a spotting scope if you haven't already.
As always age is important, an old buck with good length and heavy bases is the ultmate.
Even experienced guys can sometimes have trouble identifying the does from the bucks, looking at the body mass and the hooks is usually the giveaway.