Having first learnt to hunt deer there, South Westland still holds a special meaning to me. Yip you're generally going to have a higher chance of shooting a truly good stag just about anywhere else in the country, but hunting is far from just being about the trophy.
The Haast ballot blocks can vary in deer numbers quite a bit, so when a mate drew a so called “sporting” block with high deer numbers it seemed to be the perfect opportunity to have a crack at the South Westland bush with the Bow rather than the rifle.
Being very much a rookie bow hunter it was an added bonus that we were heading into the exact same block that I had shot my first real stag in many years before, so the goal was for things to go somewhat full circle and to do the same with my bow.
Fully loaded with all the luxuries and extravagant things to keep us entertained in the down time, I was very pleased to feel the machine rise off the ground when the collective was lifted. The beauty of the coastal blocks is that it’s really easy to entertain yourselves when you’re not hunting.
The first evening we all went our separate ways to get an idea of what the stags were up to, with one of the boys getting himself a beer fine for managing to work his way into a hind and a yearling with a couple of roaring stags very nearby only to realise he had left his bolt back at camp.
With the stags roaring albeit half heartily, we were full on into the hunting and clocking a lot of miles in the process. Over the next few days I had three very close encounters with stags managing to roar them in to around 20 meters. And here’s where my inexperience showed. Two of these stags offered me good broad side shots at around 30m but with the time involved for my brain to process the distance and the angle then decide yes this is a “good” shot to take, I’d hesitated long enough for them to be onto me and out of there. On the third stag I simply struggled to get a clear shooting lane through the tight bush.
I could have shot all three of these stags about 10 times over with the rifle, but being six and eight pointers I wouldn’t have bothered and would have filmed them instead. This is where bow hunting really does get exciting, as I was hell bent on putting an arrow through any of these stags and it made for some seriously intense times in the bush. Pick up a bow, it’s got all that excitement of learning to hunt again.
We headed up river to fly camp and check out a few terraces where two of us had chased stags years ago and one of the boys had knocked over an ok stag very early in the hunt. By the time the other two of us had got back to camp he had the camp fire cranking and heating up a nice piece of greenstone for us cook some back strap on.
The walk back down the river saw us finding numerous greenstone boulders, some the size of a coffee table.
Over all the coast is an amazing experience in itself, the coastal blocks are generally not the place to look for big heavy timbered stags. But it’s far from being all about the trophy potential, it’s about the whole package and experiencing the true raw New Zealand backcountry and with a few toys to keep the downtime interesting it really does become the hunting holiday.