A congregation of hunters loitering around James Scotts hanger spinning yarns and praying for the weather to clear.... a standard start to a West Coast tahr cull.
Unfortunately, this year the weather gods were not on our side blocking access to the Landsborough and our usual posi on the tops in the Karangarua valley. Fortunately for us not all was lost and James managed to get us in on the flats, a much better predicament than driving home again.
Thankfully the weather held long enough for us to erect camp and not a second more. This year’s crew consisted of my father John Searle and my Cousin Jacob Searle. Under the tarp we sat playing the waiting game. The excitement every time the rain would ease back only to come down even harder grew old pretty quick.
Well the rain never cleared and we weren’t there to f@*k spiders so around 5pm we headed out. Boulder hoping up the river with the wind up our rear seemed hopeless so we opted to go bush for a while. The sign was phenomenal and we were on high alert ready to bump into animals. Pushing through to a tight gut I spied a red yearling less than 20m away making her way up hill. Although she looked mighty tasty we allowed her to carry on her way.
Having had no success on our evening swim and with the rain still coming down the comfort of the sleeping bag seemed like a better idea than donning wet gear so we took the morning off. Throughout the day John caught the odd thar poking out onto the clearing we were camped on only to disappear once he had rifle in hand.
As the afternoon approached the weather lifted and we donned our wet gear ready to head up the river. As I pulled my rifle over my shoulder I spotted one of my old man’s ghosts moving up the clearing. Ducking out of site Jacob and I moved in for the kill. Unfortunately, a steady lying down shot was impeded by a rise between us and the thar. We crept closer and closer to get over it and the shot ended up being no more than 20m. Jacob did the business downing our first animal ensuring we weren’t going home empty handed.
After lining up some photos we moved on up the river. Having hunted the area before I lead us to a nice open area around 40 minutes’ boulder hoping up the river. Reaching the creek where it opens up shots started to ring out from above, blast it the Lame Duck crew had beaten us to it!
We had come this far already and having limited places to go we decided to carry on. The other crew were much higher up and allowed us to target the lower bluff system. We could already see thar poking out onto the steep faces above and made a stealthy approach up the creek. I lined up on the first thar around 240m away and slowly squeezed off. The hill erupted and I scrambled to down another before they all disappeared.
I managed three tahr for three shots before the mob disappeared into the scrub. By this stage the Lame Duck crew were making their way home, their blaze orange hats glowing against the darkening back drop. The evening had turned out quite nice, the sky cleared and wind dropped away making for pleasant glassing waiting for the others.
After a catch up with the Lame Duck party we were off down the river chasing the fading light. The trip home was relatively quick bumping into a morepork and snapping a cheeky photo from 2m before he disappeared into the darkness. You never know what you are going to see in the mountains.
The evening was calm and it was nice to be in warm dry clothes getting stuck into a hot meal. I shared a bottle of port with the old man and touched base with the Lame Duck crew. It turns out not long after leaving us their path was blocked by a steep gorge forcing them to take the long road back to camp, bugger.
Sunday was a pearler, the sun was shining and the birds were singing. We geared up for one last crack at putting some animals on the ground. Just like the day prior we were set to depart camp when dad knocked over a nanny on the far side of the clearing.
Up the river we went back to spot x. Jacob and John knuckled a couple of thar we caught out on the shingle upping the tally to seven. Unfortunately, that would be our grand total. Mother nature really put it on for us as we packed up camp and patiently waited for the chopper to arrive.
Although tallies were down from last year we all went home with a couple of kills and some good memories. From our camp at the bottom of the valley we were spotting large mobs of nanny’s and juveniles above the bush line. It is important to keep the population in check and due to the lack of natural predators culling is really the only option. Until next year may the weather gods be kind to us.