Hunting Tahrs in New Zealand
Hunting Tahrs in New Zealand
It is completely silent out here; I can only hear the portable stove warming up some water for the coffee. In the meantime, I try to laze up my boot under the red light of my headlamp. It has been a cold night; the lazes are completely frozen. The coffee lifts our spirits as we load our packs to start hiking.
There’s been rough days of hunting and it feels like we are not getting any closer. Winter backpacking expeditions in the west coast of the New Zealand alps is not an easy hunt, especially on public land. I am happy that my friend Joe Eddlington (JE Wilds) is here with me, on these types of trips you really need like-minded people.
As the sun rises over the skyline, it slowly illuminates the whole valley, unveiling some of the most amazing mountains you can ever hunt. Tough and wild country that Himalayan Tahr and Alpine Chamois call home, a couple of the mountain species that were introduced in the southern island in the early 20th century, and that have proliferated in this environment.
Their introduction has been so successful that there are no limits, no seasons, and no tags. They are considered by the government as an invasive species destroying the native plants, and they even do helicopter culling and poisoning now and then. As I set my spotting scope to judge a group of Tahr peaking over the horizon, I can only think how someone would like to get rid of such an amazing creature, that offers some of the best public hunting opportunities in the world.
It’s early June, it’s the beginning of winter in the southern hemisphere. A tight season schedule has brought me here in not the best time of the year, as the rut from the chamois and Tahr has just come to an end, slowing the animal activity a lot. We are struggling to locate a proper bull, despite the amount of country we can see, although a big part of it is not even accessible without climbing equipment.
We were discussing if it’s worth getting closer to the far group when Joe suddenly tells me to not move. I couldn’t resist and slowly turned my head to look over my shoulder, I couldn’t believe my eyes. On the skyline, a little over a hundred meters away, a bull was standing looking down at the valley. The eye was blowing his whole mane, and even if I couldn’t move to judge it properly with the binos, his body shape and cape was clearly from a mature bull. There was no doubt this was the type of bull we came here for.
We hadn’t been spotted yet, so we waited for the bull to look away to quickly set up. The rest of the rifle (PREMIER ELEVATE IN 6.5 PRC) and my position feel solid, and even if the distance is short, I take my take to secure the shot. We have an extreme uphill steep angle plus an animal with a lot of hair for a relatively small body, I can’t rush it. The shot needs to be perfect, to make sure we can recover it, the terrain is so steep that if it falls on the wrong place, we will lose it forever.
I squeeze the trigger and see the impact behind the shoulder through my scope, the bull runs a few meters and falls. After all the work we had put in we couldn’t believe we had accomplished it with the bull of a lifetime. Worn out teeth, broken horn tips and 14 years of age is as old and gnarly as you can expect for a wild animal to live in these mountains. Probably it was his last winter.
As the sun sets above the clouds behind us, I can only think how lucky we are as hunters to experience things like this, that most people don’t even know exist. Super thankful for Joe for showing me what hunting in New Zealand feels like.
I was using a prototype of the BERGARA ELEVATE rifle, chambered in 6,5 PRC and equipped with a Leupold VX6-HD 3-18×50. Really enjoyed the platform, really adjustable and functional offered great shooting position in very complicated terrain and angles. The feature to quickly mount it on a tripod with the arca mount made some imposible shots posible. All this on a reasonable total weight that made an overall exceptional mountain rifle setup. The Hornady Precision hunter ELD-X performed great both in accuracy and on damage to the animal. I had a Spartan Carbon Bipod adaptor placed which was really convenient.