Fiordland Boys Hunting NZ - Summer EpicBy Adam McGrath
- 3rd Mar, 2020 Mar 3, 2020, 5:21 PM
- 1 Comment
The summer so far in Fiordland had been terrible with torrential rain and gales week after week. It was now late January and we’d done very little training for the up-coming roar but with a clear forecast for the next 10 days Aaron and I decided it was time to stretch the legs.
We had five days up our sleeves so we pulled out the maps and agreed on a spot with good deer numbers, hoping for the chance of a stripping stag and maybe a couple of chamois on the tops.
We decided to fly in and walk out. We could cover and explore a lot more country that way and there were several connecting valley systems we wanted to check. So with apprehension and excitement we called Fiordland Helicopters and locked it in.
“We where to stay at Aaron’s the night while we re-checked and packed our gear, keeping our loads light as we had several mountain passes to traverse.”
It was a long working shift, but as Saturday rolled around we parked the boat for the last time and eagerly hit the road. We where to stay at Aaron’s the night while we re-checked and packed our gear, keeping our loads light as we had several mountain passes to traverse.
At 0940 hours we loaded the taxi and headed for the hanger, ready for what ever was next. As we pulled up Mark was refueling, giving myself and Aaron the chance to study the large stag heads hanging in the trusses. “Wouldn’t it be nice to shoot something like that,” I said to Aaron as I admired the 14-pointer in the corner. He nodded in agreement as we climbed aboard the chopper.
Mark choose to fly us up the valley we were to explore for the next four days, pointing out likely deer spots along the way. Finding a level landing spot he settled the machine and unloaded our gear, then we waved him off with grins on our faces. As the silence settled in we knew he wouldn’t be back - we were on our own!
We shouldered our packs, deciding to get off the tops and focus our attention on some grassy flats below. Using a leading spur we made good time getting across to the clearings and as we slowly broke the bush it was evident we were in the right spot.
Deer sign was all around us, and finding a corner close to both the creek and the bush we set up camp. With that done there was little else to do but wait out the heat of the day. We crawled into our tents and hid from the sun for several hours, then around 6pm climbed out and geared up for an evening of hunting.
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Within 100 metres of camp Aaron picked up our first animal - a young spiker happily grazing in the evening sun. We set up the camera and tripod as more deer materialised from the long grass. It was obvious that this was just a bachelor group of young spikers so we settled in behind the camera to capture the moment.
Waking early on Day Two we explored the surrounding area, seeing more animals but nothing worth pursuing. It was clear the younger animals were on the lower flats so having seen some fifteen deer we decided to shift camp and hump up-valley, we would spend the rest of our trip above the bush line.
We spent Day Two walking and glassing, having 12kms of country to cover to get to our high camp on a distant saddle. Seeing nothing of note we finally made our camp site, exhausted. It had been a big day in the searing heat, so setting up the tents again we had a feed and donned our gear for an evening hunt.
We climbed high enough to open up more country and settled in behind the binos. It wasn’t long before Aaron’s eagle eyes picked up a few distant chamois, too far away to pursue that night, but we again used the camera to gauge their potential. Zooming in it was evident there was a cracker in the group.
Aaron’s eyes lit up as we discussed tomorrow’s plan. With a few high basins still to check we decided the far off chamois would just have to wait, so as the sun slowly rose on the morning of Day Three we crawled from our tents, had coffee and breakfast, then hit the leading ridge to take us to the tops.
We spent the better part of the day glassing the high basins in search of a stripping stag but to no avail, and all the while Aaron couldn’t shake the image of his chamois. It was then we decided to head back down to camp, pack up and drop into the lower valley. Here we were to spend our final night before walking out the next day.
Finding a nice grassy terrace above the creek we set up camp quickly - we were running out of daylight fast. Grabbing only what we needed we once again scrambled high to where the chamois were last seen, and crossing some steep scree country Aaron quickly dropped to the ground behind some tussock readying the rifle.
I only had seconds to snap a few quick pics and footage as the chamois were onto us before Aaron squeezed off the shot. “BOOM” - the Sako 7mm-08 found its target and the chamois collapsed on the spot. Before we had time for congratulations another very decent chamois popped its head up from the distant scrub.
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It was now my turn to make it count. “BOOM” again and another chamois buck dropped from sight... ”WHOOOOHOOO” we yelled as we high-fived with excitement. It had been a huge three days up to this point but we’d finally made it count. We took the necessary photos while we compared trophies.
Aaron’s was the larger animal at just under 10-inches, mine measuring just under 9.5, so a couple of hooks to be proud of. Scrabbling down in the dark we collapsed back at camp exhausted. Tomorrow was pack up day so a much deserved sleep in was in order.
Aaron woke me at 10am on Day Four. “Bro it’s time to get up,” he said as he readied his gear for the long walk out. After a hot brew and a head skinning session we happily discussed last night’s events. Now it was time to don the heavy packs for the last time and make the very steep climb out of there.
“It’s always a pleasure spending time in the hills with a good mate - moments we will treasure as we head into 2020.”
We made it to the truck at 6pm and it couldn’t have come soon enough. It was fair to say we under-estimated the walk out. Aaron started the truck and we gave ourselves a moment to reflect on what had been an epic trip - the goal this year for the “Fiordland Boys” was to “push harder & go further” - something we think we did justice to this trip.
It’s always a pleasure spending time in the hills with a good mate - moments we will treasure as we head into 2020. With the Roar just around the corner Fiordland Boys Hunting NZ looks forward to many more hunting adventures so please follow us on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.
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