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Fiordland Winter Chamois

By Adam McGrath

The roar had come and gone and after scoring a couple of nice heads it didn’t take long for that itch to come back – the longing to be back in the hills, hunting, exploring new country, and testing myself against the elements. After one sleepless night reading several of my favourite hunting books it was then and there I decided to try for chamois.

The toughest part about hunting in Fiordland is the very nature of the place, the steep, sheer mountain walls make it an extremely hard place to hunt especially when your quarry is on the tops. And of course there’s no guarantee the animals will even be there because the chamois population is low and scattered. Nevertheless, after extensive research on Google Earth I was convinced I could get myself into some promising chamois country. All I had to do now was hope for some good weather and pray the snow would hold until I’d had my chance.


Friday rolled around painfully slowly as I kept an eager eye on the forecast, and with three clear days to follow, my time had come. I chose an area that not only had some nice basins with glacial lakes, but which also had some gentle country in between – as we all know you sometimes have to travel far and wide to find the animals. That night I packed my gear being very careful to take enough warm clothing. With a very cold night out at an altitude of 1000 metres or more I was going to need it.


Deep South: Just being out in country like this makes the trip worthwhile on its own.


I left early Saturday morning knowing I had a three-hour drive and several hours of climbing to get to my spot. The morning dawned clear as I approached my destination, believing that by afternoon I would be in prime chamois country. I shouldered my pack and hit the hill, and still feeling fit from the roar it took less time than I thought to get to the tops. By 2pm I’d broken the tree line. Thank god I thought as I collapsed to the ground, then, after several minutes of gathering my breath I reached for my binos, and before I even had them focused I spotted something on the ridge ahead – “No way!” About three hundred metres ahead there was a chamois buck watching me.


Big Buck: A large chamois buck silhouetted against the skyline.


I kept the binos on him awhile trying to gauge him – being new to hunting chamois I found it hard to judge a trophy from a leaver. He started getting fidgety the way game animals do before heading for higher ground, so I had little time to roll my pack over and line him up. Putting the cross hairs on his neck I calculated that if the bullet dropped further than I thought then a good chest shot would be the result.


“Boom!” – my Sako 7mm-08 barked and the buck disappeared from sight... had I hit him or had I missed and he’d taken off? I glassed the area for several minutes but saw nothing so I shouldered my gear and headed to where he was last seen. As I climbed the ridge I found a small patch of blood where he’d been standing. I scoured the ground for more blood and finally found him – he’d fall down a steep gut, ending up very close to where he’d been shot. I must have walked right past him. As I approached I was greeted with a very nice buck at just under 9-inches – my first Fiordland chamois to hit the deck.


I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face as I took the necessary photos. This was a great start to my trip and I still had all of the following day!


After a very cold night I climbed out of my sleeping bag well before first light, giving myself plenty of time to eat and pack. I expected the chamois to be more mobile in the early morning and I wanted to find some before the sun really set in and they bedded down.


Back Country: Adam located his second chamois buck partway around the alpine lake.


I headed for a hanging basin I had my eyes on, having to traverse around an alpine lake as quickly as possible. Half way around I stopped to glass just in case I spooked something on the way, and what greeted my eyes left me in disbelief – another chamois buck watching me from a high ledge. Wow, this guy looked better than yesterday’s I thought as I crouched down in some monkey scrub.


“...I reached for my binos, and before I even had them focused I spotted something on the ridge ahead – “No way!” About three hundred metres ahead there was a chamois buck watching me.”


I decided to take the shot, which at only 200 metres was straight-forward. Once again I rested my Sako on my pack and squeezed the trigger. This time it was an obvious hit as I watched him roll 50 metres down the steep face... Whoooaa I shouted at the top of my lungs not caring how I sounded – no one could hear me anyway!


Alpine Hunting: A clean 200 metre shot from the Sako A7 put the second buck on the ground instantly. Adam’s scope is a Leupold VX3 3-9x40.


As I reached my prize I was greeted with a very respectable 9.4” buck with thick bases and a great spread. He had a beautiful coat too – I was over the moon. I thought I would be lucky to get one chamois let alone two. After taking more photos and having some lunch I decided to take the head and the skin, and head back to collect my gear.


I made the decision to leave the rest of the area alone so as to not spook it out. I’m sure I’ll be back another day. I made my way slowly down through the bush to my car, arriving early evening exhausted but elated. What better way to spend a few days than in the hills – good exercise, fresh air and a few trophies to show the boys.


I’m already eyeing up some new country for my next adventure. I can’t wait to get back out there!



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