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Seeking Sika

By Michael Kenyon and Paul Rayner

Planning a mid-winter sika trip always has its obstacles with work, family, shorter days, and the biggest and what I believe the most important hurdle for sika, weather.

 

My good hunting mate Paul and I are always planning our next trip straight after we’ve finished the last one, after a fun couple of nights into the Kiko road area over the summer we were frothing for our sika roar trips with Helisika.

 

We all know how that ended up, so plans for a winter trip started to come together pretty quickly. After spending most of our time through the southern Kaimanawas and various Helisika blocks we decided to try out a new area.

 

“Paul and I have shot many deer together over the years and have our go-to spots for reds and fallow, but I picked up an addiction for sika hunting.”

 

After pouring over access points and the surrounding country we decided the Oamaru area would be worth a wander. The elevation and country always seem to produce through the winter months.

 

Seeing Nik Maxwell's awesome offer on giving help on areas where he can, a message and phone call with Nik confirmed that the area we had picked was a solid choice!

 

Paul and I have shot many deer together over the years and have our go-to spots for reds and fallow, but I picked up an addiction for sika hunting.

 

Michael at the swingbridge. There is a lifetime of sika hunting surrounding this spot!

 

Around 12 years ago I flew into a Helisika block with my father for the roar, and with his years of wisdom and guidance of hunting sika, I managed to tip my first one over in the bush on that trip.

 

Since then I haven’t looked back with a sika or two managing to go into my freezer each year and a couple of 8 pointers hanging on my walls.

 

Paul on the other hand only caught the sika bug a couple of years ago after a few trips up the Umukarikari, into the Mangamaire and his first sika roar last year up in the Mangatainoka.

 

“As weeks turned to days the weather was on our side and it looked like a storm was to blow over the day before we were due to walk in with 4 days of settled weather - mint!”

 

Not through lack of trying and with weeks of combined trips, a ton of close but no cigar moments, the wily sika has been a monkey on his back, and he is no mug when it comes to shooting deer! So, the main mission for our trips of late have been to get Paul his first sika and have a bit of fun along the way.

 

With the date set in stone and the aforementioned hunting hurdles negotiated it was now in the hands of the weather gods.

 

As weeks turned to days the weather was on our side and it looked like a storm was to blow over the day before we were due to walk in with 4 days of settled weather - mint!

 

We made the call with the shorter days and a deposit sitting at Helisika to opt for the fly-in, walk out mission. With gear packed and spirits high we arrived for our flight into the Oamaru hut at 11:30 am on the Friday and were in the air by 12:00.

 

On a magic day for flying, the boys from Helisika whipped us up over Poronui and down to the edge of the Mohaka/Oamaru rivers saving us 3 1/2 hours of walking. Too easy.

 

After a quick look at the hut we were eager to get going so it was packs straight on and the journey up the Kaipo toward the swing bridge was underway.

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Our planning suggested we would have around a 3-hour mission to where we intended to camp. The walk was an interesting one as walks into new country always are, there’s always something new around every corner.

 

It was good to see the Sika Foundations work along the way with us checking the counters on some of their traps all with little to no hits showing the work they are doing is making a difference on the predator numbers in the area.

 

We arrived into the area we intended to hunt, found a clear campsite near a water supply and out of where we would likely wind our hunting zone.

 

With tents pitched, our day packs quickly organised and about an hours’ worth of light left, the decision was made to have a quick scout around camp to see what the country was like.

 

With the tents set up, it was time to do some bush stalking.

 

After climbing up out of our camp terrace we were instantly impressed with the country we had found. With Paul leading the way after slowly stalking for all of 10 minutes the sounds of the bush were sharply interrupted with the unmistakable squeal of a sika hind and a flash of white taking off.

 

Great start! With light fading fast it was decided to head back to camp for a couple of rums, feed and an early night to get a full day exploring on the Saturday.

 

“The bush canopy was completely iced over in the morning, something I had never seen before, but with frosts bring settled weather and nice days - sika hunting heaven!”

 

With a couple more squeals heard on the way back to camp from the other side of a side stream, the excitement was building for the following day.

 

That night was one of the coldest I’ve experienced in the bush with minus 6 forecast. The bush canopy was completely iced over in the morning, something I had never seen before, but with frosts bring settled weather and nice days - sika hunting heaven!

 

We had our coffees and spent the next couple of hours slowly heading towards some north faces we wanted to stalk through, bouncing another couple of deer on the way.

 

Paul leading the stalk through some prime sika country.

 

Reaching our intended saddle, around 11:30 another squeal erupted with a departing spiker having his lunch interrupted with no chance of a shot. We had another coffee and made a plan of attack to sidle through a few guts over the coming hours until around 3:30pm then make our way back to camp.

 

After sidling painstakingly slow and the wind not playing ball as is so often the case, we decided to drop down a little lower on the ridge we were on and sidle back the other way.

 

As we came down a couple hundred metres I heard the unmistakeable sound of sticks breaking just below us, I hand signalled for Paul to go as slow as he could to the left-hand side of the ridge to look into the gut while I stayed put looking straight down the middle of the ridge.

 

After 30 minutes of hunting chess, the classic sika squeal erupted and the game was over. After catching back up with Paul he managed to get a look at a hind and yearling with only a couple more seconds needed to remove said monkey. That’s the way sika hunting goes!

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It was back to camp again for another night of the same rum rituals, and thankfully the mercury had risen a little from the previous night. The next morning we decided to pop across a stream to hunt some terraces we had heard deer squealing on the first night.

 

Again, the wind just wasn’t playing ball with us finding some awesome bush stalking country and plenty of sign, but only 2 squeals from distant deer for our efforts.

 

The clouds started looking a little threatening so at lunch we decided to race back to camp, pack up and head out to the Oamaru hut for a night for a dry night and reduce tomorrow's trek by 3 hours.

 

Heading back to the Oamaru Hut.

 

Making good time we arrived at the hut with about 45 minutes of light left, a quick look on the flats upriver of the hut was in order.

 

With the rain starting to fall and the wind picking up it was always going to be low percentage hunting in the open, but none the less nice to look over some clearings in person rather than Google Earth.

 

We spent the night yarning with a nice family from Waiuku who had flown in for the weekend swapping yarns over the last of our rum.

 

“All the effort that had been put in over the last couple of years all came through on his face. To say he was rapt is an understatement and I was pumped for him.”

 

On the final day, we had a leisurely start, packing our gear up and heading off for the walk back out to Helisika via Poronui at around 9:30 am. We decided to cross the Kaipo and have a quick last-ditch look up a ridge before it was bolts and ammo out.

 

With Paul again leading the way up the ridge only 2 minutes from leaving the track I glanced up to see him flip to full shoot mode with a crack coming from his .270 in a matter of seconds followed by a grown man squealing and looking like he had won Lotto! Deer down and Paul's first sika was on the deck.

 

Paul with his first sika - a hind that he managed to secure on the last day of the hunt.

 

All the effort that had been put in over the last couple of years all came through on his face. To say he was rapt is an understatement and I was pumped for him.

 

After gutting the deer and getting a couple of celebratory photos the packs were loaded with venison and the walk through Poronui begun.

 

That in itself being fun, watching deer, and playing with big 8 pointers for the next couple of hours making it back to the trucks with sore shoulders and aching legs by 2:00 pm.

 

It was a minter of a trip with a great area found and some venison in the freezer. We are already planning our next one into the area over the summer!

 

Michael

 

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