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Sika Hunting Tips & Info: Kaweka Ranges, Spion Kop, Apr 2019

By Nik Maxwell
  •   4th Dec, 2019 Dec 4, 2019, 12:00 AM
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As I stepped away from Otutu Hut and began heading over the huge tussock tops I knew I would be heading back to the open terrain of the Manson sooner rather than later.

 

That was back in July 2017 and it’s hard to believe its taken this long to get back there. I’ve hunted plenty of sika country and the Manson rates as one of the finest areas I have had the pleasure of visiting.

 

This trip originally began as a drop-off to Manson Bivvy with a pick up at Omarukokere Bivvy. However, due to a large front sweeping across the North Island over the weekend I had originally planned for, I postponed things for a few more days. Omar’ Biv would be occupied during the new pick-up date, so the best option was to head back to Rocks Ahead Hut for extraction.

 

As it goes, all the huts and bivvys in the Kawekas are booked through a DoC website portal (www.dochuts.co.nz/login). These bookings only apply to hunters who are flown in and out and serves to confine the hunter numbers within an area. It does not apply to the walk-in hunter as they can visit any area of their choosing.

 

DAY 1

Utilising the excellent service Chris Crosse from East Kaweka Helicopters provides, meant that I could enjoy breakfast with the family and then get dropped off into prime sika hunting country just after midday.

 

I reached Chris’ hangar at around 11.45am, got weighed up, (rifle + gear just on 22kgs) and waited for Chris to come back from dropping off another hunting party. A quick greet as Chris refueled the 500 and before I knew it, we were barreling up and over Studholme Saddle Hut before landing at Manson Biv moments later. I love choppers!

 

“Each position would provide a vantage point to glass from in the evenings and mornings, without having to travel back and forth from camp, just how I like it!”

 

A quick confirmation with Chris re the pickup and he was off again for another load. Mint. Back in the Kawekas, pre-rut and the weather was awesome. I went for a quick nosey around the bivvy. Nestled along the ridge and amongst the beech, it is your typical back country shelter with enough room for two, possibly three, people. A large wooden frame has been erected over the front acting as an awning.

 

 

ON THE SPOT: Nik checks out Manson Bivvy prior to heading towards Spion Kop; the author looks towards some prime sika country.

 

Eager to get up on the tops, I made my way along the track towards Mt. Manson. The plan was to spend the next few days fly-camping at a couple of spots I had noticed on my previous trip into the area. Each position would provide a vantage point to glass from in the evenings and mornings, without having to travel back and forth from camp, just how I like it!

 

The sun was out, and I had high hopes for a relaxing evening looking over some sika country. However, as the afternoon wore on, I could see rainclouds forming in the south and as I finished my early dinner of Back Country Cuisine at around 5pm, the clouds opened up and put a swift end to my hunt, unbelievable!

 

DAY 2

It rained most of the night and although it had eased off by morning, the mist had rolled in reducing visibility to about 50 metres. Thankfully, it began to clear at about 9am and I was able to put in a couple of hours behind the binos before moving off to my next location.

 

The next campsite looked to be a real beauty and offered a commanding view into several small gullies and large faces – perfect deer country. It was a long and narrow spur with next to no room to pitch the MSR tent on, however I did manage to find a tiny little flat spot just big enough.

 

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Upon reaching the beginning of the spur a sika hind and fawn broke from cover below me and wasted no time dropping down into the mass of scrub and manuka, whistling as they ran. All good, I was just happy to have seen some animals.

 

GLASSING, ALWAYS GLASSING: Just one of the awesome vantage points that can be found along Spion Kop.

 

It was now 3.45pm and I had plenty of time to get settled in for a glassing session. The sky was mostly clear with no sign of rain.

 

From my position there was ample terrain within the 300m mark which is what I had the Savage 110 Long Range Hunter set up for. A range session with the 7mm Rem. Mag. chambered Savage and its Bushnell Prime 6-18x50 scope combination had the Federal Premium 160 grain Trophy Bonded Tip ammunition shooting well. With my dialing all worked out, it was on.

 

All was quiet until 6.20pm when a mature sika hind materialized from the bush on another narrow spur adjacent to the one I was on. She was 280m away and feeding broadside on, presenting a clean shot. I refrained for a couple of reasons however, first, it was getting too dark to even attempt a recovery and secondly, the presence of hinds, even early rut, can mean stags...

 

I watched her for about 10 minutes before darkness fell and I retired back to my tent.

 

DAY 3

I woke to an absolute cracker of a morning with a light frost covering the tent and ground – yep, I was expecting some activity!

 

At around 7.45am I picked up on a mature sika hind bedded down just on the edge of a small pocket of bush. She looked quite content, lapping up the sunlight as it poured onto her. I quickly swung the camera to begin photographing and filming. Moments later, her fawn appeared on the scene and together they both relished the warmth.

 

“At around 7.45am I picked up on a mature sika hind bedded down just on the edge of a small pocket of bush.”

 

I never get tired of observing deer, particularly when they are undisturbed and just going about their daily routine. I find it comforting to be in their presence, in their home so to speak.

 

RELISHING IN THE SUNSHINE: A sika hind and fawn soak up the morning sun.

 

As I sat there enjoying the moment, a pair of karearea (New Zealand Falcon) landed nearby, less than 10 metres from where I was sitting. I froze and stayed motionless. Occasionally, I’ve observed falcon during my hunts, in both the Kaimanawas and Kawekas, but most of the time it is a single bird and they don’t often hang around for long. To have a pair of karearea sitting calmly right in front of me was an experience I won’t forget – a truly awesome moment.

 

I’d almost forgotten about looking for more deer when another hind appeared on the same open spur I’d seen the hind on the evening before, most likely the same deer. With the sun behind her creating a glow around her body, she provided an excellent photo opportunity and I captured some great frames and film.

 

BIRDS OF PREY: A pair of karearea (New Zealand Falcon) that kept Nik company during the morning.

 

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By now two more deer had moved on from their sunny beds and were making their way around the scrub and bush-clad face. With all the hind activity, surely there had to be a sika stag lurking around somewhere?

 

As they day wore on and the deer sifted back into cover, I began to pack up and move to my final spot for the trip. Again, this position gave me a commanding vantage point into more premium sika country.

 

‘SUMMER’ SIKA: A mature sika hind in full summer pelage.

 

I had decided that if a suitable animal presented itself, ideally a stag or a young hind, I would look to harvest some meat to take home. Everything was perfect. The conditions were favourable with only a light breeze present and the sun was peeking through the clouds just enough to keep things cozy. The rifle was set up on a large, and surprisingly flat, rocky outcrop and I was able to eat dinner while scanning for sika. Surely all I had to do was wait until a deer appeared, which I was confident would happen.

 

Alas, it wasn’t to be. The area I was observing absolutely screamed deer but for whatever reason, nothing showed. Feeling somewhat dejected, yet still pleased with the events of the day, I headed back to the tent for my final night on the hill.

 

DAY 4

Bah! Early morning mist followed by a short spell of rain prevented any last glassing effort from the outcrop, so it was pack up gear time and into the last gentle stretch down to Rocks Ahead Hut for the pick-up.

 

No sooner had I made it up onto the main ridge than the sun made an appearance and remained out for the rest of the walk. Chris was due in at 1.30pm and I milked every minute of the time I had left in the hope of picking up a chance animal. No dice!

 

I arrived at Rocks Ahead Hut at 1.10pm and Chris arrived a little after 1.30pm. There were two other hunters in the chopper who were on the way out also.

 

The flight was smooth and after landing at the hangar we settled into some coffee and cheese sandwiches courtesy of Chris, good man! I always enjoy talking with Chris and we chewed the fat for a while.

 

It was a great trip and a good way to kick off my sika hunting once again.

 

Nik

 

Check out the video of that trip here:

 

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