Summer Hunting Bull TahrBy Jordan Corke
- 11th Dec, 2019 Dec 11, 2019, 12:00 AM
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The Southern Alps offer a vast opportunity for excellent game hunting. In fact, here in New Zealand we have some of the best public land hunting in the world. The Antler Addiction team started planning this hunt around August 2018. Lead by myself, we planned to tackle a summer bull tahr hunt and take a bunch of film to make a short video for the hunting community.
Along for the hunt would be seasoned hunter Aaron and our Aussie mate, hoping to bag his first trophy. In the early months, planning progress was slow due to it involving several bottles of fine whiskey. However, over time we decided on a location, supported by local knowledge provided by DOC.
After a busy last week at work Aaron and I were on our way deep into the Southern Alps. The trip began with some cracking weather which really set the scene for the next few days, or at least so we were hoping. On the drive in we were pleasantly surprised by several juvenile tahr that had come down in low light, oblivious to the sounds of the 2.8L Hilux chugging its way up the valley.
Intending to set up camp for the coming days, we gave the tahr a free pass through the sights of the .300 Winchester Magnum that had been resting on the back seat. With camp set up, warm tucker devoured, and a couple of tins of Speights to wash it down, we hit the hay to rest for the adventure that would greet us as the sun rose the next morning.
“The trip began with some cracking weather which really set the scene for the next few days, or at least so we were hoping.”
Our plan was to head further up the valley to get the lay of the land and potentially catch a few tahr moving up country to bed down for the day. This plan lasted about two minutes, when we reached an impassable river fed by fresh glacial melt.
Aaron and I were keen not be swept away the first time our boots touched water for the trip, so the executive decision was made.
However, we made the most of the ideal country that lay in front of us, spending a good few hours glassing, hoping to see tahr and getting our eyes in for the remainder of the trip. Unfortunately no animals were spotted, so with sunburned foreheads and tired eyes, we tramped back down the valley to re-plan, rest, and refuel for the afternoon.
After lunch we headed up a smaller catchment lying to the true left of camp. It was only a short walk until we hit an ideal altitude to glass both sides of the valley, definite looking tahr country with almost “too much feed in it”.
“We spotted a few groups of nannies and younger animals around the catchment, but not the mature bull we were looking for.”
We were surprised by the longer hours of daylight in the south, which meant that the circadian rhythms of the tahr had them on the move right on last light at around 8-30pm.
We spotted a few groups of nannies and younger animals around the catchment, but not the mature bull we were looking for. The closest group was about 1200 yards away, and at this stage disrupting the valley and surrounding hillsides was not worth it for a meat animal this early in the trip.
A further hour was spent glassing the scrubbier faces, hoping that a bull had slipped passed our binos, and was in fact already feeding on lower ground. It wasn’t long however, with patience and light wearing thin, that a good-sized bull appeared on the opposite side of the catchment at about 1800 yards.
Our Swarovski spotter provided an excellent view and we concluded that this was a serious contender and one worth a fair amount of effort.
With light fading fast, we made the decision to drop back down to the base of the catchment and climb back up the other side to a good shooting spot on a small ledge. Hearts pumping and sweat beading on our foreheads we made the descent to the small, icy creek that lay at the bottom of the valley. Now we had lost sight of the tahr, a hunter’s worst nightmare!
“The 200-grain projectile impacted on the point of aim, dropping the bull right on the ledge where he stood.”
We started our ascent through shoulder height scrub and alpine flax. Once we reached a reasonable height the bull came back into view, fortunately not too far from where we’d initially seen him. Aaron set the spotter up and I started to calculate the ballistics for the shot.
My Leica rangefinder said 600 yards and I began to dial in elevation, judge the wind, and calm my breathing, keen to release a flawless shot. Aaron began a narration of what he saw, “I’m looking right into his eyes Bro. He’s staring straight at us!” With the support and confidence any hunter needs, I fired as the crosshairs rested over the bull’s front shoulder.
The 200-grain projectile impacted on the point of aim, dropping the bull right on the ledge where he stood. Celebration echoed up and down the valley – Aaron and I were stoked at bagging a good bull this early in the trip.
Now reality set in as we realised our work had just started. With the light fading we decided to leave the recovery for the next day – the bull had fallen on the edge of a nasty lip with a steep, rocky gut leading up to it. Added to that was the alluring thought of the cold Speights back at camp.
The sun rose the following morning, subdued behind a thick bank of drizzly clouds, so Day Two got off to a slow start. We set off, making our way back up the catchment, and after a few hours, a few near misses and a lot of hard yakka later we finally located our bull.
We were pleased that he measured 12 inches on one side and 12.5 inches on the other. Super stoked but drenched to the bone, we dressed out the back steaks, back legs, and of course the head for a Euro mount, before heading back.
The next few days were somewhat disappointing as we spent the majority of the time back in camp at the mercy of the unpredictable weather. However, we did get a few clear moments and were able to bag some awesome close up footage of a group of nannies and their kids.
The decision was made to head out on Day Five due to the steadily rising river levels. We both agreed that we didn’t really want to spend the rest of the festive season in a 2-man tent out the back of nowhere.
The trusty Hilux carried us back to civilization with a chillybin full of meat, a head for the wall, and some great footage.
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