I am usually busy guiding all through the Tahr rut, but during 2016 we had a gap for a a few days and decided to make the most of it. My brother (Jimmy), guide Tim and I all had planned a trip into the west coast.
Leading up the hunt the weather looked fairly average and after a chat with the heli pilot we decided to pull out of our west coast adventure. I have spent plenty of time in a tent waiting for weather to clear and was keen to explore some new east coast country so we made a new plan.
We headed to a large private property we have access to for Wallabys and Fallow deer while the worst of the weather passed, then we would head into the mountains after Tahr. Wallabys are in high numbers on this farm and we were set to do a bit of a clean-up for the farmer. 100 something Wallabies and 9 tasty deer later we were out of ammo for the .223 and our freezers were packed.
We headed into new country that we had only looked at on the maps. Deciding that a couple of short overnight trips into different valleys would allow us to cover as much ground as possible.
After a short walk in the dark at a fair pace we made a good glassing point by day break. As the sun warmed the valley we put our eyes to work. Jimmy had recently acquired some new Leica’s and he put them to good use spotting multiple Bull Tahr and Chamois in quick succession. After a bit of a look through the scope we had found a Bull that was worth a closer inspection. He was a mile off but with a big body and a long hair he looked to have some age about him.
After a steep but relativity easy climb to the bulls’ last location, we saw he had entered some real nasty stuff and hoped we could get above him for a closer inspection. By lunchtime we had made our intended camp spot above the bull and after some lunch we set off. After a lot of searching we could not find the bull and it looked like he had entered some true Tahr country in search of some nannies. From our vantage point we could cover a lot of ground and by late afternoon we had spotted a couple of mobs of nannies and multiple Bulls. The Rut was just starting and older bulls have a habit of wandering between nanny groups looking for girls on heat. They can easily cover country that would take us days to negotiate.
From our evening glassing spot we did get to witness the best Tahr fight I have seen, two younger bulls going hard at it in some crazy country. We also spotted a few mature bulls across the valley on a low bench.
The next morning we made a plan to descend to the valley floor, cross over and climb up the other side to access the small bench the Tahr were on. 3000feet down and 3000feet back up again and we had a wee camp set up in the lee of a ridge out of the wind. That evening we sat and glassed below us, waiting. We knew there were Tahr around but saw very little of them.
Day break and we were glassing a mob of nannies with 3 mature bulls in tow below us. Tim had split up from Jimmy and I to explore further around the ridge. We decided to descend on the bulls and have a closer look. We have both shot great bulls in the 13 ½” class but I was in need of a big winter skin for one of my clients. Plus I had been carrying around my No5 Mk1 Lee Enfield “jungle carbine” and needed to test this beast out on some Tahr.
As we made our way quickly down the slope I stopped dead in my tracks. Bull! Not 30 yards away was a mature bull unaware of us. He was focused on the bulls and nannies below. Quickly we dropped packs and got our cameras out. This was a great opportunity to get some cool close up footage of a bull.
Things got a little western and the end result was a frustrated Jimmy and a dead Bull Tahr. In an effort to get some good pictures James was atop a rock, the bull heard us and took off. I took a fleeting few shots at the bull as he made his escape and James’s nice SLR took a wee tumble. I was unaware of Jimmy’s troubles and thought he had just captured some awesome footage. Instead he had a hefty repair bill ahead of him. Such is mountain hunting, Tahr hunting can be very hard on gear!
We made our way over to the bull, who after I remembered how to aim, took a 174gn round nose through his shoulders and sent him diving into a rock chute. Needless to say the old .303 British did the job perfectly, breaking both shoulders and stopping the bull in his tracks. After a photo session we skinned the Bull out for a life size mount. He was not a monster but a good mature bull with a great skin and horns around the 12” mark.
Jimmy decided he wanted to head back to camp and check out some other country on the way, I wanted to continue down and check out the other bulls around. Jimmy kindly took the full skin (cheers mate!) back up to camp. I spent the evening wandering about and glassing. Saw a lot of young bulls and had some cool close encounters with a few. I also saw a couple of good looking Bulls in some real tiger country that was not fit for a human. It was great to see so many bulls about and I headed back to camp in the dark, happy with the day and glad we had a nice skin.
Tim had a similar day to us minus the broken camera and dead Tahr. He had seen a lot of the same bulls we had and took some great photos. That evening we admired the awesome views of the mountains and the amazing star lit night.
The next morning we packed up early and heading down to the truck, we had a long drive ahead and 9 deer to try and squeeze into the truck which were sitting in the chiller back on the farm.
This was a great trip and a good example of how a bit of map gazing, a bit of hard work and a little luck can all come together. Thanks Tim and Jimmy, looking forward to the next one!
About the Lee Enfield
I know some people are curious about my rifle and it indeed is an original No5 Mk1 aka ‘Jungle Carbine’. The Lee Enfield is infamous as the rifle that ‘won the war’.
Developed in 1895 the Lee Enfield became the mainstay rifle for the British and commonwealth forces during both world wars and multiple other conflicts. There are a number of models and some are still found in conflicts today. Chambered in the iconic .303 British they are a reliable work horse rifle, known for the 10 shot magazine and very fast bolt action design. We still have my grandfathers Lee Enfield which was built in 1897 for the Boer war, and that rifle still functions flawlessly some 120 years and countless thousands of rounds later.(they dont make em like they used to!)
After the war there were huge numbers of Lee Enfields sporterized by both commercial operations and DIY sportsmen. They became the number one hunting rifle across most commonwealth regions due to the high volume of cheap rifles and ammunition in post war periods. The .303 is a perfectly capable cartridge for most big game, pushing a 180grain bullet at around 2400fps.
For many years they were basically the only option for Kiwi hunters and most have at least one sitting in the cupboard somewhere.
The No5 Mk1 was developed late in WW2 and mine was built during the end of production in 1947. The No5s are alot lighter and shorter than other Lee Enfields making them perfect for hunters, the down fall is a little lively recoil and muzzle flash but with some practice they can be quite accurate.
Hunting with the ‘ol three oh’ is something that feels very Kiwi to me and it is great fun getting back to basics with open sights and learning how to stalk and shoot properly.