During my 2015 season I had some space free for some hunting for myself and as luck had it we had again drawn a balloted Wilderness tahr area. I headed in with my younger brother Jimmy and ever faithful wife Mirella.
Everything was looking good leading up to the trip until I realized my bow would not be ready in time. It was getting new limbs fitted after we (the bow and I) took a tumble a few months earlier. The same thing happened to me 12 months prior on our last Tahr ballot, breaking my bow 10 days before we were due to fly in! Jimmy was kind enough to lend me his bow, so I had abit of time to familiarize myself with it. Jimmy was taking in a rifle anyway and Mirellas bow was shooting great.
Leading up to the hunt the weather was pretty rough, with rain only the west coast can produce, about 450mm(18 inches!) falling in the low country in about 10 days. As our fly date approached the weather sorted itself out and looked great.
Dawned nice and clear, We were flown in and had our camp set up and by 11am we were looking at about 5 mature Bulls above camp in the icy bluffs.
After abit of humming and haaing about bulls one appeared on the skyline and made his way down to some nannies. He was a definite shooter and stood out apart from the others. I thought he must be around the 13”-13 ½” size. Due to his location and the time we had, we decided Jimmy best try for this bull with the rifle. Jimmy and I set off with Mirella going to scout out some lower country. 2 hours of scrambling and a few stops saw Jimmy and I 300 yards from the bull. He had a few nannies and younger bulls with him some of which were staring right at us. For some reason the animals stayed quiet and stayed put. We crept up the last wee cliff and I ranged the bull at 210 yards. The shooting position was less than ideal with Jimmy in all sorts of weird angles but with his feet held in place by my ice axe he finally got comfortable.
The big Bull was still happily asleep in his bed and we could just make out his back and horns. Easy we thought, just let out a whistle and he will stand up for an easy shot. I had the camera running and let out abit of noise…nothing. 10 minutes of yelling and whistling passed and still the Bull would not budge!
Jimmy was getting pretty tired of trying to hold his position and thought he should just have a crack and see what happens. His first shot blew some snow up just below the Bulls back and he stood up in a hurry, Jimmy is fast on the bolt and before the bull knew it he had a 130gn SST in his chest, he stumbled and ran but only made 30 yards before he fell. We both watched as the Big Bull tumbled and slid out of view.
Jimmy was pretty new to ice and snow and I gave him a crash course on crampons as we stared to sidle around to where his Bull had died. I had a feeling that we may be in for a tough recovery and I was not disappointed. I left Jimmy on a nice snowy ridge as things were getting a little tricky.
I found the chute that his bull had rolled into and scanned up and down it for signs of him. At the bottom of the chute there was a hole leading under a large snow bridge.
After a bit of negotiation and much cursing I decided this must be location of Jimmy’s Bull, nearly 300 yards below where he had shot it I caught a glimpse of the Bull, deep inside the snow cave.
I dropped my pack and set about looking at the roof of the snow cave to what it was like, everything looked pretty good to me. I descended down inside but when I reached the Bull I saw there was a large crack in the roof right above where he was lying. I was not keen to stay here for long so took a quick photo and I had a few goes at puling the Bull up for a better look but I had no chance, with not many options I quickly removed the head and scampered out of there.
I met up with Jimmy and had a good look at the bull. He was a great animal with good bases and plenty of length to his horns, he had lost his tips in the tumble but there was not a lot we could do. It was a shame to leave a nice skin and good meat behind but I think we did the best we could, without a good rope and some ice screws the Bull was staying put. We made it to camp just as the sun was going down, Mirella had not seen much but got to watch our whole stalk from down low which was pretty cool.
The tape ran to 13 4/8s” and with bases over 9” this made a pretty good first bull for Jimmy!
Not bad for the first day!!
We woke to another great day in south westland and set about glassing. I spotted a very old looking bull in possibly the worst place I have ever seen a Tahr, a vertical face of monkey scrub. He was only out in the sun for a few moments to dry his mane then he bedded and disappeared. The old guys often don’t hang out in the open for long.
As Jimmy and I moved up higher, I looked back down to camp to see a young bull moving up toward camp! We managed to signal to Mirella but by the time she had got back to camp the bull busted. He was only about 25 yards from our tents and he ran up beside Jimmy and me. I had him at about 30 yards but let him walk as I had already shot a bigger bull last year and was only after fully mature guys (6yr+). I soon found a good looking bull on a ridge below and was just mapping out an approach when the coastal fog rolled in, bringing vis down to about 30 yards. Jimmy went back to camp and I sat out in the mist for most of the day waiting for a clearance. Mirella had seen a couple of good bulls down low but the cloud moved in too quick for her to make an approach.
That was pretty much the hunting over for that day, low vis right until the sun went down, we looked over a lot of Tahr in the last light but there was not enough time to make a stalk.
We woke to some light rain, James and Mirella decided to sit it out in camp but I was off to try my luck. The weather was patchy light to heavy rain but the cloud was sitting around 4500ft leaving the lower country open to hunt.
I soon saw a bull I had wanted to look at closer from yesterday. I quickly descended on the bull’s location and closed the gap from about 1200 yards to 50-60 of where I thought he was bedded.
Just as I was looking about for him he stood up not 60 yards from me and shook off his impressive mane and began to feed up toward me. My heart was doing about 100miles per hour as I closed the gap. I ran out of cover at about 40 yards but there was a small steep creek between us and as he fed down into I gained a few yards and knocked an arrow.
He fed out of the creek and I shakily ranged him at 34 yards, I was hiding behind what could only be described as a blade of grass so didn’t have long before he would spot me.
He turned a nice broad side and had a look around, as he did I drew and held a little high with my 30 pin.
I was shaking so bad I knew I had missed before I even let the arrow go. He took off with a couple of snorts and I hit the deck. He was startled but not quite sure what was going on.
I made my best Tahr noises and he crept back in for a closer look. He came inside 20 and I was at full draw on him. I had rushed the first shot so slowed right down and told myself to make it count, but I was too slow, he turned and ran just I released and missed again. I took after him and had him at 40 but didn’t bother missing again, I was a mental wreck at this point so I slowly walked back to my pack for some lunch.
I spent a few more hours chasing Tahr in the wet scrub but with no more luck (good or bad haha) I headed back to camp wet, cold and somewhat disappointed.
Dawned clear and I was up with a vengeance, I was going high after some of the bulls we saw near where James had shot his.
James came up with me till we hit the snow and ice and he sat down to watch.
There was a good mature Bull up high but he was tailing a nanny on heat and kept moving about, I waited until he went over the skyline and I was off after them. The climb up was somewhat steep and little hairy in places but I was soon sitting about 100 yards away from a mob of nannies with the good bull not far away. We had reached a stale mate, I had no more cover and the Tahr had reached the top of their mountain with only ice beyond them they had nowhere to go. It is unbelievable the country these animals can move about in when pressured. Some of the mob had spotted me and tried to escape over some ice and rock precipices but the main mob stayed somewhat relaxed in the high bedding area.
As they started to descend past me I tried to cut them off, but it was a pretty bold move and with no real cover I made it to 50 yards of the bull but he was onto me and tore off downhill. I was happy knowing I had pushed the Tahr and myself to the limits and had a slow descent down to Jimmy, Cloud had filled the lower valley which made for some spectacular scenery.
We got a message the night before about bad weather on the way and contacted the chopper for a pick up. We packed up early and flew out mid-morning leaving plenty of Tahr for next time.
It was a great trip with Jimmy getting a ripper Bull to start his Tahr hunting career and I got that bit closer to my goal of a big ol Bull Tahr with the bow! Theres always next time!!