A non-hunter’s alpine adventure

Sidling along the glacier lake

In my role as National HUNTS Coordinator for the NZDA I have learned a lot about the theory of hunting but very little in terms of the more important practical aspects. When the opportunity arose to go on my first hunt in tahr country—how could I say no!

I consider myself a reasonably experienced hiker, having completed multiple overnight trips and many solo adventures, but this was unlike anything I had ever done before.

Travelling by helicopter, we were dropped off at Steffan Biv in the Murchison valley of Aoraki, Mount Cook National Park. The first day was a huge undertaking, as we sidled along the glacier lake for around three hours before ascending up a steep, rocky stream to reach the bushline. At the top we took a break to glass the area for tahr, before ascending even further. Although we were walking for hours it felt like almost no time had passed at all; there was such an incredible amount of unique scenery to enjoy.

At the top, we spotted a chamois on a ridge-line over the far side, so we split up— three of us remaining here and the other two heading over to the animal. Keeping our binos ready, we watched the chamois and noticed a young tahr bull appear on a ridge directly opposite him. The two animals watched each other, taking their time to decide who had crossed over into the others territory but, as the tahr turned to run away, we heard a shot and the chamois was down!

A view from the top

Courtney had secured a 10-inch buck. We stayed out until late in the day, continuing to keep watch for tahr and then sidling back along the lake, using the light from our headtorches.

The next day was much more relaxed; finding a spot that was ideal to sit and glass up into the bush only 10 minutes from the hut. Not long after arriving here, we spotted a group of tahr around 300 metres away, then noticed an older bull in the brush. He seemed pretty comfortable sitting amongst the bush, so we settled in and kept watch. When he did finally stand up, ‘Ema was ready to take the shot and placed one that looked to hit him right behind the shoulder, however, he ran quite some distance after impact. Unfortunately, we searched everywhere but couldn’t recover him from the thick bush.

Our third day I found the most challenging, sidling uphill to the tussocks with really steep country all around us.

On reaching the top we sat down to glass and a helicopter flew directly over us, chasing away the tahr we had been intending to follow. The view was incredible from the tops and my appreciation for the unique experience hunters have was only growing, despite feeling very tired and sore.

It’s difficult to explain how life changing this was, being able to witness both tahr and chamois in their natural environment and enjoy this alongside my Dad, who is so passionate about them. It definitely wasn’t easy; I was pushed to the edge of both my comfort zone and fitness level but that just made it even more rewarding.

I feel very grateful for this opportunity and hope that others get the chance to witness these incredible animals in their mountain home!

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