HUNTS for a hind, rocks

Lynda’s first ever deer, the smile says it all.

I recently attended the HUNTS course with the Kapiti NZDA Branch.  As a new female hunter, turning 50 this year, I had no idea what it was going to be like but my experience of the course exceeded all expectations.

We had four instructors: Hamish, Ian, Ron and Roger. Two were in training, yet every single instructor added value from their years of hunting. The first night was exciting to receive our book and other unexpected gifts: a beanie, hunting blaze as well as great tramping food to try, kindly supplied by Go Native.

The HUNTS course is well thought out and the manual was great. It comes into its own through the wealth of knowledge and experience the instructors provide, that goes far beyond the curriculum.

My personal highlights were going to the range and practising target shooting. We also went into the bush to learn map navigation, compass use, using the GPS and how to make a shelter and a fire in the rain.  The river crossing with a backpack on was great.

Particularly the line dancing! It was highly amusing having to link arms, turn direction in the river without falling in when there is a strong current.

Lynda receiving positional shooting tuition from Provisional Hunts Instructor Ian.

When it was my turn to go out for a hunt, I was prepared and thought we would be tramping for hours but, fortunately, we had a quad bike and the instructor had a good idea where the deer would be hanging out. We had several attempts at stopping to find them, without any luck.

Tracking the deer was very insightful. We spotted a doe in the bracken from the top of a ridge and then commando crawled carefully down the ridge and lay prone. The doe was about 100 metres away, head visible, along with the back, however, it wasn’t a good shot as recommended by the instructors. We waited for the doe to move, which seemed like an eternity. Lying still, the sun was baking my face and my position was uncomfortable but I waited patiently for the doe to move.

After the climb out! Lynda shot her deer in a very awkward spot with a very steep climb out. Her Hunts Instructor Hamish offered to carry it out.

I did think, she doesn’t want to die today and felt a pang of reluctance, as I’d never killed any animal. Eventually, the guide made a few deer noises to see if the doe would get curious. It didn’t! Hamish threw a stick and that didn’t work either, so he threw another closer to the doe. After a delayed response, the doe got up, turned around and shot off into the bracken.

I struggled to find her in my viewfinder but saw the bushes move. There was a moment when she was out in the open; she turned our way and gave me a perfect shot, just up above her shoulder. I pulled the trigger—BOOM! She toppled backwards immediately.

We clambered down the hill but it wasn’t an easy descent and I considered how was I going to get back to the top of the ridge carrying my kill. I raced in front so I would be first to see the animal. Again, a tinge of sadness as I stroked her fur and felt her warm body. She was a beautiful animal; I said a prayer of gratitude for the food she would bring to my family and I’d make her skin into a cushion cover.

The guide showed me how to gut the deer and then what a BONUS—lovely Hamish carried her up the hill! I thought women were supposed to carry their animals but was eternally grateful though, as it wasn’t an easy climb back.

Later we learnt how to skin the animal and one of the more experienced hunters, Jonny, helped me. I found the process quite meditative as you had to be totally present to make sure you didn’t get any holes in the skin or damage the meat.

It was an amazing day; I took the heart and liver home and the dog enjoyed the trotters. Can’t wait to get the meat back from the butchers and my pillow cover!

I’d do it all again and recommend it to everyone wanting to hunt, to do this course. Thanks Hamish, Ian, Roger and Ron. You guys rock.

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