Not the sharpest man on the hill

Huge hind, huge landscape, huge mission

University had just started to kick into gear and my weekends were filling up with tedious assignments. To combat this, I snuck out to Central Otago for a day hunt hoping to bag a preRoar stag or meat animal for the flat. My Honda CRV glided to a stop on the edge of a rocky 4WD track. The sun was well over the skyline. My sleep-in had cut off a few hours of valuable hunting time, so I quickly got into it, quietly creeping up the mountain, peering over knobs and into guts— hoping to find an animal. Unfortunately, there weren’t any stupid deer close to the car, so I had to change positions.

I picked my way over the main ridge, stopping every so often to glass, but still no deer showed themselves. I was now regretting having a sleep-in, as the wind was picking up and my chances of getting an animal were diminishing as the day passed by. In an attempt to put myself into the mind of a deer, I took refuge behind a tussock bush and closed my eyes to wait out the weather.

After an hour or so, I got the urge to sit up and look around, and as soon as I looked through my binoculars, I saw it: a large red hind standing in the open, over 2 kilometres away. Immediately, I hatched a plan to close the gap but it wasn’t going to be easy, as she quickly started moving into a sheltered gully out of sight.

A daunting taskbutchering a huge hind with a gadget

I dropped down and over two spurs before making it to her hiding spot. Slowly and quietly, I crept down the face and into the gully, keeping a careful watch below me, expecting to see her at any moment, but she seemed to have disappeared. I figured that in these conditions, she most likely would have bedded down for the afternoon and, with the long tussock, she may be closer than I thought. I waited for 30 minutes before an idea hit me. I could wait for hours in hopes that she’s there and would stand up, or I could try something different. I set up my pack as a rest and prepared to shoot, providing my plan was successful.

Once ready, I let out a stag roar to get her up and out of her bed. Within seconds, the hind rocketed out of the tussock only 20 metres in front of me. She barrelled down the hill. I knew from past experiences that if deer are not sure what has spooked them, they will often run then stop to have a look behind them, and this is exactly what she did at 160 metres. I was ready to shoot and, as soon as she halted, I drilled her in the shoulder, dropping her on the spot. I was ecstatic that my plan had worked and I had some meat for the flat but, little did I know, my excitement was about to disappear.

Multi-tool but note the blade at Daniel’s fingertip

After the ceremonial photograph session and I prepared to butcher the animal, the moment of realisation hit… I had forgotten my knife. Thankfully, I keep a spare pocket knife in my first aid kit, so I dug through my pack before remembering that I had taken my pocket knife out and forgot to put it back in. On top of that, I was three and a half hours from the car, on the opposite side of a mountain. All I could think about was how much stick dad was going to give me once he found out. I kept rummaging through my pack and found a lifeline.—a metal multitool no bigger than a credit card had lain dormant in my pack for years, waiting for its moment. On one side of it was a sharp edge; it wasn’t much, but I knew I’d have to make it work.

The butchering was slow and painful, but after just under an hour, I got it done and loaded up the pack. I sat for a moment, looking at my 50kg pack, then looking up at the steep mountain between me and my car. “F#$@“ Out of breath, sunburnt and aching all over, I crawled to the skyline and down to the car in time to watch the beautiful sunset over the barren Central Otago land. I collapsed at the car and lay there. This was one hunt I’ll remember for the rest of my life and a mistake I’ll never make again.

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