Tahr for the experience

Tahr don’t come much better than this old campaigner

Huge tussock covering mountains lured us up the valley as we pushed through the frozen puddles and light dustings of snow. Massive rolling hills with ice-covered rocky bluffs and not a tree in sight was unfamiliar territory for me but I saw it as a challenge. One to be conquered.

The clear blue sky was lavish but we knew it wouldn’t last forever, as we only really had one day to hunt before it was back to uni. The odd fallow deer and pig looked down on us from the opposing face, laughing because they were safe to lay around in the sun, on the private land. The public land ahead of us held good numbers of red deer, pigs, and the odd chamois. However, the one animal I was chasing was a bull tahr. People who had hunted this place earlier in the year informed us of a few hot spots and after dumping the packs at a crowded hut, we beelined it up the valley to find a comfy spot to glass for the evening.

With binoculars glued to my face, I scanned our surroundings, hoping to find sign of life. The sun was slowly descending, blanketing the faces with warm rays of light, perfect for an animal. It turned out to be a successful glassing session as we collectively spotted 142 deer. The only issue was every time we looked back at them, each seemed to turn into bush. A cheeky pig passed by and we spotted a wallaby way down by the creek but apart from that, there was nothing. Jody thought he glimpsed a tahr disappearing over the skyline. Nothing was happening in our basin so there was nothing to lose by checking it out.

Jody and Daniel admire Mackenzie Country’s black ‘bear’

With a bright red face, I pulled myself up the last couple of metres and peered over the ridge. Nothing. All that effort for nothing. Feeling the situation was hopeless, we considered heading back for a nice warm dinner. The idea tempted me but I said, ”Bugger it”. And we continued all the way up.

It only takes one animal to change the day. With that in mind, we sat for 15 minutes watching the sun go down until movement caught my attention. My head swung round to see a large black figure out in the open. I knew immediately that this was not a bush. I wasn’t bothered about shooting a monster, I just wanted a tahr so it didn’t take long to decide. With the light quickly fading, the bull began sidling around the face heading straight for the ridge. Our time was limited; we only had minutes before this tahr was gone. He stood at 600 metres, which was out of my comfort zone, meaning we had to close the gap and close it fast.

We darted through the long tussock, practically sprinting up the hill and out of sight. As we got to an isolated knob, I carefully peered over. At the rate he was moving, I had little hope he would be there.

“I see him. 408 metres,” whispered Jody.

At that distance it was by far my longest shot, but it was now or never if I wanted this tahr. I shuffled forward and set up the bipod while Jody readied the camera. I stared at the beast through the scope and settled my breathing. He stood staunch on a cluster of rocks perfectly broadside, so I drifted the crosshairs onto his shoulder and gently squeezed the trigger. BOOM! The .270 echoed up the valley.

The bullet hung in the air for what felt like a lifetime and the bull took two steps and disappeared over the ridge. A solid thwack followed. Jody and I stared at each other, slightly unsure of what had happened. Thankfully, Jody had been recording and we were able watch as the 150-grain bullet punched its way through the thick fur and into the engine room .

Once our voices had finally run out from screaming, we hustled over to find the bull. As I reached the rock, I spied a beautiful clump of dark fur sticking out amongst the snow and tussock. I ran my hands through the coat and over its horns then thanked the bull for sacrificing its life. I did my best hillside butcher and departed as fast as I could, just making it back to the hut before dark.

He measured 13 inches on the shorthorn, an absolute monster. The horns were scratched and chipped from years of fighting and the age rings showed that he was an old boy at 8 years old. This tahr ticked the list when it comes to a trophy: maturity, character, and some bloody hard work to get him.

I couldn’t have been happier.

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