The year I became a hunter

Black Mountain – overlooking the Rangitata River

My New Years resolution for 2022 was to start hunting. I began with my brother-in-law hunting for fallow deer in rural Whanganui—a step up from the rabbit hunting we had done previously. Eating the spoils of our hunting, I was hooked. However, I had limited hunting opportunities due to my brother-in-law living in a different city.

Later in the year, one of my neighbours took me out for a day hunt and we came back with a fallow. Another neighbour mentioned the Deerstalkers and how the Wellington branch had club nights, a rifle range and club hunts. I joined the Deerstalkers and in their next newsletter they advertised an upcoming hunt, Himalayan tahr in the Southern Alps. I signed up for the trip and quickly realised I had a lot to do, from acquiring the right gear to up-skilling.

I attended a Deerstalkers HUNTS course , which finished up the weekend before the tahr trip! HUNTS was great preparation as it covered all the core skills I’d need, from surviving in the outdoors to being able to ethically take down game animals. There was a good mix of theory and practical sessions, and I made a bunch of new hunting mates. The highlight was the final hunting trip where the instructors got me on to some game and I got my first kill with my new rifle, a goat at 200m.

First animal with my new rifle

Then down to the Rangitata River with four other experienced hunters. For the first four days, I climbed hills and saw tahr but didn’t manage to pull it all together. On last full day of hunting, my mate and I really wanted to get a tahr so, once the clag lifted, we headed up the hill. We were spoiled for choice, as we saw groups of tahr in multiple directions. We set off for the closest group, managing to get within 250m, affording straight shot across a valley. I had a few failed attempts over the week, so took my time and did some dry fires. Then I got my sights on the biggest bull in the group and pulled the trigger—success! After making sure my bull was dead, I lined up a nanny. The nanny tumbled down, making recovery easier.

Next was my lesson on how recovery can be the hardest part of tahr hunting. We had three hours of light and three tahr between us to recover. The first hour and half went well, with us descending to the gut and finding our first tahr. Then things got complicated. We couldn’t take the stream out due to a waterfall, which left us with either taking the long way back the way we came or heading up a shingle scree towards our other tahr and the possibility of a shorter route home. We took our chance on the unknown and headed up the shingle scree, climbing for over an hour until darkness set in. We found ourselves in the position of no easy way off the scree and my mate suggested we sleep out. It was a daunting thought, but I remembered my HUNTS training and I knew I had the gear I needed to make it through the night— even though it would be uncomfortable.

The view from our makeshift camp – the morning after

After a chilly and drizzly night in my emergency bag, the sun came up and we found an easier way back down to the stream we had been in the previous evening. A nice surprise was stumbling across my nanny on our way down. We made the hard call to give up on retrieving my bull. This time we decided not to take a gamble and took the long but known route back to the hut.

As I look back on 2022, I consider it the year I became a hunter, although I know there is still much to learn. I’m looking forward to some summer hunting and putting my new-found skills to the test. Thanks to all of those who helped me start my hunting journey.

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