Here is a report my mate Steve wrote up from our Tahr ballot excursion this year...
Plus a link to my 'Best of' Pics...
Tahr 2015 Slideshow by BenSwado | Photobucket
We drove to Sydney and hit up Safari Firearms to grab a few things, including a rifle sling because I'd left mine at home. From there, down to Engadine to pick up the boys before heading to the airport. After an uneventful passage thru Aussie Customs, we flew into Christchurch. Sorted our NZ licences, met with Paul (our kiwi mate from the north island) at the airport and picked up the hire cars. From there, we drove to Methven for the night, getting in around 230am.
Next morning we did a weather check and found there was going to be a storm that could close Arthur's pass blocking us from the west. So after a quick breaky, we went to Tyron Southward taxidermy to collect Swado's chamois cape.
We checked out some massive red head (farm bred freak) that reportedly cost a Sheikh around $250k to shoot. Plus the 15 others he'd shot that day. The work shop was busy with heaps of different game, all at different stages of mounting. Then into the display room to see some other work that Tyron and the team had done.
Once we finished there it was back to Christchurch to get cooker gas, backcountry, mountain radio and snow chains while the other car headed off towards the pass and over the other side to get groceries.
We made it to Springfield, but got whited out and had to sit the night out there at the pub while the storm passed and the road was cleared. The other car got as far as Hokitika, but was stopped there with flooding and landslides.
A boring day waiting for the road to be cleared. At 3.30 the roads opened and we where off. We made it to Franz Josef after dark and stayed the night at a backpackers. Having a few beers to many before bed, ready for the chopper to take us in the next day.
Up real early, the Sydney boys headed North to get into their block and we headed South to catch our chopper in. At the helipad getting organised, we chatted with a few groups about where we all were headed. Swapping info and contact details etc. One kiwi guy noticed we had no beer and insisted we had to take a case of beer into the block. We were concerned about space in the chopper with 3 blokes and all the gear. But he insisted on giving us a box and wouldnt take money for it either. He even went right out of his way to give us good advice on how to best navigate our block and where the best routes across the river would be. Top bloke!!!
The chopper set us down at the camp site, on a small ridge near a small flattish area. This ridge line became known as the chopper pad. We got camp set up, before sitting up on the little rise above camp to glass for the afternoon.
I was hung over and not real well. I'm too old for 2 days at it and also a bit nervous about the week ahead. Am I prepared??? Will my gear hold up??? What will this weather do??? how did i forget the ****ing sling i bought to replace the one id left at home...
There weren't many tahr about as the choppers had been thru the valley about a dozen times that day, but a small tahr popped up behind us, before quickly disappearing again into the scrub and brush. A short time later, Paul decided to go make a coffee and quickly spots the same tahr in the same spot again. I grab the rifle, thinking it was a chance to get some camp meat. I let the shot off and she went down at only 70 odd metres. We made our way down there and found her on a steep slope, hooked onto some scrub by her horns. Turns out she wasn't a young eater like we first thought, instead a really old girl with growth rings suggesting she was at least 14-15 and a half. With only 2 long loose front teeth, she was poor as piss and I dont think she'd have made another winter. She had a great coat, so I skinned her for a floor rug while the boys went back to glassing.
2 nice bulls were spotted on an opposite face, but at about 1500m they were out of reach this late in the day.
Just on dark I spotted a bull on a face on the same side of the river as us, but it was just too dark to get to him too.
at the helipad
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glassing some more
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my nanny, much better quality photo, as it was taken with swados camera. ill get swado to upload some of his photos from his camera
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Snowing hard. We woke to a storm, so were stuck in our tents for most the day. All good, we can use the rest I guess.
The weather broke for a few minutes at about 1230, we ducked out for a quick piss, leg stretch and glass. Paul immediately spotted a smallish bull on the opposite face. While Paul raced to grab the rifle just in case, Swado and I tried to get a range on him. Then a bigger mature bull stepped out. Swado took the 460m shot and I watched the bullet strike the bull perfectly thru the spotter. He took off down hill and I lost him in some thick scrub where he stayed. Cracking shot. Within a few minutes the weather had come in again, so we were back to the tents. We discuss the shot and then tactics on how to get to him tomorrow. Too late and too dangerous to try today, especially with the weather. About 20 minutes before dark, it broke again. Another quick opportunity to stretch and look around. immediately Swado spotted a meat animal. After a few quick seconds and keen for fresh meat, I handed my rifle over for him to sort it out. I couldnt pin point the animal out from the tussock and the light was all but gone. A quick recovery as it was only about 60 metres away, the straps and legs taken for the camp. I cooked up some bacon and tahr back straps for dinner, but as soon as we'd finished we were chased back into the tents by heavy snow again. This time the weather had come from the other direction. West Coast hey!
Tahr meat is kind of like lamb, but sweeter. Much better than i anticipated.
Up at first light, the storm had passed. Before a feed, we go straight up to the chopper pad for a glass. Swado spotted two bulls in the distance and we set off after them. Unfortunately, by the time we got within 550m of where they were last seen, they'd moved off and up over the tops out of reach. Back to camp for a bite to eat. It's soon decided Swado and Paul will get on their way to retrieve the bull from yesterday. I sat up on the chopper pad glassing and to help guide them into the area by radio. While watching, I spotted a bull on the opposite face, and spent a while photographing him thru the spotter before deciding to move in for a better look. He was 670m out from the pad and I managed to get within 520m, but he wasn't quite big enough, being immature with a short mane. He would be best left to grow. I made my way back up to the chopper pad and photographed that bull several more times, along with several nannies and kids that were in the area. Before long, the guys radioed for more directions. I pointed them up and across to what looked like the most accessible route and they set off again. It soon became obvious that they could see the cave where the bull was last seen, so I watched them move in. Just as they got close, the bull broke from cover. Just as I reached for my radio, a shot rang out and I could see Swado had hit him at about 60 metres. The bull tucked in behind some brush, but I wasn't convinced he was out. I radioed the guys to give him a finisher just to make sure. Shortly after the second shot, they radioed thru to confirm he was down and out. So I set up the spotter, while they moved into position for some long range victory shots. Turns out the first bullet the day before, had struck the shoulder and deflected, coming out thru the brisket. It had broken the shoulder, but not struck any vitals. Once Paul and Swado finished the photos and started caping, I headed off for a walk to glass some faces I hadn't been to yet. With all the days activity, nothing was moving. I headed back to camp and cooked up a stew in the camp oven, while I waited for the guys to get back across the river. Tahr and bacon with potato, peas and tomato. Obviously they were stuffed when they got back, so a quick feed of stew and it was bedtime. Swado was snoring within 20 minutes.
Swados 12 inch bull
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Up at first light, back up to the chopper pad to glass before breakfast. Some bulls were quickly spotted on a tarn about 575m below. I had a crack at a bull at that distance with Paul's rifle and just struck just to the right. He took off down into some scrub. A few minutes later I had a go at another at 465, but again went right. Something was not right, either the thermals rushing down the faces, pulling the shot a little from Paul's heavy trigger, or the fool pulling it. Either way, the shots were missed and the bulls moved to the safety of the scrub.
Back to camp for some breaky, a coffee and some more glassing. Soon the sun had hit the pad and my feet could thaw out. Every morning my hunting boots were frozen rock solid, making them nearly impossible to put on. i often wore work boots first thing in the morning glassing, because they hadnt contacted snow and hadnt frozen.
During the rest of the morning, we glassed while enjoying the sun. Several animals at 700m+ where seen. Some in completely inaccessible areas, but we got some great footage. I had a kea fly in and land within 5 yards for me and took some shots of it as well.
Around lunch time I went for a wander up over a face to have a glass and answer nature. Before I got a chance to sit and think, Swado radioed thru to tell me they'd spotted some bulls high above the tarn and Paul was coming over to me, then over, to try and get onto them. Swado stayed back with the spotter to watch where the bull went and guide us if need be. I was convinced from where I was standing, that we didn't have a chance of getting across to them. Paul is a mountain goat and took me on a trek I'd never even consider doing on my own. Steep, up and down, up and down, icy, creeks, ridges, thick scrub, but I pushed on because Paul at 48 was making me look unfit. We got to where we thought we'd get a shot, but there was a small ridge blocking our view. Swado confirmed the bull was still in the same area and unaware, so we had to moved closer and lower. We eventually got our opportunity with the bull at 376m uphill, and i took the shot. I lost my sight picture, but thought he'd been hit and took off downhill with another bull chasing him, with a few nannies in tow. As they headed downhill, a bull paused momentarily on a rock about 230 away, and I let him have it, he dropped down another few metres, paused, and I finished him. I was over the moon, I couldn't thank Paul enough for pushing me beyond my comfort zone, thru that terrain, to get to a bull i never thought id go after. We got over to my bull, and realised he wasn't the bigger bull I'd first shot at, but he was my bull. I couldn't be happier. He later measured at 10 and 1/4 inches. No world beater, but I worked hard for him, and as a first bull I am stoked, nice 9.5 inch long mane on him too. We made our way uphill to see if we could find the injured bigger bull, but found no blood trail. Swado reviewed the footage he captured through the spotter, frame by frame and thought the shot looked like a miss and confirmed I'd hit snow just over the top of him. Im pleased I hadn't injured a bull and lost him.
We quickly caped out my bull, packed him up in a shirt to minimise the mess in the pack, and made our way back. How I managed to get back I'll never know. Adrenalin, lots of rests, and Paul's encouragement was all that got me home, I was completely exhausted when we got back to camp. The country is spectacular, but takes no prisoners, I would not like to be lost out there. Back at camp Swado had spotted a cracker up above us, but he was way too high to recover, so we left him for the night.
A backcountry meal for dinner, call in with the sat phone for a weather check, then bed.
What a belter of a day.
It turns out I had forgotten to take a ballistics distance measurement, which due to the angle of the shot, would have probably shown the bull to be 325m "ballistic distance" away, hence the high shot when i dialed the scope to 375m.
my bull, i didnt get a posed shot, cause paul was still looking for blood trail on the other bull, and i was worried about light, so i started caping
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my little camera struggled with the light. so many photos washed out
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Up for a glass as soon as it was light enough to see and soon spotted a few animals 660m away. A nice bull with a nice cape, but not monster curls tho. Several nannies were moving around on the same face, but not many big bulls were seen early, a few mature bulls from time to time, but all a long way out or in unrecoverable positions.
The monster from late yesterday evening appeared again with his nannies, but he was 800m away at best, and stayed up there well inaccessible, taunting Swado all day.
We continued glassing, watching tahr move into the sun as it hit the tarn where I got my bull, while Swado and I head skinned our bulls.
Once we were done skinning, it was time for a tahr stew for lunch and back to glassing. The bull I missed yesterday kept appearing and disappearing, but keeping himself in a non recoverable position which meant we couldn't take the shot.
I was happy with the nanny and bull I had, so wasn't going to take another shot.
We called thru to the chopper to pick us up tomorrow before the weather comes in on Friday. We heading back to camp for a back country dinner and pack up as much as we could as the chopper was scheduled for 930am, with a plan that we might get a quick look at chamois before we fly back to Aus.
Paul has been chasing tahr for 20 years and only wanted a 13.5+ bull, so didnt take any bulls on this trip.
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We packed up camp and carted it up to the heli pad in the morning. A crew of heli hunters came illegally thru while I was on the pad, but they didn't care. A real shame as they took 2 bulls out of our block within minutes and not 600m from our camp.
Unfortunately my camera battery quit just before the chopper arrived, so could not film the flight. We had a brilliant trip back to the car, James Scott has one of the best jobs in the world.
We headed into Fox Glacier for a feed and ran into a group of other Aussie hunters, who had also just came out. Benster among them.
Our plan for chamois seemed to be everyone's plan, with cars at every side creek and river.
On to Franz to the backpackers to boil out the heads, dry and wash out gear, and a beer or two.
Breakfast in Franz Josef before heading back over to drop the skins and capes off at Tyron's, before pushing on to Christchurch for the night. Tyron aged the nanny at 17.5 years old, and said it was the second oldest wild tahr that he had ever heard of, so I was pretty stoked with that.
We changed our flights to get back to Aus Saturday night, rather than Monday night, seeing as the weather brought us out of the mountains early. We'd have spent more on accommodation and entertainment if we'd stayed, than the cost of the ticket change.
We dropped Paul off at the airport to get his flight back to the north island, then went back to a servo carpark to finish cleaning up the tahr heads for quarantine, then dropped the cars back, checked in and flew back to Aus, dropping the boys off at Engadine, before getting back to Canberra about 1am.
Hell of a trip, cant wait for next year...
timer shot from the last day
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