New Zealand for Bull Tahr and Chamois, Feb 2017, Solo

fcp

Well-Known Member
Though I've been stalking (or maybe I should say 'hunting' since its in NZ ? :) ) for Fallow on the North Island (married to a Kiwi and we are lucky get over there fairly regularly) this will be my first hunt on the South Island and I thought I'd write it up here as I go with a review of my prep, the gear I'm taking and then the trip itself.

I'm leaving next week to go see family on the North Island, from there the plan is to fly down from Wellington to Christchurch on the 2nd Feb, pickup a car and then drive to Canterbury/ Mt cook area for 4-5 days solo in the MT Cook/ Lawrence/ Rangitata.

Haven't yet decided on whether to hike in (probably 10K each way) or Heli (or maybe in on foot, Heli out) but a lot will depend on what the conditions are when I get there (for time of year it should be 12-15 degrees and fairly settled, but the Southern Alps are notoriously unpredictable and right now its a few below freezing at night with rain and gales! I hope its better by the time I get there!).

Prep has being going on for a long time and I thought others might be interested in what I've planned, what kit I'm taking and how it goes.

Aside from practicalities of arranging the trip/ transporting firearms etc, the big factor is that I'll be solo.

I thought long and hard about this and talked to people I know in NZ who hunt along with guys from the DOC about the practicalities/ considerations and in the end decided that providing the risks were sensibly managed I'd much prefer the solo experience.

While that's no problem for the stalking I do over here (summer stalking in Hampshire and Surrey is pretty safe in any case!), I'm acutely aware a mistake over there (that here would be a phone call and trip to A&E perhaps), could get you into serious trouble really quickly as at best help is probably hours away if you can raise it.

Beyond the weather there's the nature of the environment that Tahr live in, the altitude and accessibility being the big factors. Most shots are at a long distance (300M not uncommon) and everything will have to come together for a successful outcome.

So with that in mind, this is NOT intended as a 'how to', 'best practice' or guide to organising this kind of trip.

Though I've spend time in the mountains, climbed a bit and stalked more, I'm by no means expert an any of the subjects here. But If you want to organise something similar this might provide a useful point of reference.

For me the main benefit is that anyone who does have something to say/ advise or contribute with knowledge that I don't, might be able to do so :)

I have no ego about this so if you think I'm making a mistake or have misjudged something please speak up!

I thought I'd organise this write up into an initial post with something along the lines of:


  • Trip Plan
  • Objectives
  • My key considerations
  • (Update: part 1 now posted here )
  • Kit I'm taking




on return, followed by :


  • Travel (including my experience travelling with firearms)
  • Arrival / Decisions on the ground
  • The trip itself
  • A conclusion (hopefully lots of pics).

I'll try to get started ASAP.
 
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McKenzie

Well-Known Member
Looking forward to reading what you have to say; I'm planning on being there for July & August 2018 & intend to plan a hunting trip too.
 

Loki

Well-Known Member
Hi

Very interesting and hope it all works out as planned, very much look forward to reading the debrief.

L
 

johngryphon

Well-Known Member
fcp I have to ask "how fit are you" because if you haven't done the real leg prep for a few months prior to getting into the South Island mountains you will surely regret it.
Tired bones mean for more slips,slides and falls and falls are not what you want especially on a solo mission.
A RF is almost a must,the clear air and mountain steepness combine to make those 600 yard shots look like 300 yards.
Break a trail on your way up so you can follow your tracks back down otherwise you can be in a horrible place being bluffed out and at the end of the day that`s not a good place.

Convince an SD mate to go with you or one of the Kiwi boys from Fush n hunt.

A pic of couple of the Kiwi mates in the pic below, on consecutive days we climbed for six hours each day to try and find a way to the bull Tahr above us. I took this photo on the only 'flat' bit of the mountain after we pulled up for a rest.
Both six hour days climbing from the river below in pic were thwarted by the mountain!
I can advise that if you do a leg /ankle you better have a PLB in your pack or you will be added to the 'didnt come home list'

 
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Jonesie

Well-Known Member
Hi fcp,

I did a very similar trip last year in April. PM me and i can go through what I learnt from my experience. I'm planning a return trip in 2018.
 

fcp

Well-Known Member
fcp I have to ask "how fit are you" because if you haven't done the real leg prep for a few months prior to getting into the South Island mountains you will surely regret it.
Tired bones mean for more slips,slides and falls and falls are not what you want especially on a solo mission.
A RF is almost a must,the clear air and mountain steepness combine to make those 600 yard shots look like 300 yards.
Break a trail on your way up so you can follow your tracks back down otherwise you can be in a horrible place being bluffed out and at the end of the day that`s not a good place.

Convince an SD mate to go with you or one of the Kiwi boys from Fush n hunt.

A pic of couple of the Kiwi mates in the pic below, on consecutive days we climbed for six hours each day to try and find a way to the bull Tahr above us. I took this photo on the only 'flat' bit of the mountain after we pulled up for a rest.
Both six hour days climbing from the river below in pic were thwarted by the mountain!
I can advise that if you do a leg /ankle you better have a PLB in your pack or you will be added to the 'didnt come home list'
Exactly the kind of input I want :)

Mindful of that, I have been spending a fair amount of time in the gym, specifically working on legs (a lot of time on mountain programs on bike, steppers and cross trainer). Obviously that's a long (long!) way from the real world plus that doesn't include a pack. My recovery time is not to bad though and I'm working on the assumption that a sensible pace with rests would be sufficient.

RF I have (Leica 900), never use it in the UK but plan to here. I'm shooting a .260 rem with 140gn accubonds, making 2750ftp (I know 6.5 is on the lightweight side), but I know the rifle well and zeros from 200 out to 5.. I think I'll be OK with that.

Trail I'd planned to mark as I go (I have a Garmin 64st which will provide the waypoints too). Though I don't plan to use it, I'll also have some lightweight climbing kit with me (pr of ascenders/ figure 8, harness and rope).

Getting caught out by weather while above the treeline is high on the risk assessment too, so emergency shelter/ bivy. 3-4 season bag and an ACR PLB along with a strobe are already in the pack. Breaking/ hurting a limb is obviously one of the most high likelihood/ high impact potentials events too. I'd have to rely on the PLB in most cases as self-rescue would be unlikely, but will have some strong pain killers and a field splint kit with me too as a contingency (I'll cover rescue/ self rescue thoughts in a separate item actually now I think about it, since its such a critical thing).

I have thought long and hard about asking someone and I have joined the kiwi site too recently (I know a few people locally who could have come but have other commitments unfortunately). Right now I'm still inclined to go solo, but that could change (especially when I weigh my pack which right now, I haven't completed! Reality might come home in a big way!!)
 

johngryphon

Well-Known Member
fcp,I am no expert and can only count from my own experience and also from my kiwi mate that has done the Sth Island hunting 100 times...or more.I have only done the two NZ Tahr hunts and both were on foot,no choppers.

In the image below, top left is the Haast Hwy bridge, we hoofed it from there to both of the red "x`s" the first X was a nine hour climb from the pink marker after a four hour slog carrying a large inflatable boat/packs to cross the river.
The right x is around the 28 kilometre mark from the road bridge.I was 55 I think with my first trip and carrying your house and rifle on your back in that ground isnt easy.
On that trip we had the benefit of two mountain huts that were about as warm as a cold fridge,I think mountain radio advised it was 9 below,the kiwi shivered all night in his feather bag.
Second trip we made a camp on the river and climbed and fly camped from there,I can tell you it was a slog especially through the Goblin Bush where everything was rotten/mossy and dripping wet.
Kiwi took two seasoned Norwegians on the same trip route a year or two later and they both wanted to quit at the 1/2 way mark but eventually stuck with it from a fair amount of cajoling mind you.
Dont skimp on a pack either as its no good finding the straps cut your shoulders at the 1/2 way mark.




An updated pic,have a real good look on GE as to where you will be hunting,it can be dangerous country.


 
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fcp

Well-Known Member
fcp,I am no expert and can only count from my own experience and also from my kiwi mate that has done the Sth Island hunting 100 times...or more.I have only done the two NZ Tahr hunts and both were on foot,no choppers.

In the image below, top left is the Haast Hwy bridge, we hoofed it from there to both of the red "x`s" the first X was a nine hour climb from the pink marker after a four hour slog carrying a large inflatable boat/packs to cross the river.
The right x is around the 28 kilometre mark from the road bridge.I was 55 I think with my first trip and carrying your house and rifle on your back in that ground isnt easy.
On that trip we had the benefit of two mountain huts that were about as warm as a cold fridge,I think mountain radio advised it was 9 below,the kiwi shivered all night in his feather bag.
Second trip we made a camp on the river and climbed and fly camped from there,I can tell you it was a slog especially through the Goblin Bush where everything was rotten/mossy and dripping wet.
Kiwi took two seasoned Norwegians on the same trip route a year or two later and they both wanted to quit at the 1/2 way mark but eventually stuck with it from a fair amount of cajoling mind you.
Dont skimp on a pack either as its no good finding the straps cut your shoulders at the 1/2 way mark.

An updated pic,have a real good look on GE as to where you will be hunting,it can be dangerous country.
Haha, yup Google maps and NZ Topo has been staple fair for months! Agreed not to be taken lightly.

I have actually traveled to the area before, just not hunted so I know well how overwhelming/ beautiful (and vast) it is.

Truthfully, I'm (only slightly!) younger at 44. As I say I've been preparing but if I get there and its beyond me, I'll turn back and reconsider other options. A lot will depend on conditions. Fair weather would see something close to Wales in early autumn.. bad weather on the other hand... Heli in and out is one option to avoid fatigue (reserves just used for climbing). An easier region in Canterbury/ some other species being the other. I like it all and ultimately the Tahr will be there for another time if it doesn't look sensible.

What time of year did you go each time? I think where you were was west coast? I'm told is is (maginally!) wetter/ less predictable on that side

I am also planning to stay in huts at least 2/3 nights of the trip.. They can be very basic as you say.

I haven't skimped on kit at all (I have buyers guilt in a big way!) and where I didn't have something that was ideally suited and designed for the job (like GPS, PLB and clothing), I have bought something that is.

Sleeping bag for example is rated at -10 (more with liner and layers) and none of the clothing I'm taking (other than my hat!) is stuff that I wear here at the moment either (picked out suitable jacket, trousers etc from Harkila, Sitka mainly).

I'll cover gear as a separate post, but I agree pack is a major pick. I have a 44ltr Eberlestock G2 (which I've used a lot) as main pack (which I think will be fine), a Tenzing 1250 low-slung day pack (which is untested for comfort). Both will have liners/ pack covers Gun goes in a scabbard in both, main issue is going to be weight and balance.
 
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johngryphon

Well-Known Member
View attachment 78264

Mountains galore,proper mountains too,steep,rough and rugged,majestic and beautiful.

Glacial river valleys are the highways,but then the climb is on!


View attachment 78265

The four man raft was a heavy *******,we leap frogged it and three back packs between the three hunters,a pain but it saved a dangerous fully laden deep river crossing on foot.
We came back via raft to the road so that did save a lot of pain.
May was the time I was hunting before the big snows really got going.We had avalanches and all sorts of ***** ha ha.
West Coast is the Shangri La of Tahr hunting btw.

View attachment 78266

Crossing an old avalanche,it came down again the next night,my mate had to run like a hare to get out from it.I have never seen 100 ton lumps of ice before either.


View attachment 78267
 

McKenzie

Well-Known Member
I would (& do) cheerfully walk off by myself into lowland hills in Scotland to hunt/stalk when roe is the target species, perhaps even middling hills if the weather is good & likely to stay so.

I wouldn't head off deep into NZ mountain ranges by myself. I'm sure you're aware of how new the country is in geological terms & consequently how big & steep the mountains are there; heavy rain or a thaw will almost instantly turn that calf-deep stream you just crossed into an 8' raging torrent that could be uncrossable again for days. There are just so many things to go wrong from turning your ankle on loose rock to rock falls I don't think the risk is worth it. Incidentally, a climbing helmet will be on my list for heading above the tree-line.
 

fcp

Well-Known Member
I would (& do) cheerfully walk off by myself into lowland hills in Scotland to hunt/stalk when roe is the target species, perhaps even middling hills if the weather is good & likely to stay so.

I wouldn't head off deep into NZ mountain ranges by myself. I'm sure you're aware of how new the country is in geological terms & consequently how big & steep the mountains are there; heavy rain or a thaw will almost instantly turn that calf-deep stream you just crossed into an 8' raging torrent that could be uncrossable again for days. There are just so many things to go wrong from turning your ankle on loose rock to rock falls I don't think the risk is worth it. Incidentally, a climbing helmet will be on my list for heading above the tree-line.
As I say I'm not taking this lightly. I've seen the environment first hand and a great deal will depend on the conditions when I arrive (at the moment there i a settled period of weather forecast from beginning of Feb with daytime temps in high-teens at valley floor http://www.accuweather.com/en/nz/mount-cook/247062/february-weather/247062 (averages for Feb slightly higher typically).

The route in I have planned avoids river crossings, but obviously that doesn't account for impromptu rivers or anything I find on the mountain.

I have thought about a helmet (and as I say I've done a bit of climbing so I know their value). Judging what to take and what not to take is tricky. A heli in would give me some more options for sure and would at least guarantee getting to a decent hut (water, fire) with the right level of initial kit (food, water, gas, spare clothes etc).

I've been reading a good book about many situations that people have found themselves in when in the NZ bush (https://www.mightyape.co.nz/product/survive-remarkable-tales-from-the-new-zealand-outdoors-paperback/2615889) and one of the themes they talk about is the 'swiss cheese' model of risk which essentially translates into the problem of modelling risk in very dynamic environments where it is the combination of factors (cascade failure) that led the individual(s) into difficulty (think multiple slices of Swiss cheese stacked and you line them up right have a hole right through the middle!).

Equipment choice is a key factor in many cases, though there are a number of very clear take-aways around this (like make sure you have a GPS and 406Mhz compatible Personal Locator beacon, a means of signalling (like a strobe) means to stay dry/ insulated and in-place should the worst happen).

There are many eventualities that those won't solve of course. Slip and fall on a wet stone into 2 inches of water unconscious face down and you will drown (PBL would be no use). Fall off a cliff and even if you survive you probably won't be able to activate your PLB. Get caught by a 100 ton boulder as per John's post above and a helmet won't do you any good either.

There are many things that you can't control it is true and in some instances having someone else there would be the difference either because they would come to your assistance, or because they may assist in your judgement around a particular choice. That said the book has lots of examples where parties of 2,3 and more have all died together too.

Clearly you can avoid all the risks by not going, if you choose to it then becomes a matter of choice and fortune as to how much you are exposed to, how much you can reasonably mitigate and how much you can't (a feature of life generally I know quite well having had the experience of slipping over playing tennis in early 2014, resulting in a minuscule internal rupture followed by abdominal septicaemia, a month long stay in ITU and then 9 months off (and very nearly being boxed up!) - I could have avoided it all by not playing tennis!).
 

johngryphon

Well-Known Member
And the plane might fall out of the sky on the way lol.

fcp you at least have an understanding of what to expect rather than the others that set off thinking it will be a stroll in the heather.
I wouldn't be too concerned about anything at all as long as you have the basics to be comfortable as that then makes you keener to hunt harder.
Besides rifle/ammo/optics/rain gear and all the other stuff BOOTS are of utmost importance,sore feet means hunt restrictions.
I suggest researching mountain boots and not skimp on a proven (expensive) pair.
Talk to the blokes that have an idea and not to the bloke that has 'X' boots that he has used on a 100 acre block 'for years'
Waterproofing in boots means jack **** to me in NZ,it helps but also keeps the water IN!
After the multitude of river/creek crossings one year the boots were full of water every day for ten days,I lost four toenails on that trip..I told Kiwi after arriving home and he said "yeah its shiit isn't it ha ha I lost five after one trip myself"
 

fcp

Well-Known Member
And the plane might fall out of the sky on the way lol.

fcp you at least have an understanding of what to expect rather than the others that set off thinking it will be a stroll in the heather.
I wouldn't be too concerned about anything at all as long as you have the basics to be comfortable as that then makes you keener to hunt harder.
Besides rifle/ammo/optics/rain gear and all the other stuff BOOTS are of utmost importance,sore feet means hunt restrictions.
I suggest researching mountain boots and not skimp on a proven (expensive) pair.
Talk to the blokes that have an idea and not to the bloke that has 'X' boots that he has used on a 100 acre block 'for years'
Waterproofing in boots means jack **** to me in NZ,it helps but also keeps the water IN!
After the multitude of river/creek crossings one year the boots were full of water every day for ten days,I lost four toenails on that trip..I told Kiwi after arriving home and he said "yeah its shiit isn't it ha ha I lost five after one trip myself"
Yes, also good advice that many have given.

In the UK I stalk in some mid-range le Chameau (ankle length) which have generally been fine (on my 3rd pair) and waterproof but were nothing like good enough for this application.

Having looked at Meindl and a couple of others, I bought some Diotto Auchleeks from Swillington (review here http://en.browning-blog.eu/mountain-stalking-get-in-gear/) which are stunningly lightweight, have been amazingly comfortable and quick to break-in. They (should be!) completely waterproof (mink oiled with a clever tongue system that avoids the gutter effect), but NZ will be the test. Twisted ankle is also a significant risk and while no boot will avoid it, they have 12" of support and I'm confident in them (good feel through the sole). Socks I'm taking are several pairs of waterproof Sealskinz and merino/ mix Smartwools with a spare set of thermal insoles and boot driers just in case. Cold, wet feet are a misery I agree
 

Eddie P

Well-Known Member
I took a SPOT3 to Greenland a couple of years ago and it gave me great comfort.

I have a friend who's life was saved by a PLB in NZ after a climbing accident so I'm relieved that you already have one packed.
 

dave1372

Well-Known Member
My advice would be to heli in, it will give you more flexibility with your equipment and supplies and more or less guarantee a more enjoyable experience as you can leave excess in your base camp and crack on with the hunting. The worst case scenario is you find that all your kit plus food plus your rifle is a lot of weight in that terrain than you prepared for and after a few hours of walking you are going to start regretting it. Have you weighed all your kit plus rifle? I was down there last March and had a fantastic time.
 

fcp

Well-Known Member
I took a SPOT3 to Greenland a couple of years ago and it gave me great comfort.

I have a friend who's life was saved by a PLB in NZ after a climbing accident so I'm relieved that you already have one packed.
Yup it was an early purchase and TBH for what they cost, good insurance for any situation where you are on your own.
 

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