Not only a hunt of a lifetime, traveling to the South Island of New Zealand is by far a trip of a lifetime. Imagine flying into an island in the south pacific and yet, you look down as you’re descending to the landing strip to see these beautiful, majestic mountain tops. For a moment, you get confused that you might just be landing in the mountains of northern Canada! It is truly a heaven on earth location. While it is certainly a long trip to get there, it is well worth it!
|Watch episode 1 of my New Zealand adventure right here!
After spending the first night in a hotel local to the Christchurch International airport, we headed into the mountains with all gear accounted for – anxious to what lied ahead of us. We were hunting with Rangitata Safaris (formerly known as Kiwi Safaris), an outfitter known to have great free range Tahr hunting ground. We stayed at their main camp area, which was called Dry Creek and each of us had our own small cottage that we stayed in. With plenty of time to unpack and shoot the bow, we used the balance of the day to our advantage with the view of a beautiful snow topped mountain range off on the horizon.
We climbed some very steep hills each day of the hunt. This was not a spot and stalk hunt for the faint of heart! Each day yielded around 1,500 – 2,000 feet of vertical hiking and climbing, across six to eight miles of ground. Our guide, Colin, was a real authentic New Zealander and had managed to stay in mountain shape for all the years that he had guided. He was excited to go into some areas that he had not been in many years, given his receptiveness to our ability to climb and hike where others would normally shy away from.
On days 2 and 3 of the hunt, the reality of bow hunting challenges set in … significantly impacting my confidence level. On the second day of the hunt, I shot right over the back of a nice, blond tahr at 52 yards. Then on day three … in virtually the same spot as the day prior, I shot at the same tahr (now at 45 yards) and once again, shot right over his back.
I was blown away as my bow was shooting perfectly back at camp. As we worked our way down the mountainside, we came up over top of another small group of tahr. They were almost straight down from us, and the range finder read 70 yards. Now, for the third time, I drew back and released and again – shooting right over the tahr’s back. My cameramen and I started to review the bow and gear on the bow, figuring something had to be wrong. Just then, I said to them, “let me check the distance that I just attempted that last shot at” (to see if something was off with my primary range finder). Sure enough, it read 42 yards – vs the 70-yard read that my primary range finder had indicated. Unfortunately, the mode button on my primary range finder must have been hit somehow and I had not noticed it. Gear problem detected and from that point on, the confidence level began to tick back up to where it was when we started the hunt!
We spent the next three days hunting hard and yet did not have another opportunity like we had on days two and three of the hunt but enjoyed every bit of the ground we covered! Since day eight was forecasted to be a brutally cold and rainy day, we decided to visit a guy Colin was friends with – Karl Russell. Karl was a native Māori tribesman and he welcomed us into his home for a few hours of chatting with one another. He was quite the original man, taking us through the history and cultural perspectives of his people and ancestry. What a great way to use our time on that cold and rainy day, walking away from the moments shared with Karl and having a new perspective on these amazing people known as the Māori!
Day eight was colder than any day prior, with a fresh three to four inches of snow all over the mountain sides and tops. We drove way up to the top of a mountain, with plans to come down the sunny side of that slope onto what we anticipated to be a good batch of tahr. Not long after being outside of the truck, we spotted a nice mature bull that was bedded on a rock outcropping, maybe 700 to 800 yards down the steep side of the mountain. The challenge was that there was no cover between this tahr and us, so Mike and I had to literally belly crawl the whole way down the mountainside. After a good 45 minutes of careful navigation down towards the tahr, we got within 125 yards or so and suddenly noticed another, even bigger tahr that was out in front of us in the tall grass. He was tending a female and seemed a bit distracted, and since we were still undetected, we were in perfect shape to close the distance. He began to move in closer to me and another bull then appeared at only 25 yards from me. I ranged and began to draw back my bow and then suddenly, just prior to full draw, one of the blades on my broadhead hit the edge of my bow and the arrow popped loose from the string. The tahr was practically on top of me, staring right at me as I froze there for a bit, still at full draw with my arrow dangling aimlessly!
He turned slight and I let off my bow, re-knocked my arrow and waited for the right opportunity to draw again. He was still only 25-30 yards from me, with a heavy amount of tall grass between me and the tahr. He was broadside and looking away, so I drew back. He looked at me again and I released. I hit him good, and he went running down the mountainside. I was confident that it was a kill shot. As a walked further down the mountainside to close in on him, I had stopped at a rock outcropping to watch him through my 12x50 Swarovski binoculars and then in a matter of seconds, an even bigger, mature bull tahr appeared right below me – maybe 20 yards at most. Without hesitation, I knocked another arrow, drew back, and released – straight down on him putting the arrow right through his back – between his shoulders. Heart shot and he was piled up just 40 yards below where he stood when I shot him. Just like that – two bull tahr down within a ten-minute timeframe! Knowing that it was totally fine to shoot more than one tahr on this hunt, I didn’t hesitate one bit to knock, anchor and release on the second bull and I was so glad I took that opportunity!
We spent the rest of that day skinning and quartering both tahr, packing out the hides, skulls, and meat. Back at camp that evening, we enjoyed some incredible, fresh tahr tenderloins for dinner. That along with some whiskey and cigars to celebrate the hunt – what a way to close out the adventure in New Zealand!
|Watch the conclusion of my Himalayan tahr hunt
If anyone has the chance to travel to New Zealand, even if just once in a lifetime – I highly recommend it! Having traveled to 25 countries so far in my life, I cannot recall a place I have ever been to that is as amazingly beautiful as New Zealand. The land/nature, the people, the climate – everything about New Zealand is truly magical! What great memories from this incredible place I will have to share with others for the years to come!