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Bruised, Battered, But not Broken - An Overview

Bruised, Battered, But not Broken - An Overview

This article summarises our jam-packed 14 day sojourn into the Southern Alps whereby Andre Alipate and I hunted two West Coast catchments and four East Coast catchments in pursuit of red skins. There's too much content to fit into one article (sorry), so this is an overview and another couple of articles with specific encounters will follow soon. Some areas we stayed one, two, or three nights, while one particular catchment we spent five (the bulk of our time). We refuelled the truck nearly four times; beat the feet for a total of 177km; and between the two of us shed 19kgs of blood, sweat, and tears.

 

After pouring over endless maps and overlaying points where previous animals have been seen and shot throughout various catchments throughout the South Island, (not only by Andre and myself, but also hunting mates and trampers alike); a plan was hatched to remain reasonably flexible; hunting multiple areas and following the good weather. We agreed to hunt throughout the day and where travel was necessary, to do that at night by head torch. This enabled us to cover vast areas of huntable country without losing valuable hunting time travelling.

We decided to start with a familiar West Coast tributary for a couple of days while the weather was fine. Our results were a bit mixed and it was quite obvious that the West Coast tops were poked from WARO. The days of big stags in those familiar tops are now a thing of the past. However, there was enough sign in the bush, at the toe of slopes, along bush spurs, and amongst bush terraces to keep us on our toes.

Having seen nothing worth putting on the deck in the bush we opted to move further up valley where we bumped into a couple of hunting mates from the Coast that let us (Andre, Tommo, Ramsy and myself) stay with them last year before heading up the Whitcombe. How's that for a small world?! Given they'd been there for a day and planned to stay the night, we left Jacko and Kerry to continue hunting the upper river flats while we headed back to the vehicle and were soon churning our way back through Arthurs Pass heading East for a couple days.

Deer in Arthurs Pass were pretty cagey and only moved out of pockets of bush into fringe country on very fading light - and at the slightest sound of an airplane or chopper were scampering for cover. We were wrapped, "finally they're educated" Andre muttered. We managed to get snapshots of young stags, and a couple of hinds from a few different familiar tributaries before clapping our hands and sending them towards cover. But where were the local chamois - these spots used to be a chamois paradise? Had WARO shooters been practicing on them in the more open, broken country? Very odd indeed...

We moved on further East to one of our more open hunting areas on the East Coast, only to discover pockets of hinds and yearlings - no resident mature stags. Perhaps we were still a week early for the stags to move in on the hinds?! Naturally these Eastern headwaters are excellent spring feeding grounds - having produced quality mature stags for Andre and I in the past, but the catch 22 is WARO can really knock it. And it showed. We worked the gullies in the mornings and evenings, and moved up the spurs and along the ridges during the day to utilise wind movements and work the angles with our field glasses. But to no avail.

After two days of seeing little evidence of mature stags, we retreated back to camp on dark, packed up and walked out under torchlight - arriving at the vehicle near midnight to then drive/4wd a couple of hours to the next location (another Eastern catchment, but further North) before sleeping beside the vehicle in bivvy bags.

Before first light the next day we moved off up the valley to embark on familiar pastures. We walked up the main riverbed for several hours before cutting up a gradual, painfully tight beech / podocarp spur which tightened into an unrelenting belt of thick subalpine scrub. The battle up hill lasted 4 hours. With an hour of light left we broke into the tops and worked the main ridge looking for a likeable place to camp. Deer sign was more abundant than in previous catchments and within minutes from camp Andre spotted a good stag several hundred meters below in the subalpine belt. He turned out to be a healthy, symmetrical 13 point stag, and subsequently fell to a neck shot from the trusty 25-06. He held a group of about 4 hinds (from what we could see), but was momentarily disinterested in them with his head down, frantically feeding when I shot him. Date was 26th March.

The next few days saw us glassing East and West of the Divide, picking up the odd deer hard against scrub edges and slips. Most were young stags or "scrubbers" with a couple of hinds each. We found a wide range of rubs and wallows on the West; one particular alluvial bush terrace was riddled with fresh sign and Andre and I had a few close encounters with a scrubby stag. It was great to be back in the bush again. And to taste that pure, natural filtered, cold, mountain water - just the little things in life!

We also got several responses for our roaring efforts with one very distant stag in particular (10 point red) on the Eastern side that drew our attention. We would try him the next day. On the way back to camp we shot a chamois buck just below a narrow saddle late in the afternoon. Getting back to camp on last light, we scoffed some grub, packed up camp and moved further along the ridge towards where we'd seen the 10 pointer, and setup under a full moon. The next day dawned windy and shitty. Early in the day we saw one spiker and a young 7 pointer low in the same creek system. But the swirling wind made things awkward so we bunkered in the rocks until last light before sidling down into the creek system to check things out. With an hour til dark Andre spotted the 10 and embarked on what was one of the most entertaining, tense, unorthodox stalks I've ever witnessed. More about this in another issue.

After dispatching Dre's 10 we cut back up to camp by head torch and agreed to return the following day to get some photos. During the night the weather really moved in, so it was decided to pack up camp, drop down to Andre's stag for a photo session, and then continue on down the creek to stalk the bush and flats on fading light. We saw another mature stag (approx 11 or 12 points) on the stalk out, but a couple of hinds spooked in his direction and he followed out of rifle range. Bugger!

By now it was dark enough to put on the head torches again and commence dawdling out. Mine was running low on batteries so the truck was a welcoming sight. A few hours drive out to a more Eastern catchment for a couple of days of settled weather was next on the agenda.

We stopped at one of the only open fuel stations en-route and grabbed some hot food, fizzy drink and batteries. By now we?d been in the bush for 11 days, seen a handful of animals, and obtained two wild representative heads for our efforts.

 

We decided to visit an old friend Francy and stop in for the night. How good it felt to have a feed of BBQ roasted lamb, spuds, and fresh garden vegies (thanks Penny!!) topped off by a hot shower and comfy mattress. Also met their young daughter Blaise too; what a cutie! The next day we were in the bush as day broke and what a shit of day to be greeted with - low fog, wet bush, and heavy cloud. The best part about it was (again) bumping into two familiar faces, Geoff and Ken, both lecturers / professors of mine from Lincoln University. They were heading out the way we'd driven in - had to be at work by 9am - a hard life.

 

They indicated they'd got onto a fallow buck the previous evening but asked that we spare that one for them next time. Wish granted - no point covering someone else's boot prints! We punched up a spur opposite where Geoff and Ken had been the previous night. The weather started to break (now and then) and our plan was to loop back through the tops for a red. En-route to red country I shot a scrubby fallow buck bolting for the bush edge. Another four spooked below us. Meat in the pack and we soldiered on. By about 11am we were regretting the decision to cut up a spur of tight beech, but were rewarded early in the afternoon with distant roars from what sounded like a couple of reds. Waves of fog came and went and we closed the gap on a 14 pointer with much promise!! He was nice and even, but lacked a bit of length and width, and needed more tine development on the tops. Andre was tempted to pull the trigger, but decided at the last minute to leave it (another year we thought). We roared him to within a couple hundred meters, got video footage and a few snapshots, before he eventually gathered his hind and moved into the bush. Next year we would return for him.

The next day we did another stint on fallow, trying to get one with Andre's bow. But to no avail. We had our chances on several animals, but were just unable to close in on that last 30m. How frustrating - it would take a lot more practice for me to take one with the bow. Andre got close on two occasions, managing to get an arrow in the air. But in the midst of excitement he'd forgotten to look through the peep sight and shot miles low haha!

For old times sake we popped out for a couple of run-of-the-mill day hunts - but only saw a handful of tahr and a few chamois. One particular encounter with two bulls really intrigued us. The bulls were feeding amongst a rock ledge on an exposed scree face, with no cover whatsoever. And Dre and I were equally exposed crossing the scree in their general direction. The mature bull glared at us for a moment before sinking back onto his belly like a big hairy border collie when commanded to hold back from a flock of sheep. His front legs were well in front of his face and he tucked his nose in between his front hocks as if to hide his eyes from view. Incredible! The other (younger) bull observed his mate and shuffled in behind a fracture in the rocks, managing to hide about 15% of his front quarter. I guess his reasoning was "if it works for him, it works for me"... Clearly not the case for either of them!

We eventually continued on our sidle across the scree and came within 300m below them; all the while they remained moulded to the hillside. They never moved once - not even when we were out of sight and no longer an immediate threat. In fact they were still amongst the rock face later that day when we plodded back towards the vehicle. Perhaps they thought they were invisible...

That pretty much surmises our roar trip for 2009. Next issue I'll cover in more detail the climb from hell, a couple of really cool encounters, and with a bit of luck, convince Andre to share his remarkable version of how he obtained his stag.

Til next Issue, MM out.

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Votes: 34

Comments

mark grahamWednesday 5th August 2009 - 02.02pm
hi
im a keen 13 year old hunter from cheviot north canturbury and i love pig hunting
my biggest pig ive stuck is a 120lb soar. i am hoping to shoot my first deer next year and are looking at buying a center fire rifle but i dont know what i should get. i was wondering if u could give me some advice. that hunt must have been wicked! what do u do with all of the trophey heads.
cheers mark
MountainManMonday 10th August 2009 - 12.22pm
Hi Mark,

I sent you an email regarding things to consider when selecting your first rifle
Laurent MasseauWednesday 5th August 2009 - 10.32pm
I love your stories and pictures ,Jamie and friends !
I subscribed to the NZ hunter .I recognised the last cover !
Nice to read you !
Laurent ,New Caledonia
AnonymousMonday 10th August 2009 - 12.19pm
Hi Laurent,

I'm pleased you enjoy the stories and that you've subscrubed to the NZ Hunter. All the best in your preparations for hunting in NZ. I will someday visit New Caledonia to chase rusa deer, and perhaps then we can catch up for a beer.

Stay in touch
Regards
Jamie
JohnSunday 11th October 2009 - 04.30pm
Hey, what an inspiration, I am a 21 year old and started hunting about a year ago and I cant get enough of it, I have only shot a couple of 6 pointers (reds) but am on the search for a trophy cant wait till I get 1, Just wanted to say thanks for sharing your hunting trips it inspires me to get out there more and to explore new places, you have to do the ground work to get results as iv'e heard you say.

Cheers, John.

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