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Bealey Buck

Bealey Buck

Summer holidays drew to a close and Curley and I packed up the little amount of gear we had after a larksome few months’ kiwi fruit contracting in and around Tauranga, and headed southbound. It was time to begin the journey to the mainland to commence our 2nd year at Lincoln Uni, Canterbury. Our only stop being Wellington; where we pulled into see Curley’s parents and paid an overnight visit to the Rimutaka Ranges - albeit unsuccessful.

Blenheim greeted us with a fine, dry, yellow landscape, followed by Canterbury’s warm Nor’westerley haze. It was now O’Week in Christchurch and having already spent most of our savings in the Bay of Plenty, we opted to leave the town shenanigans for the first years’.

We had a firm idea of where we wanted to go and where we wanted to base ourselves (Bealey hut adjacent Cora Lynn Station), so our first afternoon was really just a reconnaissance of glassing from the main road to gauge our planned routes. Our intentions were to put in three big days in three completely different catchments in hope for a crack at a nice chamois buck each. Happy with our choices and what the weather was set to do, we retreated to base for an early first night.

 Likely side creek for deer in the creek system and chamois in the adjacent bluff system, situated on the True right of the Harper River. Photo J.Carle

Our first interlude involved boulder hopping up the main tributary of Broad Stream; which turned out to be a helluva gorgy ordeal. I distinctly remember the scree climb to the top of Black Range as a real lung burner. We both had cotton mouth from the moment we left the running creek. And the best part of the early morning was climbing to the saddle. Surprisingly we didn’t see any chamois on both our ascent to and descent from Black Range.

 

 

View out of Windy Creek towards Lagoon Saddle. Photo J.Carle

Quite a bit of deer sign was scattered throughout the upper (true left) margin of Doubtful Creek, but it was mid morning by the time we got there. And in years gone by this area has proven to be a hot spot for stags to velvet.

   

Glassing for chamois along the Black Range        Dropping into Bruce Stream where we later hit gorge after gorge.

We dropped down into the cooler, more shaded part of the Harper catchment and proceeded to make our way across the main Harper and cut up the main spur between Windy Creek and Long Stream. We passed up a few hinds in Windy Creek, and spooked a young chamois climbing out of Long Stream towards Mid Hill – exactly the sort of place you’d expect to bump into one too!

 

 

 

Looking out from Mid Hill towards Long Stream (foreground) and Windy Creek (background). Photo J.Carle

 

By now the day was getting on, and although we were tempted to try our luck along Black Range towards Bruce saddle, we opted to head back towards Lagoon Saddle. The long leading spur towards the saddle was a tediously boring walk and we soon found ourselves eager to drop into some likely country in Bruce Stream.

 

 

Likely vantage point to glass either chamois or deer – Bruce Stream in the valley below. Photo J.Carle

The thought of wasting our last critical hour of light hunting along a well worn, wooden track didn’t really appeal to either of us. So without second thought, we ducked into the thick of it. We were to soon regret that decision as Bruce Stream had a sequence of tight gorges that took more than double the time we initially thought. We eventually arrived at the hut well after dark.

 

At first light the following morning we forded the waist high Waimakariri River at several of its lowest and slowest braids. Despite no rain during the previous few days, the river was surprisingly high and milky, and at one point we both temporarily lost our footing with its sheer force.

 

Leaving the vehicle to cross the Waimakariri River. Photo D.Curley.

We quickly cut across the river flats, jumped over the Midland Railway, and ducked up into an alluvial bush fan before punching directly up the bush face. We bashed our way up that face in record time – and from the road to the tussock, we did it in just over an hour.

Deer sign was skerricked along the upper bush margin leading into the hanging basin off our right shoulder. And we were shrilled at by a pack of fat, healthy looking Keas. It felt great to be back in the tops again!

 

Clambering over a crop of rocks. Photo D.Curley

As I crested the shoulder of a steep crop of rocks, I noticed a lonesome animal bedded in the sun at 1500m asl. Its coat was gleaming a beautiful orange colour in the morning sunlight. While Curley clambered up the remaining crop of rocks, I dug my old pair of bushnell bino’s out and a took a peep. I was pleasantly surprised to see a healthy looking chamois buck in prime summer coat. Its dark dorsal strip stood out like a burnout across its back and its hooks looked like a bent crow bar.

 

Wrapped with the outcome of a hard and fast climb to the tops. I had overheard locals at the Bealey Pub talking about a lone chamois that was often spotted on the tops opposite the Bealey Pub. I’m convinced the buck I got the following day was the animal of topic. Photo J.Carle

I cut the distance between us in half and made the shot count. He was my first buck in summer coat (and my 3rd chamois to date); measuring 9 ¾ inches with beautifully deep and symmetrical hooks. I was as proud as punch!

With the bulk of the day ahead of us, we cleaned the animal and boned it out before continuing as planned along the Polar Range towards Douglas and Red Beech Streams. I would not advise any human to hunt in the head of Douglas – but Red Beech on the other hand has a very inviting headwater for chamois and deer.

We poked our heads into the head of the Sudden Valley to eat lunch and mill over which way to return home. Our options were to drop down Red Beech, or sidle back up and over into East Edwards and walk out at the Mingha / Bealey confluence. Having a good overview of the terrain, we opted to drop into the East Edwards and sidle towards some beautiful tussock benches above the timber line which provided an opportunity at a stag in stripping velvet.

While contouring at 1700m, Curley spotted a mob of 9 chamois. They were all nannies, kids, and juveniles; milling about at 1550m in elevation on a south facing kink in the spur – seeking refuge from the pelting sun. It was the only bit of shade along the entire face and by now it was very hot in the open.

Curley looking up the Edwards towards Taruahuna Pass. Photo J.Carle

Curley and I watched them for a couple of hours, observing their behaviour. Although most of them were bedded, a couple fed while the lead nanny remained alert and on constant lookout. She positioned herself in the most obvious rock promontory, and did not for one second take her eyes off her surroundings. In fact, when a couple of Keas tumbled out of the sky upon us - shrilling their usual banter – she turned her head and glared in our direction for nearly 30 minutes.

Chamois have amazing eyesight, and if there’s one thing they’ve taught me it’s the importance of keeping out of view. And if they’ve locked eyes on you, I advise remaining motionless for as long as it takes. I have been spotted from more than a kilometre away on many occasions and there’s nothing more deflating than watching your quarry cut up and over into another valley system. In particular, avoid walking the skyline or exposed spurs, and avoid approaching chamois from below. I realise this tip has been well covered, but it really does make a big difference.

As the afternoon sun arced towards the horizon, the group started getting up, stretching, shaking themselves off, and proceeded to nit-pick at the tussock here and there. A pair of kids played in the tussock together, chasing, prancing and nudging each other – they put on quite a show.

 

 

Curley with a fair bit of skinning work ahead of him. I apologise for the poor quality photos – many of these snaps were taken from a disposable point and shoot. Photo J.Carle

Entertainment aside though, Curley popped off a few of the yearlings for their summer coats and utilised the meat for the student flat. Their coats were in beautiful nic and their hind quarters and back steaks were a blessing to cart out.

We screamed down one of the main screes spilling into the Edwards and plodded our way towards the confluence of the Mingha. At the Mingha car park we hitched a ride to the hut and backed up our big day with an even bigger night at the Bealey pub.

 

 

Tearing off down the scree at 100 miles per hour. It took all of about three minutes to race to the bottom of that steep conveyor belt!

If it weren’t for our thumping headaches the following morning, our plans would have been to clamber up the true right of Barrack Creek and loop around to Pegleg Creek. But as it turned out, we spent the rest of the day gingerly driving back to Christchurch.

 

Our catch for the day – all taken with the trusty old P14 Action 25-06. Shot using a load of 90g sierra hollow points.

There are plenty of handy spots for Chamois in Arthurs Pass and Otira, many of which produce some excellent day-hunt opportunities for those short of time. And if you climb high quickly and utilise your day by moving (and glassing) along main spurs and ridges (avoiding the skyline), then you’ll often come onto something. The beauty about Arthurs Pass is that there are enough ridges, spurs, gullies, guts, and rocky promontories adjacent to fingers of tussock and belts of alpine to keep you interested all day. But I believe the key is to plan your hunt / route so that you never double back on country you’ve already covered.

Be prepared to hoof it to get to the hotspots, but also be prepared to slow it right down when you come onto likely habitat and sign. John Bissell mentioned this in detail in his last “So You Want to be a Hunter” article, and its so true. By covering more ground you will increase your probabilities of seeing and shooting animals – but you have to know when to charge on and when to ease up. Planning ahead is critical.

Til next Issue, MM out.

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Votes: 33

Comments

Ken BarrowWednesday 25th November 2009 - 04.51pm
hi Jamie,
have talked to you before about Stan and BOP Branch. You are a fine example to all young hunters and I applaud your literary contributions both here and in the magazines.
My dad died in September at the age of 95. he was a founding member of NZDA BOP, Branch president, Patron and life member and shot his last deer at the age of 90. Guess you are married now and I wish you all of the best for the future. Know we will be reading and seeing a lot more of your exploits in the years to come. Good luck and thanks,
Ken Barrow
JamieThursday 3rd December 2009 - 05.01pm
G'day Ken, I'm sorry to hear about your father who gave so much to such a marvellous recreation. It's been many years since I was last at the Tauranga branch.. In fact the last time I was there was just before the big revamp of the clubhouse and shooting range... Man, how time flies.

Yes a married man I am, and I'm fortunate to have a wife that's supportive, so there will be many more exploits to come. We plan to come home in the next 7-8 years and I will essentially pick up where I left off, hopefully with a couple of young ones in tow!!

Say G'day to Stan the Man from me. He is a world class bloke.

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