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An unexpected night out for the Groom

An unexpected night out for the Groom

Several days before the big wedding day (Sept 19th 2009) I caught up with Curley in Queenstown to roam one last time in those magic alps as a free spirit. The target species were fallow and the purpose of the trip was to bag a bit of meat for the up'n'coming stag do. After all, what better culinary cuisine to provide at a stag do than stag paddies?

We lef the truck at first light and packed just enough gear for one day - taking only a handful of peanuts, raisins and a couple of muslie bars to share between us. One day pack to share between us was more than enough to complete this meat gathering mission... After all, why would you need anything else for JUST a day hunt?!

To get into the area we sidled for over an hour above a gorgey river and through some of the steepest growing beech I've ever seen clinging to shaley soils. And because I'm not big on having to cling to things, I made a mental note not to return that way later!!

By the time I caught up with Curley after carefully sidling and clambering my way through sketchy terrain, he'd spotted a group of fallow feeding on an opposite face across the river. Some minutes later I glassed a mob of red deer higher on the same face, tucked in a hanging basin. There were at least a dozen of them and all in pretty skinny shape too. Perhaps some selectiveWARO could benefit that particular area..

We pressed on to a prominant saddle where we had a good view onto several faces. Here we spotted a couple more fallow, including several nice bucks with reasonable width, length and a paddle-form starting to show on top. They probably needed a couple more years before you'd hang one on the wall, but it was great to know they were there. We watched the two different groups for over an hour before they started moving towards the scrub to bunk down for the day.

By 11am things were starting to warm up and animal movement had quietened right down. The thought of an after lunch kip registered pretty high on the agenda and soon enough there were two less threats for any animals to worry about. We slept well into the middle of the afternoon and woke to a nice surprise. A hind and yearling made there way into view, no more than 300m away.

Content at watching her and her offspring in peace and quiet, we let them be. Our eyes scanned back over to the face where we had seen the bigger bucks, but they weren't to be seen. Perhaps it was time to move to a different vantage point and change our glassing angle which is often the difference between spotting animals and not.

Curley picked a neat spot to set up for an evening ambush, overlooking a large clearing and a face of broken scrub and yellow snow tussocks. Soon after setting up, I picked up movement through the binos of a buck moving along the edge of a scree further up the cathcment. Eager to check it out, I cut into the bush and pushed on further up the creek. As I climbed out of the main creek I hit a belt of thick sign which literally contoured between the 600m - 800m. The bush face was south facing and the soils underfoot were moist supporting some patches of healthy broadleaf.

Before I reached the scree I bumped into this young buck which I regretfully shot off-hand. A yearling hind skipped out from behind the stag after it dropped and I quickly dispatched that too. I cleaned up both animals and we carried them both down to our original look out spot.

In fading light Curley shot a spiker on the way down the creek which he quickly boned out while I boned the yearling to add to his day pack. With our loads pretty fair, we set off in the dark towards the river. With a 5 km walk ahead of us, Curley dug his headtorch out of his pouch only to find it had been accidently turned on all day. Neither of us had spare AAA's and it hardly had enough oomph to provide a dull glow.

By the time we reached the river it was too dark to see anything apart from the white rapids in the water. The track out was on the otherside of the river and I made a foolish attempt to try crossing it without any gear. After a few steps it was already above my waist and the force pulled me the down river. Curley plunged in to pull me out and it was then that we decided to find a sheltered place to bunk down for the night.

I didn't so much care about spending an unprepared night out, but I was concerned that Elisa would be worried so close to our wedding day and that Mum & Dad would be up all night waiting for me to come back to the hotel. Plus I was annoyed that I'd become soaked from the foolish crossing attempt. I knew we'd be able to get a raging fire going to dry everything out and keep us warm all night, and we quickly got to work collecting firewood and setting up a likely place to put it. While Curley did the finishing touches for the fire using a piece of rubber from my survival kit, I got to work preparing a basic bivvy out of 5-6yr old beech saplings and crown fern. The ground underfoot was reasonably dry and the log provided shelter from the sinking breeze created by the snow and ice further up the valley.

Once we finished our chores, we got a reasonably flat stone from the river and put it in the fire to heat up. Once we got the stone hot enough, we threw a few medalions of venison on it and watched it cook. It took a few goes to work out the best heat and distance to have it from the embers, but we eventually got there. By no stretch of the imagination was it cooked to perfection, but it was good to get some protein back in the system after a pretty lean day picking through peanuts and raisins.

After tea Curley fell asleep warming his feet to the fire (below) while I had some reflective time in our makeshift home for the night (above).

In terms of outdoor clothing, Curley had less gear than I had - having only bought shorts, one thermal top, a cotton rugby jersey and a stoney creek sika top. I on the other hand, was wearing a pair of thermal leggings underneath some microfleece stoney creek pants, a thermal top, a swazi severn wind fleece, and my stoney creek waterproof jacket. In the end I gave Curley my pair of holey thermals to help keep his lower half from freezing!!

During the night we had to refuel the fire four times - once at 9pm before heading to bed; again at 11pm after waking up feeling cold; again at 1.30am; and again at 4am when it was FREEEEEZING!! My two survival blankets were used as a ground sheet to keep us dry and prevent feeling the cold earth against our back or kidneys. At first we tried wrapping ourselves up in one each, but that only reflected the heat from the fire away from the body... so then we tried sitting in front of the fire like Indian tribesmen with the front open and the heat reflecting inwards... but after a while that too became uncomfortable!!

At first light we packed everything up and beelined it for the truck with our fallow carcasses strapped in tow. We walked out a much easier way to the way we'd walked in and as we forded the main river opposite the car park at 10.30am, a local chopper flew overhead and landed nearby. I had a gut feeling something like this may eventuate...

A young co-pilot jumped out and came over and asked which one of us was getting married. Apparently Mum & Dad (who were also staying in Qtown) had contacted the police and reported us missing with concerns that we may have had a car accident travelling back to Qtown. The chopper was merely flying by the area at the time and were asked if they'd check to see if Curley's vehicle was in the car park. Their point was that if Curley's vehicle wasn't in the car park, they assumed something went wrong on the drive home (i.e. crash & drown in the lake). No one was worried if we'd spent an unprepared night out because of our experience in the bush - as it's not the first time either of us have spent an unprepared night out and I'm sure it won't be the last!!

But as you can probably imagine, not knowing why or what's happened is probably the worst thing for parents and partners to have to worry about leading up to a wedding! And the person I felt the worst for was poor Elisa who was up in Auckland trying her wedding dress on and having it fitted at the time. She got the phone call from Dad at 9am to say we hadn't returned home the night before and that the Police were arranging for someone to check if the vehicle was still in the carpark. Apparently the sales rep said Elisa went pale and fainted, and then was sick in the store's toilet for the next hour until she received a call from the Police to say the Choppers had spotted us in the car park. 

If not for the valuable lessons of being better prepared (i.e. spare batteries and headtorch), it made for a good story at the reception several days later! And as for the stag do - well that's certainly a story I won't be sharing

Votes: 143


Joshua Mills (aged 4.5)Wednesday 4th November 2009 - 07.01pm
I really enjoyed your story and pictures. I love hunting but I haven't been yet. I am dying to get into it. Thank you for your story. My kindy teacher Dianne met you on a tramp recently and she knows how much I love hunting so she told mum to check out your website. It's my new favourite bedtime treat. Thanks, Josh Mills aged almost 5 (typed by Mum)
Jamie CarleWednesday 4th November 2009 - 07.09pm
Thanks Josh! Make sure you send me some photos when you get your first rabbit or possum! I didn't shoot my first rabbit until I was nearly 8 years old!! All the best with your hunting buddy. Take care, Jamie
cory twigleyThursday 5th November 2009 - 01.41pm
hae jamie. im almost 16. been hunting all my life and spent my first night in the bush about 3 weeks ago due to catching a big boar in a dirty gully and not knowing the way out. we had torchs but didnt want to get really lost so we tucked up under a dead pine tree and we were as warm as toast!!!!!
Jamie CarleThursday 5th November 2009 - 02.56pm
The way I see it Cory, sometimes these things happen, and as long as you think on your feet and stick to one decision, then it just becomes a good character building lesson. I'm pleased you stayed with the big boar! It'll mean more to you now!!

I spent another cold miserable wet night out with Curley (again) back in Sept 2004 after we shot some chamois in August and couldn't cross the river due to it flooding. That was the worst coz we couldn't get a fire going everything was that soaked - we just bunked down in a makeshift manuka scrub bivvy...
cory twigleyTuesday 10th November 2009 - 09.52am
wel atleast you made it out ok. the funny thing was that the next day we actualy caught 2 more gud pigs on the way home which was good. pig huntings my passion but i also love deer hunting aswel and just bought myself a new tikka t3 243. i was sick of using dads old 243. shot plenty of goats with it but havnt shot a deer with it yet. love your website jamie. my new favourite!!!!!!! ceers.
MarcusMonday 23rd November 2009 - 08.59pm
Some good lessons in that Jamie - my mate always gives me a hard time about the amount of gear I fit into my day pack...but at least I would be able to look after myself (or him) if required.

Cheers, Marcus.
Justin LongThursday 3rd December 2009 - 10.00am
You are a fine example to the hunting fraternity. Have been reading your articles for many years now. Keep up the good work and inspiration to others.
chris / jewfishTuesday 8th December 2009 - 12.06pm
jamie, congrat's to you and your new wife! i look on your site from time to time. not made it back there yet! but i will! keep up the great hunting fella all the best
Jamie CarleMonday 14th December 2009 - 01.26pm
Cheers Jewy!! Good to hear from you again mate. I did the unthinkable... I moved to Perth, WA and as you said, hunting opportunities are few and far between!! Mind you, there's awesome coastlines, fishing, diving, snorkelling and surfing to be done, but certainly no mountains over here.

I hope all is well with the family back in pommy land. I see you've been quite into your fishing with the lad lately. Nice.

Those chamois are still waiting for your return South!

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