Occasionally a trip comes along which sets new benchmarks; where achieving “firsts” takes on a whole new meaning.

It all started on a very cold morning at Subway in Waiouru. Now very few people make the journey to Waiouru just to have Subway’s chunky sandwiches but in this instance it was an ideal place to meet. Two Aucklanders drove south and two southerners drove north with a plan to meet at 11 o’clock. The northerners approached the army town at 11.03, not bad timing. And the southerners were waiting in the carpark. Even better timing.

Matt Scrimgeour from Mico in Wellington was pretty excited about the prospect of shooting his first deer and Motueka plumber Henne Russen was also pumped. As a keen hunter, Henne was used to walking and stalking the mountains of the South Island and occasionally seeing an animal, and even less occasionally shooting one.

Guide Glen Ewart leads Matt Scrimgeour along a ridge at Ngamatea Station. It is big country.
Guide Glen Ewart leads Matt Scrimgeour along a ridge at Ngamatea Station. It is big country.

“Reckon we might see a few?” queried Henne.

“I would love to shoot one!” added Matt.

Rheem Sales Manager, John Bebbington just smiled, “I think you’ll see a few.”

About an hour later the vehicles pulled up at the gate to Ngamatea Station where guide Glen Ewart was waiting. After dropping the Wellington car at a handy park, the team in two Hilux’s headed out across the station. Now when you see road signs on the property you get the feeling it’s a big one and Ngamatea is huge – 80,000 acres to be precise, much of it in bush and scrub. The station is also home to 100,000 sheep and 8,000 cattle. Add 2,000 beehives and you get an idea of the scale of the operation.

Ngamatea Station also plays host and caters to serious hunting, with trophy hunters seeking Sika stags and other hunters wanting meat for the freezer. The Japanese or Sika deer are found only in the Kaimanawa and Kaweka Ranges and Ngamatea is the best place to hunt them.

Surrounded by free-range hunting, Henne and Matt headed out from the rustic lodge in the 4WD buggy for an afternoon driving around in comfort with Glen the guide. They saw a few animals, starting with a bunch of about 20 deer along a ridgeline where Matt prepared to stalk and have a shot at his first deer.

“I haven’t fired a rifle for years,” he admitted as Glen lined him up on a hind 250 metres away. Glen had a telescopic sight which adjusts for the distance, so he checked the range with a range finder and dialled in the range on the scope and then placed the crosshairs on the deer’s shoulder. Glen explained how he wanted Matt to aim for the deer’s shoulder. “Forget about the head or neck. We don’t want wounded animals running around. Hit the shoulder and you get the lungs and heart and even if they run a short distance, the dog will find it.”

His Lab knows the game, sitting patiently while the hunters stalk and line up the shot, then racing off at Glen’s command.

The sound suppressor on Glen’s 7mm-08 rifle ensures the sound doesn’t spook everything in the area and at the muted crack the high-fives from Glen and Matt told the story. So did the grin he couldn’t wipe off his face.

Matt with his first deer.
Matt with his first deer.

“What a buzz. Amazing! Can I shoot another one?”

“Shoot two or three if you like”, responded Glen.

“Who is riding up front?” asked Glen. The front passenger is the one who cradles the rifle, and takes the next shot, so Henne didn’t need a second invite.

He has a long-term contract with DoC to service the plumbing and gas facilities in the huts around the top half of the South Island and is choppered in regularly.

“If the weather comes in and I am stuck there, I take the rifle and go for a walk,” he added with a wry smile indicating he probably always prays for bad weather.

“But I have never seen anything like this! Riding around until you see something, and I have never seen so many animals!”.

Henne sneaks up on his first Ngamatea sika.
Henne sneaks up on his first Ngamatea sika.

Henne’s first shot was set up with a tripod as it was over 300 metres away. An experienced hunter, he calmly dropped the Sika hind. Matt took the next shot and by the end of the hunt the team finished with six deer from six shots.

“Best I ever had was seven deer with six shots – one went straight through and dropped one standing behind. Those blokes came back again and took 18 shots for six deer,” said Glen.

That’s hunting.

The team heads off to look for another animal
The team heads off to look for another animal

The animals all went to a home-kill butcher based in
the Hawkes Bay to be followed up with a delivery of sausages and steaks to Motueka and Wellington.

“I can’t wait,” said Matt. “I love venison!”

“A truly unbelievable experience!” added Henne.