Now, I may be biased, but the greatest place I have ever been in NZ is the Macaulay river on a blue bird day. It was incredibly nippy, so cold my manhood disappeared into insignificance.
Snow-drenched mountain peaks beautifully painted by the Big Guy in the sky for our optic nerves to perve at, while glassing for some fluffy talent on the bluffs. Snacking on tuna and cheese wraps, to the surrounding sounds of sunlit ice shelves buckling as they thawed out on the mountains in a thunderous fashion. This was no theme park for the faint hearted, but it was pretty darn neat. For a hunter, the arousal levels are definitely heightened at the sight of majestic black Himalayan tahr cavorting around the ridge tops. How the bloody heck can they even exist up there? It is remarkable and that is what brought us here to Lake Tekapo. To find a bull tahr trophy with a rug beautiful enough to make love on, steaks to fill the gut bags and a story for the grandkids. Hey, lets not forget that Instagram photo for people to scrutinise or ‘like’ for moral support. It’s all part of the adventure.
Benji from Big Game Hunting and I crossed paths again for this tahr hunt. Our first outing was not a success after my Tahr fell into a crevasse near Mt Peel, leaving us returning home in the pitch black with our head-torches running dry. Lesson learned and this time we took Benji’s D-max off road and drove up Macaulay River. Not exactly your Sunday afternoon hoon with grandma, but after an hour monstertrucking our way through a dry river bed of rocks to the crackle of radio frequencies, saturated from the waist down from checking river heights and a bag of sour worms each, we made it to our hut for the night. With no fireplace to warm up our carcasses, we were straight into huddling around the gas cooker, mashing up potatoes and searing some back straps from a previous trip before falling into the scratcher.
The beauty about chasing tahr here is you can wake up at sparrows-fart and glass from your doorstep over brekkie – sunnyside- up eggs and bacon in some trusty ol’ Mckenzie bread accompanied by a black coffee to stain the fangs with. Benji eventually spotted some big black balls of fluff on the other side of the divide. A couple of bulls and their ladies to boot, enjoying the rising sun. We decided we would venture across to wrap our eagle eyes around these creatures and assess their characteristics. We had to navigate our way across two swollen rivers and I was the guinea pig for this experiment. Being a washed up cricketer, it was only fitting to get washed up again. Jeez, the current was strong, and I was swept off my feet, managing to keep the gun above the water. The only thing that stopped me from heading off downstream was getting jammed into a brute of a boulder. The cloudy, icy water impairs your judgement makes it very difficult to navigate, as foot placement is pivotal.
We set up for the day behind a colossal rock at the base of the mountain. Glassing up into the bluffs we spied our prize. A couple of nice bulls on the peaks about 700m away. The sun was playing havoc with us, shining onto the face and if we were to move closer we would stick out like dog’s balls. So, the waiting game began until the sun went down and the shadows fell on the face, giving us the opportunity to inch closer. Six hours of chewing each other’s ears off, sharing yarns of our time in the UK, sporting achievements and deciphering the question of ‘what is love?’, passed our time. Finally, the big yellow started to recede from view and we began our painfully slow, tip-toeing encroachment, hugging the base of the mountains while being observed by the telescopic eyes of the nannies. We reached our shooting base. A rock in the middle of the valley floor, perfect for a rest and shot. Heck, it was going to be one hell of a shot to pull off as
we couldn’t get any closer.
Thin air, shooting up into the bluffs on an acute angle at 450 yards and a side wind all become headache factors. After a few arguments on our math calculations while figuring out the bullet trajectory, we settled on a distance of 427 yards. We waited patiently as the bull strutted out to his rutting pad. I had to make the shot count so it fell down an old avalanche chute all the way to the bottom for us to collect. I lined him up, trying to suppress my adrenaline with controlled breathing. Benji whispers, “take your time, take your time and then squeeze off”. I let the lead fly from the 270 WSM, hitting him perfectly just below the shoulder dropping him like a sack of spuds. We watched him tumble and slide off the bluff 350m down the avalanche chute to the base of the mountain – a flawlessly executed plan. The lads were stoked! We took our photos, caped him and cut him up into beautiful cuts of meat and made our way back to camp for a few ice cold Tri-Stars that were waiting patiently for our consumption. You just can’t bloody beat it!
Article By Ant Niterl