This is where people who got involved tell their stories of time spent on LHS – enjoy!
Jack “The Wild Hunter” Kendall
When Finn moved into our flat with his 13-point Red skull, Tahr skin and an artillery shell full of peacock feathers, I was a bit intimidated by this Central Otago lad. Our flat consisted of two girls and two guys, three of which were back-country virgins, all studying in their final years at the University of Canterbury. After a few stories and mediocre trophies, I decided to try go out and see if I couldn’t bring home something a little more impressive. It’s late August and Olivia, Ashley, Finn and I piled into the Land Rover and headed down to Finn’s place in Wanaka.
After putting a few practice shots into a paint can, we loaded up the side-by-side with our kit and the doggo, Sika the wire-haired vizsla, and headed up the ol’ goat track. We stopped a few times along the track to give the binos some use but after only spotting a spiker too far out of the way, we headed down to the riverbed to set up camp. With only two hours before sunset, Finn, Sika and I set out to find us some dinner. We drove down the track a few hundred metres before heading up the face. I am quite a keen hiker, but I had never attempted climbing uphill with a pack, rifle and dog through heavy matagouri bush. My heavy breathing would have been enough to scare off any dinner in the area but fortunately, we had the wind. With my limited hunting knowledge, I followed Finn’s lead. We stuck about 50 metres below the ridgeline and sidled along the face, with Sika trained as a spotter, keeping his nose in the air.
An hour into our hunt Finn spotted a mob of hinds about a kilometre ahead of us. We located the best spot for the shot, which would put us 290 metres out, on a spur to make the shot across the gully. The pack was thrown down on top of some tussock and created the rest for the gun and I realised that this was it, the moment I was going to lose my hunting virginity. Using all the knowledge I learnt from the paint-can and a quick discussion with Finn about where to aim, I pulled the trigger. I let out a sigh of relief. My first deer.
My First Deer
It was sunset by the time we finished preparing the hind and with a difficult descent back down to camp, we decided to return in the morning to retrieve her. Morning came and the girls decided they wanted to come and experience some of the hunting so we headed back out to see if we could find a stag. Unfortunately, after searching all morning we were unable to find any stags, but we were gifted with a lone hind, only a few hundred metres away. All four of us joining in the stalk, closing the distance down to 230 metres. This time it seemed to happen much quicker as the hind was about to disappear over a ridge, Finn produced a beautiful hind call and I was on the clock to make the shot. Just as soon as it had started, it was over with the hind rolling down the hill to its final resting place.
Once we had the deer on the side-by-side we drove back to grab the deer from the night before, which was accurately named ‘Regina Rigamortis’ as by the time we went to grab her, she had rigor mortis and had to be dragged a few hundred metres back down the face, through the matagouri bushes but it was every bit worth the effort. We decided to head back home after two days out in the hills and quite a successful first hunt for myself. However, I still didn’t have a trophy to trump Finn’s, so I wasn’t finished just yet. I convinced Finn to take me to Chamois country to find something worth bragging about. We woke up early Wednesday morning and head out on to some prime public land in the side-by-side one last time.
The spot took no time at all, we were lucky. We spotted a pair of chamois bucks across a gully, well and truly up the ridge but we accepted the challenge. We crossed the gully and climbed up the ridge line with Sika in tow. For Finn, this was just another day in the hills but for a city-boy such as myself, this was the steepest incline I’ve ever attempted in my life and I’ve never experienced something so mentally rewarding than reaching the summit. The physical rewards came when Finn had set up the spotting scope and told me that the chamois was the oldest and biggest buck he’s ever come across. After a few minutes to slow my heartrate, I set up for the shot. Looking through the scope, I didn’t completely understand what I was looking at 280 metres away, but I knew it was good. I took the shot and the buck ran. I reloaded thinking that I had missed him but a few seconds later he collapsed after a clean shot through the lungs.
Retrieving ‘Grandpa Chammy’ was a mission of its own. Across a steep, gravel gully, it was a slow retrieval but when we got to him, we were shocked. I had managed to spot, stalk and kill a 10.5’ buck! My job was done. I had got the shoulder-mount to rise above all of Finn’s and it was time to head home to brag to the girls.
Once the excitement had worn off, I started to really appreciate the opportunity that Finn had provided to me. I was aware but naïve about just how special our backyard is here in New Zealand and how three days in the hills can allow you to forget about everyday stresses back at home and just how refreshing the simplicity of the backcountry lifestyle is. It’s safe to say, Finn has given me the hunting bug and I’ll take any chance I get to get back out there.