Time of the Roar

It was an arduous journey into my chosen campsite. I bypassed the solitary hut and ascended the steep ridge to the tops with a heavy pack. Three hours later had me reaching my first waypoint.

I had with me my Hennessey hammock instead of my usual tent for this trip, mainly due to the fact that my eventual destination was in very steep country and would be unlikely to afford me a place to pitch it, also it was about time I used this bit of gear. I have owned it some years now and it has only previously seen one outing

Unfortunately I was still very much on the tops when I decided to camp for the night so left ole Hennessey asleep in the bottom of the pack , and just decided to bivvy the night instead I awoke the next morning to a coating of frost atop my bag.

I rolled over and lit the primus and waited for it to boil whilst still snugly wrapped up in my feathered tomb. I lay there watching the early morning unfold its blanket of night. I was above the densely misted valley bottom looking across the divide at my equally clear mirror opposite mountain range. Everything was still in deep shadow, with only the slightest hint of gathering light emerging over the distant ridgeline to the east .It was heralding the dawn of a new day. It is always a quiet time in the day lazing away the early moments with the anticipation of the scalding tea to come and even breakfast too before stirring the stumps and reluctantly leaving the cozy nest

My gear was packed and I was ready to move out at 0830hrs. The plan was to sidle just above the bush line for an hour. Next there was a steep incline climbing away from the bush edge that I had to climb to reach a saddle which would permit me entry into the next watershed. The sun was gaining strength on my back all the while and the sweat was beginning to flow, finally I was in the saddle and able to scan the whole headwaters of my chosen piece of country I sat down and bisected the area with my binos for a likely place in which to set up my camp. I could see immediately that water would be a problem, for the nearest creek was about a fifteen minute walk from where I proposed to string out my hammock in the trees.

Never  mind,  I mused, it doesn’t seem as if I have any choice anyway I shall just have to fill  up my water bladder  and make the repetitive journey for water. I slung my heavy pack atop my shoulders and made the long arduous journey through the tall wavering tussock and scrub meandering across the huge amphitheatre of open tops.

Two hours later I was at my proposed campsite and set about making it my temporary home. A  brew and a bite to eat. I then filled up the bladder in the stream and then Istretched  out in the tussock and glassed the basin for any sign of game for the rest of the afternoon. It was so relaxing to rest my weary muscles and stretch out in the sun kissed alpine grasses, alternately sleeping and glassing the vast open country.

Some time later I was brought to my senses by some rock fall to my rear, I swivelled round to witness two chamois cavorting down from the heights, seemingly playing a game of tag or more likely a romantic encounter. They ended up with tongues rolling and gasping for breath around 160yds from my position blissfully unaware of my position. Camp meat was high on the priority at this time and it was with these thoughts that had me rolling onto my stomach and laying my pack in front of me before resting my .308 atop it. Picking out the nearest animal I then laid the duplex reticule on her shoulder and squeezed off the shot. She raised her front legs into the air and fell sideways as the 130 grn Barnes found its mark. The other animal was in full stride and making good headway up the nearest scree, with hardly a backward glance he was soon out of sight.

In due course I wandered over and retrieved my meat it was a good start to the trip.

Later that night the heavens opened and rain fell with monotonous regularity on my flimsy shelter. Around three in the morning I had shipped a couple of inches of water in my hammock, due to the fly not being properly centralised. It was a cold and wet hunter that greeted the mist clad moist dawn

It had been a long cold wet night and a decision had to be made, my sleeping bag was saturated, and by the way the day was shaping up, it was unlikely I was going to be able to dry it out. I hung around until 10.00 hrs. I then finally made the decision to call it day and head on out.

I decided instead of traversing through the waist high soaking tussock, to head for the tops via various screes. I headed high into the weather and the visibility deteriorated accordingly. I lived in that peas soup for the rest of the day, it was a nightmare journey and more than once I had lost my bearings before finally making the hut at 1740hrs that evening. Everything was drenched in my pack. I reluctantly slid into my soaked sleeping bag that night and slept fitfully.

The next day was much the same, so I reluctantly packed up and headed out to civilisation.

Part 2

A week has gone by this time the forecast looks more stable. The roar this year will have to take a back seat to an area I have badly wanted to explore for a few years now, and who knows this area might produce as well.

It’s now day 2 and I am back in residence with Hennessey up and water collected. The weather is fine and settled. This time glassing from camp does not produce an animal and the afternoon goes by with no action. Day 3 A cold night has produced ice covered tussock and my hands soon become numb after numerous pull ups on the steep slope.

It takes an hour of climbing before I top the ridge behind camp, an hour filled with anticipation, for the view over this ridge has only been seen before on a map and never confirmed with my baby blues.

At last I top the ridge and I am rewarded with a fine view of tussock stretching far and wide. Gullies, creeks, spurs, tarns and rock faces, all need to be minutely inspected with my binoculars. I search around for a likely looking spot in the shade, where I can sit down and scan the country ahead.

It was perhaps 40 minutes later that the colour red stood out from the tawny background. At the same time I was aware at last of feeling the warming rays of sunshine on my back, as the sun begun to climb the morning sky. The red colour turned out to be a hind and alongside her materialised another two animals, looking very much like hinds as well at this range. The range was extreme, maybe a mile or more. I dismissed the animals and began my search closer to my position, but frequently rechecking on their position from time to time. After a substantial amount of time spent re-examining the country in front of me, it became evident that these three animals were the only ones I could find.

Even at this extreme distance I could see that the animals progress would soon be halted, by what looked like from here as a huge non negotiable chasm., so I scanned some more with the binos to try and ascertain an alternative route that the animals might chose, after some minutes it became obvious that they were making progress parallel with the chasm, and at the same time dropping in height and heading toward the bush edge.

I quickly mapped out a route that would bisect theirs and took off on a very long stalk. There was not much need for stealth at this range, more of need to close the considerable distance involved as quickly as possible.

I suppose the range was in the vicinity of 800yds when I slumped to the ground and produced my binoculars to recheck on my redskins. Now I could see one at least carried some antlers, or more to the point spikes for he was only a spiker as further inspection confirmed. It looked very much as if a spiker was holding two hinds during the roar. Tut tut where were all the macho ones? Choppers I surmised. I watched the trio for around ten minutes as they picked here and there fussily, occasionally reprimanding one another and then frolicking together in child like play. All the time they seemed consistently to be making for a sharp scrub covered spur that gave way to bush and eventually leading to an open tussock terrace and eventually a sparkling fresh creek.

This is precisely what I gambled on. The fact that they had spent all morning on the tops, they were now more than likely very thirsty. They were ready for some water. Taking no chances I found a deep water course and dropped altitude using this vehicle. Combined with the very high tussock, I was able to keep well out of sight as I continued on my course.

I eventually found a rock that was over looking the tussock terrace at the foot of the spur opposite. I took off my pack and levelled my rifle. The range was around 150yds and I lay in wait.  Occasionally I would glimpse a body through the heavy bush as the animals made progress.

At long last a hind materialised out of the bush, the spiker was about to follow, when suddenly he looked over his shoulder and waited. The second hind appeared behind him and he waited for her to catch up and then pass him. Hind 2 was now in the open, I waited for the spiker.

Finally he showed himself, like some wily old royal stag, cagey to the last. The cross hairs settled on his shoulders for an instant. The shot struck and his front legs left the ground and arced high above his head, he then crashed sideways to the ground.

The remaining hinds barked and carried on a bit before finally departing, into the safety of the bush.

Day4 had me packing up camp and sidling my way out, up the big rock scree into the saddle. I was in deep shadow and making good progress. Some movement across the scree drew my attention to 5 chamois moving uncertainly in the sunshine. They were looking my way but unable to ascertain what I was due to the sun in their eyes.

I glassed them carefully and picked out a buck with a nice set of hooks. Not incredibly big but a good downside curve going I estimated around the 8.5” mark.

I levelled the stubby .308 over a handy rock and took the buck in the shoulder.

No sign of a roar this high up, but satisfied that another piece of country and been seen and covered.

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