The Andrew Briggs Story


A bitterly cold wind was blowing

There was a fair amount of planning going into the trip and numerous amounts of emails were exchanged over the six months prior to Andrew’s arrival in New Zealand.

He expressed a wish to hunt chamois and Tahr in the same trip and he was arriving in mid April with his wife and two small boys. He had four days laid aside for the hunt and was well prepared.

The day they all arrived was raining but the forecast was upbeat so I rang James Scott to confirm our booking and check on what he thought of the weather. Looks like it will be fine he replied and indicated a nine o clock morning flight was on the cards. So plan A was put into motion and we packed the car and set off down to Whataroa arriving shortly after seven that evening. We booked into the White Heron and had a comfortable night sleep.  Around two in the morning however a gale shook our cabin and continued through the night and greeted us the next morning. We warily poked our heads out of the door and looked up toward the ranges. There was a huge bank of cloud obliterating all of the tops and it was moving at a rate of knots. We continued in an optimistic vein and downed our cereal breakfast before making our way to the car park at the road end where the helicopter was due to pick us up. There were already a couple of truck loads of men there waiting for their flight and they were all DOC workers.

About forty minutes later they were seen to pack their gear back into their trucks and so I wandered out to have a word. It’s been flagged they informed me and advised us to get in touch with James Scott to see how we stood. We were eventually told that there was every possibility of us being able to get a flight later in the day when the winds were expected to ease in the meantime we were to remain patient. We headed back to the White Heron for a proper breakfast of bacon and eggs with toast which Andrew managed to cook with some finesse.

Later in the day we travelled to Franz to get an update and were assured that they would get us in later in the day and they would contact us at the White Heron when conditions suited. Meanwhile we managed to get hold of a radio and a forecast for the coming days ahead and we found out that they were not too crash hot and even if we did get in that day the chances of getting any hunting in were slim indeed.

Decision made and plan C was put into action [plan B was omitted as we would not now have enough time for that] we informed Alpine Adventures of our decision and we high tailed it back to Nelson Lakes. We arrived early Monday evening and I assured Andrew I would take care of his pack and supplies while he caught up with some time with his family. We had decided a walk in hunt was on the cards tomorrow {Tuesday] and we would return Friday morning.

The next day after some consultation with his wife Elita Thursday evening was now decided on for our return time.

The weather forecast at the lakes was fine for the walk in and strong cold winds for our first hunt on Wednesday and with another fine day on our last day Thursday.

It was a cruel introduction to the South Island for Andrew and instead of the leisurely fly in by helicopter he was now grunting up a near vertical ridge with heavy pack on. A couple or few hours later we were having a bite to eat just short of the tops.

It was a little after midday when we emerged onto the golden grasslands and once more had the sun on our backs. It seemed like a perfect excuse for us to down packs and take up our binoculars for a scan around to see what we could locate. Almost immediately I picked up the unfamiliar colour of orange about a mile away. It was quickly joined by a fluorescent green colour and a shiny object mirroring the sunlight. The orange turned out to be a hat and the green was a shirt top, the shiny object was the hunters watch. We watched as he raised himself from his squat and proceeded to walk our way. Sometime later we chewed the fat and it transpired he was on a day hunt chasing the wily stag.

We then carried on our way climbing upward and enjoying the views of the ever changing scenery.

We didn’t quite make our intended camp site and with daylight dwindling we decided to look for a place to pitch our fly. We erected it on the only half level place we could find. We then scooped as much snow as we could out from under using a cup and a billy lid. By the time we had set out our sleeping bags and boiled the billy a few times the shadows were lengthening. A quick look at the map to confirm our strategy for the morning and then it was good night nurse.

The morning dawned cold and with threatening cloud gathering in the west which was  slowly making its way toward us the wind was also picking up in intensity. We left camp after a quick brew and with our dehy meals already mixed with hot water. We climbed steadily and within twenty minutes stopped to have our breakfast. Sometimes and especially when you get up a little late it can be more productive to climb a little and not waste time waiting the ten minutes for your breakfast to cook.

We climbed steadily and all too soon the cloud had enveloped us and visibility was somewhere around zilcho. The higher we strode the more inhospitable became the surroundings. Rocky outcrops and loose rock was the norm. The tussocks had vanished.

It is easy to become disoriented in conditions such as these so we stopped for a photo call and no sooner than we had taken our pictures we witnessed the cloud lift and visibility was restored. A quick detour to our right and we were in a saddle leading us into the next watershed. The wind thrashed at our loose clothed bodies as we scurried over the top into the more calm eastern facing slopes.

We contoured down and across stopping in many places to glass the bush edge and the many gullies that lay ahead. We eventually found an area seemingly devoid of the banshee wind which offered from time to time some taste of the elusive sunshine. There we settled ourselves and got our monies worth out of our binoculars bisecting the country time and again with our questing glasses. Lunch was also done here. It wasn’t very long afterwards that I picked out some movement on the bush edge some klicks away. It turned out to be a spiker and he was not just mooching along. In fact he looked as though he was being pursued by something a lot bigger and meaner than himself. We watched as he scurried across some open country, entered an isolated chunk of bush and re emerged out the other side back into open grassland before disappearing out of view because of a spur that interrupted our view. We hastily covered the ground to the edge of the spur but he had long gone by that time.

Patience is a virtue!


We left sometime later to return slowly to our own watershed and the wind was there in the saddle to greet us. An uneventful journey back to camp was the close of day one.

The next day dawned fine with no wind and we were up early to breakfast and pack our gear away. We pulled on heavy packs and contoured diagonally toward the bush edge. We then cached our main packs and donned day packs and set out for a gulley we had not investigated so far. To reach our gulley we had to scramble up a steep Hebe laden slope to gain the height we needed to traverse the ridge.

We crossed over carefully and cautiously but damn it not carefully enough Andrew muttered there’s one. It paused whilst I passed the Sako over but moved out of sight the moment Andrew tried draw a bead. We followed blindly hoping the chamois would slow and stop another ridge over. The spur we needed to climb looked innocent enough but when we started climbing we soon realised how steep it really was. It was virtually on end and made for heavy going. Luckily there was plenty of plant life and many handholds. Eventually we gained the top and looked over, but there was just a gulley devoid of any animals. We then slipped into the shallow gulley and proceeded to climb out of our precarious environment and head for the main ridge again.

Once atop the main ridge I began to climb in earnest to see if we could out climb the animal or animals. Once you spook a chamois you sometimes have to call on all your fitness to try and redress the situation and often in the past this strategy of heading off an animal by gaining height ahead of it has worked for me.

glanced over my shoulder at Andrew and saw a forlorn hand fall from waist height down to his right side when he saw me motoring up the ridge and he proceeded to contour at the height he was at. I raised my hand and put two fingers to my eyes and then indicated I was going to look over the next rise. I went over and then down climbed a spur leading back into the gulley we had spooked the chamois from and squatted down at the insistence of a call of nature. It was a blank as far as any animals seen.

I then climbed back up the ridge and back tracked to where I had last seen my Oz mate but he was not there. After a futile search I reached the conclusion he might have had enough and returned to our packs. I started my descent off the ridge. Half way down I spotted a chamois buck and he was looking straight at me. The range I found out later was 350yds. No Andrew to be seen. I held high and let fly. I saw the animal kick out with its hind legs and then he took off. I fired again but it was more in hope than anything else. He paused at 600yds., and laid down with his front legs draped over a rock. I initially thought I might have hit him in the guts and now he was succumbing to his wound so I waited twenty or so minutes for him to stiffen up. Meanwhile Andrew put in an appearance a couple of hundred yards to my right and I gestured to him to get down and wait awhile. In full view of the chamois and with him looking straight at me I decided to call his bluff after all this was not my day and not my shot. I had covered no more than fifty yards when he raised himself upright and carried on his journey up into the rocks.

When we met up Andrew told me he had walked into a mob of five nannies shortly after my shot reverberated around the hills. It was a great pity that we separated right at that crucial time but that is hunting sometimes.

A good trip isn't always measured in success

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