A short email request on the Friday resulted in an overnight hunting trip in the quest for a chamois or Deer on the following Monday morning. It was to be the first alpine hunting trip for Daniel and it took a bit of juggling on my behalf to be able to take him at such short notice.
He duly arrived at Triple Tui at nine A.M. and we drove the short distance to my range to sight in his rifle. A couple of windage clicks to the right for a hundred meter zero and then the steel plate at 300 meters clanged satisfactorily with a dead centre hit. He can shoot anyway I thought to myself.
Without further ado we were barrelling along to the drop off point in the Nissan. Although Spring was in the air at the car park it was a different proposition later in the day when we hit the tussock tops. There was a keen southerly wind blowing which had us donning our windproof jackets in no time at all, added to this was the snow. It covered everything from 1500 meters or so upwards. It being mid November came as a sobering reality ! We found an area of ground that did not have a snow mantle attached to it and erected our bivvy. Sorted out the alfresco kitchen and then with the remaining light took off for a look at a likely looking gulley to the east of us. It was bitterly cold and it soon became obvious that no self respecting deer sporting its in-between season clothing would be venturing out to play today. I half jokingly expressed an opinion that it might be warmer on the other side of the catchment in the lee of this cold wind. Daniel was in with both feet. Man this guy is keen!, after all the walking we had already done he was eager now to climb back up to the main range and over to glass the other side. I just love it when I get fit guys that are capable of doing the hard yards. So climb we did.
Eventually settling down the other side, which by the way was only marginally less cold than the side we had come from. After an hour and again with hands numb from the cold we at last called it a day and returned to our bivvy. No sleep whatever was had by myself but Daniel got quite a few snore full hours in despite the cold…and he was the one that reckoned he didn’t snore !!! I would surely like to compare notes with his girlfriend.
I was up at the crack of dawn. A dawn that happily had no wind whatsoever. With the billy starting to boil I heard the movements of my mate in his pit and he was soon up and breakfasting heartily. This time the plan was to motor over to another catchment that was more sheltered to see if there were any animals about. The snow under foot was hard as ice and we made good time in the chill of the morning eventually reaching our glassing perch just after seven a.m. Within a few minutes of glassing I picked up movement around 2 klicks away which materialised into a stag. He had a rack of four to six points of velvet and seemed just the ticket for a stalk. I got Daniel zeroed in and asked him to keep an eye on our new found mate while I glassed about for something a bit nearer and also to see if this guy had any mates he hadn’t introduced to us as yet. Around ten minutes later the answer was no. By this time our friend was still mooching along without a care in the world.
We peeled off the altitude at speed and started to close the distance on the stag. On the way we noticed he had bedded down and was for the most part facing away from us. He would occasionally look in our direction before returning to his former position. The stag was situated above a huge rock face across and down from our initial position. After much exertion he was now above and across from us and the range was now confirmed at 465 meters.
It was 8 A.M. and a bit early for the change in thermal wind direction however the wind was picking up again but was in our favour so we decided to cross the dry creek bed and complete the rest of the stalk out of sight of our quarry.
Just your normal run of the mill final approach? NOT SO!
A sudden and unexpected wind gust swept up and across carrying our scent into his nostrils. He was up in a bound paused for a second and then melted away out of sight over the spur.
I was gutted for Daniel he had worked so hard to get to this point only to be denied by a rogue zephyr. I blamed myself for not sitting it out a bit longer and waiting for the up draughts that would have surely made their way up from the valley floor in no time and made sure of our success. We followed up in any case and after a climb of around twenty minutes and a careful approach we reached his deserted bed. It was soon apparent our boy had left the immediate vicinity and I had stuffed up a stalk, a thing I have not experienced in a long- long time.
We had an early lunch and enjoyed the mountain scenery about us.
It was an equally long trek back to the bivvy and of course the hardened snow of the morning had now melted somewhat making the journey a nightmare in comparison to our earlier sojourne.
Reaching our camp site we then packed up and headed out, for Daniel was due in Kaikoura the next day and a date with a crayfish or two he reckoned.
Sometimes the one -nighters are a precarious proposition especially when going alpine. It is all work but the rewards can be great when you get it right. However two nights or more give you that extra time to recover from the arduous climb and also get a lot more hunting in.
The one important aspect that I promote time and time again though is that this is adventure hunting and it is aimed at showing what real New Zealand hunting can offer. Disappointments are rare if you possess the attributes of young Daniel but still a reality. That is as it should be.
Real experience has its fair measure of success and failure you cannot learn much through success alone.