New Zealand. Lord of the Rings, amazing scenery, epic proportions of rain, huge brown trout, more sheep than humans. The list goes on of unique characteristics about the unique islands far from just about anywhere. This past February and March we visited the South Island for about 5 weeks. Our main goal was to fish for the large brown trout that NZ is so famous for. We’ll have a blog post on that later. With that much time on the island I figured we should try to diversify our activities a bit and try to get out and hunt tahr or stag, two species that seem to draw most hunters to the area. After announcing our plans to come visit the island we got a message from Ben Tumata from Big Game Hunting New Zealand. He told us he’d be happy help us out if we wanted to hunt. Some back and forth messaging and we were on the board to take advantage of Ben’s week off. He was and is a stud for offering to take some guys out as friends on a New Zealand Tahr Hunt especially without ever meeting us.
We met up with Ben and organized and sorted gear. From there we took the rigs up to the hanger and started weighing out gear to see what we could and couldn’t take in on the heli. Fortunately we just slid under our weight limit and we started loading up.
Ready to go!
Before we knew it we were all on board and the rotors started to spin as the engine fired up. The weather had cleared and we were in for a beautiful ride up into our hunting area. For those who have never rode in a heli it’s something I’d highly recommend. Our two heli flights were definitely highlights of our trip.
Weaving our way down to our final destination.
We spotted a few tahr on the flight in and saw some of the most beautiful country we’ve ever laid eyes on. Montana will always be #1 in our minds but the country we flew over and got to hunt in here was equally impressive. After unloading the heli the pilot took off and like that we were deep in the New Zealand backcountry with only the sound of the river a few hundred yards away. We quickly sorted gear and put up tents.
Ben setting up his M.I.A. Tent
Ben had a killer wall tent that he has been designing and refining over the years. He’s calling the brand M.I.A. Gear and his tent and stove set up was money. It was lightweight but extremely study and weather proof and served as a great spot to get warm and eat dinner ever night when we got back to camp. Based off Ben’s advice and time spent hunting tahr we were really in no rush to get up the mountain. The tahr typically bed up high in the cliffs and in the evening will start coming off the mountain to feed. We took the next couple hours to soak up the sun and glass up a few nannies high up in the cliffs above camp. Around 2 or 3 we shouldered our packs and headed up the drainage. This was new country to everyone and we used the river as our path to get up to the head of the drainage.
Boulder hopping our way up the canyon.
After climbing up to a high knob with a 360 degree view we dropped our packs and broke out the spotters. We quickly started turning up tahr. A lot of young bulls and nannies and kids occupied us for the first few hours. As the shadows started to lengthen in the valley we spotted two bulls high in the cliffs below a hanging glacier. The wind blew their long coats as they slowly dropped elevation.
Letting the music lure our bulls down the mountain
Ben and August sized up their horn and body size and determined they would be worthy of a closer look. We sat and watched them for about an hour as Six60 “Closer” played on Ben’s small speaker setup. We all had a good laugh as the tahr seemingly listened exactly to the music and slowly got “closer, closer to you!” Soon we picked up and made a loop out of sight to get ahead of them and wait to see if they’d show up on the big apron of grass that emerged from the base of the cliffs. We shuffled closer and finally decided we were in a good position. There were 3 tahr up on the hill now within 400 yards and getting closer. We patiently waited until the biggest bull finally crested a small rise at about 60 yards. Travis was ready and centered up the reticle and let a shot rip. The shot found it’s mark and we had a nice bull on the ground.
Travis with his bull tahr
Ben explains to Josh how to age a tahr based off it’s horns.
Light quickly faded as we admired the bull. He was a good bull hitting the tape at 11 3/4″. We made quick work of the bull and soon had him loaded up. The weight wasn’t heavy but the grass had become dew covered and the descent down the mountain included lots of slipping and sliding. We crossed back over the river and finally rolled into camp. Everyone was in good spirits and we had a few celebratory beers as tahr backstrap sizzled on the stove top.
Tahr, sauteed onions, and a cold beverage
Day 1 was in the books and what a day it was. Watch the video below to see how Day 1 played out high in the mountains of New Zealand.
Special thanks to Ben and August and if you’re interested in hunting any big game animals free range in New Zealand definitely hit up Ben at his website > www.bghnz.co.nz/