I picked Bevan up at the Domestic terminal and we visited a few Gunshops before catching up with my good mate Shane for dinner, where we talked nothing but hunting Reds, unsurprisingly. Bevo and I headed off to an airport-convenient motel for the night, where Bevo slept not at all in anticipation of the fun in front of us. We hit the airport at 4.30 in the morning, Border Force opened at 5 and we slowly went through the process. The only things we forgot was Bevan’s new torch, and my spare set of Bino’s that I had bought for Bevo to use. Those items spent the week on the back seat of my Toyota in long term parking.
Our flight landed in Christchurch early arvo Kiwi time and we got everything done… although I had forgotten to declare my second hunting knife. Which I realised when I saw one of the Kiwi coppers monitoring the x-ray machine mimicking stabbing herself in the neck, repeatedly. Small drama aside we got to our motel and then I was able to introduce Bevan to the wonder that is the Hunting and Fishing New Zealand chain store. Money was duly spent.
And spent again the next day, when we visited Gun City.Monday morning though, Tom Jones, principal of Main Divide outfitters, picked us up. We stored our gear at his place in Rangiora and headed west. We were to hunt on DOC land, open country where the deer were free to come and go but Tom had the access. There was a deer pen estate next door, but the fence seemed fairly flawed. We watched Fallow and Reds just push through it on several occasions, and saw a few Stags in there of obvious bush blood, and just one “Pen Bred” monster. A short trip to a range to ring gongs and confirm that the rifles still shot straight and we were good to go.
We climbed to a high vantage point overlooking the Manuka filled valley and started glassing. Now and again you could catch a teasing glimpse of a set of Royal tops above the Manuka before a fold in the ground took them away again. But as the day wore on, we saw plenty of deer. Fat sleek Fallow does and spikers, equally healthy Red Hinds and even a few pigs. Importantly though, we saw Stags. Firstly a pair of double 6’s, a few 11 pointers (6x5’s), and then briefly a majestic 14 point Imperial at almost a kilometre. They were all too far away though and we needed to close in.
We climbed down as far as we could out onto the end of a spur and glassed again. From this particular angle we were still high up enough to just see into a few open spots in the Manuka. We could go no closer from this direction without losing sight of everything though.Then one showed himself. A heavy 6x5 fed side on from me as I lay with rifle over pack for almost quarter of an hour. 285m. That is about where my .
300Wby is zeroed and a I had a great hold on his shoulder while we debated whether or not I should crack him. Tom talked me down eventually and I watched him go. First arvo of the hunt and we had seen bigger stags, who might vanish for a while if I decked him. All of which I knew, and something I had cautioned myself against.
Then, at about 6pm when we should still have had some of the best glassing time in front of us, Cyclone Gita started to affect our hunt. The fog rolled in and dropped way down and the drizzle slowly got heavier. Visibility was gone, though we waited until nearly 8pm. Tom called it a wash then, and we rolled out of there on dark and back to Rangiora for a fine chicken dinner. As we drove out through the Deer pen, we get a good look at a big old heavy 6x4 close to the track, missing his beys on both sides. “What’s he doing in here? Is he a Stag for Estate hunters?" "Nope… never seen him before. Don’t want him in here with the Breeding Stag. Would have pushed through from outside”, said Tom. Looked good to us…
Woke the next day to endless rain. Think it started about 3am and it rained for 28 hours without pause. We watched a LOT of hunting on Netflix, Amazon etc. All of which made me even keener, and to consider hunting Tahr in the rut even more.
Tuesday then, was wiped. Tom fed us an outstanding wild sheep roast that night, and we discovered that they do actually have cold beer in New Zealand.
The rain stopped Wednesday mid-morning and we burnt some time pleasurably at the thermal spring pools before kitting up and stumping back up the hills for an evening glass as the clouds lifted. Everything was very wet and this time we were glassing from the valley floor beside the river looking up, but not long before the light vanished we found a real old swamp donkey. Up high, feeding along a high ridge was a huge 6x5. Super heavy beams, well over 40inches long and so so wide before his tops pointed back in. The next day, we would chase him, as his territory had to be either side of that ridge. And he was EXACTLY the sort of thing I was dreaming of.