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Back Into The High Country

Garry Keown

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After a long absence from the hills I scheduled a 3 day hunt in the hills 3000ft above Cromwell in Central Otago and arranged with Foster to meet up there at 9am yesterday morning. He has a 3 hr drive up from the far south where I just had 1 3/4 run to get there. Usually we will add his gear to my truck for the run up into the hills but this time as we intended to stay for the 3 days we took both trucks as there was a bit more gear and I had a 60 liter ice chest and a spare 60 liter container for any meat to come hme. I usually freeze 6 x 1 liter water bottles with heavily salted water as they hold the freeze longer than plain water and then picked up a couple of bags of ice at the last gas station so we had plenty of cold on hand and if needed could always take a 3/4 hr trip back down to get more bags of ice if need be as the temps were in the high 70's and while it may not be the 100+ that many of you experience in the summer it is a heat for here at this time.
I was carrying my custom mini mauser in my own 6.5 Grendel-Max cartridge with the 123gn bullet at 2700fpr and Foster had his 6.8 Rem with the 120gn bullet at about 2500fps.
We were on the track in to where we were going to camp for the night at the Holly hut and from a good glassing position some way from there under a pilon, we watched 4 Fallow about 1260 yds away in a position that would require an extensive walk to get into a shooting position for retrieval.
The fallow were first spotted where the red square is and gradually fed down the line to the lower end of the gully but the wind was against a stalk down that way although the bottom of the gully was choked with mataghouri, (a visious spiked bush) and briar so it would have required a log walk back to the head of the gully and round the tops to drop down on them from there so a big day if we decided to do so. We had that as a back-up so decided to go round to where the goats usually are and often in good numbers as previous trips had shown.


We had a bite to eat at the camp and headed round to look for goats. On the way round the narrow and steep track to the bluffs we saw a couple of goats almost on the skyline and a shot that missed moved them over the top but we expected them to move round to a basin on the other side of the tops where the track headed to so were content to move in that direction having a look down into the creek bottom about a 1000yds below the track. The thyme was still in magnificent bloom so the sight and scent in the air was a very reaal spirit revivor as it had been far too long since we had been up this way.



We walked up over the top above the track and sat on the far side below the skyline and glassed for a while but Foster has a great set of eyes and soon spotted a small group of nannies and yearlings just ahead of about 10 mature billies with one old fellow having a great set of horns but we, or I was there to get eating animals so we sat for some time as they slowly fed thier way from the 560 yd first sighting into closer country. We "bum slid" down the hill untill we had closed the distance to 140yds with the eating age animals in the lead. I always carry a kneeling height set of Stoney point bipod detached sticks on the hill where Foster had a set of quad sticks that were not quite as effective in the sitting position we were going to have to shoot from. My first shot had a nice sized nanny down and Foster had a young billy  and as they were streaming away I got another young nany as she slowed about 180 yds away.
Circle is where we first spotted them and the arrow is where we bum slide stalked to for a shooting spot at the closer range.

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I was pleased with the new Tahr Hunter I had made for myself and it performed as expected on these and a later animal.
With the 3 of them dragged down to the track and onto the truck it was back to the camp sight to dress them out.
There are no trees to hang them from to dress out so I have a set up for the truck where we can hang them to skin and a bench I attach to the front of the truck so I can break them down and bag the meat so it is a simple stow in the freezer  which is a real boon when I get home, usually very tired and often stiff and a bit sore from some of the exertions on my 70yo body.


This was where the new butcher knife I had made got its first workout and it was all that I had designed it to be and made light work although hot meat is always hard to work with the same ease that cooled or chilled meat is.
It was now about 5.30 in the evening when all the meat had been processed, bagged and in the ice chest so we were sitting companionably and Foster as was his usual habbit was glassing and in this case it was the face above the hut and he soon spotted two orange yearling fallow so it was decided that we would see if we could stalk up to them as it was a very long shot from the hut. A steep face with lots of the briar and mataghouri was a bit of a chalenge but we enentually got into shooting distance although a retrieval would be an arduous task but just then the animals (seemingly understanding the situation) vanished round the ridge and out of sight and to be honest it was not such a dissapointment as it might have been as sitting watching them had been a pleasant time and much less effort than a climb up to where they had been if we had got a shot on them. It was still early so we headed back down and arround to a pilon that we often used as a reference and glassing spot and again but just for a short time Foster again found some of the fallow we had seen in the morning.
We decamped down to the next pilon and after a short glass saw a red deer hind on her own feeding well along the gully and much closer to use so we started the stalk in to a reasonable shooting range, as she was well over 300yards and the ability to get a steady shot was hampered by the steep terrain and the height of the scrub. When we got to about 180 yds we sat and looked for her but she was not where she had been and after a while I spotter her back up the gully a bit so Foster ranged her at 235 m/ 250yds. I had my stoney point bipod arranged with one short leg against the hill and a foot to stop it sliding on the stoney ground and was able to get steady enough that I would take the shot. It was a good center lung shot but she started to move slowly and it was best to put another on in to anchor her where we would still be able to find her without hours of searching in the scrub.
Original sighting spot by the pilon on the left and were we got closer to a shooting position with the deers location in the gully on the right.

This pic was taken on one of the many stops for a rest on the climb out.

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At this stage it was about 7 in the evening so it was decided that Foster would go across to the deer and start the process and I would climb out back to the hut and pick up the truck and go back to the top of the saddle and walk back down in to where the deer and Foster were and by the time I got there Foster had arrived and done the field dress (gutting the deer) and it was 8pm but we still had good light and expected a couple of hours yet before dark. We took the back and from legs off and boned out everything else with Foster having the heavier part of the load as my old body was starting to tell on me that the lack of walking apart from up to the shed and back to the house over the last long spell was attesting to, but even so by the time we had climbed out of the gut and sidled round a very steep spur Foster was able to leave some of his load with the decision that his younger legs would make the trip back down for the retrieve and to be honest it was a case of makeing 20 to 30,paces and stoping for a rest as the going was steep and slippy with gravel, tussock and scrub all having their way on occasions to try and stop our ascent up to the truck.

Not the best pic but Foster reckoned she would go 175 kg on the hook. You can see the finishing shot just below the ear.



Getting from here, down through the creek and arround the near vertical face to this point was a difficult task but with that behind us we faced the long climb out. 



It was 10pm by the time we were back up at the truck with this having been the hardest retrieval I have had from down in the gut at the red spot up to  this point with another slog  up to the truck still to do from here.



 The last bit up to the truck



With such a long and difficult climb out, it certainly taxed the both of us, but to be honest, me more than Foster. This has made me think about future hunts in this type of terrain as my body is now starting to protest (loudly) against this type of hard climbing carrying part of these bigger animals.

It was 10.30 and dark by the time we got back to the hut and got the meat in a semblance of order and as we had as much meat as we could comfortable process and fit in the freezers we decided to call the hunt a success and head for home which I reached by 1.30 am and another 30 minutes had the meat in the freezer, washed up and got away to my bed. The deer was in whole pieces so some time in the next few weeks I will have to thaw it and break it down into roasts, steaks and other cuts. There will certainly be a goodly ammount with some from a previous fallow buck to take to the smallgoods specialist to make another batch of his very tasty peperoni salami, sausage and some will be ground for mince.
Even though it was a hard hunt it was great to catch up with Foster again and enjoy the special place that these hills have been to me since I started hunting them about 35 years ago.

Edited by Garry Keown
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Von Gruff


The ability to do comes with doing.



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Nice report Garry, and congrats on loading up the freezer.  That is a lot of work, but looks like a great way to connect with your surroundings.


In my neck of the woods, a >100yd shot is uncommon.  Most have to wait and ambush deer at 50 yards or so in the woods.

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2 hours ago, Brian Dougherty said:

In my neck of the woods, a >100yd shot is uncommon.


Same here.  In some places it's so tight you're better off with a short barrel and iron sights if you're not in a tree stand.  I see 400+ yard deer from time to time, but not where one is allowed to hunt them.  And they know they're safe. :lol:  Especially now that I'm in bifocals and the old iron sights are harder to use. :rolleyes:

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I don't hunt, I'm not all that interested and my knees are about 25 years older than I am, but....  

Around here, except for areas where the undergrowth has been groomed out, 50 yards is a long shot.  There was a local tribal member who took his deer every year for a long time with a 22 pistol.  He would figure out where they were bedded down, sneak into the spot and use a head shot at about 6 feet.  I gather the game wardens frown on such things these days.


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"The worst day smithing is better than the best day working for someone else."


I said that.


If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.

- - -G. K. Chesterton


So, just for the record: the fact that it does work still should not be taken as definitive proof that you are not crazy.


Grant Sarver

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I should clarify that I haven't hunted in many years, and my hip wouldn't let me be happy about traversing the high country like that.  But I still have my 1894 Winchester in .30-30 (.30 WCF) just in case.  Hooded front sight so I can still see it, even if I haven't fired it in about 30 years...:lol:

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30 minutes ago, Alan Longmire said:

I should clarify that I haven't hunted in many years, and my hip wouldn't let me be happy about traversing the high country like that.  But I still have my 1894 Winchester in .30-30 (.30 WCF) just in case.  Hooded front sight so I can still see it, even if I haven't fired it in about 30 years...:lol:

It has been many hunting trips over the years that has been important in the designs of my knives so apart from the pure joy of being out in the hills and the meat for the freezer there was the early trials of some things that needed inprovment and then many trips where changes proved themselves in both usage and comfort.

Von Gruff


The ability to do comes with doing.



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