Napier Fieldmaster Bob Spain recounts his last Tahr Hunt in New Zealand’s South Island.

Bob Spain

Tahr were first introduced into NZ by their government in 1904,  a gift from the Duke of Bedford of just 13 animals from his herd at Woburn abbey. 

They are now considered a major pest and are actively culled by hunters and

DOC Cullers.     Sounds familiar? remember he gave us the Reeves Muntjac in the UK!!!  

It’s a world away from most UK hunters both in distance and endeavour, a tough animal in a tough terrain hunted by tough hunters.  Fantastic to read, Thanks so much Bob

Steve Rowe   MD   Napier of London

JUNE 2020  Covid Compliant TAHR HUNT

After missing out on our usual Wapiti block in April 2020 due to strict covid 19 lockdowns we finally moved to Level 2 in JUNE.

So a Tahr hunting trip on DOC (Dept. of Conservation ) land was quickly planned and we headed for the South Island . A quick phone call to James Scott from Alpine Helicopters got a fast reply back  and it was all go.

 We had Baker Creek lower block on 13th JUNE for the week, most of the booking had been arranged, including ferries North to South Islands, we only had two days to travel down to the West Coast of the South Island, but at least 4 of us were going!!  

SATURDAY the 13th was a great day, fine and clear.   The chopper could only carry two of us plus gear at a time so two trips were made. Ben and I were in the first trip and encouragingly as we flew in Tahr were seen from Helicopter which was a great sign & after landing at camp and unloading Ben and Myself.  It was immediately in the air again to bring in Pete and Greg.

More animals were sighted on that flight too, and by the time they arrived we had a great camp site almost set up.  Plenty of room under a canopy of trees and all four our four tents, one to be used for cook tent.

After getting all set up it was time for are quick look around.

We took in an inflatable rubber boat to get across the main Landsborough river.  Pete and I went down and blew up the boat & with a long rope stretched from one side of river to the other we were able to pull ourselves back and forth and it worked great.

Over the far side of the river there were a lot of animal signs, so we got out binoculars and had a good glass.  We soon picked up a few Tahr quite a long way off, but was good to see, things looked promising.

We were all back in camp just on dark, while we were checking out the far bank Ben and Greg had gone up stream and had also seen game. So things were looking good for the week ahead.

SUNDAY DAY ONE   Our first full day, Greg and Ben went across the river by boat to hunt down stream for the day while I followed up Baker Creek to the tops, Pete headed downstream on the camp side of the next creek down intending to follow me up to the tops.

 It took me about three hours of hard climbing and hunting, glassing on the way & seeing animals but all too far away.

Reaching the open tops about an hour later & after a bite to eat and drink I was just quietly sitting glassing when a big bull Tahr walked out on a slip.

I looked  at him for a while, checking how good he was, a big long mane and good horns, but getting out the range finder to see just how far away he was, four hundred yds!    My rifle is a 7mm rem mag,  with  Leopold scope it has yd lines calibration so  I knew the second line down was  good for 350 to 400 yds.

 So with a good rest I prepared and as he turned side on I fired, down he went.

Then It took me about a good half hour to get to him , &  yes he was a good old bull, so a few photos followed by the skinning job.   A good bull skin with head on weights about 90 pounds which is a big heavy load over steep and tricky terrain.

Back at the camp, I arrived just on dark, Pete was already there but had no luck, although he did  Video  some Tahr, one of which was good bull.  But it was way too far for a shot and even more difficult to extract it if he had.

Greg and Ben arrived after dark having had a good day & seen Tahr not shot.  So with my Bull we did end the first day with one in the camp.

MONDAY

Weather had turned to heavy rain so it was a camp morning for us all, by lunch time it started to look better so Greg Ben and Pete took off for a hunt while I stayed in camp and salted my skin.

I also cleaned up the head, Pete went over the river from the camp by our ferry boat & hunted up stream to tops.   He ran into a lot of animals and took some photos to see the good bulls, but again way too far for a clean shot.

But he had a good look around the country, & found a good spot for Tahr.

Ben and Greg hunted along the river Camp side but only spotted small animals, so after a couple of hours headed back to camp.

Pete finally made it back to camp after dark and we all had good meal, and were ready for early bed.

TUESDAY  We woke to heavy rain and some snow so it looked like another morning in camp, a good decision as it happens  as by mid-morning we were engulfed in fog too.  Quickly though the weather improved.

Ben moved up directly behind the camp to tops & GREG headed off downstream for a bit to move up there too. PETE went up Baker Creek to a waterfall and saw Tahr high up on the tops as the fog cleared.

I crossed the river in our little boat and hiked down to a big flat area, I sat there for couple of hours, glassing to see Thar come down quite low and eventually only about a hundred yards from me, but  they were all small animals , &  I was waiting for a decent beast so I stayed there patiently till  just on dark before heading back to camp.

 GREG was back but had no luck, and he had  got himself very wet and cold, and that’s quite miserable, but good drop of wine soon fixed him up.

But still no sign of BEN  and  by now it was dark,  we always carry two way radios so gave him a call at 19:00  to discover he was ok,  he had shot a good bull and had a good load on board that makes for a slow trip back.

Its a good job he had very good head lamp, and  he makes it out in the snow and rain quite exhausted with a 12inch bull and good skin.

WEDNESDAY woke to a  bright sky  with light frost and it was very cold, we had breakfast and all set off for a day’s hunt, we all went different ways &  I went back up Baker Creek,  Pete & Greg went  across the river again. Greg stayed the  camp side  and he came with me to Baker Creek where we parted and he headed down-stream to some water sheds then up into open bush.

I moved up creek for about hour then cut up into some bush ,it was very open some signs of animals here and there then just as  as I was getting to the tops  I spooked couple of animals, as the  wind  was all over place.

I got to a good look out spot, so had a good glass about and after about an hour picked up a mob of Tahr but way in the distance.

.

Then I got the midday call from all the boys to say they were on to Tahr, but nothing shot yet.

I gave it another hour then headed off back down through the bush, hunting as I went, I got  down about half hour from the Main river and just broke out of the bush to look across Baker Creek .

Standing there looking at me was a big bull Tahr,  we both were face to face looking at each other for a few seconds but by the time I got set for a shot he disappeared!!!   bugger but that’s hunting.

I got out the range finder to  discover  he was only  fifty yards from me, I sat there till dark but he did not show himself again.       SO Back to camp.

Pete and Ben were already there and  Greg came in about half hour later,  he was the only one to score one young bull that day, a good skin, which  he wanted for a floor rug so very happy.

We all had good tea then off to bed.

THURSDAY Yes our last full day hunting, rain and strong winds, bloody cold too with  ice and snow in the air, we were  all  feeling very brave so we stayed in bed.

I eventually got up and served the boys breakfast in bed, the weather looked better about lunch time so all put on wet weather gear and  went for our final jaunt. Ben and I went across river, Pete and Greg up in the bush behind the camp.  I edged down river to a big flat area for glassing & sat in a good spot out of the worst weather, Tahr seemed to be on the move, I saw about fifteen animals but  just one good, big looking one, it was hard to get good look at his horns as  the range was about three hundred yards.

Ben came down to meet me and he checked out the Tahr and it was decided that I should shoot him, but by that time he was getting further away up hill,  time was getting on and  not far off dark so we called it a day and left him to get bigger.   If I had known then that the DOC were going to shoot all the Tahr from  helicopters  only to just leave them, maybe I would have taken that shot,  I  hope he still lives.

Back to boat and across the river, It did a great job transporting us safely so it was deflated and carefully packed up for extraction by the helicopter at 10am in the morning.

FRIDAY all packed up, gear pulled down, tents stowed and had good final clean up, nothing left behind.  Chopper arrived on time and with two trips we were back on our way home.  Looking forward to being reunited with my new Labrador Pup, Judy.   Great Memories and looking forward to the next trip. 

Bob Spain

RABBITS GALORE

Bob Spain

Over the past ten to fifteen years, my brother and I have been very lucky to have two good back country farms to shoot on. The farms boast deer and pigs among their bounty, which is a boost to have venison and pork on the menu.

Rabbits however are in very big numbers, there has been no problem in the past to shoot up to eight hundred in a day. That’s a good days shooting. On an average day however, we would shoot about four to five hundred between us. On a lesser day we would shoot between fifty to two hundred each.

The weather has a big part to play, as rabbits, like all animals, you get a night’s rain turning nice and fine come morning, with no wind, rabbits come out of their burrows to get the sun.

During spring time all the young ones are coming out of their holes five to six in groups and having not been shot at before, they are very easy to shoot. It’s possible to pick off the ones far from the burrow, and work back most times shooting the lot.

The rifle I use is a bolt action Brno model one, fitted with a clamp on suppressor.

I like the Remington subsonic 22 ammunition hollow point and also use three ten shot mags as required. Most rabbits are shot at ranges between thirty to eighty yds. Although it’s a bit of a job to load mags when the shooting gets hot.

Sunday 6th September 2020, just a morning shoot with my brother. He dropped me off at the start of the farm and I was to follow up to him to meet at midday. I was in the area the Sunday before, after deer and saw a lot of rabbits so went back.

The weather was not good, with a very strong north westerly wind, when I could get out of the wind my first twenty shots dropped twenty rabbits which I was pleased with. I followed up, shooting in sheltered places which was good. Some of the rabbits were calm and relaxed, sitting down at spots out of the wind I would pick off ten to fifteen at a time.

Most of the rabbits were fully grown, with the young ones not far off.  As I approached the meet up point, I tried to pick up sheltered spots here and there, upon reaching my brother I had shot one hundred and fifty rabbits in total.  I use a counter clicker for tally.

My brothers tally was one hundred and seventy so three twenty shot for the morning

TO BE CONTINUED. . .

Saturday 19th September 2020, Yes off again!

The weather was good, there were plenty of rabbits around until after lunch when the rain set in. My brother and I both went different ways, I followed the bush line where rabbits were coming out of the bush on to the new grass, mostly big ones with some small ones.

Not yet at my destination, however it didn’t take me long to shoot off one hundred rounds.

I stopped for cup of tea and a sandwich, sitting by a cut down tree which gave me a bit of cover. By the time I had drunk the tea and finished the sandwich I had shot sixty rabbits as they popped out on the grass. Down the rabbits went, some good long shots too!

My mate Steve gave me a primo shooting stick, which works very well. Walking up and down hills you get to be a bit out of puff with old age!

Heard my brother shooting so he was in to them.

Time for lunch, yes, I do stop for lunch I got into a good spot again shooting and loading up the ten shot mags as fast as I could go. The spot was on top of a ridge looking down on rabbit burrows as they came out, down went the rabbits.

The rain started to set in so I made my way back to the truck, shooting as I went. By the time I got to the truck it wasn’t long before my brother was back. The tally for the day was five hundred and fifty-six, good part day

TILL NEXT TIME . . .

Sika Roar 2019

Bob Spain

It was Monday 8th of April and I was heading up MAKAHU road to hot springs PUKETITIRI, the weather had set in to heavy rain. I Parked the vehicle in scrub and with a heavy pack crossed a very low MOHAKA river.

No sign of anyone else, I think the weather had put most hunters off but as my old mate John would say “good to travel in bad weather, get to camp and be ready when weather turns good”. A couple of hours later I reached an old bivouac shelter (Improvised camp) which John and I had made years ago. The rain was still coming down hard and the bush was very wet. It was late in the day and I was in pack gear, so I changed into some good dry clothes which made me feel better, then gave my old 1949 BRNO 21 7MM a good dry down and oil up. I used my Napier of London deluxe rifle cleaning kit compete with rod patches oil and best of all a spray can of gun cleaner lubricant for lasting rust protection. Great stuff best things since sliced bread. I had an early night as weather still raining hoping for a better day tomorrow.

TUESDAY

The rain had stopped, it was a good clear, fine morning and we had heard a few sika roars during the night. Best of all there was no wind. Filling the thermos and with tea made, a big sandwich and full day bag I put a dry patch through the rifle barrel and I was off.

The bush was very wet but I wasn’t going very far. Being careful not to leave Human sent around I reached one of my good clearings which I have shot good eight pointers off before. Well if you could call it a clearing! It is a great spot for roaring stags.

Open in places with MANUKA and pepper woods thick in places I like to sit in one place sometimes all day let the stags come to you, there had been a few roars close, very close at times. After having a cup of tea and sandwich I sat for about six hours. Then I heard sticks breaking I gave the MANUKA bush close to me a good shake then rubbed a piece of wood up and down it, boy that got him worked up. He let out a roar and came straight for me within 40 meters I could see eight good points and great length so I waited for a good clear shoulder shot and fired. He spun around and took off I knew he would not go far as he was hard hit by the blood trail 20 meters. There he was caught up between two MANUKAS.

And what a surprise when I pulled him out of the bushes, he had fallen on and old sika pile of bones which must have been shot wounded and lost or died of old age.

The stag I shot had a great head skin, so I had the job of taking the cape off and seeing to the meat. Then it was back to camp in dark.

The head I shot length 33 DOUGLAS SCORE 190

Head found length 31 DOUGLAS SCORE 181

WEDNESDAY

A great day again, fine with no wind so out for hunt again, this time in a different place. A place where a good mate of mine shot his first eight pointer. It was DOUGLAS SCORE 205 and not bad for a first, he got a bit restless with my way of hunting but it worked for him.

After sitting there for the day we did see two good stags one eight and one seven pointer. We managed to get them on film so not all lost and the odd hind which the stags were following.

Had a great day so back to camp, good feed and into bed.

THURSDAY

Up early to find a great day again, we went out early in the dark this time as I wanted to check out a small gully which holds a few deer most of the time and always plenty of rut pads, although it is hard to hunt there after the last big storm a couple of years ago. There’s plenty of windfalls so found a good spot to sit.

I heard the odd single call, but it was a bit on the quite side, still you never know, time will tell. We did see the odd hind also a four pointer following them as normal. After sitting there for some time having a cuppa, a deer started to whistle at me. Then I felt a breeze on the back of my neck

I gave it a bit of time but things got worse coming from the north, no good for bush hunting so I got back to camp had an early tea then hit the sack for an early start in the morning home

FRIDAY

It had been a good few days in bush and I decided to hunt my way out. No rush, I had all day and took a very slow trip out reaching MOHAKA river, got across safely and back to Trusty old Subaru.

A great few days in the bush.

Bob spain.