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

Kangaroo Culling

Greg Gibson

I haven’t got the most glamorous job to do though it is essential.

I would love to be one of those hunters you see pictures of with a big stag with huge sets of antlers. But no, my job in the community is much less exciting and somewhat mundane. I am a Profession Roo Shooter.

Roos on a Golf course

Kangaroo (Roo) numbers in my part of Western Australia have boomed since European settlement. This is because we clear the bush, improved the pasture and put in watering points for our stock. The roos loved these improvement to a point where they become so numerous that they eat all the feed for the stock and become inbred. Don’t believe what you read about roos becoming endangered, this is far from the truth.

Generally my culling is done at night under spotlight as roos become more nocturnal with culling pressure. An evening out culling starts at night fall, then we spend a few hours culling an area. Taking anywhere from a dozen to 35 in an evening. They are all tidied up for presentation to a chiller. They are processed for either human consumption, pet food or canine baits. None are wasted.

An accurate rifle is essential as under the national code of Humane Shooting of Kangaroos all animals must be head shot. As you can see by the numbers of animals taken in an evening, barrels require cleaning regularly. Steve from Napier’s of London put me on the right track in this regard when he visited once and he has a great video on his web page. I use Ultra Clean for patches, these have a rough side and a fluffy side. They are great. Generally I just use Napier Gun Cleaner down the bore but every now and again when giving a good doing over use bore solvent. Just follow Steve’s video and you can’t go wrong. Napier products are top quality. That VP90 stuff is excellent.

Kangaroos are culled under strict Government controlled guide lines and permits. All animals taken are recorded for weight, sex and location. These figures are used to monitor numbers taken and allocate future cull numbers as required.

As I started, not glamorous but essential to keep numbers under control for the benefit of the community and the agricultural sector. One day I might get to hunt a big stag.

Camel Cull

Greg Gibson

Distance is always a problem for our pursuits here in Western Australia. Isolation an inconvenience. To help with the control of camels on Cattle Stations on the fringe of the Never Never (arid uninhabited dessert regions) you need to be prepared. Prepared in the sense that you will need to carry all essentials required for the trip, fuel, water, food, communications and emergency supplies. Planning is essential. So after packing extra water and food, first aid kit, satellite phone and 120 litres of extra fuel, off we go. 14 hours later and we arrive at the cattle station and get the run down and good old chat.

Over the next 7 days we will travel around the Cattle Station and adjoining properties to locate and cull all the camels encountered. Camels are very nomadic beasts and travel huge distance to find feed and water water water. Conditions have been very bad in these semi-arid areas with no significant rain events for the previous two years. Things were dry and feed was sparse. The camels have to search far and wide for their survival. All the camels encountered were in a very poor state. Hence needing to come into the Stations from their usual desert habitat to find water. All the Stations have bores and or windmills to water their cattle and the camels invade these watering points in huge numbers. Water is a rare commodity in this environment so the Cattle men can ill afford to be sharing it with these brutes. A large bull camel can consume up to 200 litres of water in one drink. Camels because of their size also do damage to these watering points by breaking pipes, floats and infrastructure causing expensive repairs and putting the cattle at risk of dying from thirst.

Camel meat is a very good to the palate, being similar in texture and flavour to beef. So any of the young culled animals in reasonable conditions had their backstraps removed. The skin on a camel is not that tough, but it is fully impregnated with sand and vegetable matter tangle and entwined in the thick woolly hair so is dynamite on knives. The Apex 46 knife came to the fore. This knife surprised me. Camels are large animals with bulls standing 2 metres tall and weighing 1000 kilograms.  The Apex 46 is a weighty sturdy knife but still a size that can be used articulately. I removed the backstraps from numerous animals and only used a steel to touch up between each. Kept its edge, certainly did. A permanent addition to my kit. This here knife is a bloody beauty.

Well what a week. We culled 122 camels. This should keep the Station owners happy though this is an ongoing issue for them. They pray for rain for their cattle but also for the Never Never country so the camel move back out into the desert.

From our Cajun correspondent

Bob Bourgeois

Growing up in south Louisiana I learned quickly why this state is called the Sportsman’s Paradise. In this area of the state we have unbelievable waterfowl, whitetail deer and small game hunting, and freshwater, saltwater and brackish water fishing is outstanding. At a very early age I was introduced to hunting and fishing by my dad and grandfather. 

My passion for Duck hunting requires good camo and a shallow mud boat “Mule” in the marsh, with deckhand Son Blaine
Excellent use of local Resources, these two nice Gators made a beautiful pair of hand made boots for Blaine

Many years later my son and daughter began duck hunting prior to their fourth birthdays. My daughter still enjoys hunting and fishing, and we can’t wait to take my two grandsons out into the field. My son and I have been hunting together for nearly twenty-five years, and many of the marvelous memories that we share were only due to the readily available hunting and fishing opportunities. 

Blaine with Duck Dynasty’s Jase Robertson

Last deer season, we missed the last 5 weeks of hunting due to Mississippi River flooding. The 2,600 acres that we hunt have been under as much as 12 feet of water since January, but we are hoping to get back on the property by mid-August. Although it sounds bad for this season, the deer in our area have been well-fed on nearby, higher land throughout the flood.  The nutrient-rich Mississippi River enables very rapid, healthy growth of the ground cover immediately after the water recedes.

And a Rio Grande Turkey!!

Over the past five years, our duck lease suffered tremendously due to an invasion of an exotic species, apple snails. Some apple snails are as large as a man’s fist and they devastated the aquatic vegetation.  This did not help to hold the ducks in the area during these seasons, but last year the snails moved on and vegetation grew back with a vengeance and the property is once again looking very good for the coming season.

Now that’s a Snail,  on life size decoy!!

A few days ago, the winds of our first Gulf of Mexico Hurricane were ripping shingles off our home, and in the middle of the storm, we rescued a juvenile Mississippi kite that was unable to fly.  After nursing the kite back to health, it was released to rejoin its mother. 

No parking on the Wharf, WHAT WHARF!

Being in the kings club (we have both been king of Mardi Gras) I am attending the Cajun Royal family, well in this case Troy Landry, King of the Swamp, and King Hephaestus at our Local Mardi Gras. Very well disguised. More recognizable in his Swamp People day clothes.

Ayrstalk – Airglo

Chris Dalton

Often the best ideas are the simple ones – but having said that they need to be refined and tested in the field. The Apex airglow is one such product – simple but it has been thought through. The powder comes in a small, convenient sized tube, carried in a pouch which can be worn around the neck and inside the coat jacket. With older systems I would have carried this in a pocket or pouch, requiring much fumbling and searching by which time the buck I have just seen, and wanted to check the wind for has had a good whiff of me and is off .

But now I know exactly where the powder is and hands on is quick. Not rocket science; simple, cleverly though out and it works .                               

Chris Dalton, South Ayrshire Stalking

Hawkes Bay – New Zealand

Napier

Hawkes Bay NZ has some of the most beautiful terrain on the planet, the Mohaka river winding through the valley with natural meadows, that at first glance look like a man made golf course, perfect ground for this decent Billy goat, on Steve’s recent trip out with Bob Spain one of our Field masters.  Skin will be back in the UK as his rug in August.

Large Feral Herbivores

Greg Gibson

Reflections are a sad thing at times. Especially when looking back at a great trip away.

I have been invited to many places to help with the control of Large Feral Herbivores (LFH). These include Camels, Feral Cattle, Wild Horses, Donkey’s and Asiatic Buffalo and are all introduced into the Australian environment and thrive on our diverse habitat.

This current job was to initiate some ground shooting on a couple of Cattle Stations in the Upper Gascoyne region of Western Australia, my home State. The LFH that requires culling to reduce numbers are Donkey’s. These pest breed well in these conditions and all animals seen were in good condition. This location is 1500 kilometres from my home base so we took a leisurely couple of days to get to site. Due to the rough terrain the modus operandi is to travel around the 1.5 million acres in our control area on quad bikes. This may not be the most comfortable method of transport, though essential to get into some of the “off the beaten tracks” etc. where our quarry prefer to locate themselves. Our next 8 days was spent on our quads though we did have a couple of rest days to rest the saddle sores.

Not an overly exciting hunting experience hence classified as a cull. We are bound of course to our ethics and legislation to use our Agricultural Department guideline for the humane controlling of LFH. Donkey’s present themselves on most occasions and will even stop and look back after the initial shots.

The environment here is semi-arid with an annual rainfall of 215mm and average mean temperature of 32C. So conditions are dry, dusty, dusty, and dusty. I use a protective cover over my Savage 300WN while travelling but, and I don’t know if you have ever experienced it, you cannot keep out that bloody red outback dirt. It gets into everything.

I always travel with a Napier Universal Rifle Pull Through Kit. These take up little room and are easy to use. Keeping your rifles clean in this environment is essential for repeated reliable use. In the evening after a day in the bush, a couple of bore cleans and a wipe down with the VP90 Field Patches and you’re all good to go next day. Those VP90 Field Patches are just the shot in this dusty environment. Cleans but doesn’t leave a thick oily film to attack the dust. Very good.

During our stay we accounted for 76 donkeys. These are recorded in the Stations records for the Department of Agriculture for future reference and proof that the property owner is keeping all LFH numbers controlled. 

Well back to the grind of everyday vocation and life.

P.S. Just had a call from another Cattle Station, dry in the interior, camels coming into Station watering points and causing havoc. Well better start the planning.