It’s always great to have guests arrive. Especially if they are from the other side of the world - and more so if they are Swazi customers! Espen Haugeland (of Lyngdal Jakt Fiskesenter – that’s a hunting store!) and Ronnie Røiseland, the Swazi Norseman, travelled from Norway to visit the Swazi plant in Levin and seeming as it was such a long journey, decided it would be a bit remiss of them if they didn’t get a week of hunting in while visiting our shores. On ya boys.
The end of May is a prime time to hunt tahr and chamois and so a plan was laid to head south down the West Coast to Fox Glacier before flying into the Tai Poutini mountains. First up we had a couple of stops to make. Dave Abbott, our intrepid adventure cameraman had flown into Blenheim and was awaiting us at the airport, then it was on to St Arnaud to pick up Nick King, a Kiwi hunting icon and Swazi Legend to boot. With the five hunters now comfortably seated in the Swazi Isuzu D-Max we turned our noses south and drove through to Fox Glacier.
Our plan was to fly in and then walk downriver to the junction of two rivers ( yeah, you guessed it, I’m being a little coy about one of my favourite hunting spots!) before bush bashing our way up through the monkey scrub and dropping into the Hidden Valley. A valley where there are more tahr than stars in the sky. Where they line up on the ridges and say “Take me! Take me!”
The forecast for the week however was not good. Nor was it average. It was twisted turmoil on top of horrendous hurricanes. We call it #Swaziweather and boy, that’s exactly what we got over the 6 days we were in the hills. Perfect we all agreed. Afterall, we were field testing the new Tahr Ultralite and Summit jackets, so the extreme weather was going to be exactly the test we wanted.
Day one saw us grab the first flying window we could, enabling us to chopper in to the head of the river and then walk down to the hut that would be our base for the next week. After sorting our camp a late afternoon stroll seemed in order and we went to check out a handy stream down from the hut. Or so we planned. Mice and Men – that sort of thing. You see, a mere 80 meters from the hut we ran into a very nice chamois buck and after a quick stalk along the creek Ronnie lay down to take him with a nicely placed neck shot with his .270WSM. Going over 10.5” it was Ronnie’s first ever chamois and I reckon it’ll be hard for him to beat that. I ranged the distance on my Leica binoculars from where the buck had fallen back to our camp. 162m. Damn.
With the severe weather front approaching we knew we’d have to take whatever opportunities came our way. Next morning saw plenty of rain (if you’ve hunted the Coast you’ll know what plenty means…) and so we crossed the river and headed for the tops in the hope we’d get enough breaks in the rain to glass for animals. Huddled down in the tussock Nick spotted a nice bull about 600m above us. Taking off with Espen they headed through the mist to try and catch up with him while I took Ronnie on a slippery sidle across the face and into the next catchment.
I was aiming for a big rocky outcrop above what I knew was a productive basin, for two reasons really, it was a great place to spot animals from and secondly it would get us out of the wind. We’d only just settled into a cosy spot in the lee of the rocks and bugger me, a bull appeared through the mist. Then disappeared again. Then reappeared. “What do you think Davey?” quizzed Ronnie. “Well mate, I think you should take him.” Again my Norwegian friend showed his fine marksmanship and took his first bull tahr.
Ronnie and I hadn’t heard any shots from the next valley (Both Ronnie and Espen were using .270WSM rifles fitted with Hausken suppressors.) though I was pretty sure the boys must have heard our shot, so guessed maybe they’d missed out on their bull. With Ronnie’s tahr in my pack we headed back to our agreed rendezvous point, just in time to see the boys coming down the hill, Espen with a tahr cape over his shoulders. I turned to Ronnie, “Let’s give these boys some stick, not a word about your tahr Ronnie, keep it quiet.”
A couple hours after dark we were back at the hut and with brew in hand I casually asked Espen if he could pass my camera from out of my pack in the corner of the hut. He opened the top of the pack and looked up with a smile, “You sneaky bastards!”
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