My workmate Paddy had been at me for ages to take him hunting. He had shot a few goats before but that was about the extent of his hunting experience. I tried to warn him with what hardships he would likely experience climbing up onto the tops on a mission with me. “She’ll be right mate” was his reply. I tried to warn him.
We started with a hiss and a roar. Paddy was leading the way and I was impressed with his immediate pace. “Take it easy mate, there’s another 3 hours of this ahead” I warned. After another 15 minutes Paddy was starting to feel the burn, his steel cap boots started to cause him discomfort too. After another half hour he was about ready to turn for home, but I convinced him to just take it easy and persevere. We still made ok time to the tops and after a quick pit stop at the bushline, hiding from the sun, we carried on towards our planned camp.
We set up camp in an area I had hunted before on a nice ridge that offered good hunting options.
On evening we headed down from camp to check out a nice spot further down the ridge. Overlooking the second gully, I heard the squeal of a Sika. “We’ve been pretty stealthy?” I thought to myself. “Have we been spotted?”. Bino’s up and I soon spotted a Sika 400m below us trotting angling towards us. All of a sudden there was a BOOM, BOOM, BOOM. Holey shitballs! Someone else was having a bomb-up a the deer in-front of us. The final shot sealing the fate of the deer. It was an un-nerving feeling, but I knew that we were unlikely to be in the firing line.
I jogged down to the successful hunter to make our presence known. “You poaching bastard!” I yelled at him. I had a suspicion that we might have met Cam here. I had seen his ute at the carpark, along with half of Auckland as it was Auckland Anniversary Weekend. I had taken Cam to this spot about a year previously and I thought there was a risk he would be in the area we were planning on hunting when I saw his ute. I caught up with him briefly then headed back up to the first gully to stake that out for the evening, as anywhere further down the ridge would be useless after his barrage of gunfire.
Just on dusk I spotted a deer down on the bushline about 500m below. We had to close the gap quickly before the darkness engulfed us. The stalk required us to stalk down the ridge below us and pop out at close range. With the wind in our face we stalked in close to where I thought the deer would be. Loading my trusty .270 and putting it on half cock, I passed it over with whispered instruction on how to load it if he saw something. With Paddy just in-front, we slowly crept forward in the fading light.
All of a sudden Paddy stopped and calmly closed the bolt as instructed. I took a step forward and saw the stag standing arse on about 25m ahead. “Wait until he turns side on” I whispered. Shortly after, the stag started to turn and Paddy couldn’t wait any longer. At the recoil the stag ran straight downhill and over a scrubby bluff. It was obvious he was hit reasonably hard but I told Paddy to reload and watch in case a follow-up shot was required. After a couple of minutes we unloaded and scrambled down the steep bank and soon found a very dead stag.
Paddy was stoked. His first deer, and he earned it! We proceeded to take a few photos before taking the back legs and back steaks and heading up back towards camp. I made Paddy take the back legs since he was the one that pulled the trigger but the steep bluffy country in the darkness was proving challenging for him. First I gave him my torch (as he hadn’t brought one), then it became apparent I needed to take the hip bone out of the back legs to lighten the load a bit. At this point I decided it was probably better if I did most of the work otherwise we would be out all night, so I took both the back legs, the pack with our gear and backsteaks, and gave him the rifle. About another 20 minutes of stumbling around (Paddy with the only head lamp) we arrived at our tent. It was about 11pm at this point and we had no water left, so with Paddy being exhausted, it was my duty to find water. I knew a little stream back down the gully from camp was a good source of water so off I headed into the darkness with two water bladders, stumbling my way through the scrubby darkness. 20 minutes later I returned with the water supply to a thankful, dehydrated Paddy. “Shit I’m a good bastard” I thought to myself!
After a restless nights sleep, we woke and had a cruisey morning sorting out the meat before loading up the packs and making tracks. The downhill proved much easier on Paddy’s blistered feet, and we made it back in good time to car, taking in the sights on a pleasant day up high.
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