Al Ward: Red stags, chamois, tahr, alpine goat taken during couple’s New Zealand hunting trip

Deb and Wayne Hall purchased a trip of a lifetime from the Safari Club International’s Kansas City chapter to hunt red stag, chamois, tahr and alpine goats in New Zealand.

 

Leaving KCI on July 10, it was a 27-hour flight to New Zealand, arriving on the 12th. They lost the 11th on the trip. Their return trip was even longer, at 32 hours — they thought that might be the longest day of their lives.

Getting their rifles into New Zealand was quite a process. Lots of paper work to send to the proper authorities, with stamps and approval. There were many papers passed back and forth. Then, after all that, one gun and a suitcase didn’t arrive until the next day.

They were met by Craig and Jenny Dempster, of Horned and Antler Guide Service. The first night was spent at the base camp.

The Halls hunted three different mountain ranges on their trip.

The first day, they drove several hours into the mountain range where Wayne shot his bull tahr, which was in a full winter coat, and the photo was just outstanding. There was a group of about nine tahr, and Wayne picked out the biggest. He used his .300 mag with a silencer. When it was hit, it rolled down the mountain, but the other tahr didn’t scatter because there was no noise.

The second day was a travel day back to the base, where they were to board a helicopter. The travel through the countryside was beautiful.

They loaded up and boarded a helicopter for the hunting camp. The rain forest temperature was about 75 degrees. They flew around a glacier toward the mountains, and in the four-minute, 20-second ride, the temperature dropped to 15 degrees when they landed on the snow-covered mountain area.

They cleared the snow near a clear glacier runoff stream and set up camp. After pitching two tents for the Halls and their guide, named Hunter, they scoured the mountain side for fire wood, which was damp and hard to start.

They slept in sleeping bags on the hard, cold ground. They put large hand warmers in the bags to fight the cold.

Hunter fixed the meals with instant oat meal and hot coffee for breakfast, sandwiches of ram meat for lunch with coleslaw instead of lettuce and a hot meal for supper. They drank the clear water out of the glacier steam, too. Deb also had hot tea and Wayne thought the coffee was outstanding.

Their day started at daylight, about 7 a.m., and it was dark a little after 5 p.m. With only head lamps for light, they went to bed early. Out hunting in the cold all day long made it easy to hit the hay early.

The first day of hunting, Deb shot a chamois. She spotted it straight down the mountain side about 150 yards with her 7 mm rifle with a silencer.

The guide was out scouting and when he returned, Deb was waving her arms in excitement to let him know she had dropped her chamois.

The next day, Wayne shot a chamois. Hunter couldn’t descend down the mountain side to retrieve the chamois, so he called for a helicopter. The copter picked up Hunter and they followed the blood trail to where the chamois had fallen. The copter turned to the side and Hunter jumped out and loaded the chamois on his shoulders and got back in the copter and headed for camp. The Halls were quite impressed with the feat.

That night, Hunter made chamois stew with leeks, which they thought tasted a little like beef.

When they broke camp, they headed back to the helicopter pad and traveled to another mountain range.

In the third mountain range, Wayne bagged a red stag. They were served red stag hamburger. They ate some of everything they shot on this trip, and agreed the back strap was always the best.

Deb’s last hit was a red stag, too. It had been hit before because there was a bullet hole in one of the horns.

Then Wayne ended the fun by bagging an alpine goat with outstanding, wide horns spanning 42 inches, tip to tip.

The guide service has to record where each animal was shot and designate if it was taken on private or government ground, which determined the fee to be paid.

There are no predators or natural enemies on the island for the goats — no poisonous snakes, spiders, etc.

The red stag was introduced to New Zealand from Europe. From 1979 to 1985, the government commissioned gun ship helicopters to kill the red stags — 120,000 to 150,000 red stags were killed a year. The red stag learned when they heard the helicopter noise they needed to take cover in the dense brush for safety. That’s why hunters use the silencer for their hunting.

Their total kill for the trip was two chamois, a bull tahr, three red stags and an alpine goat. They will have two full mounts and five head mounts for the man cave.

Due to customs issues, they weren’t able to bring any meat back with them.

The hunt was over, so they became tourists for the rest of the trip and enjoyed going to vineyards and wineries and trying all the local shops and restaurants.

At one point, they saw a sign for Lake Tekapo — it reminded them of Topeka, and how far they had traveled.

When I visited with the Halls about their trip, they just bubbled about it. I think Wayne would go back tomorrow without a second thought. He offered to go back and be my guide — probably too much mountain terrain for an old man.

I will probably enjoy doing my hunting closer to home, and I hope you all have good hunts, too.

12Days
 

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