Finally found time to post up another long-range hunting story. Just recently, my two sons, wife and I travelled from the North Island of New Zealand to the South Island to visit Canterbury University where my older son Jamie is due to start this year. This was in the middle of the boys summer school holidays, but was really an excuse to get the boys into the Southern Alps and hunt some new species. We filled my 4x4 up with guns and equipment and headed south. After spending a day in Christchurch at the University, we headed further south to stay at a farming friendís place. Duncan had damaged his knees previously in a shearing accident and was no longer able to climb steep hills but was keen to have ago at hunting tahr. These animals are a distant relative of your Rocky Mountain goat and come from the Himalayan mountains. They live at extremely high altitudes on very steep terrain and are rated by many as the most extreme alpine animal to hunt. The bulls in their winter coat are quite magnificent, here is a photo of one I shot last year.
During summer they donít have the large manes so we donít hunt the bulls then. We do hunt the nannies during summer though as we need to keep their numbers at a reasonable level or a government department called the Department of Conservation will fly in and shoot as many as they can out of a helicopter, which is such a waste of a wonderful game animal. Anyway, thatís enough complaining about the governmentís attitude to game animals in New Zealand so on to the hunt!
I had my 7mm/404 big black gun onboard and reckoned we could get within range of a tahr with it without Duncan having to climb too far.
We headed up one of the large South Island riverbeds and camped in tahr country. The next morning, my two sons climbed high with their lightweight hunting rifles while Duncan, his 10-year-old son Ryan, and my wife Fiona and I travelled up the river bed glassing for tahr. Fiona spotted a group of nannies first, high up on a mountainside. We carried the black gun and the new lightweight portable rest system I had devised into position below them. This system consists of two carbon fibre camera tripods, the front one with a conventional 3 inch front rest bag on it and the back one with a flat aluminium plate that you slide a small squeeze rear bag along to follow a walking animal. The front tripod has a rack and pinion rise which allows you to quickly adjust the height and get on target, and then you fine tune your aim with the rear bag. The two-way adjustable head on the front tripod allows you to change the shooting direction without having to shift the tripod and also allows you to level the gun quickly to your bubble.
The group of nannies were feeding on a high alpine feed slope above the bluffs. We picked one out and I ranged it at 1001 yards with the Russian LRP-3 rangefinder. The angle was almost exactly 30į above us and the pressure altitude worked out to be near enough to 4000 feet which with the temperature correction gave us a density altitude of 5000 feet. This required a 13.6 MOA come up from the 100 yard zero which I dialled into the 8x32 NXS Nightforce. I estimated there was about a 5mph left-to-right wind blowing down the valley so I dialled 1.5 MOA of left in and got behind the 80 mm Swarovski spotter. The tahr was facing to the left as well so I told Duncan to run the vertical crosshair halfway up the front leg and he sent a 180 Berger VLD on its way. I watched the bullet arc through the air thinking it was looking pretty good and sure enough it hit the tahr in the crease just behind the shoulder.
It staggered then turned and dropped down into a little gut where it stood for a few seconds before it fell and disappeared out of sight. After congratulations all-round, the hard part begun, climbing 2000 feet up the mountain to recover it, and guess whose job that was! The others sat in the river bed while I climbed and climbed and they eventually guided me to the right spot with the little radios. Sure enough, the tahr was dead but in a fairly precarious position. I managed a photo and then rolled it all the way back down to the river bed to get a photo with Duncan, so youíll have to excuse it looking a little dusty by the time I got it there!
The boys had fun as well doing some serious bluff work to climb up amongst the tahr and had shot 2 at ranges around 400 yards.
Willie and his tahr taken at 410 yards also with a steep 30į uphill shot with his 25/284 shooting 115 grain Bergerís.
That evening we managed to find a young bull with a damaged horn on a slip not too far above the river bed for Duncanís son Ryan to have ago at. The range was 540 yards at a 15į angle but unfortunately my drop charts only started at 800 yards! With a bit of educated guesswork I came up with a come up that worked and Ryan was over the moon with his success!
We headed back to Duncanís farm the next day and he took us out for a quick varmint hunt for wallabies which were introduced from Australia years ago. The boys shot a few with their lightweight hunting rifles at ranges from 650 to 700 yards while I spotted for them.
It was time to head north again and we had one night left to try for another new species for the boys, the chamois, on the way. We drove up into a likely looking mountain area getting there just before dark, but with enough light to choose a valley to hunt up in the morning. Up at daybreak, the boys headed off while Fiona and I stayed behind to pack up camp to make sure we made it to our ferry crossing back to the North Island on time later that day. We kept in touch by radio and after an hour of glassing and seeing nothing, the boys called up and asked what the hell did a chamois look like anyway???? Five minutes later they called up and said Jamie had spotted one and they were off on a stalk. 20 minutes later a shot was heard and they called up to say they thought Jamie had shot a big buck, but they had spotted another further up the valley and they were off to stalk it. More shooting and eventually they appeared walking back down the valley with a chamois trophy each, very pleased with themselves. Both were taken with Jamieís new rifle we had just finished building, a 7mm/338 Lapua shortened to WSM length we call the 7mm Fatso. This case gives 7mm STW performance out of a short action.
7mm/08, 7mm SAUM, 7mm WSM, 7mm Fatso, 7mm STW, 338 Lapua, 416 Rigby
Starting with a short Remington Titanium action, we trued it, opened the bolt face, fitted a Sako type extractor, Wyatt lengthened Mag box, 26 inch No.4 fluted Lilja barrel, custom muzzle brake and Macmillan Hunters Edge stock. On top is a 5.5-22x Nightforce in Nightforce alloy/titanium rings. The bare rifle weight is just over 5 ĺ pounds. The 7mm Fatso shoots 162 grain A-Maxís and 160 grain Accubondís at around 3300 fps.
Jamie had shot a very good 9 Ĺ inch buck at 420 yards while Willieís was at 575 yards, both with the 162 grain A-Max load which is proving to be a superb long-range load. Not bad for their first chamois!
We loaded the 4x4 and headed off for the ferry, ending a successful and fun excursion to the South Island!