I've been reading this forum on and off recently and thought it is about time I posted something as long-range hunting down here in New Zealand may be of interest to your readers. The photos below are from one of our more successful hunts this year when we killed four deer with five shots at 1000 yards plus.
This particular hunt took place in February this year and was memorable to me because my 13-year-old son killed his first 1000 yarder. We hunt deer all year round as with no natural predators, we need to manage the population to keep the deer healthy and in balance with their environment. From November to March, we hunt hinds (does) as the stags are in soft velvet antler.
On this hunt we were targeting sika deer (about the size of a large whitetail) in the central North Island high country as they are one of the best eating deer species we have, and we were shooting for meat. In this particular area, I have a wonderful lookout hill that takes about half an hour to climb with all our gear. My friend Dave, son Willie and I loaded up with gear from the 4x4 and headed up the cut track to the top about mid afternoon. I use a lightweight but extremely stable low bench which I can carry for an hour or so if I have to, and the front rest hangs on the back. We were using my suppressed 7mm/404 which weighs 20 pounds all up, and pushes a 180 grain Berger at 3350 fps.
The rifle set up on the portable bench.
We had all the gear set up several hours before dark then settled down with binoculars to glass for deer as they came out to feed in the evening. Willie spied two hinds and a yearling on a grassy clearing on top of the hill across from us. A quick range with the Russian Navy rangefinder came up with 1303 metres which I quickly converted to 1425 yards. With a big high over the country, the pressure altitude read 1900 feet. The temperature was 18ºF warmer than my standard which gave me a density altitude of about 3000 feet. The deer were 5° above us, so evaluating everything I dialed in 29.5 moa of elevation. The wind was 3-5 mph from 9 o'clock and I dialed in 2 moa left, loaded a round and settled in behind the gun. Waiting for the left-hand hind to turn and feed into the wind, I settled the Nightforce's crosshair on the shoulder and touched off. I muscled the gun forward after recoil in time to see the hind take off into the brush. Willie watching through the spotter on 60x said he reckoned he saw the hind flinch although he lost the path of the bullet just before it got there. We all heard a thump and were feeling confident when the hind appeared back on the clearing looking around. With the suppressor the deer don't hear the rifle's bang at long-range, but the sound of the bullet in the air still gives them a fright even if they don't know which way to run.
Dave quickly ranged her again and said 1410 yards this time so I took off half a minute and shot again, and this time muscled the gun forward in time to see the bullet strike myself. The hind disappeared down into the brush, but I was confident as Willie also called the shot on the money.
Me on the gun and ready at 1425 yards, the 2 hinds were on the left hand grassy clearing on the top of the hill opposite us.
We packed the gear up leaving the bench and rests up there for the morning and headed back down to the truck and then were able to 4 wheel drive some of the way over and part way up the hill. Climbing up to the clearing, I started my dog trailing where we thought we had last seen the hind. She picked up a good blood trail and hadn't gone far down into the thick brush when she located the hind. We decided it would be easier to take her down rather than back up, so all three of us bashed and crashed dragging her down through the thick undergrowth until we broke out on a clearing close to where I could get the truck. I then climbed back up the way we had come to get the truck and was crossing the clearing where they had been feeding when my dog disappeared off to the left. I followed her and 10 yards into the brush there was another dead hind, the 1425 yarder! I hadn't shot at the same hind again as we thought, my second shot must have been at the second hind when she came back out to see where her mate had got to!
It was pretty late by the time we got back to the hut that night and had a celebratory drink after we had recovered all the venison.
Up before dawn the next morning, we were back up on the lookout as it began to get light. The wind was a little more erratic this morning to make things interesting. We quickly spied four hinds in the opposite direction to last night, making their way back into heavy cover after spending the night out feeding. Willie got set up behind the gun while I ranged the large lead hind. She was 1085 yards and pretty much level, with the wind quartering from behind us at about 7 o'clock and about 10 mph so I dialed in 18.75 moa of up and 1 moa left. Willie let fly and we heard a good thump comeback. Dave who was watching through the spotter, lost the bullet as it went into the shadow but he said the hind staggered then appeared to collapse downhill out of sight in the brush. I clapped Willie on the back as this was his first shot at 1000 yards plus and I was sure he'd been successful.
Willie lining up at 1085 yards, Dave on the spotter.
We continued to watch the other hinds as we would periodically catch glimpses of them through the trees as they made their way around the face. There was a small clearing ahead of them that we thought they might cross, so we ranged it at 1125 yards, dialed in 20 moa and Dave settled in behind the gun to wait. Sure enough, they crossed the clearing and the last hind paused, unfortunately facing down wind. Dave fired and I watch the bullet arc in through the spotter and hit the front of the shoulder through the brisket. We hadn't registered that as they'd moved round the face, the wind had got closer to a right angle and blew the bullet almost off the front of the deer. The hind reared backwards and stopped facing the other way, so I told Dave to aim at the front of the shoulder and this time watch the bullet drop into the right place and she went down for good. We congratulated Dave but he hadn't quite beaten his own record which was 10 yards further at 1135 yards, but it was still a great shot. We packed all the gear up, lugged it back down to the truck and then set off on the recovery, spooking three stags in velvet on the way which I managed to get a photo of. Roll on hard antler time and the rut in April!
Carrying the gear back down the hill, this bench is portable enough that I've carried it up some small mountains. It always worth it when you get there!
Sika stags in velvet, roll on the rut!
Leaving the 4x4 as close as we could get, I let out the trusty tracking dog Elsa the chessie and we were off. The clearing where Dave had shot his hind was closest and sure enough, she was right there where I saw her fall. Willie couldn't wait to get around to where we'd last seen his hind, so he took off ahead with the dog. By the time we caught up, we found him looking very pleased with himself sitting next to a very dead hind. He and Elsa had followed the trail for about 30 yards angling downhill from where she was hit and found her quickly.
Now the hard work of packing all the meat out began, but it was satisfying work after such a great hunt!
Willie looking pleased with his first 1000 yarder. A sika hind at 1085 yards.