Chamois hunting in the summer of NZ

Taking three excellent chamois bucks over the 2010/11 Summer, I believe that they provide an excellent opportunity to get out there and do some “out of season hunting” when the traditional deer hunter is waiting for the autumn roar to start.

Hunting summer chamois is definitely exciting mountain hunting. Anytime from mid November till late February, the days are long and the New Zealand weather is generally much more stable. Actually, I enjoy this hunting and rate it now as my favourite time in the mountains.

I base myself in the Te Anau Basin, Southland,

New Zealand, straight across the lake from the Fiordland Wapiti herd.

There are four main areas, each containing good numbers of animals to hunt all located on Dept of Conservation land allowing hunter access: Eyre Mountains; Mavora Lakes; Eglinton Valley and all the valleys in between these locations.

Each year I endeavour to hunt all of these regions, and after numerous trips into the mountains I now have a few favourite spots that appear to almost always provide a buck or two to chase. Each area contains large portions of perfect chamois habitat.

Preparation is critical as I generally do 95% of my hunting solo. Even though the weather is more stable during the summer months, with any alpine hunting never take that for granted. It can change in 30 minutes. Looking for a weather window I log onto the prior to making the final call.

It was now mid November and the weather for the coming week looked perfect. Casting my eye towards the mountain area I wanted to hunt I could see that the snow was disappearing rapidly and hence the avalanche risk also. I was determined to make the 2010/11 Summer one when I would not waste any opportunity to hunt the little mountain dwellers.

The 4 ½ hour slog up through the bush was finished with a final 45 minute gut bust up the last side creek. With a backpack containing 4 days provisions, it is always that final slog that burns the thighs – especially on the first hunt of the season.

Approaching the bush edge, the open tussock tops looked fabulous with large patches of white melting snow. Inside the bush edge I located my usual camping spot. Providing protection from the wind ,the well sheltered area was perfect for pitching my tent. On this trip I was using my Mountain Designs one person tent. Weighing in at only 1.7kgs all up, it is ideal for the solo hunter.

It was 6pm and after a rehydrated dinner and a couple of cups of coffee there was still three hours of daylight left for glassing. Finding a nice big tussock as a comfortable rest I set about glassing the many little side streams, waterfalls, bushy terraces and rocky outcrops.

At this time of the year buck chamois are roaming about by themselves and have lost their jet black winter coats and now have a fawn summer coat, almost the same colour as the surrounding tussock. Searching for the lone animal is challenging and requires lots of patience.

As the sun began to set in the west I could clearly see across Lake Te Anau and the fiords. Almost directly across from me I could see the North Fiord into which the famous Glaisnock River empties its contents. It was one of those magic still evenings that leaves you feeling good about the world.

In that final half hour of daylight I was focusing hard. The Minox 8-14 variable binoculars were turned up to full power. On a little rocky shelf on the side of a steep little waterfall a buck chamois appeared from nowhere. His body size and movements indicated that he should be a nice buck. Lining up the spotting scope I was sure that he was around the nine inch mark.
It was too late in the day to cover the distance and make a stalk. Brewing up a final cup of coffee for the day I settled down and watched as the light faded.

It was time to check-in. The days of lugging a mountain radio are gone. Using the SPOT device system as both an OK messenger and as a SOS backup I sent out an OK message. The message would instantly be emailed to my selected contact list giving both the OK message and precise GPS location details. Logging onto the link downloads a topographical map of the location highlighting your position reference.

After a breakfast of rolled oats I was back out to my glassing tussock and as the first sunlight lifted the darkness, I quickly relocated the buck. Stuffing my daypack with the days essentials I was quickly out onto the open tussock faces. I estimated it would take about an hour to climb to the ridge directly across from the buck’s location. Keeping out of sight is critical with chamois, whilst that might not always be possible, because they have tremendous eyesight. Apparently, it is equivalent to 10x binoculars.

As I reached the selected spot I crawled over to the leading edge and peered down and across the rocky face. Yes, the buck was basking in the morning sun totally unaware of my presence. Confirming the distance at 150 yards through the Lecia range finder I knew this was well within the capabilities of my stainless Tikka T3 Lite .270. In my opinion, the perfect hunting rifle combination for functionality and the elements.

Using my pack as a rest the 6x Leupold scope centred steady on the buck’s front shoulder. The 150 grain Nosler Partition from the Winchester factory load hit the buck like a laser beam. Dead instantly. As a last act of defiance the buck gave one nervous kick and rolled off the edge of the little rocky terrace and tumbled down a 50 metre vertical waterfall out of sight.

Crossing the steep sided gutter and slowly making my way down I located him on another small ledge. Only having a couple of square metres to work with, I rolled him over and was pleased to see a nice nine inch buck. It is in country like this that you really appreciate the specialised equipment available these days. Mountain hiking boots with extra stiff soles are critical in this type of country. Most of the well known brands make a “top end mountain boot”.

I have two to three pair on the go all the time, one pair generally gets destroyed each year so I get to try plenty out, and especially like the Marmont Mammoth boot. They are expensive, but are cheap when hanging on by a small piece of tread on some narrow little ledge or surviving days of total saturation.

Setting up the camera was a tricky job on the tripod, but well worth the effort. After removing the meat and horns I decided to climb the rest of the way to the top of the range as the day was still young.

A cooked hot lunch of Back Country scrambled eggs and a latte coffee on top of the world – from here I could see 95% of Lake Te Anau, the outline of Lake Manapouri some 50 kms away, an excellent view of the upper Upukerora River system and across to Acheron Lakes in the Mavora system and beyond.

If this is what summer chamois hunting is all about, give it to me any day of the week.

Absolutely exhilarating!!




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