Clear weather and success was on the cards for David’s ‘2018 Red Stag, Fallow Buck and Bull Tahr Hunt’ but it didn’t come without its challenges. To kickstart the week of hunting David managed to secure a stunning 15 point red on his Red Stag hunt with Jake. With an early start I picked David up and we drove through the darkness to our next hunting location.
A short walk in, we were in prime buck country. Croaking away were a couple of younger bucks. We stalked our way up a large face to enjoy a better view, perhaps get them fired up with a croak from our direction. Once in place our croak and was immediately answered by what sounded like a different buck further in the timber. Waiting for about 15 minutes, we got a short glimpse of a mature long antlered buck. Before we could get behind the gun he was back within the safety of the timber. Time passed slowly; after a long morning of waiting we didn’t get another look at him. We packed up a little annoyed but happy, we walking on to glass some new country.
A short stop back at our cabin and a quick look around the surrounding mountains, we managed to pick up a mob of chamois grazing high on an alpine face. We decided to have a go at these before heading out for another fallow stalk that evening. These weren’t a target animal but one of the group sported an impressive set of hooks and a beautiful dark winter cape. Following a steep climb and slide we were within shooting range of the buck chamois. David settled down behind the gun, squeezing off a round. Unfortunately resulting in a miss, our chance was over. Reviewing the footage on the phone scope the chamois buck was very lucky to get away, the shot falling low by 2 inches.
We were back on to the fallow within an hour trying to pick up another look at the buck we had seen in the morning. An uneventful evening followed, with only a few smaller bucks and does out grazing.
The next morning we planned to stalk the larger buck we had seen but from a different direction. Our decision to climb out high for around 2 hours in the dark would enable us to come down over top of him. Approaching where we thought the buck may come out we could hear croaking from down below the timber. The point where we had been sitting the day before, it felt like we couldn’t win with this buck! We continued stalking through the timber. As the morning drew on, he went quiet and disappeared like the ghost he was turning out to be.
With deflated enthusiasm we decided to pack up camp and drive north to hunt tahr. Specifically a bull tahr and leave the fallow for a couple of days. Arriving to prime tahr country late afternoon we drove into the hut looking over a few steep faces about the river flats for any sign. Before we knew it, to my surprise David had spotted a mob of tahr grazing above the merinos, high up the face. Ten minutes of glassing later I was about to pack away the binoculars and head further up the valley when I spotted a mature bull tahr, then another… then the big boy came out. Gear was quickly packed into bags. We started a hurried climb toward the bull, before the day could creep away on us.
With fading light we managed to keep low in the scrub and close the gap to around 280m where David managed to get a good rest taking the shot on his trophy. With a thud he had the trophy on the ground. The dark came in and we donned head lamps to climb the last pitch to the downed bull. We found the beautiful mature bull resting in the Tussock. After a quick set of photos we caped out the big fella and traversed the face to where there was a shingle scree, providing a quick route to the bottom and our vehicle. What a Day!
It was now 9.00pm, well dark and the decision to head south to try and secure our fallow buck again the next morning was made. Weary but excited we made the call to try and drive as far south as we could that night and get up early the next morning to have another go at the fallow. We had been hunting since 4.30am and arrived to a bed in Wanaka at 1.30am. We resurfaced at 3.30am for another 2 hour drive south to get into position for a morning stalk.
We trod up to get ourselves into a good vantage point, we could hear the ghost buck again in the timber croaking loudly. Suddenly the late night and the early start didn’t matter, we were back in prime buck country having another go at Mr Ghost Buck! As the morning light started to reveal the face from the darkness we started to pick up a few mobs of fallow does and younger bucks. However we could not find our ghost buck. He was still croaking noisily but was just inside the timber line. Every time we croaked he croaked back and every time we tried to move in at him he would slip further into the timber and up the face. As morning crept to day, the hunt was over once again. Despondent and tired we headed to the cabin for a well earned sleep.
That night we decided to leave the ghost buck and try some new terrain. The weather turned wet we glassed and glassed but only picked up younger bucks and does that were nothing in comparison to the ghost buck.
Rising early the next morning, our last morning we needed to secure the ghost buck. We walked in darkness to an area we thought would be our chance to see him. As darkness faded the croaking became louder and as daylight dawned we caught a glimpse of the ghost we had been chasing for the last week. He was in the open finally and protecting his group of does. We waited patiently for a little extra light, David settled in behind his rifle and got ready to place the shot. Suddenly the buck was on the move. Heading straight for the timber chasing a doe. Telling David to be ready I gave off a shallow croak, the buck stopped and turned. David squeezed off a perfect shot and the ghost dropped.
Mixed emotions took over, such a long chase of a highly intelligent animal. It feels good to secure a wonderful representative trophy, but an animal like him who can out play you so many times is always hard to put down.
We packed up our gear and drove back to Queenstown where we would meet up with Mark, David’s brother and Jake. Unwinding by listening to a few of the new country hits that were top of the charts in America and knowing that after a week of hunting you were no longer guide and client but mate’s.
Look forward to having David back again and trying to secure that chamois buck!