After reluctantly transferring to New Plymouth, I needed to do a final trip home to get all of my gear. I also needed to have one final mission into the Southern Alps before I headed north, where the hunting wouldn’t be quite the same as the might West Coast.
Callum and I left our vehicles by midday after an early start to allow us enough time to reach our hunting area before dark. The drive in was snowy and icy but very scenic with all the fresh snow around. Typical for winter, we had the valley to ourselves. The walk up was slow and the snow was very soft and difficult underfoot, also we made the decision to try and keep dry feet as we knew how cold it would get if they got wet. This meant that we had to climb around some small bluffs which was a bit of a struggle with big packs and rifles. We negotiated the first bluff with a fair amount of effort and exertion. Soon the next bluff greeted us so up we went, fighting through the bush and pulling ourselves up steep sections. We had navigated most of the second bluff when we came to a steep drop-off which prevented us continuing. I had had enough, I was getting wet feet. Some rock climbing manoeuvres were required as I lowered myself down the bluff carefully towards the creek. Waist deep water was in front of me, bluffs all around me. With no way of lowering myself into the swift water, and frustration levels high, I made a leap of faith. It wasn’t a graceful entry, but it was effective. Water splashed in all directions as I found my footing in the fast current. I was wet from the waist down – not ideal but better than that godforsaken bluff.
We arrived at our hut with enough time for a quick evening stalk as the sun made its way quickly up the slopes before disappearing all too fast before a cold snowy squall came in and became quite unpleasant. No deer is going to be out in these miserable conditions I thought to myself, as departed my waiting posy. A cool night meant anything that had been wet had frozen in the hut overnight. Out came the gas cookers to heat some water to pour over our frozen boots and laces. 150mm of snow covered the river bed. This snow soon turned to ice on the outside of our boots and the once warm boots began to chill rapidly. Prints were obvious in the snow of varying age but nothing was seen. While we waited we undertook another boot warming exercise with the cookers and warm water to the feet trick – what a relief it was go gain some feeling, even if it was short lived.
The day was starting to get on, so we decided to carry on up a side creek on the sunny side. Fresh sign was scattered here and there in the snow. Once we started to gain some height we got on to quite a prominent trail in the snow. Several deer had been through here recently.
The light whiff of deer also wafted down too which usually means that deer are close. Slow it down a gear. I soon spotted a shape on the edge of the creek ahead. The scope confirms my suspicions. Three spikers were up ahead about 100m tucked into the edge of the creek, one looking down at us. Both of us dressed in Veil, they couldn’t quite make us out. A nearby rock provided me a decent rest to straddle the .270 over. I calmed the breath and settled the slightly foggy scope on the spiker that had taken the most interest in us. The crosshairs settled and 140 grains of heat was sent his way. Down he went. The remaining two deer looked bemused, they obviously hadn’t been exposed to such danger before. Callum had decided that his freezer could also do with a top-up so proceeded to make it two from two for the team. The poor third spiker was left bemused and friendless as he milled around for a bit then departed into the bush.
We cut off the backsteaks and back legs and continued upstream as there was more country we wanted to check out before the day got too old. Deep, soft snow made it tricky as we climbed steeply, sticking to some chamois tracks in the snow which gave us confidence in the route. A few grovels and we were up into some better country. We spotted two lone chamois but none of which excited us, so back down the creek it was after a quick lunch and brew.
The legs were further broken down into the muscle groups, and stuffed into our day packs.
Back at the hut we packed up and headed back to the river bed. Callum was in front and before we broke out of the bush, he spotted two deer on in the snow in the river bed. They were young hinds and were safe for today as we watched them wander up-river.
We had a quick look as the evening wore on, hoping to catch a stag out but it wasn’t to be. Loading up our heavy packs, we trudged out, walking the last bit in head torches. The truck was a happy sight after a demanding walk out!
Gear of the trip: Hunters Element “Element Jacket” in Bare. Warm and water resistant. This puffer jacket is great to hunt in in the cold, or just around camp. My new favourite bit of gear.
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