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Hot Topic (More than 30 Replies) Archery Tahr (Read 4087 times)
Marchnic
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Archery Tahr
May 8th, 2018 at 3:15pm
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Hi all, I'm a bowhunter from the U.S. and have been running around the south island for the last 5 months hunting and fishing. I'd like to thank those on this forum that either reached out and helped me or that I met in person. I really appreciate the kindness and willingness to help. My time here is coming to an end and I figured it'd be good time to share a write-up I did back in March.

After spending nights scouring over maps here on the east coast of  New Zealand, I figured out my plan for a 4-5 day tahr hunt. I made the final plan the next morning and headed out to the hunting area. I arrived around mid-afternoon, loaded up my pack, and departed into the mountains. I had a steep climb ahead of me, but after a couple of hours, I could see the hut I planned to stay at for the night in the distance. It was quite the welcoming sight and encouraged me to pick up the pace. I reached the hut as the sun dipped down behind the mountains and vanished from the horizon line. With enough light left to glass, I climbed up on top of a knob that overlooked the hut and gave me a view of the valley I would be hiking into in the morning. After some time behind my binoculars and nothing spotted, the fading light told me it was time to get down to the hut and make dinner. I'm honestly quite shocked with the fact that I have eaten pre-packaged Asian noodles every night of hunting since I've been here and I haven't gotten sick of them yet. After I finished eating, I walked outside and was greeted with one of the most spectacular night skies that I have ever had the good fortune of seeing. I have had a fascination with the stars for as long as I can remember and it can be hard for me to look away at times. I didn't get much sleep that night, as I spent hours photographing and gazing at the stars.

I awoke the following morning and started my trek up the river bottom of the basin I intended to hunt. While stopping to glass periodically, I spotted a small black shape that appeared to be moving in my binoculars many miles away. I dropped my pack and got out my spotting scope. Sure enough, it was a bull tahr, and upon looking closer, it wasn't one bull but a mob of three. Excited to be seeing tahr already, I covered a couple of miles quickly to get closer and sort out how I was going to go after them. Once I got a couple of miles closer, I sat down and took stock of their surroundings. They were bedded and feeding on a steep hill that looked to be 40-50 yds below a ridge. I felt that I could get to that ridge without being seen, and if the wind direction held, get a shot at one of the bulls. I put my pack on, grabbed my bow, and made the brutal climb up into the basin. An hour and a half later, I was only a couple hundred yards from the ridgeline. The wind was holding, and I was growing more confident in the stalk. Over time though, I have come to see that while bowhunting, the last 200 yards or so can either make or break your stalk. You're now close enough that they can easily smell you, see you, and they are much more likely to pick up on any noise that you make.

As I came around the other side of a massive boulder, I stopped dead in my tracks. A mob of three bull tahr was just over 100 yards away, and one of them had me pegged. "Shit, I blew it," I thought. We had a stare down that lasted for a few minutes, and he returned to feeding. I slowly dropped to my knees and pulled out my binoculars to get a closer look. I was in luck; it wasn't the same group of bulls that I planned on going after. They were young and small bulls but ones that I might be able to get on. I decided to stick with the mob of tahr that I originally planned to go after. However, these young bulls became an obstacle. I had a section of open country to pass through, and if they saw me, there was no telling which way they would run. It was entirely possible that they could take off over the hill and bump the other bulls in the process. So thus, the crawling commenced. I slowly eased my way into the open area, while still keeping an eye on the bulls. I finally made it across to a rock I wanted to get to and looked back at the tahr. They were none the wiser, and I had a straight shot that was hidden from them up to the ridge where I hoped the bulls were still on the other side.

I got up to the ridge and got blasted by the wind. It was good to have the wind in my direction, but hurricane force winds are never appreciated (to be expected in New Zealand). I also came to see that it flattened out more than I thought and there was topography that I hadn't anticipated. Anyone who has done any spot and stalk hunting knows that once you get into an area, it can look entirely different than what you assumed it would look like while you were planning the stalk. I dropped my pack and began crawling and taking a look around. I knew that I was amongst the tahr, but I just had to figure out where they were. While lifting my head up, I caught a glimpse of long brown hair flowing in the wind. Carefully, I moved to my knees and picked out the horns of a mature bull, bobbing up and down as he headed my direction. He was just under 80 yards away, and I nocked an arrow. I crawled about ten yards closer and stopped when I reached the taller grass. Peering over the top of the tussock, I could see all three bulls feeding just under 50 yards away. The adrenaline kicked in, and everything from then on was all instinct. Over a period of thirty minutes, the tahr worked their way towards me. I ranged them periodically, 50...40...30...25 yards, and getting closer. I couldn't get a shot as they were walking towards me head on and I began to think that they may end up running into me. However, my thoughts changed as the oldest bull fed into the open and stood broadside at just 24 yards. He was close enough to hear the grass crunch as he chewed. I took a deep breath, drew my bow and sat upright in one slow fluid motion. He along with the other bulls saw this, and he jumped up onto a boulder and stared in my direction with a sense of alertness. I settled my pin in his vitals and released the arrow. As I released, another violent wind gust came up, and I watched in disbelief as the arrow was driven into his shoulder blade, followed by a loud crack. It knocked him back, and the arrow bounced right back out, having penetrated only an inch or two. The tahr pivoted and started scrambling up a giant scree covered mountain. He covered what appeared to be at least 800 vertical feet in a matter of minutes.  I sat back and shook my head. I couldn't believe that I just screwed up that bad. I knew they were tough animals but nothing compared to what just happened. I put the utmost importance on executing a good shot, and I failed to make that happen. Angry and disappointed in myself that I may have just mortally wounded an animal with little chance of recovery, I walked over and picked up my arrow. The shaft was cracked, the broadhead tip bent, and one of the blades broken. I placed it back in my quiver and got back to my pack.

I began to glass the ridge of the mountaintop that he ran up while working my way around to get a better view. spotted some movement and sat down. I pulled my spotting scope out and set it up. Focusing it on where I saw the movement and I took a look. "You have got to be shitting me." The tahr, was no joke, standing on top of the highest mountain in the whole basin. He had a small patch of blood on his side but looked to be fine. I sat there for a couple of hours until he vanished from sight. I was still frustrated with myself but grew confident that he was going to be okay. Gathering a few more looks around, I descended back down into the valley to camp along with the disappearing light.
The next morning I spent some time glassing from camp, but with nothing spotted by mid-afternoon, I decided to climb up into the basin where I last saw the tahr. Upon reaching the basin, I climbed up onto a slab of rock to get a better look around. After an hour or so there seemed to be no sign of a single tahr. I threw my pack on, to climb further into the basin and get a look at an area that I hadn't been able to see. I passed through the spot where I hit the tahr the day before and sat down. Few things upset me more than killing an animal and leaving it to waste. Now I could be involuntarily doing that. I understand that is what comes along with being a hunter. If you do it long enough, these things are just going to happen. But there was no question. I had to find that tahr again. I had to finish what I started. Dwelling on it wasn't going to change anything, but doubt crept in. Was that tahr lying dead somewhere? Did I break his shoulder blade? Was his wound going to get infected and he was going to die? I pushed my doubts aside and pressed onward.

I peeked over a cliff in a new area and one of the worst things that could happen to me while backcountry hunting took place. My contact lense fell out. If I'm without contacts or glasses, I'm borderline blind. This was not going to be good. I scrambled into my pack to find my med kit. I hoped and prayed that I packed an extra contact. To my relief I did, but now I had to get it into my eye while getting blasted by high winds. I got it successfully on my first try without it getting blown away. "Whew," disaster diverted. I peered through my binoculars and started to pick apart the area. Shortly after, some movement about a mile away caught my eye. It was a bull tahr feeding, and soon two more walked out from behind a rock. It can be hard to tell, especially with tahr as they don't have very many distinguishing features. But I had a feeling that this was the bull I had been so desperately trying to find. The tahr were moving up a small ridge quickly, and if I wanted to catch them with the wind in my favor, I had to act fast. I made a quick plan and got going. Soon I was on the same rise that I figured the tahr would have worked their way up on and I waited. 30 minutes passed, and I assumed that I had made a mistake. I slowly crawled forward and came to an immediate halt. 80 yards away was one of the bulls, and he was returning my gaze. In a moment as such, minutes can feel like hours. He returned to feeding, and I nocked an arrow.  When he put his head down to feed, I would creep closer. I repeated this until the other two bulls fed into view and one of them didn't like what he saw. I was caught out in the open, and he knew something was off. Another staredown commenced, and ten minutes later, he relaxed. I couldn't move as they would be able to see my every move. So in an uncomfortable half-crouched position, I waited. They turned and started to feed beneath me, and the older bull was about to clear the tall grass. I ranged him and lifted my bow. He was 55 yards away, and I was confident this was the same bull. I knew I had to capitalize on this second chance. Just as I was going to draw my bow, the bulls all stopped and bedded in the tall grass. "Of course," I thought "why would that not happen?" I couldn't get a shot with their vitals covered, and I went back to waiting and hoping that the wind wouldn't switch. 45 minutes went by and as the sun started to disappear, so did my patience. I grabbed a small rock and threw it off to my right in hopes of getting him to stand up. He stood up, but instead of keying in on the noise of the rock he locked in on me.

I froze. Most animals have a sound they make when they sense danger. Elk make a high-pitched bark, most deer make a blowing sound, and tahr let out a loud whistle. I was unaware of this whistle until this moment. He sent one out, and I jumped just a bit. This noise stood the others up, and they all were staring in my direction. Just as they turned to run I drew my bow and the older bull stopped. This was it. I took my time and executed my shot. The arrow flew into the bull with a thump, and they all bolted. I stood up and watched as they ran away. They made it about 200 yards before the bull I hit started to slow. Shortly after, he fell, and I sat back in awe. To get to spend that amount of time amongst those bulls was incredible and an experience that will always carry with it, a sense of gratitude. I got out my spotting scope and trained it on where he lay. To my surprise, he still had his head up and was alive. The shot was a little far back, but I knew the exit of the arrow had to be more forward and it was a lethal shot. I watched for an hour as he was bedded, but he never dropped his head indicating that he had expired. I weighed my options as the remaining light was vanishing and the fog began to roll in. He was out in the open, and I didn't like my odds of being able to get another shot at him. If I failed and he took off, I may never see him again, and it would all be for nothing. That outcome was unacceptable. I made the call to work my way back to camp while I watched him. I was going to give him his peace and come back in the morning.  He was in no condition to go very far and had no reason to leave his bed. Regardless of this, that night was one of the longest that I have ever had.

Every single scenario of "what if?" unraveled in my head. I woke up every hour and checked my watch to see if it was time to get up yet. An hour and a half before sunrise I crawled out of my tent and loaded up. I climbed above the clouds to a spot I marked with my GPS and looked down to where he had been bedded. My heart sunk when there was no sign of him. I worked my way down and carefully walked with an arrow nocked. I came across his bed, and it was covered in coagulated blood and in it lay my broken arrow. He had to be close. I meticulously searched the general area and began to get discouraged until I looked down at the creek. Lying in it was the bull tahr a few feet from where I was standing examining his bed.

The feeling I have when I come across an animal whose life I have taken is a complex one. It's not one of regret. I know why I'm a hunter. But ending the life of an animal I respect will always weigh heavy. These mountain goats of New Zealand have come to mean more to me than I could have imagined. They embody everything that makes up mountain hunting, and their level of resilience is something I believe more people could use in their lives. They have taught me a lot. This mature bull had been dodging helicopters and hunters for quite a while. Examining his hooves, its hard to not think about the life he lived and the places he had been. Without a doubt, some that I wouldn't dare to venture into. Sure enough, he had an arrow wound to his front right shoulder. This was the bull. I made quick work to break him down and get the meat cooled. Shortly, everything was loaded into my pack. I knew the rest of the day was going to painful. However, hiking 10+ miles (16+ km) with over 90 pounds (40 kilos) of tahr and my camp on my back is the only time I can be in that much pain but have a giant smile on my face. On the way out I stopped at the hut and started a fire. I fashioned a skewer out of a bucket handle and cooked fresh tahr steaks over an open flame. Some of the best meat I've ever had came along with one of my most cherished memories.

« Last Edit: May 9th, 2018 at 1:14pm by Marchnic »  
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Marchnic
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Re: Archery Tahr
Reply #1 - May 8th, 2018 at 4:16pm
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I think I fixed the pictures, sorry about that.
  
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Re: Archery Tahr
Reply #2 - May 8th, 2018 at 4:26pm
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Top notch effort there Marchnic !!!

I admire your dedication and perseverance and being a bow hunter (traditional) myself, can relate to the full range of emotions during any given hunt.

Well done for sure !!

Matt
  
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Re: Archery Tahr
Reply #3 - May 8th, 2018 at 4:45pm
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Awesome write up,,, glad you have memories of NZ that will last a lifetime .
  
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Re: Archery Tahr
Reply #4 - May 8th, 2018 at 4:52pm
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Great story.  Smiley
  

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Re: Archery Tahr
Reply #5 - May 8th, 2018 at 8:38pm
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Nice, well done!  Cool Good to see hunters like you coming here to enjoy that slice of paradise...  Smiley
  
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Re: Archery Tahr
Reply #6 - May 8th, 2018 at 8:49pm
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Sneakin in on a Bull Thar with a bow eh,,now that's class.
Top report,thanks.
  

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Re: Archery Tahr
Reply #7 - May 8th, 2018 at 8:52pm
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I'm with EC on this one. Bowhunting bull tahr is pretty impressive skills. Good on ya for tracking the big boy down after the first hit.
  

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Re: Archery Tahr
Reply #8 - May 8th, 2018 at 9:38pm
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Superb result and great write up.  Well done.  Come back anytime!
  
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Re: Archery Tahr
Reply #9 - May 8th, 2018 at 9:47pm
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ArmedTramper wrote on May 8th, 2018 at 9:38pm:
Superb result and great write up.  Well done.  Come back anytime!


Totally agree!  Smiley
  
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Re: Archery Tahr
Reply #10 - May 8th, 2018 at 10:03pm
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EC wrote on May 8th, 2018 at 8:49pm:
Sneakin in on a Bull Thar with a bow eh,,now that's class.
Top report,thanks.

Thank you, and everyone else for the kind words. Definitely wasn't easy. I only managed a tahr and a chamois with my bow in 5 months. I do know without a doubt that I'm coming back as soon as I can.
  
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Re: Archery Tahr
Reply #11 - May 8th, 2018 at 10:39pm
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Great achievement Marchnic.
Great write up and pics too, well done mate.
  
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Re: Archery Tahr
Reply #12 - May 8th, 2018 at 11:35pm
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Very well done, admire the effort.
  
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Re: Archery Tahr
Reply #13 - May 9th, 2018 at 6:57am
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Great story, really enjoyed that .
  
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Re: Archery Tahr
Reply #14 - May 9th, 2018 at 9:00am
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Great story mate. Fantastic result. Cheers
  
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