Well we were off on another hunting adventure. The date is March 2009 and my two buddies Dr. Gary Wadsworth and the die hard bow hunter, Dr. Lou Genello and I are headed for New Zealand to hunt with Alpine Hunting New Zealand with Shane Quinn. We will be hunting Red Stag, Chamois, Tahr, and Fallow deer, and what ever might cross our gun site that is legal tender.
After a very long flight we landed in New Zealand and were met by my guide for the trip Wayne, a very friendly and likeable fellow. We had a two hour ride back to our camp and one thing becomes apparent right off the bat, New Zealand has millions and millions of domestic sheep. They are virtually everywhere. Ahhh but the scenery and landscape are spectacular. The beautiful mountains are literally endless, it seems there is a mountain peak for every half mile of land. Many times during the hunt I would be sitting on a majestic plateau and just stare at the beautiful vast domain of endless skies and mountainous peaks. These are the sights and feelings that stay with you for ever in your mind and heart. There will be times after you have long left this magical land that the only way you know you will ever return, is in the memories of your mind.
Our lodge was absolutely first class, and the view from an enormous deck out back reached for miles and miles across the gorgeous terrain. Numerous times we would see Stags and Fallow deer right out our back door feeding or moving from one tree line to the other. We also had a full compliment of vehicles, from quads for every hunter to two helicopters for quick game pick up in the high rugged mountains.
I have to take a side step here and tell you a little bit about the title, The Long Shot. I have always, always loved firearms ever since I was a little kid, and I have a very large gun collection to prove it. I have many handguns, shotguns, bows and rifles. But what really, really sets my trigger, is RIFLES, large ones, small ones, fat ones, skinny ones. I love the way they look and feel, but most of all I love to shoot little tiny groups over long distances. I won’t go into all the calibers I have, but it is quite a bit. Now like I said I have many different rifles, some very old, some classics, more than a few full blown customs, but one rifle in my battery is my favorite, it is my go to rifle. It is a bone stock Remington 700 LSS, (Laminated Stainless Steel) in 300 RUM (Remington Ultra Magnum). Remington stopped making this rifle way back in 2001. I bought this rifle many years ago for my first Elk hunt and it has bagged almost every exotic big game animal since then, all except for my cape buffalo in Africa. This is the deadly rifle I would be using in New Zealand for all my hunting. Now back to the hunt.
First animal up is the majestic Red Stag. You actually have to hear a Stag roar to believe the sound that they make. It’s not a high pitched bugle squeal like a bull Elk, but a deep low guttural roar, some what like a lion at night in Africa when he’s roaring to let everybody know that he is here, and he is king. In the rut the Red Stags are very vocal, and the hills are alive with their music, it’s something that once you hear it, you will never ever forget.
After we got settled in, we went out for a bit of scouting; we couldn’t hunt on the first day of our arrival. Shane has over 7,000 acres of prime mountain wilderness, and we did our moving around and scouting by quad. Wayne and I broke off from the group, and on our 4th stop on yet another gorgeous valley we spotted four Red Stags. This one in particular had a brow tine that curved out like an S hook. I told Wayne I was looking for a Stag that was very symmetrical high and wide on both sides and this guy seemed to fit the bill. The trick was could we find him tomorrow when legal hunting hours prevailed.
The next morning we were up and had breakfast and were out the door well before sun up. We went directly to the valley were we spotted the stag from the night before. Nope nothing doing, we did see some Stags but they either were out of range or the rack just wasn’t right. Later in the morning after traveling over hill and dale we went back to where we spotted the big guy the night before. As we were glassing the valley below we heard this ruckus coming from over the knoll on our far side, it was a sound like battling bucks make when they clash. As we peaked over the knoll, down below was this Stag beating the living hell out of a dead tree in a muddy hollow. When we got a better look it was old S hook in the flesh. I got out my shooting sticks and got ready for the shot, I told Wayne that this was going to be a chip shot; He said what do you mean by that mate? I said I mean it’s an easy shot, my laser range finder said it was 165 yards. He said yeah right and take him when you can, just let him get out of the muddy wallow before you shoot. The Stag finished trashing the dead tree and decided to make his way up the knoll, BOOM one shot, one Stag, at the shot he went 5 yards and fell over dead. Wayne turned to me and said what bloody hell kind of a canon are you shooting? I said the mighty 300 RUM and laughed out loud. He said the next animal you shoot will have to be a bit farther out to give you a challenge with that boomer. At that time I didn’t relies that I would have to wait three days before I would get that second long shot that he was talking about. Just as I was wondering on how the hell we were going to get this 700 lb Stag out of this hilly ravine, Wayne called up on the radio and said Shane is on his way with the chopper. That’s right, they flew over the downed Stag, hooked up a rope and air lifted him right to the meat cooler at camp. This saved many hours of back braking work.
On my way back to camp Shane asked me if I was ready to try for Chamois and Tahr on the South Island. He said the weather was always a bit tricky there; if I can get my gear and be ready in an hour? I said sure, and just like that I was off to the South island, a two hour ride in a small airplane that turned out to be torture because of flying through some very bad weather.
We landed at an airport to meet our Chopper pilot and went over the rules and regulations on how we were to get out of this egg beater after it hovered on a mountain side. After a 30 minute dissertation on how to bail out I sort of knew this wasn’t going to be a cake walk. My stomach was still doing flip flops from the terrible flight in, and when I went in the chopper and started dive bombing between the mountain canyons I knew I was in trouble and going to loose it. Not once but four times we had to land in the mountains because I was physically sick. After the fourth time we gave up and headed for camp where I could try and recover for a morning hunt.
The next morning dawned bright and cold and we were off again. After about 30 minutes we spotted some Chamois on a distant mountain side. A quick landing about a half mile away and off we went. The cliffs and ridges are very treacherous, it would have taken days to hike up into these mountains, but with the chopper it saved a lot of time. We stalked into about 100 yards of the Chamois and a well place shot to the neck and it was over. Next up would be a Tahr, the beautiful creature with the long flowing blond hair that dances over mountain ridges like a ballerina on a dance floor. The next 7 hours we had four different stalks and could not get with in 400 yards of these animals before they spotted us and took off. Once running down hill they are almost impossible to hit. I switched to a semi automatic 30-06 that the guide had but still couldn’t get a shot.
The next day up very high on a mountain ridge we spotted four bulls. I was using the borrowed 30-06 and blew the first shot at the closest bull; this started their head long flight down the mountain at about a hundred miles an hour. The path they would be taking would lead them approximately 40 yards in front of me, I yelled switch to my guide, and as I gave him the 30-06 he gave me a semi auto 12 gauge Benelli with buck shot. As the Tahr rocketed pass me at about 35 yards I fired six times in succession, bam, bam, bam, bam ,bam and bam. My guide looked at me and said you missed, I said no way did I miss that blond bomb shell six times. As we glassed the Tahr, he went about 100 yards up to the top of the next ridge, there I saw him falter, stop, and fall all the way down the mountainside, right into the swirling river. Now how the hell are we going to get him now I asked? My guide said, no worries mate that is what the chopper is for. Well let me tell you watching my guide hanging from a rope from the chopper, being lowered down to the rivers edge to rope this downed Tahr and air lift him out was something to behold. I was thinking these guys are nuts, they don’t pay them enough for this kind of work.
Well three down and maybe a nice fallow deer to go. So it was off back to the North Island and to try for a beautiful Fallow Deer with the palmated antlers. Wayne my guide said I tell you what hot shot; if you shoot this fallow deer at over 250 yards I will give you a special discount of $500 bucks. You see everything in New Zealand has a price tag associated with it, that being the case I said you are on buddy boy.
The next few days found us sitting on these huge plateaus where you could actually see for miles and miles. The view is outstanding and you could see spot fallow deer at extreme ranges. It just so happens that Wayne finds this beautiful fallow deer buck at about 255 yards and says I will knock off $1000 if you can take him from here. I laid my backpack down and lasered the buck at just over 255 yards, still a straight shot with no hold over for the 300 RUM, I said you’re on kemosabie . Boom one shot and the buck spins in a circle and collapses, holy SH**T Wayne shouts and claps me on the back. Again my old remmy comes through with a beautiful one shot kill.
Well I have completed my wish list for this trip but Wayne isn’t finished with me yet, you see I still have two days of hunting left. Now Wayne wants me to shoot an animal at over 350 yards with the magic 300 RUM. The next day we chase Sika deer over hill and dale, and when we finally do get a true 10 point monster in our sights I get cold feet because of the cost of the animal, I am adding up in my mind what I all ready spent and figured if I shot this Sika deer at that price I wouldn’t be able to afford food for the next five years. He was within range of the RUM at a lasered 350 yards, but at almost $7K for this beauty I decided not to shoot. After I described his rack to my nephew, he said lets go get him, but try as we may chasing him over mountain top after mountain top we never could get a shot at that great buck again. I will be kicking myself in the butt for years to come for passing up on this magnificent trophy.
As Wayne and I were sitting up on the very peak of a very high rugged mountain, two mountain ranges over a 14 point Red Stag roared and popped out on a sand bar, way below the timer line. Wayne looks at me and says, if you could drop him with one shot from this distance I will give him to you at the management stag price of juts $1000 bucks….Oh oh here we go again. Hmmmm now this is tempting a second management Stag at only $1K…. I broke out the laser range finder binoculars; it reads just over 369 yards away. I know there has to be some holdover involved because my rifle was sighted in dead for 250 yards, again my back pack is my rifle rest, there is literally no wind to speak of, and as I get ready for the shot… I say you are on. Just before I pull the trigger, Wayne says if you shoot him and it takes more than one shot, or you wound him and don’t get him it will be $3K out of your pocket. This adds a little bit of suspense to the situation, but I am confident in my shooting ability and the power of the 300 RUM which can easily shoot 500 yards if called upon to accomplish the task. Drum roll if you please…. Ka Boom… at the shot the Stag lunges forward and out of sight, he was standing on the ridge overlooking a ravine, but you could hear the impact of the bullet as it connected…whomp..that solid thud as it hit home. I said he’s down, but we couldn’t see him because he went over the edge. We were two mountain peaks over and had to walk about a mile around to try and find the correct sand bar the Stag was on when I shot. Well it took about an hour but we finally located him, when he went over the edge he got caught up it the top of a huge bush like tree and it took all we had to get him on the ground and to finally dress him out. But one call back to camp and the chopper was in the sky to fly this big guy back to camp.
And to top off the hunt, my nephew Louie made me a challenge I couldn’t refuse, he said if you were a real man you would bag a Ram using his bow. You see Louie, the ol die hard bow hunter, bagged his Red Stag and Ram by shooting his bow not a rifle. Well the next morning Wayne and I were off to try and bag a RAM with the bow. The Gods of New Zealand were with me this whole hunt, and they weren’t going to desert me any time soon, after a long stalk of sliding on my butt down hill for 300 yards I got to within 40 yards and I put an arrow through a beautiful full curl ram to finish my NZ quest.
New Zealand is truly a Fantasy Island when it comes to exotic hunting and the beautiful outdoors. The mountain vistas and rugged country of the North Island are breath taking, and lush green carpet of the South Island has to be seen to be believed. It’s just another of Gods wonders here on earth that has so enhanced the experience of life when hunting with family and friends. Thank you Lord, you did good when you made New Zealand. And most of all thank you for giving me the chance in this life time to experience it. Until next hunt… take care….