Articles Comments

Sunspots Safaris New Zealand Hunting Blog » Client Stories, Himalayan Tahr » Hunting Season Report – Lake Hawea

Hunting Season Report – Lake Hawea

Jason Flower from Australia with a 12 1/4 inch bull tahr, hunting with Lake Hawea Hunting Safaris

Jason Flower from Australia with a 12 1/4 inch bull tahr, hunting with Lake Hawea Hunting Safaris

Chris McCarthy of Lake Hawea Hunting Safaris sent us this report:

“Being a hunting guide you have two things in mind. One, to do your absolute best for each and every client, two, to send all your hunters away happy. Happy clients result in repeat business, they also talk with other hunters and that results in new business.

Ken Slee approached me at the wild deer show earlier this year and asked if I would write a regular piece for the ADA magazine, sure why not I thought, a great way to promote my business in Australia.

So over the next few issues I would like to take you through the ins and outs of a hunting guide’s season and inside the life of a kiwi hunter hell bent on building the finest and most respected guiding service in New Zealand. So far this year we’ve guided 20 international hunters, 13 of them Australian, its been an epic season, as apart from one group hunt I’ve done all the guiding myself, I just had a quick tally up of some stats.

93 days and nights in the New Zealand backcountry, 76 of them in remote wilderness.
26 trophy animals shot, 19 trophy animals missed! All hunters successful in taking at least 1 trophy (except for 3 hunters who all had opportunities).

This year our first hunter, Phil Blanden from Australia was due to arrive March 1 for a wilderness whitetail hunt. Traditionally our season has begun at this time with the very difficult task of trying to locate trophy whitetail bucks for our hunters. Trophy whitetail bucks are getting harder and harder to locate. Live capture for game parks, heli-hunting, increased pressure from recreational hunters and poaching of private lands has all but choked this unique resource.

In the past we’ve been able to locate whitetail bucks in late summer on scouting trips, then go back and hunt them in March – May. Well, with pressure on the whitetail at bursting point, this just doesn’t work anymore, if we’re lucky enough to locate an animal over the summer, chances are by the time our hunters arrive the animal is already dead.

The hunt we’re now offering includes three days pre scouting just before the hunter arrives and is offered as a chamois hunt, as there are reasonable numbers in the area with the option of a whitetail for a trophy fee if the opportunity arises. I actually did five days pre scouting before Phil’s hunt, one overnight sortie revealed not a single whitetail, male or female. I did find a red hind and fawn as well as a mob of six chamois made up of nannies, juveniles and kids, with a nice buck hanging around not too far off.

The second scouting trip was more successful. A mate of mine Clark Walker from Queenstown came with me. Clarky’s got it as far as being a hunter goes; he’s a gun on the reds and an expert on the ducks. Consequently we’re offering duck hunts in 2011, a venture into a new market for us, Clarky will be the man behind this.

First evening we saw five whitetail, a doe with twin fawns (doe’s often have twins) a yearling and a young buck with a neat little six point head. We ventured a little further a field for the next two days locating 15 animals in total, two of which were bucks, one of which by these days’ standards was a taker. Healthy numbers of chamois were present, Clarky took a chamois buck for himself, all in all successful mission, it was good to know there was a little bit of antler about.

Three days later I was back with Phil Blanden. On the first evening of a nine day hunt we were watching the buck I’d located for Phil from 700m. Phil’s feet were a bit sore and I think he was pretty keen to leave the job till the morning, but I had news for him. Waiting for the morning meant an opportunity for someone else’s oversized client to shoot the buck from a helicopter, I’m a great believer in taking opportunities, after waiting out and hour or two the buck moved into a shoot able position, we began our stalk up through the alpine scrub.

The buck was grazing about with a spiker on the true left of a scrub filled gully about midway up the far side from us. We climbed up the next gully down with the plan of gaining some height then rounding the ridge to shoot across at him. I peeked through the scrub of the ridge top and there he was cruising about, just doing what whitetail do at 170m, the spiker was bedded and looked to be dozing.

The shooting position here was not favourable, we opted to move and after a lot of slithering about Phil was lined up over my daypack, with this being the last of the South Pacific deer species he needed to complete his south pacific slam, the rest was up to him. He fired precisely, polaxed the buck and the trophy was his.

Most of the free-range bucks on the mainland our now being taken as young as two year olds. It seems now hunters are willing to shoot anything that’s showing signs of growing antlers. This buck was a nice 7 point animal, three years old. Phil was overwhelmed, a life long dream realised, the wind gone from his lungs with just enough left to stutter “Oh my god.”

Ten to twenty years ago there were many terrific whitetail heads taken from the mainland, many taken by the late Dave McDonald, the man who started Lake Hawea Hunting Safaris. In Dave’s own words back in 2006 “If you wanted a good whitetail buck, it needed to be ten years ago.”

I’m not helping the whitetail cause by shooting younger bucks, but what do you do, you can only take what’s available. I have a friend, Marcus Pinney of Wilderness Trophy hunting NZ. Marcus caught some animals from the mainland herd some years ago, he has them on his deer farm, you want to see what these animals can achieve in terms of trophy potential when the are left to grow on good tucker. The other fact is that a 3 year old mainland whitetail will almost always have a better head than a 5-6 year old buck from Stewart Island.

It’s not that whitetail numbers are declining on the mainland, we’re still seeing reasonable animal numbers, its just there’s so much pressure on the trophy bucks that I now consider this animal, more difficult to take than a fiordland wapiti and the most difficult trophy of the deer species to take in NZ.

I knew of a handy chamois which I showed Phil through the spotting scope but he wasn’t too interested so on day 3 of the hunt we packed up camp and headed out, spending the remainder of the hunt, with the pressure off, looking over fallow and reds on two different private properties.”

Chris McCarthy and Ansqar from Germany with a 12-inch tahr, taken hunting with Lake Hawea Hunting Safaris

Chris McCarthy and Ansqar from Germany with a 12-inch tahr, taken hunting with Lake Hawea Hunting Safaris

Alex Hoppen and a big wilderness bull tahr.  Photo courtesy Lake Hawea Hunting Safaris.

Alex Hoppen and a big wilderness bull tahr. Photo courtesy Lake Hawea Hunting Safaris.


Written by

I'm an avid hunter from Portland, Oregon, and I've been hunting since I was 8 years old. I've run a wholesale travel business for New Zealand, Australia, Tahiti, Fiji, and the Cook Islands for 30 years. I live (and hunt and fish) in Portland, Oregon.

Filed under: Client Stories, Himalayan Tahr

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.