member stories

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As seen in the August 2017 Chapter Newsletter, here is a hunt report from member Wes Jelen called "High Altitude" from his trip to New Zealand.

I have never been the person to take the easy road out; continuously searching for the next best thing in life.  Hunting was no different.  Several years ago, my search began for the next best thing in hunting.  There were a few requirements that it had to meet; it had to be challenging to the mind and body, push me to and beyond my limits, and the outcome must be relative to the work put in.  I could only find one thing that seemed to fit my criteria - mountain hunting.  This search and obsession are what had me lying in the mud with my feet hanging off a cliff for two hours waiting for a shot at a nanny Tahr.

     Finally, after a year’s wait I was back at my second home - New Zealand.  I was in search of a mature bull Tahr. The vision of hunting a Tahr was one that had frequented my dreams for a year, and the time was finally here.  After a successful couple of days hunting waterfowl and Fallow Deer with my father, it was my turn to bat. The plan was to go check out several areas, one local and the other was roughly three hours away.  My guide Higgy suggested that we hunt a nanny to settle the nerves while scouting the first area.

     We all loaded up into his brand-new Nissan Navara and headed out to the hunting grounds.  It was only a short thirty-minute drive, located in a valley just above a river basin. Within fifteen minutes it began to rain. Higgy remarked, “This area can get up to twice as much rain as Wanaka,” which was the town we were staying. It amazed me that only a thirty-minute drive could make such a difference in weather.  This issue would be a reoccurring one.  The rain finally slacked up enough for us to put on a stalk, but the nannies had busted us while we were seeking refuge in a brushy area.  Higgy and I discussed our options while my father nodded in agreement. We decided to drop down into a gully and make our way around to a good glassing position.  After a good hike, we made our way to a hill, or so I thought.  Once we reached the top and got into position the was very little room for error.  We glassed and saw several old nannies nearing the end of their road.

     I set up my Sako .270WSM, and the wait began.  Shortly after setting up for a shot, it began raining again.  Little did I know that I would be laying in the mud with my feet hanging off a cliff for two hours waiting for a clear shot.  Finally, a nanny stepped in the clear, and I sent a bullet flying right at her shoulder.  It missed its mark and grazed the skin on her back. She bolted from 300 yards away to 500 yards away in a matter of seconds.  I quickly gathered myself and squeezed the trigger again, this time with prevail.  The nanny dropped instantly.  As we made our way up to her, we realized that she was in much worse shape than we thought.  She had broken a horn and had a horrible abscess from a puncture wound.  She was clearly in tremendous pain, so we were all glad I had taken her.

     After a half day driving and a night’s sleep at a local motel, Higgy and I headed to the hunting grounds.  We had made it almost halfway there when a monsoon blew in.  We continued in hopes that it might not be raining there; unfortunately, it was. There was no safe way to navigate by truck or on foot, so we made the decision to head back to the other hunting area near Wanaka.  The drive back and a stop for lunch at the Wrinkly Ram left us with only a few hours to hunt.

     We parked the truck and set up the spotting scope. The Tahr were higher up than they were the previous day, so we could observe them from a safe distance and form a strategy.  Higgy and I had determined that there were several mature rams, but there was one who had a mane that would make a lion envious.  I decided that he would be the one we should put our efforts toward.  After watching him for thirty minutes, he disappeared behind a saddle, and we made our move.  Peaking around the saddle, we could see they had bedded down.  Higgy and I took this opportunity to close the gap to eighty yards.  Crawling up the saddle with my Sako in hand I prepared myself for the shot.  I slid my pack up and rested my rifle on it. After 45 minutes, the bull stood.  No amount of preparation could have prepared me for the adrenaline surge my body would receive.  I placed my crosshairs centered on his vitals and squeezed the trigger.  He made a dash, but it was a fruitless attempt to escape. He collapsed after a short run.  I looked at Higgy, leaped up, and almost crushed his shoulders in a hug.

     It was a year in the making, and it was over in seconds.  Every sleepless night, cramped muscle, and drop of sweat were worth it.  My search for the ultimate form of hunting had concluded, and I was hooked.  The mountains now hold my heart, and I will return to them as long as my knees and lungs will allow me.