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    Sep 2011
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    Hunting trip [NZ] last spring

    This trip report was originally written up for a hunting forum I belong to. As 'natural bushcraft' is a forum with a broader membership it's probably appropriate to attach a small warning to this yarn -it does depict the realities of hunting and thus.. "reader discretion is advised".

    As Cory and I set out from the road end to explore a North Canterbury Valley we came across two hunters on their way out. They’d had no luck and told a woeful tale of first discovering three fresh carcasses on one of their ‘spots’ and then having the delight of having a helicopter working the valley. Not exactly cheery news for us but we continued in and set up camp a couple of hours before dark.



    Hunting in early spring means finding the fresh grass growth. At this time of year I tend to target any river flats where there is extensive matagouri. I’ve found the presence of these shrubs is a draw for deer with the concealment that they provide grazing animals. As well as the security I’ve also noted that the grass growth is generally better among the matagouri stands than in the open, probably due to the protection they provide from late frosts.

    That evening we had a short poke around camp before making our way to a glassing spot that gave us an extensive view over the matagouri flats. Maybe 40 minutes before dark Cory spotted two animals that had emerged from the bush edge on the opposite side of the valley. We really needed to move if we were going to get to them before the light went.

    The first stage of the stalk was to drop down steeply through the scrub below us to the valley floor. We followed an animal trail down but it was not a travel friendly option. We had to be really cautious as it was so steep and unstable, several times I nearly pitched over having stood on and rolled with numerous grapefruit sized stones hidden from view under the ferns. Still we made the bottom intact, bar the odd scratch, and squeezed through the last of the lawyer entwined saplings.

    Making our way to the river we gingerly crossed the thigh deep flow. Now on the right side of the river there were several hundred yards of the matagouri flats ahead of us before we neared the bush edge where we had spotted the deer. The light was fading fast so time was of the essence.
    From our glassing point we had noted a section of blowdown on the bushedge that stood out like a sore thumb. This would be our guide so we angled to a point slightly up valley of it to where the deer had been. We strode over the flats trying to balance our need for stealth with that of speed due the light factor. We moved with purpose but as quietly as possible and with heads up searching the matagouri for the deer that for all we knew may have moved from their original position.

    As we neared the bushedge we slowed down. Passing through a matagouri stand we put up a hare, the movement of which initially had me thinking –“deer!”
    We now approached the last line of matagouri the other side of which was a 20 yard strip of grass before the beech forest began. This was where the deer had been when we originally spotted them. Cory and I were paralleling, 10 yards apart with eyes on stalks. I was full of anticipation and about to weave through this last stand to the grass when I was startled by a shot.

    Cory had rounded a shrub to see three deer alert and nervous. Two bounded up into the bush while the third paused, giving Cory his opportunity. As always when a lot happens in a small space of time it took a while to piece all the picture together. At the shot several more previously unseen animals had high tailed it up the flats. Cory had heard the 'thwack' of a hit and said his animal had headed up into the bush.

    We had only 10 minutes of light remaining so we made our way to where Cory estimated his target had been as he shot. We could find no blood, so widened our search –still nothing and it was getting very dim now. After what seemed like hours of searching I finally spotted a couple of clumps of hair. A closer inspection revealed a small splatter of blood on the grass and some stomach contents (never a good sign).


    Part of the initial find of stomach contents and blood.

    We were now forced to don our head lamps and continued the search. We managed to find a few more and the trail suggested that the animal had initially run up the flats and not into the bush as had been Cory’s impression. Try as we might we failed to pick up any more clues. After an hour of fruitless searching in all directions we reluctantly gave up with the intent of returning in daylight.

    Call me a sensitive new aged hunter if you like, but a few years back I had a harrowing experience of having taken out a foreleg of a yearling with a grossly misplaced shot. I followed the animal in an attempt to dispatch it. It was an extended and messy affair that included, I’m ashamed to say, my wounding the poor beast a second time before I managed to get near enough without alerting it to finish the job. I had vowed to do all I could to avoid such a situation again.

    With the small volume of blood and the presence of the stomach contents I was worried Cory's animal might have managed to get a fair distance and was facing a drawn out painful demise. While last light is prime time for finding deer, shooting one that then manages to move off means you risk losing it all together. I’ve previously passed up on a number of such opportunities for this reason. I much prefer dawn hunts 'cos then if your shot placement is poor then you at least have the whole day to put it right.
    A mobile wounded animal that evades you until darkness is my nightmare scenario and it has just come to pass. We were both worried and were pretty subdued as we navigated our way over the river and back to camp.

    With the first hint of light we struck camp and returned to the scene of the crime. We were relieved at the lack of rain overnight as any sign would still be evident. Last night we had marked the blood splatters with sticks so we soon found the trail again. A close inspection radiating out from the last splatter still failed to reveal any further sign. We widened our search and eventually some hair was found toward the bushedge. This tied in with Cory’s impression that it had escaped in that direction, but then the trail went cold again. Given it’s the moult however we were unsure if this might prove to be a red herring. We searched the area around the hair both up into the bush and down around the flats but to no avail.

    Frustrated, in darkening moods and almost ready to give up we went back to the last of the blood splatters and decided to put in one more effort, this time concentrating more on the possible avenues out further onto the flats rather than up the flats or in toward the bush. Many empty square yards were searched with us bent over, noses in the grass as we radiated out from the last known sign. Then quite some distance out another tiny blood splatter was discovered.


    The splatters were reducing in size and frequency.

    Elated and relieved, after another couple of yards more splatters were found. It was evident however that the bleeding was subsiding as the blood was only falling in small widely spaced deposits. Happy as we were to be on a definite trail again we remained concerned that this gut shot animal was making good progress and was bleeding less and less. The prospect of finding it still seemed remote.

    Still we were making headway and with the animal now traveling in a straight line the successive splatters, although inconspicuous, were easier to locate.
    We crested a dry channel that ran across the flats and down in the bottom was our very dead prize.




    In total we had spent about 2 ˝ hrs hard searching to find it despite the fact it had only traveled maybe 70-80 yds. Tracking over easy open country had proved too difficult for us at night and a real challenge even in the daylight – pretty humbling for these great white hunters! By its position with legs splayed rather than tucked underneath it appeared to have died on its feet within a couple of minutes of being shot rather than hiding out in pain for hours- which was a relief to learn.

    We retrieved the meat and hung it in a tree to collect on our return in a few days after exploring the length of the valley.


    There’s little to write about for the remainder of the trip. I was struck down with man-flu it felt like there was a brick lodged in my throat and I developed a cough that would be the envy of any 20-a-day smoker. My energy waned somewhat so some of our plans were curtailed. Still we walked the whole valley including up to the pass in exploration.


    Midday soup in the subalpine.


    In the process we found a couple of promising hot spots to return to at a later date. We put in ambushes at several feeding sites but sadly with no customers turning up. Cory briefly saw another animal and initiated a stalk but it managed to evade him.


    I used a homemade Polycryo Shelter, it certainly stood up to the task and is really light.

    Our venison was scored after an exciting stalk with a nerve-racking and difficult search. I enjoy bringing the 'bacon' home from time to time ,but really to me the value of the hunt is in the experiences gained in the process.
    Last edited by footsore1; 30-08-2017 at 11:35 PM.

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