FATHER-DAUGHTER HUNTING DUO COME FULL CIRCLE IN NEW ZEALAND
BY BRITTANY BODDINGTON
In 2004 I made my First trip to New Zealand with my dad to hunt the iconic Himalayan tahr. This was early in my hunting career, and it was my first mountain or cold-weather hunt ever.
I was completely unprepared. My hands were freezing in my cotton gloves, and my fuzzy fur hat is still a topic we laugh about to this day.
But I ended up loving the experience. It was a turning point for me. I got serious and realized how much I loved to hunt, and hunt hard.
HUNTING LORD OF THE RINGS LAND
That trip we hunted with Chris Bilkey of Track and Trail Safaris New Zealand (+64 3 693 7123; chrisbilkey.co.nz). I swear that that man is half mountain goat; the way he trots up those steep peaks is simply amazing. I struggled to follow him when it was my day to hunt tahr.
We traversed the mountains, glassing as we went, and after a short while we found a great big wild goat and decided to take him. The area was so steep that when I lay down to shoot, I kept sliding downhill. My dad, Craig, got behind/under my feet and I basically stood on him so I could be prone against the mountain and shoot.
After I shot, my tahr fell on a rocky outcrop above us and didn’t move. Chris trotted up the mountain, across some treacherous shale and pulled the tahr loose. The animal slid down the shale, right past us and down the mountain. We hiked down and found him at the bottom. The shale is so small that the slide didn’t cause any damage, and, man, was that a convenient way to get my tahr to the bottom!
Dad got one on that trip as well. All in all, it was a wonderful experience – one that I hoped we could have again.
THERE AND BACK AGAIN
Time passed, as it always does, and although we kept in contact with Chris and his wife Peg, my dad and I didn’t get a chance to hunt with them together for many years. I visited them and he visited them, but never the two of us at the same time – until this year!
Finally, a decade (plus a year) later, Dad and I ended up back in camp with Chris and Peg. I’ve hunted in New Zealand a few times over the last few years, but I’ll save those stories for another time. This was our reunion trip, and it felt good!
I am a collector now, and one thing I desperately wanted to add to my collection was a free-range fallow deer from New Zealand. I mentioned this to Chris at one of the sportsman conventions in January, and he told me he had the perfect spot to find me one.
My dad, his wife Donna and our doctor friend Sadaf Khan joined me, and each of us had a personal mission to accomplish as well.
Donna went first and shot a beautiful tahr with a big blonde mane. Sadaf was after a full bag, so her mission took a while longer.
One day we decided that Sadaf and Donna would go up the backside of the mountain that I shot my tahr on so many years ago and hunt for one for Sadaf. Meanwhile, my dad and I would go with Chris and try to find a stag for Craig. We spotted a few stags scattered across the mountain first thing in the morning, but none of them were in shooting distance and the wind was howling.
We decided to make a plan to close the distance on one particularly odd-looking stag. It had a few broken-off tines and some strange growth that Chris was concerned would be dangerous to the other stags, if they fought.
Needless to say, Dad was more than happy to help take this stag out of the group. We worked our way along the mountain and tried to stay out of sight, but eventually the stag and a couple of does spotted us and fled. They ran into a thick patch of bush and stood in there feeding until they finally bedded down.
They were obviously not too concerned because they could have easily gone up over the top and disappeared forever, but they decided to take a nap instead. We got into position and thought we would wait them out.
THE RETURN OF THE FAVOR
An hour passed and Dad was becoming progressively less comfortable in his prone position over a pack. He was sliding and his neck hurt, but we were all afraid to look away in case the animals got up. So we made the decision to shift positions a little higher and a little closer. We were about 200 yards from them now but they were directly uphill in a very thick patch of brush. The only hope was that if they got up and moved right, they would cross an open shale slide about a yard wide. While this was not a huge gap, we hoped the shale would cause them to pause.
Meanwhile, my dad was struggling to get into position and he kept sliding. Remembering our first trip 11 years before, I got behind/under his feet and he stood on my leg as I dug my boots into the hill as hard as I could. Just then the stags were up. Chris had moved out to the side to get a better look and had been spotted.
They moved to the right, as we had hoped, but didn’t pause at all in the shale; rather, they just kept moving.
There must have been a hole in the brush that we hadn’t seen before because just when I thought the stag was gone, he emerged with a full visible shoulder. Dad didn’t hesitate to take the shot, but while the stag reacted as though hit hard, it kept moving. Dad got another couple shots in as the stag disappeared into the brush. Chris was sure that it was down in that thick stuff, so we gathered up our gear and hiked over. The area was impossibly steep and thick, but Chris managed to find the stag, which had rolled a bit and become stuck in some brush.
We were thrilled. Dad was so excited after all that suspense, even if, ironically, the whole thing happened so quickly. The stag was huge in body, with a very unique rack. The hunt was one I will remember forever because we did it as a team. The stag was management quality, a great old one that needed to be taken. Sometimes it is more important to enjoy the experience and make memories than to shoot a monster. I think this stag and the hunt to get it is something that Dad and I will cherish for a long time. CS
Editor’s note: Brittany Boddington is a Los Angeles-based hunter, journalist and adventurer. For more, check out brittanyboddington.com and facebook.com/brittanyboddington.
Story and Photos Brittany Boddington