New Zealand Himalayan Tahr
I have always wanted to go to New Zealand to hunt Red Stag. I was quickly turned on to hunting Tahr when I saw a Solo Huntr episode with Remi Warren hunting Tahr. The country they live in looked so incredible to experience. Spending so much time in my youth guiding and hunting Mountain Goats quickly gave me a love for these animals. When the opportunity came to hunt Red Stag in New Zealand, I knew we had to do a Tahr hunt as well.
The greatest friend anyone could ask for, my buddy Beaver, was also going to be on this trip with me. He had a friend that went out with South Pacific Safaris in a helicopter and did the Tahr. He told Beaver if there is any way you can do a Tahr hunt while there, do it! Beaver was considering paying extra and going up a tier to shoot a bigger Stag. I told him we needed to do the Tahr. I planned on doing a Tahr hunt for sure.
The Himalayan Tahr, native to Himalayan mountains, were first released in the Aoraki/Mount Cook area in 1904. In total, 13 animals were a gift from the Duke of Bedford. Tahr are bold, fearless climbers, agile on precipitous slopes. They live high in the Southern Alps among rock and ice landscapes. The presence of Tahr in New Zealand is controversial. They graze on sensitive alpine plants and sub-alpine plant communities and can cause erosion. Some groups would like to eradicate them. Hunters value them because their acute sense of smell, hearing, and sight make them challenging to hunt. To limit their damage, total Tahr numbers are kept at 10k. Without hunters and the department of conservation, the population would have risen from 13 to about 50k.
While we were hunting our Stag there was one night we sat down with Brent from South Pacific Safaris and determined how much it would cost us. Due to the limited time we had and the amount of rainfall the helicopter was by far our best option. It would take at least 3 days to do the hunt on foot. The New Zealand government recently did a major culling of the Tahr on public land. Public land Tahr were hard to come by and would cost us more in helicopter fuel. The helicopter was $2,000 per hour to operate so we had to be effective and quick. We decided to pay an additional fee to hunt on private land. We got up early and drove back to Christchurch where we met the pilot, Rob. He lived in Ogden, Utah converting a cow farm to a sheep farm. He went over the rules and guidelines for us while in the air. It was an exciting time, and this was going to be my first helicopter ride. The excitement was flowing through my veins.
The helicopter was a 7-seater. We had Rob the pilot, Hayden our guide, Brent, me, and Beaver. Beaver said he wanted me to go first on this hunt, so I sat in the window seat. As we were in the helicopter with the blades turning getting our seat belts on the adrenaline was pumping. We took off and flew about 40 minutes to the Southern Alps. Absolutely incredible views of the flat lands and farms leading up to the massive snow caped Alps. We flew over an area that was public land and saw a couple Tahr running down the mountain. This was not their first rodeo. There was one small bull in the group. We then flew to the honey hole and spotted several Tahr. We went to a spot where Beaver and Brent got out so the helicopter weights was lower for optimal maneuvering. As we took off, I waived at them from the helicopter, it was go time! We flew back to where we spotted the Tahr. Hayden spotted a mature bull, so we circled back around. The bull hid in the tall grass and laid right down where we couldn’t see him. Rob dropped the helicopter so low the skid was hitting the hillside grass. I was looking off in the distance where I saw some Tahr thinking that is where they were. Rob actually nudged the Tahr out from the grass and he bolted down the mountain. We swung the helicopter down the canyon and Hayden and I bailed out, hunkered down with the blades spinning above us while the helicopter flew off. As soon as the helicopter was clear we quickly got up and into position. The Tahr came running down the mountain. This seemed odd to me where the helicopter was just there. Tahr when they feel threatened almost always go down the mountain. He stopped in the canyon, and I was on one knee resting the rifle and squeezing the trigger. I smacked him and he bolted little more down the canyon and toward us. I chambered another round and hit him again. He then piled up in some brush on a steep hillside canyon. I got up off the ground and gave Hayden a high five and hug. It was like 45 seconds after getting out of the helicopter and it was all over. Unreal experience! I was shooting a cool .308 super short barrel rifle (avoid helicopter blades) with a silencer. It was a fun gun to shoot. Rob came back and picked us up and we flew over to where I shot him. Hayden jumped out on a steep hillside as the helicopter was hovering over the hillside. The blades of the chopper were like 2 feet from the hillside. It was intense. He was a bit high and finally came down where he could smell the Tahr. He tied a rope around the Tahr and hooked him up the chopper. Hayden jumped in and we flew back to Beaver and Brent. They were there for about 10 minutes. I gave Beaver a high five and wished him luck. Beaver was shocked how quick we were and how quiet the big Chopper was coming up the canyon to them. Beaver jumped in and off he went. I was also amazed at how quiet the helicopter was as it flew off. Beaver was gone about 20 minutes and came back with a bigger Tahr and an amazing fluffy coat. He shot his on the run and had incredible experience.
While we were waiting for Beaver, I told Brent I wish the sun would get behind that peak. It would make for awesome pictures. He laughed and said we will hook them up and take them up there, as he pointed to the top of the snowy ridge. It would have taken all day to hike to the top. We flew both Tahr’s to the top of the mountain and got some amazing pictures. We were on top of the world on snowy peaks, it was amazing weather. There wasn’t even a breeze in the air. Both Brent and Rob were blown away with how nice it was. There are probably only a few days a year there is no wind where we were standing with the sun shining. Brent had an amazing lunch for us on the mountain top and Beaver had an ice cold Carona. We both laughed because this is not the type of hunting we are use to experiencing. We were extremely spoiled with an experience of a lifetime. I told Beaver here we 2 boys from the United States in the Southern Alps of New Zealand hunting an animal that came from Asia (Tibet) and drinking a beer from Mexico. Both Tahrs are mature good-looking bulls with great capes. We are going to both full body mount them.
On the way out I told Rob to give us a “ride”. I wanted some adrenaline, so we flew the chopper close to the peaks and he banked them hard for us. It was a good time. When we came off the Alps and into the flat land, we had beautiful views. Beaver and I were in the front seat and the sun was shining in on us. With the humming of the chopper, it was hard to stay awake. Once we landed, I mentioned that to Beaver I was having a hard time staying awake. He laughed and said he was struggling as well. Here we are getting a ride of a lifetime and it was challenging to stay awake at the end. I think it was due to the early morning and the adrenaline all day long to that point.
It was truly an experience of a lifetime and Brent from South Pacific Safaris made sure we had a world class experience. We were talking that night around the fire eating amazing food. Brent said the greatest part of the whole thing was the look on our faces during the whole experience. I’m sure the look on our faces were better than a kid experiencing Disneyland for the first time.
Harvesting the Tahr was great, but it’s the whole experience that makes it incredible. Now I’ve had the experience of hunting Tahr from the helicopter, If I ever get lucky enough to hunt Tahr again I would like to do it on foot where I can take my time watching them and sizing them up.
If you ever get the chance to hunt a Tahr from the helicopter, do it! You won’t regret it.
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