I stand on the steep slope of the mountain taking in the scene below. Lake Ohau looms a brilliant blue in the distance welcoming the glacier waters from the rivers that meander through the valley. I take a deep breath and inhale the cool, crisp mountain air. My heart is thumping in my chest, my mind is racing and I am giddy with excitement as we cross the thick scrub to my animal.
This morning started the same as most mornings working for Southern Mountain Adventures in New Zealand. The kettle was on for coffee and tea, bacon and eggs in the fry pan, a hungry group at the breakfast table. I never dreamed that would be the day I would be standing next to my first tahr!
It all happened so fast. We had a few extra minutes, we had a helicopter, my boss, Croc Adams, asked if I wanted to give it a go on the top of the facing mountain, and we jumped in and away we went.
We spotted a group of bulls at the top of the mountain across from the cabin. We got in position on a flat spot looking up across a shingle slide. The plan was to get the group to run down the slide towards us. As goes with most plans, the animals did not cooperate. They ran across the ridge and behind us. I got one shot off at a big bull, but it went right over his head and he disappeared across the ridge.
One lone bull had run the opposite direction and was on the next ridge over. We radioed the helicopter pilot our plan and went to find this one. As we swung around the ridge, there he was, silhouetted on a rocky out crop. He was even bigger than the first one! He jumped over the bluff and disappeared into the tall scrub.
We found a place to set up for a shot. We slip and slide across the shingle face and wade through the heavy vegetation to get to a good shooting spot. Many times I find myself sliding on my bum down the slope or grasping for bush branches as I step down into holes. But we have to move quickly into position.
My bull is in the brush below us. As he makes his way across the mountain face I try and get a shot, but he is moving fast and keeps disappearing in the thick brush. Finally, he turns and moves up the slope. He is within range, but he is moving away from us.
All I see is his rear. I whisper to Croc, "Can I shoot him in the ass?"
The response, "Yes, shoot him in the arse."
So I squeeze the trigger.
We hear the thump of bullet connecting with flesh. I have hit him. But he is still running, tahr are such tough creatures. Another round is chambered. I fire again. Another hit and he slows. He is down, but still alive. One more shot and it is over. My heart is pounding in my ears. We scramble through the thick vegetation to his location. There is my bull. Full, thick mane and massive body, some of the biggest based horns I have seen.
Never did I imagine my fist bull tahr would be a seven-year-old, 12 1/2 inch with ten-inch bases! An hour later, after photos and skinning and packing the car, when we are on our way to leave camp, I realize, my legs are shaking and I am still grinning from ear -to-ear with excitement.
Croc still teases me about shooting my tahr in the the butt. I tease him about telling me to do it! He says, “Well, I didn’t expect you to actually hit him!” Guess he learned, do not tell this girl with a gun to shoot and expect a miss!