The headwater of the Godley River system on the South Island of New Zealand is uncontested as some of the best tahr country anywhere in the world. It is hard country that’s hunted hard yet has produced good numbers and top-quality trophy animals for decades.
On a trip was with my son, we had a couple of hard days of climbing, descending, climbing and descending until we finally found a quality bull tahr for him. A long shot (for us) at 325 metres had him aiming off and his bull rolling down the scree for an easy recovery.
But this story isn’t another one about trophies that take pride of place on the wall, this story is about all the others that don’t.
I had no intention of shooting anything on this trip as it was all about him; but, once the dust had settled and we were about to move off to recover his bull, he handed me the rifle and said, as only a teenage son could, ‘I bet you can’t hit that other tahr!’
I turned and eyeballed him. It wasn’t a question, it was a challenge.
The herd hadn’t moved far and was still exposed on the shingle face. No words were said after that. Not then, and not to this day.
He ranged the tahr, then handed me the rangefinder — 375 metres.
He knew my rule was that I didn’t shoot over 300 metres, but what he didn’t realise was that ‘don’t’ doesn’t mean ‘can’t’.
After being challenged by a son with too much confidence, the author took a young bull at 375 metres.
I moved and wriggled to get the most stable position I could. I settled for the shot and with the confidence of 30 years of military marksmanship that tahr dropped.
I didn’t even look at my son, but I’m sure his jaw dropped. I just stood up, put my pack on and started walking down towards the direction of his bull.
That moment was a foundation father-son moment: ‘You have lots to learn, grasshopper.’
Fast forward to today, where this story and a small bull tahr has been lost and forgotten in the depths of a box in the shed.
I originally had no idea of what to do with this bull, but I do like things that are different. After a bit of time searching on the internet the ideas started to flow. Through the fog of a bottle of cheap red I figured out what I wanted to do with it. It took more time to work it all out than it did to put together, but I ended up with a simple idea that adds a point of difference to a hunt and a story that otherwise would be forgotten in time.
My aim is to try and transform all those stories I have in hidden in dusty boxes from the shed to inside the house, where even my wife will hopefully ask the question: ‘What’s that one about?’
As a hunter and not a shooter, shouldn’t we all be aiming to have all those hidden stories dusted off and preserved for generations … and every hunt has a story!
And, it’s nice to exchange glances and smirk with my son when we look at that small mounted bull.
Contributed by Dave Novak.