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Tahr With a Bow

My bull where he fell

I work right next door to my mate, Butch, and it’s an almost daily routine that we have a catch-up and talk hunting. We both love chasing stags in the Roar and spend hours yarning and going over maps … discussing where to go, where they’ve 1080’d and where the choppers have been working, etc.

The conversation this time, however, was about tahr and how we should get our arses into gear and go for a June hunt; I have a couple of great walk-in spots down south that have good numbers – only an 8-hour walk and a nice sunny camp.

Butch was keen on bowhunting this time; he’d shot a few goats with his compound and was keen to have a crack at a tahr. I don’t usually bow hunt but have played with them a bit.

Gaining Experience

I got a compound from a friend in the USA many years ago and practiced till I was pretty good; then one day, I thought that with all the bells and whistles, releases, sights, etc., it was actually a more advanced tool than my rifle, so I sold my compound and bought a recurve.

I have a good friend in Alaska who only hunts with a recurve; he’s shot everything over there from Dall rams to grizzlies. I picked his brains a lot and learnt heaps about recurves and instinct shooting. He told me to practice till I was sick of it, and then practice some more; in the end, it’ll be like picking up a stone and throwing it, and it’ll hit whatever you’re looking at. Apparently, brown bears lose their sense of humour when they get an arrow in them … therefore, a good shot is crucial!

My wife is Irish, and I spent a great deal of my spare time, while living in Ireland, out in the woods practicing. I bought a budget 50lb Samick recurve and learnt a lot about brace heights, arrow spines and broadheads, etc. After many thousands of shots, it happened just like my mate had said it would; focus on something and the arrow will go there – and it did!

I’m not much of a gadget person, and the only extras I have are a 3-arrow detachable quiver and some rubber silencers on the string. Sometimes I wear a mesh face veil to cover my face, but not often, and I don’t wear camo – from experience, animals spot movement no matter what you’re wearing, and the secret to getting close is to be completely motionless when they’re looking at you. Because of the light draw weight of my bow, I use 2-blade cut-on-contact broadheads to get the best penetration possible on tahr – another thing my Alaskan friend drummed into me.

Hunting with My Brother

On my second walk with the bow, I was with my brother in a familiar spot – he carried the rifle while I had the bow. We were climbing a gut when a group of tahr spooked from above us; we gave chase across the hill and found a group of nannies on a slip looking back at us. I lined one up at about 20m and let fly; the fletching disappeared into its chest and I gave a YEE-HA! as they all barrelled down the slip out of sight. My bro said I’d missed, but I assured him the shot was good. We found the downed beast shortly afterwards, and due to the lack of damage, recovered a lot of good meat – I was hooked!

Later on the same day, we were sitting having a bite to eat when a tahr came up the creek behind us – a quick look through the binos confirmed a good 13-inch class bull. My brother wasn’t interested in killing it, as the tahr was really young and heading for stardom if he survived a few more years; he walked past, oblivious to us at 50m, and ambled into the monkey scrub. I thought this’d be a great chance with the bow, so I followed him in. Anyone familiar with sub-alpine scrub in Westland will understand what I was in for, and it wasn’t nice; I did get a glimpse of him at about 15 metres, but setting up for a shot was difficult and I gave up after a few more minutes wrestling with the scrub – bows are awkward!

Butch and I Go After Tahr

So back to me and Butch having a yarn … I wanted to take the rifle just in case a 15-incher popped up. After a few more discussions over the next week or so, he twisted my arm until I agreed with him – we’d both take the bows.

Early June saw us with packs loaded for a couple of nights on the hill and heading up the river under blue skies; we were pretty worn out as we set up camp that evening, and sleep came easy.

We were camped right in tahr country, and a nice bull made a lucky escape 100m from camp the next morning, hopping off the rock just as I was drawing back. We took our time that morning bush stalking, climbing into the wind, checking guts and slips with plenty of animals encountered, but no opportunities.

The afternoon hunt was to involve a climb below some bluffs, a stalk down some broken slips into the uphill breeze, and then a sidle back to camp by dark. It was a cunning plan indeed, as not long after we detoured the bluffs, a bull was spotted about 100m away. It was decided Butch would do a stalk on him while I waited where we were. I kept down out of sight and watched Butch disappear in among the boulders as he stalked towards the animal.

He was only gone a few minutes when I noticed movement in the ferns in the gut below me; it was a bull tahr and all I could see was the hair on his shoulders waving from side to side as he walked up towards me!

He was close, so without wasting a second, I notched an arrow and slowly lifted myself up until I could see him, drew and let the arrow go. The double-blade broadhead popped clean through him, and he bolted across the slope and stopped. The second arrow was a clean miss and he stopped again at 30m and looked back at me. The third arrow found its mark with a loud whack, and the animal disappeared over into a gut.

I noticed as he went out of sight that the arrow had hardly penetrated; I wasn’t too happy about that, but was reassured when Butch yelled out, “Hell yeah, he’s down!” As it turned out, my last arrow had cut its spine – Butch had watched most of the action from where he was after he couldn’t locate his own quarry.

After a few photos and harvesting some meat, we hunted our way back towards camp. After an hour, we came out onto a slip and immediately spotted two bulls fighting; they were totally focussed on each other and unaware of the danger they were slowly moving towards as they battled on. I stayed where I was as Butch got a bit closer to take a shot. Unfortunately, when the opportunity for a shot came, the arrow went high; knowing your range with a compound is critical, and the lesson was learnt.

The conversation at the campfire was great that night … going through the day’s events and planning our next adventure into the Westland mountains.

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