It was late winter and Monkey (Shaun) and I were heading off from Christchurch to Invercargill with our destination been the heartland of Southland, Southern Fiordland. We were lucky enough to have been invited on an adventure thanks to Mike Thom and the boys at High Country Helicopters, who had just opened a new base and were keen to show hunters, fisherman, divers and outdoor enthusiasts just what their company could offer.
After collecting our bags, rifles and gear, we were met by Mike and Dale Green who are both pilots for HCH and once the ute was loaded, we were off west, destination Clifton, the Southern Southland base. With a stop along the way to add a few extra supplies (namely Speights), we arrived at the hanger, loaded the HCH Squirrel and were airborne on a Southern adventure.
Aboard this trip were Dale, Mike, Stump, Matt, Monkey and myself. The plan was to head down the south coast for a dive for crayfish while Dale and Stump flew to another location to sort the pauas for dinner. I should probably mention about now both Monkey and I aren’t the best divers in fact I think this was Shaun’s first ever dive. We landed on the beach with a southerly front on its way and got straight in only to get thrown around like rag dolls in a dryer. Unfortunately the crays weren’t playing the game and we had to hope Dale and Stump could carry the team and provide some seafood for dinner. After an hour in the water, the lads decided to call it in so we loaded up and flew to our accommodation for the night “Trevors Inn”, a classic kiwi hut about 50km from the nearest road, it was paradise. We landed out front, unloaded the B3 and settled in for a few quiets and some KFP (Kentucky Fried Paua), Dale’s secret recipe, quite possibly the nicest paua I have ever eaten.
After a night of great tucker and a few too many beers we loaded the chopper and Dale took us for an amazing flight through Southern Fiordland visiting lakes, coasts and huts all throughout this untouched part of NZ. We even flew over Lake Monk named by Shaun’s Grandfather many moons ago after he landed his float plane on the high mountain lake. We ended up at Teal Bay on Lake Hauroko where we were greeted by Johan Goeters from Wairauhiri Jet. Wairauhiri Jet is a commercial jet boat company that transports hunters, fisherman and trampers deep into the bottom of Fiordland. We hopped in and hit the lake, I hadn’t been in a jet boat in a very long time and what a ball we had travelling down the Wairauahiri river and cruising around the lake. Johan can transport hunters all around the Lake Huaroko area so if you’re ever thinking about hunting or fishing in the area give him a buzz. After barreling up and down the river for an hour or so we headed back to the real world via the squirrel. Once back at the hanger we dropped off Stump and Matt who had to head back to work and loaded up Mikes ‘Hughes 500’ with all the gear and headed north for a hunt near Waikaia, Northern Southland. After a great 1 hour flight we touched down at Mikes place, pinched some tucker and firewood and headed to our destination, a fantastic spot well above the bush line.
During the flight in we saw plenty of animals which is always a spirit lifter! Arriving at the hut late we cooked a feed and settled in for a cold but clear night. As the fire smoked away, Monkey and I were looking forward to stretching the legs in the morning and covering some country. Early start the next morning and as dawn broke we were up with gear all ready for a days hunt. Mike had been having trouble all week with a piece of grass stuck in his eye so he made the call to head back and see the doctor before it got too bad, leaving myself and Shaun to explore the area. We left the hut at first light but soon realised that attempting to cover a bit of distance in knee-deep snow wasn’t going to happen! Although we tried, it was extremely energy sapping and after a big day seeing only a few deer that weren’t worth shooting we retreated back to the hut knackered and in desperate need of a decent feed.
The following morning we had decided we really wanted to get a look into a large gully approximately 3km from the Hut which isn’t far with no snow but with snow that is knee deep or deeper it would take us many hours. We headed off early with the idea being that the snow would have frozen and we could walk along quickly and easily on the crusty surface. We knew that from about 10am onwards after the sun had hit, the snow will soften and make for a slow trip back to the hut in the afternoon. However, getting back wasn’t important to us right now as we were looking forward to seeing some deer!
It didn’t take long before we picked up fresh sign and as I peered over into the gully we had planned on hunting, 200m below and to the left of me was around 20 reds! Bingo! There has got to be a stag here somewhere. Monkey and I came up with a plan to get slightly closer so that if we couldn’t find a stag we would shoot a Spiker for meat instead. We snuck out onto a ledge peered over and watched for 20mins or so with the wind in our favour. There was no stag visible but wemanaged to spot a perfect freezer filler, a spiker at around 150m. We got ourselves into position, quietly set up the camera and finally after a patient wait, I got lined up and sent a 140 grain accubond straight into the engine room of the sleeping spiker. At the shot, deer went running in every direction but the spiker never stood up or even kick around fthat matter, he was dead were he lay. We went down, sorted him out, chucked the back steaks in our pack whilst making the back heels of the deer into its own pack and carried it to the top for an easy pick up in the morning. Just as we creased the top I turned back to where we had been in position and already another mob of 7 or so deer were climbing the ridge. We started the long 3km snow clamber back to the hut which took around 3 hours of brutal knee deep slogging! Getting back late in the afternoon we were just about to start old smokey (fire) when the sound of a 500 could be heard echoing in the distance and heading our way. Five minutes later, Mike and his work mate were landing outside the hut “you fullas wanna watch the game?” Bloody oath mate, the All blacks were playing Aussie in the Bledisloe so we packed everything up, got our deer and headed out. We were meant to be getting picked up the following morning from the hut but the weather was turning so we returned early for a shower and a great meal at the Waikaia Pub.
Big thanks to Mike, Dale and the guys at High Country Helicopters. It was a quick trip but full of non-stop action. If you’re looking for place to hunt this roar or at any time of year, get in touch with them as they are top blokes with some top hunting on their door step. They operate 4-5 machines with great pilots so don’t hesitate to use them for your next adventure.