Tag Archives: arapawa

Perfect Place for a Honeymoon

honeymoonhuntstag2huntforever012714It all started on February 25, 2008, when my girlfriend of four years, Natasha, and I took a trip to Seaside, Oregon, a beach town about five hours away from our home in Goldendale, Washington. Little did she know that on the trip she would become my fiancée.

It was a beautiful afternoon and we were having a great time together. I had stashed the ring in the car before we left, but found I couldn’t get to the car to retrieve the ring without Natasha asking what I was doing. While we were sitting on the couch, though, she said it was time for a nap before going out to dinner. That was my opportunity to get the ring. I almost messed up, though, blurting out, “Yeah, that is a great idea!” After a surprised and weird look, she headed for a nap. I waited about 30 minutes, headed out to the car, and snatched the ring from the flat tire carrier–the only place I knew she would not look. I dashed back upstairs and hid the ring under the couch. A while later, she woke up, we went to a great dinner, then came back to the apartment and got settled in.

I’d had ankle surgery about five weeks prior, and was still in a walking boot. With her sitting on the couch, I went over to her and tried to kneel down. Much to my surprise, it was impossible to kneel with the boot on, so I had to propose on two knees. After many kisses, hugs, tears and, of course, a “yes,” we were engaged. We set a date of May 3, 2009, with months of planning the wedding and her finishing school in front of us.

Shortly after returning home, we started talking about honeymoon destinations. I had never flown on a plane before and said I never would. However, after a few bribes and a lot of begging I decided I would fly, but in that same breath told Natasha that I was not flying halfway around the world not to be able to shoot something. She said that was fine so long as she could shoot something, too. So began my search for the perfect honeymoon place.

I had dreamed of going to New Zealand for red stag since I was a young boy, so we decided that New Zealand it would be. After many long hours on the computer, I was able to find a booking agent who got me setup with Wilderness Quest New Zealand. We set dates of May 8 through 12 and, after our wedding and a very long series of plane rides, we were standing in Christchurch, New Zealand. It was the 7th of May and after taking in several tourist attractions, we headed for our hotel for a good night’s sleep.

honeymoonhunthuntforever012714The morning of the 8th was upon us, and Jonathan Christian of Wilderness Quest New Zealand was there early to pick us up. Along the three-hour breathtaking ride through Lord of the Rings country, we learned of the many other animals and adventures that he had to offer. While listening to him talk, I thought to myself, “Jonathan is a great person and is going to be a great guide.” He would also become a great friend to my wife and me.

After arriving at the lodge and meeting Zion, Jonathan’s cousin, cameraman and also a guide himself, we got a quick bite to eat, shot our rifles, and headed out for an evening hunt. Our main goal was a bronze stag for my wife and a gold stag for me. I had learned that Wilderness Quest offered wild boar hunting, too. I have always wanted a big boar and told Jonathan that if the opportunity presented itself, I would really like to take one home with us.

We got to a high vantage point where we could see a good distance. After spotting several fallow bucks and some arapawa rams, we located a stag. The stag was estimated to be in the bronze class so Natasha was first up. After a long stalk that had us out of site of the stag, we were able to get above him. Natasha got set up on the shooting sticks, with the stag bedded 100 yards below us. She took her time and squeezed of her first shot, hitting the stag right behind the shoulder. He managed to rock to his feet as she chambered a second round and placed it perfectly behind the shoulder again.  With a few sways back and forth and only going about eight steps, the stag piled over into a creek below him and our screams of excitement began.

We made our way down to the stag and he was a beauty. He had 18 points, great crowns and large mass. What a trophy! We knew he would be a top bronze, but after Jonathan scored him, he went into the silver class, scoring 313 5/8. We caped him out and decided that with an hour or two before last light, we would head farther back up the mountainside. Hearing stags roaring in the distant hills was all the motivation I needed to keep going.

As we came to another vantage point overlooking a valley, Jonathan said to me, “Matt, there’s a big boar.” Man did my eyes light up! After finding him in my glasses, I saw he was a big, jet-black boar in the range of 250 to 300 pounds. While we put together a stalking plan, another boar–the wild boar of my dreams– emerged from the cover and walked next to the first boar, dwarfing him in size. This one was a massive silver and white boar with huge white tusks gleaming in the fading light. The boars were heading toward a valley with a creek, so we quickly took off down the hill.

After getting a glimpse of them in the brush a mere 60 to70 yards away, we moved down a bit closer to a gap in the cover where we anticipated the boars would cross. As honeymoonhuntboarhuntforever012714we got there, I pulled my shooting sticks out and went to sit down. While still in motion, I saw a black head pop out about 50 yards away and quickly found the crosshairs in my Leupold. The black boar chopped his teeth, spun and headed downhill. As soon as he did, the silver boar followed. With a hard quartering away shot, I let my Sako .300 Winchester Magnum bark, striking the boar through the vitals. I chambered another round as the boar dashed for cover, and took off on a run after him. I saw the boar a bit below me, cutting through the cover and going straight away. I took a running shot off-hand at about 60 yards, striking the boar through the back hip, with the bullet continuing forward into the vitals. The big silver and white boar turned toward the other boar, and I quickly chambered a third round. The boar was about 60 to70 yards away and on the move, but I got the crosshairs on his vitals and sent my third 180-grain Nosler Partition right through the top of his vitals, breaking the opposite shoulder. The boar buckled with the impact. I had done it–another one of my dream animals was now mine.

After some great pictures showing the boar’s six-inch-long tusks, we headed back for a wonderful dinner and a good night’s sleep. The second morning started great with many animals seen but no gold stags. As morning became early afternoon, I got a glimpse of a stag going through cover ahead of us that sent my heart racing. The chase was now on. Jonathan got a good look at the stag as it passed through an opening and declared that it was one for me.

The cover was so high that every time I set up for a shot, I could not see a clearly to his vitals. After three or four attempts, the stag started going downhill, headed for an opening. Knowing that was my golden opportunity, I got setup for the shot. With a roar from Zion, the stag came to a stop at about 150 yards and the 180-grain Partition was on its way. The bullet struck the stag through the lungs. With a jump and a kick, the stag turned and my second 180-grain Partition was sent with deadly accuracy to the point of both shoulders, instantly taking the stag from his feet. With many very loud war hoops and some fast running to my trophy, I had my gold medal stag in my hands. He scored 336 inches and is everything I dreamed of in mass, width and height, with huge crowns and 22 points in all.

honeymoonhuntsheephuntforever012714Natasha and I had come for two stags and we had them, plus a boar and several days of hunting left. During the next two and half days, I was able to take a management fallow buck with my Sako at 168 yards and Natasha took an arapawa ram with her rifle. I switched to my trusty PSE X Force set at 75 pounds and with Easton FMJ arrows tipped with Innerloc broadheads, took a trophy arapawa ram, a management arapawa ram, and a feral goat.

We came for two animals and left with eight. I also bagged five pheasants, eleven hares, a pair of paradise ducks, and several other pest animals. Our time at Wilderness Quest New Zealand will always be remembered–not only as our honeymoon, but also as some of the best hunting in our lives. They’re first class people with second-to-none accommodations and awesome trophies. We booked again with Jonathan. Thanks, guys, for the perfect honeymoon!– Matthew Wilkins

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Wild Red Deer in New Zealand

1385758_66109213Just over a knoll, we spotted the unmistakable tine tops of a large stag flickering among the brush and ferns as he fed. Judging by their height, it looked to be a big stag making his way up the side of the ridge. Watching, waiting and maneuvering into position for a clear shot was now our mission.

As this “monarch of the glen” bent over to feed, his head was now clearly visible. “Oh, my God,” I thought. “His rack is enormous!” My mind switched to autopilot as I notched the safety into top gear and centered the crosshairs. The stag hesitated for a moment. The wind was in our favour–maybe he just sensed our presence–who knows, but his eyes were fixed on our location, less than 50 meters away.

The shot had to be squeezed off now. This was the moment of truth.

On a Thursday in late April, the Air New Zealand plane from Queensland, Australia, touched down in Christchurch, New Zealand. We cleared customs and then the airport police station where my temporary New Zealand firearms license was issued, and picked up my rifle. I felt a wave of relief pass over me.

In the hotel lobby, Jonathon, from New Zealand Quest, tapped me on the shoulder and asked, “Are you John?” He loaded our gear into the Toyota and after four hours of beautiful Lord of the Rings-style roadside scenery and the snow-capped mountains of Arthur’s Pass, we found ourselves on the far side of the South Island, near the town of Greymouth.

The views from Jonathon’s property are spectacular, with lakes, surrounding mountain peaks and valleys. In the midst of it all was the five-star quality, lovely cabin that awaited my family and me.

My wife had a strange look on her face as she heard me say, “Gee, honey, we could live here!” Jonathon told us we were only the second clients to use the new cabin, located within 50 meters of pristine trout waters.

An hour later, I was donning my hunting gear and cranked the .338 Win. Mag. for a couple of test shots to check its accuracy because I’d had some serious trouble with the trigger. Some clown had played with it before I purchased the rifle. I wasn’t taking any chances after the flight and handling. It always pays to make sure the shot is true. The KS Mountain Rifle was spot-on at 100 yards.

Midafternoon found Jonathon and me headed into the valley and river flats. These New Zealand valleys seemed to touch the sky. I was filled with awe as this was completely different country from any I’d hunted before.

I wanted a big red, and I wasn’t talking about Rutherglen Victoria wines. New Zealand is the home of big, wild red deer. We must have walked 10 kilometers the first afternoon, crisscrossing gumboot-high streams and thick rain forests.

Not a deer was to be seen. Still, I was in good spirits, with a mild adrenaline rush. The weather was moody for my first afternoon hunt. Wearily, we walked out, back to the cabin about 6 pm for a well-earned rest and dinner with the family.

I awoke to the sound of rain and my heart sank. Would it stop? At 5:30 am, after a quick cuppa, the rain eased enough for us to make our way out for day two, into the glimmering rays of dawn filtering into the valley. This morning, the sign was fresh and the red deer tracks were easy to spot in the sandy soil. Every now and then, a faint whiff of deer scent wafted by on the breeze. It was nothing like the strong, musky smell of fallow bucks–more like a wet cattle smell.

“Come on, stag,” I thought, “sooner rather than later.” My mind was racing. But as any experienced stalker knows, you can’t hurry hunting.

The weather changed again. A mist blew up and enveloped us. Then, the rain came down big time. We were ducking for cover by a large pine tree when a big, fresh rub caught my attention. “Look at this,” I said to Jonathon, “only hours old,” the sap was still oozing from the wound.

Jonathon knows the valley like the back of his hand. He’s lived there for more than 15 years. We searched every nook and cranny, I thought. We were close, but no cigar. It was hard on my feet traversing the slippery river stones and boulders. “How much water can one take in a day?” I thought.

Hossack-P4280877After lunch, it was time to hunt again, with a change of species on the menu. New Zealand arapawa rams were the midday special. The weather was briefly kind and provided a window of opportunity to take a nice ram. The one that first caught my binocular and then my scope had good curls, and I took him. We estimated his age at around five years.

Later that afternoon, we walked farther up the river flats. Again we saw red deer sign. It was fresh, but we sighted no deer. Between the rain and the wind, conditions deteriorated, but we pressed on until darkness gobbled us up.

During the walk back to the cabin, I thought I was seeing things. The whole side of the narrow part of the valley was glowing showing us the way. Glowworms lit up like Christmas tree lights were festooned along the overhanging valley walls, forming a fascinating display.

Stories of big deer came thick and fast after an excellent dinner. Looking out the front door of the log cabin, I saw the sky streaked with long, windblown winter clouds. The full moon slid out from behind a cloudbank, and for a moment the tree branches were silhouetted against the sky. Just as suddenly, another cloud covered the moon and everything went black. And the rain pressed on. I kept praying for it to ease before my last hunting day.

Emotionally, I felt stuck somewhere between a rock and a hard place as the rain pounded down relentlessly and red deer roared across the valley flats. An elk bugling near the log cabin woke me. Now, that’s something to get your heart beating fast, no matter what time it is. Jonathon kept two elk as pets. All this action before sunup made me jump out of bed and say, “To hell with it, this has to be the day, wet or not.”

But 10 kilometers later and with the morning long gone, there was not a deer to be seen, only a couple of paradise ducks. “I think the rain must have them bedded up in a sheltered area out of the wind and wet,” Jonathon said. “We will hunt high after lunch.”

My clothes, warm from the dryer, increased the comfort level a bit as we began hunting higher along the narrow ridge where the valley floor met the sheer vertical sides. Waterfalls plunged, swollen from the rain. The scrub was thick and wet. At times, both of us were on all fours looking for a bedded stag under and between the ferns and brush. Talk about close action. At last, just on the far side of the knoll, we spotted the magnificent stag.

Hossack-P4290922The crack of the 338 Win. Mag. Mountain Rifle echoed around the valley as the 225-grain Federal bullet shattered the stag’s neck. The big red collapsed and was mine. We were jubilant.

Jonathon patted me on the back. “One shot, and he never moved,” he said, and shook my hand enthusiastically.

I’d killed a huge red deer. This was my first red deer and the stag of a lifetime, scoring 293 4/8 SCI. The right antler measured 42, and the left 39 inches, with a width of 30 4/8, and front tines over 16 inches, with a total of 16 points.

I was exhausted, drenched and elated, with a grin from ear to ear as the rain peppered us. Then the heavens opened up and unleashed a torrent. Caping a deer and taking photos in the rain is no fun, that’s for sure. Jonathon smiled and said, “You know, last week the sun was shining every day.” Singing in the rain came to mind. Wet but happy, we got on with the job.– John Hossack

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