Saturday 4 May 2019
After an easy drive up from Wellington yesterday we settled into the shearer’s quarters at the MacDonnell farm, not far from Ohakune. With its 3 bedroom house and several single rooms in a row to one side, sheets on the beds, heaters in the rooms and even electric blankets, it is very comfortable accommodation. Dave’s wife-to-be, Chrissie, and Alister’s wife, Biddy, had done a great job organising it all, including preparing a great dinner.
At 6am the team went off for their first Kiwi duck shoot. With clear skies and no wind it wasn’t great weather for ducks so only 8 were shot. After lunch I headed to Cambridge, about 3 hours north of here, where I picked up daughter Victoria. After checking into a motel we strolled into town to a cafe where my youngest daughter, Kirstie, was celebrating her 30th birthday. She and her Team Pursuit cycle team head off to Europe next week to train and race on the road during the track off season.
The NZ Team Pursuit team
Raquel Bryony Kirstie Jessie Rushlee Ellesse
Kirstie and older sister Victoria
Like their father they forgot to grow up
Meanwhile back at the camp Erik had shot a spiker and Torbjorn a fallow deer and some goats during the evening hunt.
Arriving back at camp around noon, at 3:30pm we headed off with Alister for an evening hunt. Driving to a high point at the back of the farm we headed off on foot, not only looking for deer, but enjoying the extensive views over the expansive landscape under the shadow of the North Island’s tallest mountain, Ruapehu 2797m
Soon we spotted a number of deer grazing on the edge of the native forest about 1500m away. The deer usually come out in the evening then sneak across and eat the farm’s crops of swedes and turnips. Cutting down a hill out of sight we closed quietly on our prey. Moving from cover to cover we closed to about 300m of a young stag that was walking up and down the electric fence looking for a good place to jump into the crop. Magnus laid down and took a shot hitting the deer through the neck. A second deer ran up out of the creek onto the bank on the other side about 320m away Erik took a standing shot hitting it in the shoulder. Bloody good shooting I said to which he replied “I have had a bit of practice with an Aimpoint over the last twelve years”. Alister and I walked back the couple of kms to get the 4 wheel bike and the pick-up while Erik, Magnus and Greg gutted the deer and carried them to a pick up point.
It was well and truly dark when we headed back to the camp for a rather luscious dinner, prepared by Chrissie and Biddy.
Dave, Paul, Greg and I headed out early to get some more duck shooting footage while the rest of the team had a sleep in. With clear skies again, there were few about but we did manage to shoot a couple. Paul flew his drone around the pond to get some aerial pics of the pond.
After breakfast we headed over to Brett’s farm at Horopito. Brett gave us a briefing on the layout of the farm and where the fallow deer were that he wanted us to cull.
First the team stalked a pond and shot some ducks. We then drove to the back of the farm and dismounting the vehicles continued on foot. Magnus shot a fallow stag on camera. Torbjorn, Ronny and I were further down the track and watched as a mob of fallow raced past. We carried on hunting, spotting many deer including a large red stag but all not on the culling list.
Meanwhile the other group: Dave, Erik, Magnus and Rob got a couple more deer.
Later in the day Erik, Magnus and I teamed up for another hunt through some bush intermingled with grass clearings.
It was a really good day out having walked some 16k around Brett’s farm.
Around 0930 we headed to Taihape where we all met outside the local liquor store. From there we headed as a convoy up the Gentle Annie. I was traveling with Mario, who is the General Manager of Beretta NZ. He moved here from Italy about 18 months ago. He commented as we head out into the hills “there are not many people living in this street”. Arriving at the entrance to Ngameta Station we headed several kms down a well-maintained private road to a house. There we met Bruce, who is the chief hunting guide, who briefed us on the plan for the next two days of hunting.
Soon we were heading out on a good shingle road across green fields and crops of winter feed. Calling in at the station homestead we picked up a couple of can-am four wheelers. Heading north the roads turned to well-maintained tracks with signs “don’t be a sheep and make ruts, use the whole track”. The convoy pushed on until we reached the Hawkins Hut.
Here we are divided into two groups. Dave, Erik, Magnus, Alister, Greg and Mario stayed here with Bruce. Torbjorn, Ronny, Rob, Andy and I headed off with Russell to Burglar’s Hut about 30 minutes away. Stowing our gear we headed off for an evening hunt.
This is amazing country, mainly tussock and manuka with some native bush. We stop and through our binoculars see Sika stags and hinds roaming the hills. Sika deer were introduced northeast of here in the early 1900’s and have thrived but only in the central part od the island. Ngamatea Station is around 80,000 acres running around 40,000 ewes and 3,000 cattle, mainly on the cultivated areas. The tussock country is mainly used for guided hunting and the gathering of manuka honey.
A quick brew and we head back down the track for the evening hunt. We see three stags and some hinds on a ridge 400m out but the wind is wrong.
We travel a km or so around the other side to the ridge and park up. Russell, Ronny, Torbjorn and Rob head off on foot while Andy and I wait with the Can-am and the ute. As darkness arrives we can see two hinds on the bush edge. A call comes in on the radio so we move down the track to pick up the team. As we turn the first corner 2 hinds are standing on the road escaping as I almost hit them. The team had nothing to show for their walk
In the dark we drove over to see the rest of the team for a beer and catch up at Hawkin’s Hut. Magnus had shot a good stag that evening. We headed back to Burglars for dinner and sleep.
We were up at 5.45 for a quick brew before heading out. As first light arrived we spotted a number of deer but all eluded the hunters. About ten we stopped and glassed; a stag stepped onto the track looking at the team before bolting for cover. Andy and I waited in the hill while the team headed into the valley below. As we lost sight of them we spotted several deer on the hill above them. A radio call confirmed that they were onto a stag we could not see. It’s not just a case of stalking up and shooting a deer here as the cameraman has to be all set up and filming when the shot is taken.
An hour or so later we heard a shot. Torbjorn and Rob had been spotted trying to sneak in on an old stag, which stood up, Russell made a rutting sound and the stag charged toward them. Stopping at 140m the 300 Winchester Magnum with its Aimpoint sight did it’s job.
We went and joined them. Photos taken, interview done, some detailed footage of the antler, stag gutted and on Torbjorn’s shoulders, we headed for the vehicles. Torbjorn lost his footing crossing a swampy creek – one leg wet to the waist – as we headed to the track.
At about noon we got back to the hut, hung the stag in the meat safe, ate and rested ready for the evening hunt. We headed out just before 4pm, Andy and I following in the Can Am, the others in Russell’s pick up. A couple of kms from the hut we stopped on a hill. Heading through some scrub we looked across a flat and up to the bush edge some 700m away. I stayed behind as the others headed down the hill after one of the many stags we had seen. I counted 6 in total mostly grazing at the bush edge.
After nearly an hour a muffled shot from a suppressor rang out. Ronny had shot an eight pointer, which they had spotted just below me and patiently watched its antlers in the scrub waiting for it to reappear. Ronny is a game keeper back in Sweden and has hunted most of his life. As the deer was gutted Paul picked up the heart and noted that the bullet had got through it. “Of course it did” said Ronny.
On dark we headed back to the hut and ate, after which we headed the 30 plus km journey to Hawkins hut. After a good yarn we headed back to our hut for an early night.
Up early Rob, Greg, Russell and I headed out hoping Rob would shoot a stag for his own TV show in Aussi. “Beyond the Divide” is shown on Channel 44, FOXTEL and Aurora. We spotted a good stag, which they stalked in on while I waited by the Can-am. A couple of hinds were in the way, which spooked the stag. The morning hunt over, we cleaned up the hut and headed over to join the other party at Hawkin’s Hut for lunch. They had also had an unsuccessful morning hunt trying to get a stag for Niccolo, the NZ Beretta manager.
Rob Russell Ronny Torbjorn Bruce
Chris Roger Erik Niccolo Magnus
We all drove out and back to our camp at Shearer’s Quarters on McDonnell farm.
Pre-dinner Dave gave us his nightly briefing on the next days activities. One may well think he has spent a bit of time in the army.
We headed out to Rodney’s farm, east of Raetihi. There was a plan to have a cull of a large mob of Canadian geese, which are devastating the grass and crops on the farm. Meeting at the woolshed we mounted a number of quad bikes and headed back down the road and across a number of greasy tracks to the hill behind the pond. Sneaking up on the geese they outsmarted us and flew off, well out of range.
We headed back to the woolshed to regroup. Erik, Magnus and Rob headed for the nearby duck pond, where they were successful in shooting a number of ducks. The rest of us headed over a few paddocks where Torbjorn shot a few goats.
We regrouped at the woolshed for lunch before heading over to FTS Karioi farm, not far from where we were staying. Mounting quad bikes again we were ferried to the top of a steep hill. When Rob, Torbjorn and I got there Dave had already headed off along one ridge with Erik, Magnus and Chris. Andy and I stayed with the bikes and dispatched Torbjorn and Rob off down a ridge away from the one the others had gone down. We watched as Erik’s group shot a couple of deer. The country is really steep so one had to be careful on the bikes. It was dark by the time we collected the deer and made our way to the bottom of the hill.
We headed out to Jerry’s Ruakaka Farm in the Makakahi Valley. Jerry has a major goat problem out the back of the farm. Goats at the front of the farm can be rounded up and sent to the meat works but those at the back in the steep country are too hard to round up. On quad bikes again ,we headed up a steep track to a ridge that seemed to run the length of the farm. Andy took Ronny off to the right while Dave, Erik and Torbjorn headed off to the left down a track. Magnus had gone off with both cameraman for a hunt on the farm we were staying at to get some footage for Rob’s TV show. Today I was playing cameraman with a camera loaned by Rob, complete with instructions on how to use it. We walked down the valley to the tracks end with Erik and Torbjorn shooting quite a few goats and the trainee cameraman getting some footage. It was pretty humorous at times as I was filming one goat and of course they were shooting at a different one. We strolled back up the track and mounted the bikes, heading off along the ridge to meet Andy. Ronny was pretty excited as he had shot over 30 goats. We eventually stopped; looking across the valley to the hill on the other side goats kept appearing. There was some impressive shooting with Erik hitting one at 380m. Then he had a go at a white one at 500m but hit the black one underneath it, no one was giving him credit for that shot.
We continued along the track, which was a bit tricky in places, and were up high at the back of the homestead when some more goats were spotted. I had a shot and dropped one just as Andy yelled out “don’t shoot those ones”!! I got a bit of humorous grief over that shot.
Arriving back at the farmyard we had a chat with Jerry who was very pleased that we had shot over 80 goats on one day out. Back at the shearer’s quarters we cleaned up and caught up with Magnus and the real camera team who had had no luck on the farm that day. Magnus did however manage 5 sets of 20 pull-ups after his walk.
We then headed to Dave’s shed at the back of his mother’s house for a few drinks before heading into Ohakune for a meal at the Powder Keg.
Magnus and the camera crew went out for one last hunt, once again with no success. The rest of us packed up ready for our drive to Auckland. We said our goodbyes to Dave, Chrissie, Alister, Biddy and Andy, who all live locally, before heading off. As we drove back to Auckland we stopped at Te Kuiti as I had to show Magnus there was a kiwi bigger than him.
It seemed like the trip had gone by in a couple of days as we parted. Dave had done a great job organising most of it and everyone got along really well. We achieved the task of getting enough footage to make all the promotional clips Aimpoint needed. These will be released over 12 months starting in October and I think will be available on You-tube.
A big thank you to Erik and the Aimpoint team for letting us be part of a great adventure.