New Zealand Hunt of a Lifetime

Family hunting trip turned into the experience of a lifetime.

Jun 19 2015 - Jun 26 2015

by
Garrett Yates

First posted Jul 14 2015 Last updated Sep 3 2015

Our trip started with a monotonous seventeen hour flight to New Zealand. So as you can imagine everyone was pretty cranky when we finally arrived. We had arrived at 9 am local time, which meant that we had to stay up for an entire day after the exhausting plane ride. The first meal we had in this new foreign country was McDonalds. Even though I protested that we should eat at a local place, but my suggestion fell on deaf ears. My step-dad certainly didn't hear me because for all intensive purposes he is deaf. After McDonalds we some how made it to our hotel in Christchurch despite the combination of my moms driving and the fact that she had to drive on the other side of the road. Our first day only really consisted of lunch and dinner. We were all just really excited to get to our hunting accommodations, Terrace Downs, the next day and get the fun stuff started. Unfortunately, that night the mountain and surrounding country where we were going to be staying received record amounts of snow. So much so, that we had to stay in Christchurch one more night because there was no way my mom could drive us there in our giant hertz van.

As you can imagine, we were all really bummed. We spent the day driving around. Our guide, Shane Johnston, called us that day because he was able to drive down to Christchurch. We ended up getting dinner with him an his family that night and they stayed at our hotel so that Shane could drive our van up to Terrace Downs the next day.

The next day we woke up at 8am sharp and loaded up in our van, which my mom nicknamed Hershel. The plan was to drive to the town at the base of the mountain near where we were staying because our accommodations were still without power from the storm. By the time we made it to the little town, we had all come to the conclusion that we wanted to ski/snowboard the second part of the day. Shane was very helpful in getting ski gear and even drove us up the mountain. Shane and his son joined us on the mountain and we all ended up having a ball. This is the what it looked like on the slopes.

This all of us at lunch up on the mountain. Shane and his son Sam are on the left.

On the way back down Shane got a phone call saying that the Bed and Breakfast had power and were ready for us. After a long day of traveling and skiing, all of our spirits were lifted once we heard the good news. It took us an hour or two to return all of our ski stuff and head back to Terrace Downs. Once we arrived we were greeted by Robbi and Christine, the owners of the B&B. Robbi had just won best vegetable cookbook in the world, so you can bet that he could cook some pretty good veggies. He was an amazing chef and every meal we had was equivalent to a five star restaurant. I kid you not it was that good. We all went to bed realtively early that night due to complete exhaustion and jet lag (it will take you a week and a half to get used to the time change). We all fell asleep around 7:30 pm and all naturally woke up at 4am to 6am. Like I said the time change really messes you up. We spent the day relaxing around the house. The day was very uneventful other then the sporadic fights between my sister and me. Which as my mother will tell you, drove her absolutely insane. It was today when Robert Price, our camera man from Guidefitter, told us that we should just act like he was invisible which sparked a lot of jokes. These jokes included taking his dinner because "no one" was sitting in his seat (we gave it back), if someone mentioned him we would ask who they were talking about, and when he said anything we would look around like we had no idea where it was coming from. All jokes aside Robert was awesome, he was the best hippie I have ever met. All in all the day was pretty uneventful.

We woke up the following day ready to go, but unfortunately the weather was still not right. So instead, we went to a big gully and sighted in the rifles. I wish I had a picture of the target because it was the funniest thing. My mom and step dad messed up and got the wrong ammo for the 7mm, so all we had to site it in were the 6 bullets that Shane happened to have in his pack when we got to the gully. Shane set up a 1x1ft square target at 200 yards. My mom shot first and hit dead center of the black. Then my sister Taylor went and shot right above my moms still in the black. After her, Callan, my step sister, went and hit right next to Taylor's in the black. Then it was my turn and of course I was nervous, I didn't want to be out gunned by all the girls. I ended up shooting in the black right above girls, which I found out after was perfect because the rifle was sighted in at 200 yards to be 3 inches high. Robert, my step brother, went next and shot just to the left of my moms in the black. By this point Shane was amazed because he said that he had never had a group of shooter that were this accurate especially for their first shot each. It was Hank's turn next and he was trying hard to get out of shooting. He said he was good and that he didn't need to shoot and that someone else should go again. So of course, being the loving family we are, we started to give him shit. We told him he was scared to mess up the streak we had going and that he was a big old chicken. After a few minutes of heckling, he finally buckled and got done to shoot. The whole time we were telling him not to mess up and what do you know? He messed up. His shot went 2 inches high of the black and oh did we rip into him. After we trekked out of the gully, we loaded up in the van and went to a local fish and chip shop. We went back ate dinner and prepared ourselves for tomorrows hunt.

Now if you're reading this story, you are probably thinking "When the hell are you gonna get to the hunt" and I'm here to tell you that that time is right now. We woke up nice and early and drove to the hunting area. This is us at the entrance to the ranch.

We were looking for Robert's "stelk" (hybrid between elk and stag). We were driving down a trail while we glassed the mountainside. After about 20 min of glassing I spotted 2 stelks in the distance. We got out of the car and got ready to stalk the two animals. We hiked the hillside for about 500 yards when Shane told Robert to get down and get ready. Robert pulled off one shot and the stelk went down. We spent about an hour skinning the stelk and then went back to the cars and ate lunch. ​

While we were eating, we would glass the hills hoping to spot a stag for my sister. Sure enough, we spotted a nice stag on a hill about a mile away. We finished lunch and Taylor and Callan went with Shane to stalk the stag. They stalked it for over an hour and I made the hike after to go see the stag and it was exhausting so it was no easy feat for them. Taylor loosed one shot from 200 yards and the stag started to run. All of a sudden the stag reared back and did a perfect back flip down the steep hillside. We bagged two animals in the span of 6 hours. Pretty successful day for sure. We went back to he house and had some amazing lamb rack and went to bed.

We left the house at 8 am the next morning and headed towards the ranch we were going to hunt on. This particular ranch was 3 hours away. We stopped in a bigger town on the way and went to the taxidermist that was friends with Shane. We dropped off the stelk and stag and looked at all their different mounted animals. We grabbed a bite to eat and got back on the road. We finally arrived at the ranch around 1 pm. This is one of the roads on the way there.

We promptly hopped into two Polaris 4x4s. We drove around the ranch and not 30 min went by before we saw 4 beautiful red stags. We were there for a particular stag though. Shane had one special picked out for Hank. We were at the top of a giant hill when we saw it about 600 yards away. Shane took Hank down the hill and they stalked the stag for nearly 2 hours. The rest of us were left to wait on the top of the hill. We finally heard the shot after waiting for what felt like forever. We headed down to see what had happened. When we got there Shane was a little wired do to the fact that he had fought the stag with his bare hands. Turns out that the stag got stuck in some vines in this creek bed. Shane being the great guide that he is decided it would be a great idea to go down there and try to pull him out. The stag was quickly angered and got a little bit of wiggle room. he capitalized on this opportunity by going after Shane. Luckily Shane was able to step behind a small tree that prevented the stag from ramming into him. It didn't, how ever, stop his huge antler from hitting Shane. Shane wasn't badly hurt at all, but I am sure even the tough kiwi was little scared.

Hank got him with one shot which was surprising.

After all the picture were taken we packed back up and started looking for Callan's stag. We drove for another 30 min when we spotted 3 more stags. You could tell that these thee were fighters. One of them only had one of his antlers and the others' antlers had been roughed up. Callan told Shane which one she wanted to shoot and they got set up and ready. The stag was on a hillside across from us. Callan got in position and took it down with one shot. It got dark by the time we were done taking pictures. Our other guide, Keith, took Robert and me out spotlighting for Wallabees. We didn't get any the first time around, so we met back up with everyone else. We started the 45 min freezing cold trek to the cabin where we were going to stay for the night. On the way Hank and I were both able to bag a wallaby. (Mine was bigger.) We got to the nice cozy cabin and Shane and Keith started cooking some stag back strap and some "wallaby" which turned out to be delicious pork. We had a few drinks to celebrate our success so far and went to bed.

The following morning, we all woke up and got back in the 4x4's and drove back to the base camp. This was the view outside the cabin.

On our way back my mom saw a ram that she really wanted to shoot. We got out and she got down to shoot. Shane kept warning her that she was holding her eye to close to the scope but she didn't listen. She fired and the scope rocketed back into here eye socket. Luckily it didn't do much but bruise here eye. She hit the ram though and it went tumbling down a massive hill. It was fortunate that his horns did not break off. We took picture and then Shane, Hank, and Robert and I got in the car hand headed back to Terrace Downs to catch a helicopter.

We got to the house and got everything situated for the helicopter's arrival. Shane had us all take Dramamine because the ride was gonna be a little bumpy. The helicopter landed out in a field and we all hopped in. It was about a 15 minute flight to the mountains.

We would fly in and out of these little gorges and in between the mountain tops. All of heads were on a swivel looking for a chamois for Hank to kill. As soon as we would spot one the pilot would do these amazing dips and dives. We would turn so tight that the door would all of sudden be facing the ground. Imagine the scariest roller coaster in the world and then imagine it floating in the air in the middle of the best scenery in the ever. It was absolutely amazing.

We saw a lot of chamois but some weren't big enough, some were female chamois with their young, and most of the time there wasn't a safe place for Hank and Shane to get out. We were spotting chamois for about an hour when I had to stop for a second because even with the Dramamine I was getting a little sick.

The pilot put the helicopter down on a rocky bank in the middle of a glacier river. We all got out and took in the views. Shane walked up to Robert and me and told us that this was the cleanest water you could ever drink and that we should try some. Then we turned around to find Hank taking a piss upstream in the "cleanest" water in the world. We all had a laugh, took some pictures, and drank the water from the other side of the bank. We got back in the helicopter and we were off.

We flew around for another 30 min before we finally found 2 chamois that we could get to. Hank and Shane hopped out and Robert and I stayed in the helicopter. The helicopter flew off so we wouldn't scare them away. It was about 20 minutes when we got the call to comeback. It turns out that Hank missed one of the Chamois twice (figures). Hank is notoriously lucky and somehow a world class chamois that none of us had seen before came trotting out of the bushes. This time he didn't miss. After picking them up, we flew to where the chamois was and Shane jumped out. He tied a rope to the chamois and the helicopter hovered a foot over his head while he clipped it onto the helicopter. Robert cracked a joke and asked the pilot if he had a second career in landscaping as the blades were nearly cutting into the mountain. We flew off and looked for a place to land.

We landed at the top of a mountain in an area that was only accessible by helicopter. Very few people had probably ever been up there.

The view was breathtaking, so much so that for the first time I saw Robert the cameraman (the invisible one) and he turned to me and said, " This is so rad dude" and I in turn said, "rad? seriously how old are you? ya hippie." After the pictures were taken we flew back and dropped my step brother, Robert, and picked up my mom.

Now if you're still reading this, you might be thinking, "wow, what a short story." I'm sorry to tell you that it's going to get a little longer because my parts coming up and well, I'm gonna brag…. a bit. So, we got back in the helicopter and started looking for my tahr. it was slow going at first but we finally spotted a good looking bull. The chase was on and I was pumped. It was crazy the jumps these animals would take trying to run away. They will be running alone these cliff sides and then just jump. You'll think to yourself, "what in the world are they doing, committing suicide? There is no where for them to land!" Then all of a sudden they'll land on a sliver of rock jutting out of the side of the mountain. These creatures have no fear; all they know is survival. The first bull we spotter was on a cliff so we went to the adjacent mountain, landed, and Shane and I jumped out. We got set up and ready and started to look for the tahr. We looked and looked but could not find it (sneaky P.O.S). The Helicopter came back and we were off again. Ten minutes passed and we spotted another bull. So once again we got let out and once again we could not spot it once the helicopter was gone. At this point I was a little less pumped and a bit more agitated because it was getting dark and I was the only one that had not got their animal yet. I was quite afraid that I would be going home without mine.

Then out of no where we spot a bull hiding in some rocks. The pilot gets nice and close to scare it out. It works and I'm pumped again. We get dropped off about 200 yards down the mountain from the tahr. I focus the site on the tahr. I can't get a good shot and he keeps walking farther and farther away. It turns broadside for a split second and I squeeze the round off. Shane yells "NICE SHOT!!" and I chamber another round. The tahr was still on his feet and was now facing me. I decided I wasn't going to be taking any chances so I shot again. This took Shane by surprise a bit, but the tahr fell down the cliff it was on and rolled down towards us. The helicopter comes back and picks us ad the tahr up and we go back to the house. Both my shots were 250 yards; one broke both shoulder blades and the other went in the chest and out the back. We took a few pictures back at the house and went to bed.

Hank and my mom went together the next day to get Hank's Tahr the next day. We all ended up getting the animals we wanted in a span of 3 days.

This is one of the wallabies we shot. I plan on getting hi stuffed with a Speight's beer in one hand and a gig 'em on the <span style="line-height: 1.42857143;">other.</span>

I just want to mention that though I did not mention the invisible man, Robert Price was right next to Shane and us at all times. He was really awesome and a joy to be around on this trip. I just want to thank guidefitter for filming our hunt and I can not wait to watch it on TV.




I also want to say that Shane and his family were amazing. There is not a single bad thing about this outfitter or the people that run it. I HIGHLY recommend this outfitter. It is the hunt of a lifetime and the people are just so nice. I can not reiterate that enough. Keith, our other guide, even drove us the 6 hour drive to queens town where we were staying for the rest of the trip. I will definitely be going back and hopefully one day Shane's son, Sam, will be the guide for my children. I am so glad that I had this amazing experience; I will never forget it(especially since I can just go back and read this.)

5 COMMENTS

  • Robert Price

    Robert Price

    What an adventure Garrett! It was a pleasure and a trip of a lifetime to spend with your family. I really enjoyed your story. By the way standing in the middle of the Southern Alps was pretty rad

  • Wade James

    Wade James

    Great story, amazing hunt opportunity, and awesome van name... Everyone should have a van named Herschel... Great writing as well! Kudos on a legit piece!

  • Lenny Miller

    Lenny Miller

    Great story! That's a lot of shooting in three days. You did an awesome job telling your story for sure. And that Robert guy, is a pretty good dude... You know being a hippie & such!

  • Bryan Koontz

    Bryan Koontz

    Fantastic story, Garrett. It'll be fun for you to read this 10 years from now :). Sounds like one amazing trip - you're right, a hunt of a lifetime!

  • Hank Seale

    Hank Seale

    Great story! Just glad my master plan worked. I was able to pull a couple of shots to increase everyone's confidence. I think 100% success speaks for itself.