IT STARTED IN 2012 when Norissa and I were given the opportunity of a lifetime to hunt Red Stag in Wanaka, New Zealand. At that time, we met one of our guides, Barry Dodds, who not only became our guide, but our friend. We stayed in touch since our first visit to New Zealand, and last year, we learned that Barry was venturing off to do his own outfitting business. We got the invite from Barry to join him at Doddsy’s Hunting Experience. Doddsy’s Hunting Experience will offer everything from hunting to fishing, jet boating, wine tasting, fine cuisine, and even a little shopping for the diva in us all. We anxiously booked our tickets months in advance. We arrived in April, the prime time of the roar, happy to see our friend Barry at the Queenstown airport, and we set out to try for Chamois, Tahr, Ferral goats, and Arapara Rams in his home area and small town of Hawaea! We set out the first day in some of the most beautiful country we had ever seen! Our goal was a Chamois for Norissa. Years before, I had seen a Chamois trophy, and I had no idea why this small animal of less than 75 pounds was such a great trophy to hunt. We were about to find out that they live in some of the toughest terrain, and they are very hard to hunt
As we began our morning hike, we saw fallow deer, sheep, and rams. After hiking for hours, we finally stopped for a quick break to glass, and we finally spotted some Chamois. The Chamois were both females and over 1,000 yards away in a steep valley. It was good to be able to see them in their natural habitat; they were dark black and seemed so small at that distance. We both felt ready to move on looking for a male Chamois. We continued into the afternoon, and it started to warm up. We stopped for a late lunch; we were all hungry from hiking all day. Barry decided to peer over a nearby ridge and came running stealthily back to us as he had spotted a young Chamois with a large male over the nearby ridge. Excitedly, Norissa and I with cameraman/producer, Kappie, in tow peered over the ridge. The Chamois were too far away to take a shot, and the angle was much too difficult for this small target. Barry wanted to get us as close as possible, but this terrain made it almost impossible to do so. At times, areas felt like a 45-degree angle, and we had to be careful not to fall as the slate rock beneath us would often give away. Once we were close enough to look again, Norissa set up on the shooting sticks. She didn’t feel comfortable at that angle. I noticed that as Norissa sat on the edge of the cliff, she had a very unsteady rest. I decided to get closer, and I crept in as quietly as I could. I leaned into her so that she could steady herself on the sticks. The Chamois came to the top of the rocks and stood broadside. Norissa slowly pressed the trigger and made an awesome shot at over 200 yards! We looked at each other and screamed with excitement, as we both knew it was a heck of a shot. We were busy celebrating, and we looked down and noticed the Chamois was gone.
He had tumbled down the steep ravine to the bottom in a creek. Kappie and Barry told us to stay where we were because it was so dangerous. We waited about 30 minutes and decided to go down further because we could no longer see them anymore. I noticed Kappie crawling up the side of a cliff and he yelled at us to stay where we were! I thought he was kidding us but later found out he had almost fallen off because of the unsteady footing in the slate rock. I remember hearing Barry yell that he had found the Chamois. Hours had passed, and then Barry came out of the ravine carrying the Chamois over his shoulders like it was something out of the movies. It was a treacherous and hard hike up to where we were standing. Norissa was very grateful he found her Chamois, and I told Barry he was my hero! The pictures and congratulations continued for Norissa on an awesome shot and a beautiful trophy. Now, I truly understood why the Chamois was such a sought after trophy, and we were off ready for our next hunt and looking forward to finding a Chamois of my own, but I would have to wait as we were off to hunt Tahr.
We had a long drive to the location of our next hunt. We were in the valley of Mt. Cook in a very remote location, which we will just call the Tahr Hut. We were visiting a sheep and cattle ranch that a very good friend of Barry’s, Croc Adams, family owned. Norissa and I had met Croc briefly on our previous trip to New Zealand and at SCI the year before. We were in for a treat! Croc was a character! We had fun the entire three days spent at the Tahr Hut. We met his dog Ruby, who we came to find out was a Tahr hunter herself, as well as our cook Lora Young, who was a U.S. traveler working in New Zealand for some of the outfitters. The first evening hunt was upon us, and Croc took us out to try and spot some Tahr. Because of the favored ground of the Tahr, they were very hard to spot. Croc gave us some pointers, and with his 20-year-old Swarovski’s, he could spot them better than I could ever imagine. We passed by some other hunters looking for stag in this free range area and said our hellos as we were glassing the hillside for Tahr. Fortunately, for us, Croc spotted a nice Bull Tahr halfway down the mountain grazing in the slate rock. The Tahr was about 1,110 yards away so we drove to the bottom of a creek bed to hide the trucks and get a closer look. From there, I ranged the Tahr with my Swarovski El Range Binos and found he was still over 700 yards away. There weren’t many trees between us and the Tahr, but Barry was confident that we could get close enough before dark. I followed my guide as closely as I could with Norissa and Kappie in tow. It’s a lot different when you film a hunt, as you tend to have several people as well as camera equipment. It definitely makes it harder to stalk an animal.
Croc and Lora stayed at the vehicles, and we took a radio so if he moved and we couldn’t see him, Croc could help direct us. We moved as stealthily we could move from tree to tree until we were finally at the end of the trees and only had an open area of grass. I asked Barry what we were going to do, as we were still over 500 yards away. Barry was worried about the rapidly descending sunlight and said we had to move as quickly as possible. Just as we proceeded into the open grassy area, the hunters that we had greeted several hours earlier were leaving the ranch. The raucous they made on the dirt road was a deafening sound to any hunter stalking an animal with the vantage point of a hillside. I quickly looked at Barry and whispered, “What do we do??” He smiled slyly and said, “Pretend to be a sheep!” Norissa and I both chuckled, but we knew we had to listen very carefully, or I was going to lose the opportunity to take this Bull Tahr. We continued walking together when the Tahr would graze, and we would stop in sequence when he put his head up. He seemed spooked, but we made it to a nearby rock, which Barry ranged at 334 yards from the bottom of the hillside. Barry told me there was no way we were going to get any closer. I had never taken a shot that far on an animal, and I was unsure if I could make it. I thought back to the shots I had taken from the bench and where I held in order to make that far of a shot. I nodded that I was ready, and I confidently held my cross hairs at the top of the mane. I fired, and the Tahr ran into the brush! Oh no, I didn’t make the shot was all I thought. Barry confirmed with Croc that he heard it and the shot was good, but I was still unsure. Croc and Lora ran to the bottom of the hillside with Ruby the Tahr dog, and we proceeded to scale the mountainside together.
Out of breath and nearly to where I shot the Tahr, I heard a reassuring yell from Croc that Ruby had found the Tahr down 40 yards in the brush! I yelled and jumped in excitement! I had taken my first Tahr with a difficult shot that I didn’t know I could do. The following morning we went out again, and Norissa was in the hot seat! She had seen all of the excitement from our evening hunt and was ready for her turn at taking a Bull Tahr. Right away, Norissa spotted two Bull Tahr in an open area, unusually low for the Tahr to be found. Barry took his time and studied the animals, while Norissa got set up to take a shot. Barry shook his head and told Norissa that the animals were young Tahr and not the mature trophy that she was looking for on this trip. We reluctantly proceeded up the mountainside to see if we could find a more mature bull. The fog rolled in just as we spotted a large group of Tahr, and they disappeared. We hiked for several hours trying to find more Bull Tahr, and we reluctantly retired for lunch and a quick rest before the late afternoon hunt. The weather was changing and getting colder and the fog was rolling in, Barry said it was time to get back out there and see if we could find Norissa a Tahr.
The late afternoon hunt started out with spotting some Tahr on a hillside. They saw us, so Barry decided to drive outside of their view and get out and hike the hillside again. Norissa and I both couldn’t believe the terrain we were about to scale. The wet grass and steep hillside made for a difficult hunt. I was following Norissa with the camera and both of us slipped at least half a dozen times. After what felt like an eternity, we finally reached the top of the nearby ridge to find the two Bull Tahrs grazing between two rocks. Norissa tried to get set up, but the sticks were uneven as she was shooting up hill at a 45-degree angle, and she was sliding down the hillside. It also started to rain, which made the conditions difficult to see. Barry, with his calming voice, started setting her up again, and she fired! Unsure of the first shot, she set up again as both Tahr ran down the hillside out of our view. The adrenaline of the hunt was kicking in, and we were all frantically looking for the Tahr. They stopped for what seemed like only a few seconds and Norissa set up on the shooting sticks again and fired! It was a hit! Off we ran to see if we could find the Tahr! Four ridges over in a gully, we found her Tahr down in the brush! Croc and Lora came to the top with Ruby leading the way to congratulate Norissa on a great shot. We were both really fortunate to experience a Hunt of a lifetime. We packed up and took a three hour drive back to Wanaka, and after a day of rest, Barry said it was time to look for my Chamois.
The weather continued to get worse, and we started off the morning hike West of Wanaka shivering with cold. We hiked for nearly an hour, seeing many animals, but not the elusive Chamois that we were after. After close encounters with huge stags at 100 yards (that never happens when you are hunting them!), we stopped to catch our breath. Barry had just pointed out a nearby hillside that the Chamois would tend to be found in. I peeked over the ridge and glassed for several minutes. All of a sudden, a light-colored Chamois appeared in my Swarovksi’s. I had spotted several Chamois and couldn’t contain my excitement!! Barry assessed the area and told us to hold as still as possible while he tried to get a better look at the area. There was no way we could get in front of them to get closer without taking a chance they would see us, so Barry decided that we would have to go the long way around, which meant more hiking.
After an hour, we stopped for lunch and checked around the ridge to see that the Chamois were still in the same spot. We made a plan to get to the top of the mountain where Barry was certain I would only have about a 100 yard shot. It was precarious, and we took a chance of them spotting us, but it was the only option we had at this point. We reached the top of the mountain after another hour of hiking, and crept to get a closer look. What we didn’t realize is that the Chamois had moved to the other side of the hill. Just as we feared, they had spotted us and ran fast away from us. I tried to set up, but started bouncing down the hillside with my gun following Barry who was trying to set up my sticks, but he was sliding down the hillside as well. As they ran out of the distance, I tried to fire a shot at a Chamois that had paused for a brief second to look back at us. I missed and put my head down in disappointment.
All of a sudden Norissa made a noise from the top of the hill. She had spotted two Chamois that had stopped on the other hillside while the others continued running. The tan Chamois walked back to where I took the previous shot stood there quartered on the side perched up on a Rock. It was a small target. Barry ranged it at 322 yards and asked if I wanted to take the shot. By this time, I had steadied myself and decided I would try again. Worried about the strong wind, I held slightly right on the animal. I pressed the trigger and watched the Chamois go down in my scope! Success!! I nearly tumbled off the hillside jumping with excitement, and Barry caught me, as astonished as I was that I had made the shot! The main part of our hunt was over, but Barry did take me to a friend’s ranch where I was able to take three Arapara Rams and a Ferral Billy Goat. Norissa and I reluctantly left Doddsy’s. We made it to Queenstown where we did a tandem Bungee Jump that was exciting and a huge adrenaline rush. To watch all of the fun, you will have to follow Universal Huntress in 2015 on the Sportsman’s Channel. -Jen Adams