Hunting

An extremely adventurous Monday: Hunting mountain goats in New Zealand

This is the story of probably the most adventurous Monday in my lifetime. I was driving from the north to the south of New Zealand with my girlfriend during their summer and the Danish winter. I can easily say that New Zealand is one of the most amazing countries to travel with both breath-taking nature with panoramic scenic views as well as the pleasant and welcoming people.

“Now he stood perfectly, dominating the rock cliff and his herd. This was my chance – I pulled the trigger.”

Before we set off, I contacted a local outfitter called Chris, who had a strong historical record with other hunters. His previous clients only reported good things, recommending him for his respect of nature and views on hunting ethics, which I took great comfort in.

The day arrived. I was going on my first hunt in New Zealand, close to Lake Hawea and Wanaka in the stunning alps of the South Island. I was so excited that I could barely focus on anything else and even forgot my fear of heights when my girlfriend and I climbed a local mountain in strong winds a few days earlier!

After a lukewarm cup of coffee and a warm welcome by Chris’ family, we drove to the mountains in his 4×4 truck to check the scope on his rifle at a test shooting range of 100 meters. This was also a chance for him to check out my skills using it. I felt very comfortable shooting with his .270 Winchester rifle, but the optics of up to 9x zoom worried me a little, since I heard stories of long shots when hunting in New Zealand.

“My heart rate increased rapidly, going from average to uncontrollable and intense in seconds.”

As we headed up Chris told me stories of the mountain goat, which apparently is a quite tough, wild animal. After a while, Chris stopped the truck and we walked the landscapes, trying to spot animals through our binoculars. I carried the rifle on my back and was tense from the very start of the hunt. My expectations are always sky-high when I go hunting or fishing – and this was no exception.

There were no animals in sight for the first couple of hours – except for some packs of sheep and Chris’ sheep dog, Cook. The landscape was amazing and even though this part of New Zealand was not used in the filming of J.R.R. Tolkien’s universe, I had no trouble imagining men of Gondor riding the landscapes preparing for battle somewhere. Suddenly, Chris tapped my shoulder. He pointed towards the end of a valley and whispered: ‘There’.

At first, I couldn’t see anything through my binoculars and wondered if his were much better than mine. Then, out of nowhere, I saw a white coloured mountain goat moving on the steep cliff rock. Shortly afterwards, I spotted more animals in different colours ranging from white to black and grey to brown. In total, there must have been 15 or 16 animals, but they were more than 700 meters away.

“Then, unexpectedly and for no obvious reason, the goat moved so that his right side was wide open. Now he stood perfectly.”

My heart rate increased rapidly, going from average to uncontrollable and intense in seconds. Talking in a low voice we agreed to sneak on to the next mountain top, just a couple of hundred meters ahead. On arrival, the animals were still unaware of our presence so we moved to the next one. However, when we arrived at the third top, we couldn’t get any closer without risking alerting the mountain goats – but we were still 218 meters away! I was left with the feeling that this would not be easy. The wind especially was concerning – probably as strong as winds we would give names in Denmark.

We set up the rifle quickly and quietly using the tripod and looking through the rifle scope, I identified a large brown male goat. Chris gave me the green light to shoot this one when I felt ready. It was by far the largest and most spectacular animal in the group. I tried to calm my nerves as much as possible, which was not an easy task at this moment – especially since I had never faced such a difficult shot. I waited and waited but since the goat was looking away from us with its behind facing us, I did not feel comfortable pulling the trigger.

After what could have been 5-10 minutes, but felt like forever, the goat started moving away from us and I knew I would lose the opportunity if he went behind the bushes. Then, unexpectedly and for no obvious reason, the goat moved so that his right side was wide open. Now he stood perfectly, dominating the rock cliff and his herd. This was my chance – I pulled the trigger. I had a hard time believing what had just happened! Chris confirmed that the goat took a hit and went into the bush.

I could not see the brown goat anymore, which worried me a little, but I found comfort in the fact, that he was not part of the group of goats running uphill after the shot. We approached the spot with a loaded gun and found the goat lying in the bushes. The first shot had been perfect through the liver but billy goats can be very tough and one more shot was needed.

This was truly an extreme experience for me because even though I am always hopelessly optimistic when hunting, I never imagined that I would get a mountain goat of this size and beauty! After celebrating and sharing a few war stories under the sun, we skinned the animal and took the meat with us back to the truck. I got to keep the tenderloin, which my girlfriend and I turned into a delicious goulash at the campsite later.

For me, one of the biggest satisfactions in life is to hunt an animal and then enjoy the meat with people you care about – what a privilege! Now, back in Copenhagen, I am waiting for the skin and skull to be prepared and sent home, so I can enjoy and relive these memories once again.
‘Knæk og bræk’ to all hunters!

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