Skip to main content

A Trek for Tahr in New Zealand

A Trek for Tahr in New Zealand

“You’re three meters high!” exclaimed Stacey Thorburn, my Kiwi guide, as shards flew from a rock sitting above the bull tahr.

“What the &$%#’s a meter?”

Any sense of metric conversion was thrown completely out the window in my frustration. I threw the bolt back and loaded another round into the chamber.

The bull hadn’t spooked, but he climbed a few feet before turning broadside to stare in our direction. I took a deep breath. The tahr’s dark wooly coat filled my scope. A gentle squeeze, and again the rock exploded directly above him.


The King of the Mountain

The jig was up. We watched as the bull followed his spooked harem over the mountain, never to be seen again.


We were situated against a rock face, high above the cloud line. My elbows dug into a sharp boulder I had used as a shooting rest, and we burrowed our boots into the loose shale to keep from rolling down the mountainside. Our adventure had started at the base of the mountain, in the grey predawn hours. As the sun peeked above the horizon, the black round figures of a group of tahr appeared in our binos, moving slowly along the mountains above us.

Tahr, even-toed ungulates known for their thick woolly coats, impressive manes, and curved horns, thrive in rocky alpine areas. They roam the highest peaks and dwell on the rugged bluffs of New Zealand’s Southern Alps, overseeing the terrain far below them with keen eyes. For a chance at a bull tahr, hunters must undertake a journey that tests their mental and physical capabilities.

And this is where I found myself, standing on a mountain in New Zealand, mentally and physically discouraged. After climbing close to 4,000 vertical feet before lunch, I wobbled on weary legs. The base of the mountain was no longer visible—we had breached a thick layer of white clouds that had hidden blue skies as far as the eye could see. The sun now blazed against the back of our necks. I stared dumbfounded at where the bull had stood. What had happened?

Solving Problems

After multiple missed shots at a lone rock 100 yards away, we determined the trek up the mountain had gotten the best of my riflescope.


“We’ll hike back down and get another rifle,” Stacey suggested.

Defeat crept into my mind. Hours of effort had been in vain. Hiking down and back up in one day would be physically impossible.

And that’s when I noticed it.


Kali Parmley and guide hiking mountain

The top turret of my scope no longer sat in the zeroed position. While I crawled over loose scree and fractured buttes, the turret had accidentally been turned. In my haste to take the bull, I had failed to double-check my equipment.

As I turned the dial counter clockwise, the locking mechanism clicked back to zero. My confidence returned, and I shouldered my pack and started the trek for a tahr again.

Mountain Trophy

We found ourselves pinned against a rock wall with little to no handholds as we slowly inched our way around. Each step was treacherous, and I was sweating, both from exertion and fear.

As I reached for a hold, a dark figure caught my eye as he appeared at the mountain peak a thousand feet above us. His massive body was silhouetted against the blue sky, and he stared down the mountain, as if challenging us to climb to him.

He had our full attention as we labored past the rock wall, discussing a plan of attack. Instead of heading straight for him, we would hike our way deep into a shadowed crevice and hope to close the distance without being noticed.

Moving quickly, we made our way around a rock face, only to be stopped by the sight of several bulls grazing on snowy tussocks on an adjacent mountainside. No more than 300 yards from us, their shaggy manes glowed in the afternoon sun. We had stumbled into a bachelor group of tahr.

Miraculously, they hadn’t noticed us. Using the mountain to our advantage, we hopped between large boulders to make our way closer to a tahr that stood apart from the group. A tall rock formation, just 200 yards below the bull, was our final opportunity for concealment.

My heart was racing as I wrapped the rifle’s sling around my elbow and balanced the forend on a boulder. My shot placement had to be perfect to quickly bring down this bull. Stacey had warned me to prepare for a quick follow-up as adrenaline enables tahr to run long distances even after they’ve been shot through the vitals.

Kali Parmley with New Zealand tahr

Keeping the magnification down in anticipation of him running after the shot, I found the bull in my scope. Slowly exhaling, I squeezed the trigger.

THWACK!

The sound of bullet hitting hide reverberated across the mountain. The bull absorbed its full impact, and I watched through my scope as it rolled a few hundred feet down the mountainside before coming to rest.

Now adrenaline masked my exhaustion as I climbed to the tahr. Its striking mane and massive curved horns were even more impressive up close. But the bull was more than just a notched tag. I had climbed close to 6,000 feet in one day and had overcome adversity to take my first tahr. And now I had a mountain to climb down with this king strapped to my pack.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Hunting Coues Deer South of the Border

Hunting Coues Deer South of the Border

Former Delta Force Operator Kyle Lamb hikes the rugged desert mountains of northern Sonora in pursuit of the diminutive Coues species of whitetail.

Is That a Grizzly Bear?

Is That a Grizzly Bear?

Kevin Steele and Jason Morton are above the Arctic Circle pursuing grizzly bears in Alaska and put a stalk on what they believe is a good one.

.500 S&W vs. the King of the Beasts

.500 S&W vs. the King of the Beasts

Smith & Wesson's Tony Miele and host Kevin Steele track an African lion across the Kalahari for the ultimate handgun showdown with the King of the Beasts.

Fare Game: Stuffed Elk Backstrap Recipe

Fare Game: Stuffed Elk Backstrap Recipe

Take your venison loin to a whole new level with this delicious reverse-seared stuffed elk backstrap. Smoking the backstrap on a Camp Chef Woodwind pellet grill first, then finishing it on a blazing-hot skillet or flattop, creates a perfectly cooked, medium-rare steak with a crispy, seared exterior. The filling of diced mushrooms and creamy Boursin cheese adds a whole new level of amazing flavors to an otherwise classic smoked venison loin.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

We're deciphering new deer data for rut success.Daylight Deer Movement During the Rut Whitetail

Daylight Deer Movement During the Rut

Jeff Johnston

We're deciphering new deer data for rut success.

Chances are good that you're not getting the best out of your trail cams.3 Ways You're Using Trail Cameras Wrong Optics

3 Ways You're Using Trail Cameras Wrong

Tony J. Peterson

Chances are good that you're not getting the best out of your trail cams.

Is lever action dead? Not by a long shot.The Return of Lever Action Rifles Guns

The Return of Lever Action Rifles

Craig Boddington - May 26, 2020

Is lever action dead? Not by a long shot.

If you're spending time in the outdoors where you might encounter bears, carry one of these guns.Which Firearm Is Best for Bear Defense? Survival

Which Firearm Is Best for Bear Defense?

Larry Case - July 11, 2018

If you're spending time in the outdoors where you might encounter bears, carry one of these...

See More Trending Articles

More Worldwide Big Game

Bad things can happen when mistakes are made during a hunting trip. Follow these tips to stay safe when pursuing dangerous game!Dealing with Dangerous Game Worldwide Big Game

Dealing with Dangerous Game

Craig Boddington

Bad things can happen when mistakes are made during a hunting trip. Follow these tips to stay...

The dream is still possible!Hunt the African Big 5 Worldwide Big Game

Hunt the African Big 5

Craig Boddington

The dream is still possible!

Three hunters traverse the treacherous backcountry.Chasing a Chamois Triple in New Zealand Worldwide Big Game

Chasing a Chamois Triple in New Zealand

David Draper

Three hunters traverse the treacherous backcountry.

Africa has changed since the time of Roosevelt, but it is still a place of adventure.
 Through theThe Golden Age of Safari in Africa Worldwide Big Game

The Golden Age of Safari in Africa

Craig Boddington - August 27, 2018

Africa has changed since the time of Roosevelt, but it is still a place of adventure. Through...

See More Worldwide Big Game

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save.

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Petersen's Hunting subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now