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

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.

Camp Chef at SHOT Show: Elk Venison Slider Burgers Recipe

Camp Chef at SHOT Show: Elk Venison Slider Burgers Recipe

Have a freezer full of ground elk venison from your fall hunting trips? Never fear, the folks at Camp Chef have a great SHOT Show recipe that is lean and mean, easy to prepare, and a crowd-pleasing favorite!

Best Whitetail Shot Placement with a Rifle

Best Whitetail Shot Placement with a Rifle

Craig Boddington breaks down where hunters should aim on a whitetail that provides the best possible margin for error.

Top Ten Hunts

Top Ten Hunts

Here at Petersen's Hunting we have compiled the 10 best hunts caught on camera from the last 2 years of Petersen's Hunting TV. Enjoy!

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Crossbow technology, accuracy and power continue to advance with demand, and this year's crop is the most impressive yet; here's a look at the top five that caught our eye.Ranking the 5 Best Crossbows for 2020 Bowhunting

Ranking the 5 Best Crossbows for 2020

Chris Larsen - September 21, 2020

Crossbow technology, accuracy and power continue to advance with demand, and this year's crop...

Mossberg's accurate Patriot Predator is the most affordable way to harness the power of the 6.5 PRC.Mossberg Patriot Predator 6.5 PRC: Rifle Review Guns

Mossberg Patriot Predator 6.5 PRC: Rifle Review

Brad Fitzpatrick - June 26, 2020

Mossberg's accurate Patriot Predator is the most affordable way to harness the power of the...

These are our favorite new products of the year for the archery crowd.Best New Bowhunting Gear for 2020 Bowhunting

Best New Bowhunting Gear for 2020

Petersen's Hunting Editors - May 21, 2020

These are our favorite new products of the year for the archery crowd.

Here's how to toughen up the weakest link in your shooting system.How to Mount a Rifle Scope for Maximum Accuracy Optics

How to Mount a Rifle Scope for Maximum Accuracy

Joseph von Benedikt

Here's how to toughen up the weakest link in your shooting system.

See More Trending Articles

More Worldwide Big Game

Craig Boddington is after a mature Nile buffalo and he finds just what he's looking for rightUgandan Buffalo at Sunset Worldwide Big Game

Ugandan Buffalo at Sunset

PHTV Adventures - August 07, 2017

Craig Boddington is after a mature Nile buffalo and he finds just what he's looking for right

The moonlit banks of the Zambezi River is a long way from the neon of Nashville. There are noMan on the Moon: Namibia Cape Buffalo Hunt with Nick Hoffman Worldwide Big Game

Man on the Moon: Namibia Cape Buffalo Hunt with Nick Hoffman

Jeff Johnston - August 16, 2018

The moonlit banks of the Zambezi River is a long way from the neon of Nashville. There are no

The hunt for a dwarf forest buffalo takes an unexpected turn when the bongo of a lifetime appears.The Bongo of a Lifetime in the Congo Worldwide Big Game

The Bongo of a Lifetime in the Congo

Craig Boddington

The hunt for a dwarf forest buffalo takes an unexpected turn when the bongo of a lifetime...

Craig Boddington takes aim at a buffalo in the swamps of Mozambique.African Forest Buffalo Hunt Worldwide Big Game

African Forest Buffalo Hunt

PHTV Adventures - July 10, 2018

Craig Boddington takes aim at a buffalo in the swamps of Mozambique.

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

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Petersen's Hunting App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

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