The List: Hunting bull tahr on the South Island of New Zealand

Story and Photos by Buddy Boyet

Alright, I admit it. My wife calls me “Bubba”. I am your prototypical XXL deep Southern good ole boy. I stand 6’4” bare footed and weigh 250 pounds buck naked. My accent is as thick and slow as Tupelo honey poured from a mason jar in the dead of winter. So what in tarnation am I doing in tahr nation? The answer is simple, “The List.”

Buddy with his trophy bull tahr

Buddy with his trophy bull tahr

As a ten-year-old boy I began keeping a record of places I had a hankering to visit before the Good Lord called me home. The original “List” contained 10 destinations. By my 50th birthday, I had not checked off a single one! There was always an excuse. I was either too busy at work or could not justify the expense. Then a conversation with an old friend and mentor changed my mind-set forever. He had just lost his wife and was lamenting the fact that they had never taken their dream trip out west. “Buddy”, he said, “You can’t take it with you to the grave. I’ve never seen a hearse pulling a U-Haul.” He was right. I didn’t want my epitaph to read: “Here lies Bubba. He sure wishes he had.” From that day forward, whenever given the opportunity to cross an item off “The List”, I’ve taken it.

The invitation to travel to New Zealand came from a good friend in British Columbia. He said the seasons south of the equator are just the opposite of what they are in the northern hemisphere. Spring and summer down there are the equivalent to our fall and winter seasons here in North Florida and South Georgia. In fact we consider ourselves about as southern as it gets in our neck of the woods, but where I was headed would be “South of Southern”.

Normally, I would go by myself on a hunting trip, but it just didn’t seem right to traipse off to the South Island of New Zealand without inviting my wife, Pat. Some people think she should get an award for putting up with me for the last 44 years! This was the least I could do.

“We” agreed to spend a week driving around the countryside before beginning my hunt. I would highly recommend this kind of planning if you have the time. The country is simply drop-dead gorgeous! A postcard awaits you around every corner. We visited the cathedral at Christchurch, bought a blue pearl at Akaroa, hiked to a waterfall at Arthur’s Pass, shopped for antiques at Greymouth, visited the pancake rocks at Punakaiki, climbed the Frans Joseph Glacier, searched for jadestone along the beach at Hokitika and panned for gold in the Kawaru River. Hey, I haven’t stayed married this long without knowing what makes Momma happy and you know the old saying: “If Momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy”.

Pat-climbing-the-Frans-Joseph-glacierAfter a week of touring, Pat and I arrived at Cardrona Safaris, located just outside of Wanaka. We were met by the owners John and Anne Scurr. The lodge was such an inviting place that it only took a few minutes for us to feel right at home. Andrew, one of the two sons that would guide me, showed up a few minutes later and took me to the range to check out my rifle after a long bumpy journey.

The next morning we drove 2 ½ hours north to an area of the Southern Alps where Andrew felt confident we could get a crack at a good bull tahr. When we reached our destination I stood in awe of the snowcapped mountains that lined each side of the river valley we had been following.  “Please don’t tell me I have to climb up there,” I joked while pointing up at the rocky crags covered in white stuff. “Well, they are mountain goats,” Andrew chuckled; “but we’ll see if there are some good bulls hanging out in the lower elevations.” Now folks, I had walked several miles every day for months trying to prepare for this moment; however the sand dunes of Florida are no match for the mountains of New Zealand. Andrew sensed that I was struggling and without embarrassing me, slowed the pace down to a speed that I could manage. The courtesy was much appreciated.

After several hours and a few thousand feet in elevation, Andrew spotted a pig of a bull tahr at about three hundred yards away. The Remington 7mm Ultra-Mag was up for the task and I was able to close the deal without a lot of fanfare. What a stunning animal! After seeing the bull up close and admiring his long flowing mane, I decided the only way to do him justice was with a full body mount. He now honors a special area in my office.

As quickly as it began, my hunting adventure was over. I told Pat that if it were not for family back home they would have to run me out of the South Island. The peacefulness and sense of community remind me of “Small Town, USA” in the 1950’s. My mind wandered to “The List” as I mentally prepared myself to draw a line through New Zealand. I hesitated for a minute and then added Cardrona Safaris back to the inventory of places to hunt. Hey, my list, my rules. Who says I can only visit once?

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