Southern Alps NZ – May 2008
By Jared Rehm
My father and I travelled down south recently to go Tahr hunting in the Southern Alps. We both carried .50cal flintlock Kentucky rifles built by my father, John. Our aim was to hunt the mighty Tahr and try to secure our first Bull Tahr with flintlocks. Previously, we had both taken nanny tahr with the flintlocks and learnt many valuable lessons regarding keeping flinters waterproof and functioning in the wet and wild west coast conditions. We considered that trip a success, but this time we were out to prove the point, that with careful hunting and thorough knowledge & familiarity with the firearms, flintlock blackpowder rifles are reliable and capable of taking the most majestic of all the Alpine hunting trophies in this country, the Bull Tahr.
We struck a clear spell in the weather just right, and enjoyed 4 nights out on the hill, sleeping in rock caves where possible, to keep out of the nasty frosts that clear winter weather brings. As with most places in south-westland, the going was tough, but with the prospects of animals on the tops, we had the inner drive that was required.
We climbed up the side of a large rock face for about an hour, and stopped for a rest. The rock up ahead became steep, wet and unclimbable, so we agreed to double back and try another route. As I lead the way, I looked down to see a Bull Tahr walking casually across the rock face about 250m below us. As we were well above it, it was completely unaware of our presence, as danger normally comes from below. I quickly dropped my pack and pulled the cows knee cover back from the lock, so that I could change the priming powder in the pan for some fresh stuff. That done, I headed off down the hill, with Dad close behind as a backup shot if it was needed. We stuck close to cover and used the contours of the land to our advantage. It didn’t take long to get within about 80m of the Bull, as he stood surveying his domain. This was a takeable shot, but I decided to sneak down a small thick gut, to a better vantage point which would get me to within 60m of the animal. I left Dad to watch from 80m, as it was a good spot to see all the action. He wished me luck, as I moved off.
I carefully looked over the rock, and there he was……broad-side at 60m and looking down hill. After picking a good spot, I slowly slid the rifle barrel over the rock and lay down behind it. I decided on my aiming point and pulled the big hammer back to full cock, and checked the set trigger. The Bull was a magnificent sight, and looked huge, even at 60m. As I lined the graceful Kentucky rifle up on my quarry, I couldn’t help but feel completely comfortable with the familiar rifle in my hands, and I knew it would shoot right where I pointed it. All I had to do was make a good shot. I lined up and let out a slow controlled breath and gently touched off the shot. It felt good, and the ignition was nice and quick. I lost my view of the target for a second, as the smoke cleared, but Dad said he saw the shock of the ball hitting the Bull Tahr, ripple across its hairy coat. It jumped off the rock it was standing on and bolted down hill about 20m and out of sight. It didn’t reappear. This was good, but always a worry, as you never know if the animal can be recovered. I stood up, and Dad arrived as I was reloading, trying not to get too excited just yet. We sat down and waited about 10mins, as that was all I could endure. Carefully, and quietly we climbed down to where it was last seen, and I found tracks which lead…..to a very hairy looking bush! Yaaaaaaaahooooooo!
The Tahr had collapsed into a ferny hollow, with only its back visible. It took both of us to drag it out, and once it was out in the open, the realisation of what I had achieved hit home to both Dad and I. We were stoked, to say the least. It couldn’t have worked out better, as Dad got to watch his son shoot a Bull Tahr with one of his Flintlock Muzzleloaders.
While skinning the Tahr, I recovered the 170gr .50cal lead ball just under the skin on the opposite side, slightly deformed. It had passed through the heart and not hit any bone. I suspect that the ball slightly deformed on impact with the heavy hair and skin as it entered, and efficiently used up all its energy within the animal. As there was no exit wound, there was no blood trail, but it was a quick clean kill on a large heavy animal. I was very impressed with the performance of 90gr of powder and a round ball.
As always, a broad-side shot allows the best chance of a clean kill shot.
Once again, this just goes to prove that with careful hunting, being prepared, and accurate shot placement, you can give yourself a challenge and do it the old way………who really needs high powered rifles with flash scopes that shoot great distances, when you can get up close and personal with a black powder rifle with iron sights!
Become a hunter, shoot a real rifle…………………..end of story.