I don’t actually know how long it has been since I actually got out into the bush for a hunt.
I appreciate the irony of running a site that has hunting content on it, but I don’t get hunting – I am also well aware that I set up and shoot other peoples rifles more than I do than my own – but – have started taking my own out for a few shots before or after.
Regardless, I had actually planned to head off for a shooting course the weekend past, but that was cancelled, and while in conversation with someone, decided that we just needed to book in, and head out for a hunt, before work, family and life in general just got us to busy again and it was another year before I headed out! Timing-wise worked for him, so the dates were set and I found myself packed up and headed out last Sunday afternoon.
Instead of heading out into somewhere unknown, I suggested we head back to a spot I had been a couple of times before. In fact, it’s the place where I was first introduced to public land hunting. The Kaimanawa Forest.
I actually had to rethink a few things for this trip compared to the last as well. I had previously gone lightweight and had everything packed on my back. When I had enough for the day, I set up a bivy where I stopped. This time, as there was two of us, and the hunting partner hadn’t done much in the way of camping – we decided to have a base camp and hunt from there. That meant a daypack was in order!
Getting there, getting lost.
The trip down was uneventful but good. A stop for coffee, plenty of good yarns. I was happy to see there weren’t many cars parked down Clements Mill Road – none in the car park at the end when we got there.
While I have to have a little faith in the firearms safety of others, it’s still my preference to know that we are likely the only people in a very large area carrying around firearms and hunting. While we should never ‘let down our guard’ and assume we are the only people about, not being constantly on the lookout for the owners of a pile of trucks parked where you parked is good.
We parked up, grabbed the kit and tramped into the spot I figured we would camp. It was actually nice to see not much had changed out there. There is a new makeshift log bridge at one point, but on the whole, the bush goes on regardless of my lack of visits.
We set up camp – myself in the WarBonnet Blackbird – something I haven’t used in a while – but glad I did. Hammock camping is still a great option when you are surrounded by trees!
We decided on an evening hunt once set up. Took a rough bearing and wandered off into the forest. While there wasn’t much to be found on the first afternoon, it did result in us having to navigate back in the dark – off track – and prior to that point where you start to properly get your bearings and get your head ‘into the game’ in regards to the navigation part of things. While we didn’t really get into that much mischief, it was interesting to observe someone who hadn’t done much navigation, let alone night navigation, let along that hunting navigation where do tend to get a little ‘lost’ from time to time. Not panic – but they did mention to me they were happy to find the camp when we did.
Get your electronics sorted.
We both had GPS units on our wrists. Myself the Fenix 5X, him, a Suunto. Both got us to within 30 meters of the camp – thought mine in an odd way. This was the first time using the watch – and I hadn’t methodically gone through all the settings. It was trying to pull me onto the nearest public walking track! Setting it to a direct route corrected things though. I could see it could have lead to a bit of frustration if the user wasn’t aware of things. However, in my case, there was also a map and compass, and a basic understanding of both the area and how lost (or not) we actually were. Pushing through the heavy brush in the dark can be a bit disorienting though!
A feed of Radix back at camp and it was time for bed. Early morning was planned.
Always testing. I always seem to have something new to test, try and evaluate – and this trip was nothing unusual in that regard. I had a couple of new bits of kit – the Hunters Element Vertical Pack and the First Lite Obsidian Pants. Mini-reviews on both coming shortly – but – the new pants were certainly the highlight!
Other than that, everything worked as it should (one I sorted the settings on the watch).
Deer, right there!
We saw lots of sign, much of it fresh, heard them, and, at one point, while I was busy looking at my boots while heading down a technical decline, I heard my name behind me – looked around to see my hunting partner signalling to look back the other way. A deer had popped out right in front of us!
By the time this had registered – it had already scampered. No time to do much of anything really. So we sat for a while, then headed around in the same direction for a while, but it wasn’t seen again. That’s hunting I suppose!
Sore legs, good trip.
Other than the one sighting, it was a rather uneventful trip. Found a bivy hidden in the trees, the hunting partner found himself unexpectedly submerged to his thighs as he stepped off a tree trunk crossing a stream onto a floating platform of pumice that looked solid, but wasn’t (resulting in some decent bruising as well) and at the end, we packed up, tramped out and headed home.
It was a simple, basic, but refreshing (though my legs hurt) trip. I really should do more of them!