This month we ran a story and photo competition for those who got out in the Roar season. The Cactus team loved seeing the adventures many of you went on, thanks for sharing!
And a huge congrats to Mike Evans who won a Cactus voucher (it sounds like he is eyeing up some Cactus jackets and packs for his next adventure!).
Here is a snippet from Mike’s story...
Taking my daughter out for her first Roar trip, by Mike Evans
There had been a couple of missed opportunities in recent months however in late March the promise was reaffirmed - I would take my daughter deer hunting during the school holidays in the hope she could secure her first deer and, hopefully, her first stag.
Mikayla is 14 and is no stranger to hunting and shooting having been out with me regularly since turning 3. Her abilities have flourished in the last 18 months. Goat hunting, wallaby hunting and frequent rabbit shooting trips have honed her skills and I now stand watching her on the hills, immensely proud of her confidence and competence. Mikki enjoys the challenges that our recreation presents on each and every outing, be it the walk, the hunt or the shooting.
In late April we headed into Milford Sound. It was the first time Mikki had been there and she seemed to enjoy the stories and history lessons I told to fill in the long drive. The short helicopter ride to our hunting spot was a thrill of course as was that incredible silence that envelopes you once the noise of the helicopter dulls to just the sound of the trees.
We set up camp and in true tradition, enjoyed a brew before heading out for a hunt. Mikayla is not a tea drinker. Kids these days rarely seem to be. But to humor me she had a cup of tea and seemed to be happy enough with the bitterness - no milk, no sugar. It was probably a bit mean of me in retrospect. I note she's not had any since returning.
The first afternoon we hunted up a creek bed with no water. This is of course quite strange for Fiordland. About 2 kilometers up we found the point where the stream of perfectly clear flowing water ended its tumble down the rounded rocks in the creek to eventually make the rest of its seaward journey underground… at least until the next rainfall. There was plenty of evidence of how this lame excuse for a creek becomes a raging torrent, several meters deep in places judging by the huge debris trail up on the higher ground. Huge trees were laid flat in tormented, twisted bundles. I was very pleased to not witness their demise but it must have been impressive all the same.
Not far from the last pool in the river we arrived at the bottom of a very long slip. I cautiously peered around a huge rock and was pleased to see a hind feeding nearby. I positioned Mikki between the rock and a tree trunk so she could see. She looked back at me and held up 3 fingers. Sure enough, 3 hinds were now visible. I used the rangefinder to confirm what I already knew... the deer were just 45 metres away and with the slightest of zephyr in our favour, they had no idea they were being watched. I took several photos and a couple of videos for prosperity. We discussed our options in a whisper. Mikayla made a judgement call - wise beyond even my maturity! We already had enough meat in the freezer and where there are Girls, there might be a Boy lurking. The hinds would be left to have babies in Spring. We backed off, quietly retreating back down the creek in the hope of seeing a stag instead.
With the last of the sun’s rays glowing through the beech we hunted back towards camp. Eventually we broke out onto a clearing where a sharp bark had us searching the shadows. I saw an animal move from right to left about 80m ahead but it was almost dark now and I couldn't quite make out what it was. By the movement I guessed it was a hind but moments after it disappeared into the bush to our left, it seemed to reappear again. Whether or not it was the same animal I couldn't say but I was now very definitely looking at a stag. I raised my binoculars to try and check out the rack. In the dark it was difficult to tell but he was either a very good 8-pointer or an average 10-pointer. His body bulk looked too small to be anything better than that. I whispered to Mikayla... "Be quick... he's not going to stand there for long!" Mikki, meanwhile, had dropped herself onto a small mound and had organised herself into a perfect prone shooting position. Good girl!! I didn't want to move to her side as the stag was very aware of my presence but seemed unaware of hers so I raised my binos and waited for the “bang” and the flash from the muzzle that was certain to happen any second. It never came. Eternity passed. The stag bolted back to the safety of the bush to live another day.
In the subsequent debrief it seems there must have been two deer on the clearing, first a hind, then a stag. Mikki informs me she lined up on the hind and was just about to pull the trigger when it turned and fled. That hesitation was all it took to miss out on her first deer. She never saw the stag which was standing further to her right, in the darker area of the clearing. Meanwhile she was confused as to why I was encouraging her to shoot something that had already departed. Arrr yes, the joys of hunting.
The remainder of the trip was wet as only that part of the world can be, interspersed with sandflies and more rain. There were a few 'moans' from the local stag but we couldn't entice him back into our sights and no other animals were seen. One additional highlight before our departure was watching a single Blue Duck enjoying the rain. I really have a soft spot for those birds, they're bloody funny characters.
As a side note I took my son to this same location about 6 years ago and we shot an 11-pointer in the very same clearing we'd seen the stag on this trip. My recollection was he enjoyed the experience however, little was said about how he felt or what he did and didn’t enjoy. My daughter was polar opposite – everything was ‘amazing’- the shear walls of the Sound, the multiple waterfalls, the sun in the trees, the musky smell of the forest, the cold wet rain... everything was magical in the eyes of my teenage daughter. Nothing was left for granted, nothing was left unseen. Nothing was simply black and white, rather it was all hues of colour. Hundreds of photos were taken and I came away with a new appreciation for the bush myself. Taking my young lady hunting was pure joy and despite the cold, despite the hardships, despite the sandflies, despite my cups of tea morning and night, Mikayla can’t wait to get back into the hills and try to locate her first deer. Nor can I.