Dude weekend

The ingredients for a dude weekend seem pretty simple–blood, blokes, and beer, with maybe a fire and a few sand flies thrown in.

The weekend was originally planned as a “stag do” (i.e. bachelor party) or Mark, and there were great expectations of rafting and helicoptering to remote hunting spots.  But Mark’s work kept promising to send him to America or a few weeks around the beginning of October, then changing their mind, then changing again….and the ground was too unstable for a helicopter reservation.

Sooooo, the super-duper stag do was postponed (I’m told it was NOT substituted), and the consolation weekend was three days fishing in the canals at Twizel.  Because, after all that, Mark is still with us in NZ.

The canals are an impressive series of water channels from dams at the ends of the great glacier lakes on the eastern side of the Alps to hydro power plants.  NZ gets 50-60% of their electricity from hydro schemes.   Well, now if you've got vast quantities of fast flowing pristine cold water, what else is that good for?  Enterprising farmers started salmon farms.  Now where is the best salmon fishing in the country?  Right next to the salmon nets, which occasionally break.

The canals are an impressive series of water channels from dams at the ends of the great glacier lakes on the eastern side of the Alps to hydro power plants. NZ gets 50-60% of their electricity from hydro schemes.
Well, now if you’ve got vast quantities of fast flowing pristine cold water, what else is that good for? Enterprising farmers started salmon farms. Now where is the best salmon fishing in the country? Right next to the salmon nets, which occasionally break.

Sometimes the tackle is thrown so close to the salmon farm that it gets snagged in the fence.  In this case a wonderfully sympathetic worker unsnagged the hook and released the lure right where Mark wanted it.

Sometimes the tackle is thrown so close to the salmon farm that it gets snagged in the fence. In this case a wonderfully sympathetic worker unsnagged the hook and released the lure right where Mark wanted it.

Fish on!

Fish on!

"Whew, that's it's real weight, mate.  I ain't touching the net!"  The men admire a 20 lb fish, a trout in this case.  The rainbow trout have decided that right under the salmon nets is pretty good pickings, so it was mostly trout that they caught this weekend.  Massive fat trout.

“Whew, that’s it’s real weight, mate. I ain’t touching the net!” The men admire a 20 lb fish, a trout in this case. The rainbow trout have decided that right under the salmon nets is pretty good pickings, so it was mostly trout that they caught this weekend. Massive fat trout, probably the couch potatoes of the trout world.

Here's a man hugging a fish.  Rosman.

Here’s a man hugging a fish. Rosman.

Here's another man hugging a fish.  Jeremiah.

Here’s another man hugging a fish. Jeremiah.

Yet another man hugging a fish, but this one wants to get away.  Mark.

Yet another man hugging a fish, but this one wants to get away. Mark.

Fourth and final Man Holding Fish shot.  This one is a brown trout from a high country lake that Ben got fly fishing.

Fourth and final Man Holding Fish shot. This one is a brown trout from a high country lake that Ben got fly fishing.

To round off the weekend, here's a quintessential Kiwi scene.  Cattle stopping traffic on the state highway.

To round off the weekend, here’s a quintessential Kiwi scene. Cattle stopping traffic on the state highway.  What better way to get from here to there than to use the road?

Milo was suitably impressed.  Naomi was unsure.

Milo was suitably impressed. Naomi was unsure.

 

Death row

“That was the hardest hunt I’ve ever been on,” Jeremiah exclaimed, as he hobbled in Sunday evening after his 3 day Easter weekend hunt.  (see April 5th’s post on this hunt…some of the wording may sound familiar)

He says that after nearly every hunt these days.  For him, the memory of the exertion seems to fade over time while the reward doesn’t diminish, making hunt comparisons tricky.  He worked his tail off for this one though, I’ll give him that.

The long weekend hunt has been on the calendar since before I can remember.  It’s the “Roar,” you see, and the Males–deer and men alike–go just a teenie bit batty.  For entirely different reasons, of course.  The red stags actually roar to claim their turf and their harem.  The men roar too–with some guttural barks through a bit of vacuum cleaner hose–to rile up the stags.  It’s the time of the year when the stags make their presence well known while at the same time they’re completely distracted with a higher purpose–sex.  And they happen to be sporting antlers as well.  Win-win for the humans.

The carefully chosen valley did have the hoped-for mammoth stag, and Jeremiah’s experience, skill, and sweat earned him his trophy.  His original plan was to carry out meat, head and enough of the attached skin to make a furry mount, but the massive load proved too heavy, even for this intrepid hunter, and the skin was eventually left behind. I escaped another hairy head on the wall by the skin of my teeth (bad pun, I know).

Nevertheless, that head still came back to haunt us.  A “European skull mount” doesn’t require the hide be carried out of the back country with the head, plus it costs ten times less at the taxidermist than a full mount, so skull mount it was to be.

Once it arrived home, the head sat in the yard for a few days.  Fat green flies inhabited the nose hole and became the fascination of the neighbourhood kids.  It was starting to stew in its own juice by the time Jeremiah had shopped around for the most reasonable taxidermist.

“I’m going to bring it down to the guy in Leeston,” Jeremiah announced.  “But he’s only open until 5:00.  I’ll have to leave work early, or take an extra long lunch break….it’s really busy at work this week.”  Long pause.  Sideways glance to assess how the story is affecting me.

“Are you hoping that I’ll bring it down to Leeston for you?”  I’m not feeling particularly charitable.  Despite their assurances that they understand the challenge of staying home with little people, most moms at some point feel that the husband’s mental image of her day at home features bonbons and coffee shops, with maybe a trip to the hair dresser thrown in for diversion.  Leeston is 30 minutes south of Christchurch, a podunk town in the middle of nowhere, and the head is smelly.  Plus, if I go on a non-work day after Naomi’s morning activity, then she’ll nap in the car, and I’ll have squandered my quiet home nap time.  I’m in the mood to bargain, maybe, but not to give.

“I might be able to do that errand for you IF you make dinner AND clean it up one night.”  Soft protest noises from Jeremiah.  I think for a moment.  “Dinner, AND Dessert, AND dishes.”  I drive home the deal.  He can do it on a weekend.

The next day the errand was done, and two weeks later Jeremiah informed me that it was ready for pick-up.  “Oh, but you haven’t made your dinner for the first drop-off yet,” I remind him.

“That price included drop off and pick up!” Jeremiah objected.

“It did not!  That was the one-way fare!  If I pick up your head now you’ll never make dinner!”  Of course that isn’t true, he is a man of his word and in the end he spent half a day making a fantastic fancy hare stew.  But at the time I felt a bit of hyperbole wouldn’t go amiss in making my point.  Eventually I went and did it, stopping off at a friend’s house on the way back to make it worth while.

“Wow,” my friend said, gazing at the massive antlers and gaping eye sockets that took up nearly the whole of the car trunk.  “It sure is big.”  The skull was white, like a ghost stag, and the nose cavity was clean now, devoid of both flies and flesh.  Jeremiah was tickled pink, and went around holding it up in front of my artwork on the walls, cocking his head and imagining the best place to display his trophy.

“Where can I put it?” He knows better than to displace my décor without asking.

I scanned the motley collection of home-made art on our walls.  No gaps there.  “How about the garage?” I suggest, hopefully.  He rolled his eyes.  Ploy number 1, wasted.  “I don’t know right now, let me think about it,” I say.  Ploy number two was to “think about it” for a long time.

The head sat in the corner of the dining room for a couple weeks while Jeremiah ordered special expensive mounting plates and we mulled over the location options.  One of his mates has a set of four skulls—tahr, chamois, stag and ram—set in a diamond pattern in the loft.  It’s the only time I’ve seen a skull mount that I liked, because it looked more like a natural history display at a museum than a pirates’ lair.  We decided that the tahr and chamois already in residence should be placed together with the stag, consolidating the death scene to one wall, but still had trouble finding a mutually agreeable wall.

“What about in the front hall way?” Jeremiah suggested.

“No, my picture of kowhai blossoms is there, and I don’t want it to be the first thing welcoming visitors to the house.”  I imagined the startled “Oh, my!” of any potential friend-to-be as I opened the door.

“What about here?” he asked, holding the skull in front of the map of NZ that I had made out of paua shells.

“No, we already have the tahr in the kitchen.  I don’t want it to be the room of death,” I said.  Plus I like my map there.  I considered where I would see the skull the least.  “What about the bedroom?”  Not the most romantic of bedroom adornments, but at least most of the time when I’m in there the light is out.

“Alright” Jeremiah agreed, unenthusiastically.

The next Saturday afternoon the bedroom mirror was removed, the studs were located, and negotiations started regarding the exact position of the threesome.  Then I started to feel guilty.  Guilt: that bane of womanhood–I wish I could vaccinate myself against it.  Hunting is Jeremiah’s pride and joy, the crowning accomplishment of his manhood in self-sufficiency, cunning, and strength, I think to myself.  I probably should let him have a wall in the general living space on which to display his prowess.  Plus if the head is in the bedroom, he’ll have to walk his mates past my dirty undies in the hamper in order to show it off.

I walked into the living room.  “Well….what about if I move my flower photographs to over the fireplace, and you put it here, over the couch?”  At least it’s not the first thing you see entering the room—you have to turn your head a bit.

Jeremiah started tapping for studs, discovered that there wasn’t one centred on the couch, and enlisted my opinion again.  The antlers were so tall that the skull couldn’t go above the couch anyway, or we’d hit our head on the bony nose hole.

I surveyed the wall gloomily.  The symmetrical arrangement of skulls wasn’t going to happen.  I regretted letting them out of the bedroom, but I couldn’t take it back now.  “Oh, I don’t know!  I’m going rollerblading, you can decide where to put them!”  I abandoned ship.

I returned to death row.  Where once had been color and light–a network of flower photos from an old calendar set in a grid of wooden blinds rescued from the neighbor’s bin–now we had a macabre parade of bleached skulls on bare wall.  Sigh.  I obviously didn’t play my cards right on that one.

I started to scheme—what could I do to soften the effect?  Could I paste eyelashes on the socket holes?  Could I tie bows on the horns?  Both things would be offensive to the hunter.  Could I add something around them that made them look as if they belonged?  That was it!  I had been ruminating over collection of shells lately, wondering how to display them—this was just the spot!  New Zealand shells, arranged in a pattern around New Zealand animals.  It might just work!

From the left: Tahr, Chamois, Red Stag.

From the left: Tahr, Chamois, Red Stag.  

His mate says there’s still space for a ram and other accouterments over towards the right.  To be continued….

How to earn a trophy

“That was the hardest hunt I’ve ever been on,” Jeremiah exclaimed, as he hobbled in Sunday evening after his 3 day Easter weekend hunt.

He says that after nearly every hunt these days, mind you.  For him, the memory of the exertion seems to fade over time, while the reward doesn’t diminish, making hunt comparisons tricky.  He worked his tail off for this one though, I’ll give him that.

The long weekend hunt has been on the calendar since before I can remember.  It’s the “Roar,” you see, and the Males–deer and men alike–go just a teenie bit batty.  For entirely different reasons, of course.  The red stags actually roar to claim their turf and their harem.  The men roar too–with some guttural barks through a bit of vacuum cleaner hose–to rile up the stags.  It’s the time of the year when the stags make their presence well known while at the same time they’re completely distracted with a higher purpose–sex.  And they happen to be sporting antlers as well.

Jeremiah headed out to his place (that will remain unnamed), after much studying of the river gauge charts. It had been rainy a couple days before and the rivers were running high, but the forecast was decent and the first river crossing was the biggest one--if he felt ok about that one, he'd not get into any more trouble later on. Turns out the crossing was a nerve-wracking "balls high," but passable. You look at these hills and you wonder what the deer are eating, but there's apparently a lot of green grass in the valleys where the streams run.

Jeremiah headed out to his place (that will remain unnamed), after much studying of the river gauge charts. It had been rainy a couple days before and the rivers were running high, but the forecast was decent and the first river crossing was the biggest one–if he felt ok about that one, he’d not get into any more trouble later on.
Turns out the crossing was nerve-wracking, “balls high,” but passable.

This was the Valley of Choice because he had found big cast antlers there on previous hunts, and had scored a hunting permit (lottery system) for that area for the four-day weekend.

This was the Valley of Choice because he had found big cast antlers there on previous hunts, and had scored a hunting permit (lottery system) for that area for the four-day weekend.

Jeremiah drove out Saturday morning, walked in 6-7 kilometers, and set up camp. This was the Valley of Choice because he had found big cast antlers there on previous hunts, and had scored a hunting permit (lottery system) for that area for the four-day weekend. A roaring stag had been tantalizingly close on the walk in, but inaccessible on the wrong side of some cliffs. Take two Saturday afternoon was up this valley, and sure enough the roar was there. You look at these hills and you wonder what the deer are eating, but there's apparently a lot of green grass in the valleys where the streams run.

He drove out Friday morning, walked in 6-7 kilometers, and set up camp. A roaring stag had been tantalizingly close on the walk in, but inaccessible on the wrong side of some cliffs.
Take two Saturday afternoon was up this valley, and sure enough Mr. Roar was there.
You look at these hills and you wonder what the deer are eating, but there’s apparently a lot of green grass in the valleys where the streams run.

What is the stag doing crossing these scree fields?? Leaving nice foot prints, keeping track of his ladies, waiting for them to be ripe, in this case. This stag had six fine gals, but they were lucky--the hunter wasn't after just meat for the table. If you squint really hard and imagine, you can see the brown spot laying down near the bushes at the bottom of the scree slope. Jeremiah made his way carefully up and around the ridge down-wind of the fellow, then crawled, commando style, down through the brush for half an hour, bringing him into shooting range.

What is the stag doing crossing these scree fields?? Leaving nice foot prints, keeping track of his ladies, waiting for them to be ripe, in this case. This stag had six fine gals with him, but they were lucky–the hunter wasn’t after just meat for the table. If you squint really hard and imagine, you can see the brown spot laying down near the bushes at the bottom of the scree slope. Jeremiah made his way carefully up and around the ridge down-wind of the fellow, then crawled, commando style, down through the brush for half an hour, bringing him into shooting range.

He's big, isn't he? The stag, I mean. The back steaks were as big as a steer, and despite the massive antlers and testosterone-laden state, the meat was good. Jeremiah really needed some buddies to help him pack it all out.

He’s big, isn’t he? The stag, I mean.
The back steaks were as big as those of a steer, and despite the massive antlers and testosterone-laden state, the meat was good. Jeremiah really needed some buddies to help him pack it all out.

But since he couldn't convince anyone else to hunt this weekend with him, he packed what he could out by himself. His original plan was to carry out meat, head and enough of the attached skin to make a furry mount. The massive load proved too heavy, even for this intrepid hunter, and the skin was eventually left behind. I escaped another hairy head on the wall by the skin of my teeth, it seems.

But since he couldn’t convince anyone else to hunt this weekend with him, he packed what he could out by himself.
His original plan was to carry out meat, head and enough of the attached skin to make a furry mount. The massive load proved too heavy, even for this intrepid hunter, and the skin was eventually left behind. I escaped another hairy head on the wall by the skin of my teeth, it seems.

There was a saddle to navigate over on the way back to camp, and the load was so heavy that he took it in sequential stages: Pick up the head. Walk 100 meters. Drop it on the ground. Track back to the pack full of meat. Lay on the pack to strap it on. Roll onto hands and knees. Take a deep breath. Heave upwards to standing position. Count footsteps until reaching the head. Drop meat and have a rest. Repeat.

There was a saddle to navigate over on the way back to camp, and the load was so heavy that he took it in sequential stages: Pick up head. Walk 100 meters. Drop it on ground. Track back to pack full of meat. Lay on pack to strap it on.  Roll onto hands and knees. Take deep breath. Heave upwards to standing position. Count footsteps until reaching the head. Drop meat and have a rest. Repeat.  He had half a smile left for the photo, and enough energy to humor his wife with a selfie.

The poor blighter is holding the weapon that killed him. We have two active children and besides the NZ gun rules don't allow for open gun mounts in the house, so this won't be the permanent fate of the antlers.

The poor blighter is holding the weapon that killed him. We have two active children and besides the NZ gun rules don’t allow for open gun mounts in the house, so this won’t be the permanent fate of the antlers.

No odd carnivore rituals here for the dinner after a successful hunt--just quick practicalities for a tired hunter.

No odd carnivore rituals here for the dinner after a successful hunt–just quick practicalities for a tired hunter.  The river was lower on the way out, and a dinner of fish and chips the out-of-the-bush reward the next day.

 

Fishing Fiends

The long-awaited Kaikoura weekend arrived, and for once the calendar and the weather and sea all cooperated for the spear fishermen.  It was warm and still, humid even, and the sea swell was mild.  We shared a house with Jeremiah's hunting buddies + partners, some of whom are proudly posing for their mug shots with their sea catch.

The long-awaited Kaikoura weekend arrived, and for once the calendar and the weather and sea all cooperated for the spear fishermen. It was warm and still, humid even, and the sea swell was mild. We shared a house with Jeremiah’s hunting buddies + partners, some of whom are proudly posing for mug shots with their sea catch.  Yes, that’s an octopus.  Irmana, the Spanish girl on the left, knows how to cook them.  I keep warning Jeremiah NOT to get an octopus.  I have this weird superstition about them–they’re clever, and I think they should be left alone.  

I got up early one morning to go on a run, expecting to be the only one awake, but Stella and her Daddy were on the prowl for a morning snack too.  At least the sunrise was spectacular  from the house deck, looking out over the sea. I'm no longer the only mommy with children in the group, which is nice.  It means Jeremiah's not the only husband with daddy duties, which is also nice.

I got up early one morning to go on a run, expecting to be the only one awake, but Stella and her Daddy were on the prowl for a morning snack too. At least the sunrise was spectacular from the house deck, looking out over the sea. I’m no longer the only mommy with children in the group, which is nice. It means Jeremiah’s not the only husband with daddy duties, which is also nice.

Kaikoura is old Maori food gathering grounds.  "Kai" means "food" and "koura" means "crayfish," or what we'd call lobster.  The peninsula sticks out into the ocean right near a big deep ocean trench, so the upwelling of cold water makes for rich fishing.  Exciting...for those excited by such things.  The Kaikoura coastal range of mountains makes a nice back drop.

Kaikoura is old Maori food gathering grounds. “Kai” means “food” and “koura” means “crayfish,” or what we’d call lobster. The peninsula sticks out into the ocean right near a big deep ocean trench, so the upwelling of cold water makes for rich fishing. Exciting…for those excited by such things. The Kaikoura coastal range of mountains makes a nice back drop.

"These sausages are the ones we had made from that pig."  "These kebabs are from that wild goat we got on that amazing hunting trip."  "These are venison russels (Australian for hamburgers) from last November."  It's a hunter's banquet.  "I buy my meat from the grocery store," says the Canadian, completely comfortable in his non-hunting shoes amidst the manly swagger.  Thankfully, there was a nice spread of salads as well.

“These sausages are the ones we had made from that pig.” “These kebabs are from that wild goat we got on that amazing hunting trip.” “These are venison russels (Australian for hamburgers) from last November.” It’s a hunter’s banquet. “I buy my meat from the grocery store,” says the Canadian, completely comfortable in his non-hunting shoes amidst the manly swagger. Thankfully, there was a nice spread of salads as well.

Tired out after an early start and a beachy day....he hits the sack pretty hard.

Tired out after an early start and a beachy day….he hits the sack pretty hard.  Stella thought it was cool to buddy up to the big boy, even if he was asleep.

"Look at my boobies, Mom!"  Paua are kind of like big one-sided snails, and they can grip onto neoprene!

“Look at my boobies, Mom!” Paua are kind of like big one-sided snails, and they can grip onto neoprene!

Greenbone, also called Butterfish, are plentiful in the kelp beds.  Jeremiah had good success filling our freezer with them.  They're delicious, and their bones really are green.

Greenbone, also called Butterfish, are plentiful in the kelp beds. Jeremiah had good success filling our freezer with them. They’re delicious, and their bones really are green.

This crayfish was the king of his catch.  It takes a lot of practice to be able to dive down 8 meters deep to where the crayfish live in their caves and grab one by hand before it backs in out of reach.  He sure savored his big crayfish meal the next night.

This crayfish was the king of his catch. It takes a lot of practice to be able to dive down 8 meters deep to where the crayfish live in their caves and grab one by hand before it backs in out of reach. He sure savored his big crayfish meal the next night.

Bringing home the bacon

"Be home by 6." The text came on Sunday, a day earlier than expected. The weather hadn't been bad, so the hunt must have been successful. Wildly so. Why else would they abandon the hills early? Still, when Jeremiah said they had two deer, five goats and a PIG, I thought he must be pulling my leg. They'd only been out one night. Turns out they were in dead earnest, and I guess that's why Jeremiah works so hard to get a permit from DOC to hunt the Molesworth Station near Hanmer Springs. Milo wanted to know why they hadn't stopped on the way home and caught some fish....nothing like keeping the expectations high. (To the uninitiated, those hanging bags contain meat, still bone-in, but removed from the main part of the animal.)

“Be home by 6.” The text came on Sunday, a day earlier than expected. The weather hadn’t been bad, so the hunt must have been successful. Wildly so. Why else would they abandon the hills early?
Still, when Jeremiah said they had two deer, five goats and a PIG, I thought he must be pulling my leg. They’d only been out one night.  And they hadn’t been hunting for pigs.
Turns out they were in dead earnest, and I guess that’s why Jeremiah works so hard to get a permit from DOC to hunt the Molesworth Station near Hanmer Springs–it must be crawling with animals.  Or, as Jeremiah would say, it’s all hunter skill.  
Milo wanted to know why they hadn’t stopped on the way home and caught some fish….nothing like keeping the expectations high.
(To the uninitiated, those hanging bags contain meat, some still bone-in, but removed from the main part of the animal.)

Here's the requisite "scene of slaughter" photo.  The hills look so barren, it's amazing that they support so many animals.

Here’s the requisite “scene of slaughter” photo. The hills look so barren, it’s amazing that they support so many animals.  Apparently the goats it breeds aren’t too bright though.  “Hey, what’s wrong with Bill?” they must wonder, as their companions drop around them.

I guess "normal" is what a kid gets used to. Naomi is feeling the pig's ear. Milo had been looking up its nose a moment before. Mark, Jeremiah's hunting buddy, felt really awkward carrying the skinned carcass though the courtyard of his apartment complex....it wasn't a "normal" sight for those kids.

I guess “normal” is what a kid gets used to. Naomi is feeling the pig’s ear. Milo had been looking up its nose a moment before. Mark, Jeremiah’s hunting buddy, felt really awkward carrying the skinned carcass though the courtyard of his apartment complex….it wasn’t a “normal” sight for those kids.

This is what we get up to when Jeremiah's out hunting--serious chocolate consumption at She Chocolate in Governor's Bay.

This is what we get up to when Jeremiah’s out hunting–serious chocolate consumption at She Chocolate in Governor’s Bay.  “Are your kids allowed to play with chocolate?” the waitress asked.  “Uh, sure,” we naively replied.  She brought out 5 little folded packets of liquid chocolate and 5 sheets of bakers paper which caught the breeze delightfully, flinging chocolate onto noses and wrists.  “They can draw with the chocolate, and it’ll harden,” she said, demonstrating a neat daisy pattern.  Turns out it hardens excruciatingly slowly on a warm sunny day, and that it makes magnificent finger and face paint too.

People often ask, “Why do you do it?”

Molly informed me that I have not been hunting in a long time and I should go out for a weekend… Well, not sure if she was trying to get rid of me or be nice, but I took the bait and planned an overnight trip to the mountains.  A few of my hunting mates just got back from a week-long trip, so they were taking the weekend to rest at home. That meant a solo trip in the mountains was on in store, i.e. no help from someone to carry the uber heavy load back to the car.  And no splitting the booty….

Big Game Hunting New Zealand is starting a TV series and put together this promo.  They put the Ethos of the Hunter so eloquently that I borrowed snippets for this post, (including the title) rendered in red.

“People often ask, “Why do you do it?”

a muddy mess of a 4wd, it was frozone on the way in. only had it ballancing on 3 tires once.

The access to my target mountain range can be shortened by 2 miles with a 4wd.  As the sign says, it’s only 4wd’s beyond this point.  I need to get mud tires or should have put my snow chains on, because it was a muddy mess of a drive.  It was frozen on the way in, but on the way out the top layer had thawed in the sun.  I only had it balancing on 3 tires once.

“It’s about experiencing the wild mountains”

the majority of the 4wd route in was easy farm track.

The majority of the 4wd route was easy farm track.  The highest peak in the foreground is where I was headed.

some access points to the mountains have old 4wd tracks that are now closed to vehicles but a Mt. Bike makes short work of the distance.

Some access points to the mountains have old 4wd tracks that are now closed to vehicles, but a mountain bike makes short work of the distance.

an old muster's hut from the days that these hills were run with sheep. the land has been turned over to DOC and for the publics use.

The hut where I stayed is an old muster’s hut from the days that these hills were run with sheep. The land has been turned over to DOC for the public’s use, and a stream babbles along near the front door.  The classic old hut smells of musty wood and dead fire great those lodging within.

“It’s about the sights, sounds and smells”

a view from the hut to the mt. I was headed up to find some Alpine creatures.

Here is a view from the hut to the mountain where I was headed to find some alpine creatures.  I drew a line up the ridge that I was climbing.  The ridge to the right held some chamois last year,  www.giveitaburl.com/2014/06/03/frosty-boots-in-chamois-territory/

 “It’s a feeling; a feeling only hunters know”

Climbing up the mountain, I ran into this big Bull Tahr. Wish I had my bow with me, I snuck in so close, could have stuck him with an arrow.

Success.  Climbing up the mountain, I ran into this big bull tahr.  Wish I had my bow with me.  I snuck in so close, I could have stuck him with an arrow.

Tahr is the only animal other than a Lion with a long mane.

Tahr is the only rug I’ll ever have with a mane.  Later in winter males’ manes grow twice as long as this.

“It’s about the wild things that people who don’t hunt never knew existed.”

close up for those wondering what a tahr looks like.

A close up, for those wondering what a tahr looks like.

a selfie with the phone as the weather starts to pack itself.

A selfie with the phone as the weather becomes “a bit average,” as they say.

 “It’s about surviving mother nature and being able to withstand everything she throws at you.”

as soon as I had shot the Tahr,the weather packed in, the wind pick up to a gale, with a snow squal.

As soon as I had shot the tahr, the weather packed in, the wind pick up to a gale and spit a snow squall.

butchering an animal in the alpine with no trees takes a bit of planning and finness to keep the meat clean.  all of the bags of meat made it in my pack for the monstrously heavy pack back to the hut.  crawled back into the hut, only about an hour after dark.

Butchering an animal in the alpine with no trees takes a bit of planning and finesse to keep the meat clean.  Try cutting up a huge floppy slippery mass on the side of a precipice and you’ll understand.  All of the bags of meat made it onto my shoulders for the monstrously heavy pack back to the hut.  I staggered back to the hut about an hour after dark.  I made a curious spectacle for the six other scrogs (= scroggin eaters = gorp eaters = trampers = backpackers) sharing the hut.

“It’s about pushing through the pain down on your aching shoulders, while you’re packing out 30 kg of meat you have just harvested.”

all packed the next day. rested and ready for the big haul out.

All packed the next day.   Rested and ready for the big haul out.

 “It’s about going back to your roots, becoming one with your surroundings in order to survive”

The new Kuiu backpackhas been great! the bag extends away from the frameto get the heavy weight as close to your back as possible.

The new Kuiu backpack has been great!  The bag extends away from the frame to get the heavy weight as close to your back as possible.  Molly thinks I should start making home videos of the Kuiu backpack in use (advertising) to see if the manufacturer will give me a gift certificate….

“It’s the wild things that make us hunters.  It’s the wild things that make us who we are.”

The ride out was a bit grueling, hard yakka!

The ride out was a bit grueling.  Hard yakka!

“The answer can not be found purely in words.”

We typically motivate Milo with an M&M ever time we pass a trailmarker, I was desperatly wanting an M&M everytime I passed a trail marker.

We typically motivate Milo with an M&M every time we pass a trail marker.  Milo thought it was pretty funny that THIS time, it was ME desperately wanting M&M energy. 

How does your meat get to your table?

 

Eat Local; sea catch

Us guys wanted to get in the water with our spear guns today, and took a blind stab at this beach.  Molly didn't think they'd even be able to get in the water--the waves are usually fierce and crashing.  They got lucky--we had never seen the ocean here this calm before, but I guess the magic condition was an easterly, or northeasterly wind.  The beach remains unnamed so this popular walking spot doesn't become too popular with the fishermen.

Us guys wanted to get in the water with our spear guns today, and took a blind stab at this beach. Molly didn’t think they’d even be able to get in the water–the waves are usually fierce and crashing. They got lucky–we had never seen the ocean here this calm before, but I guess the magic condition was an easterly, or northeasterly wind. The beach remains unnamed so this popular walking spot doesn’t become too popular with the fishermen.

not going hungry here, a decent catch of Butterfish, Blue Moki and a limit of Paua.

Not going hungry here.  A decent catch of Butterfish, Blue Moki and a limit of Paua.

I didnt catch this crayfish(like a lobster with no large claws), Rosman who went with me grabbed them. I am still learning how to find them. this guy was a baheamoth, weighing in at 6.5lbs.

I didn’t catch these crayfish(like a lobster with no large claws). Rosman, my fishing mate, grabbed them. I am still learning how to find them. The one on the left is a normal size you’d buy at the store– the guy on the right was a behemoth, weighing in at 6.5lbs.

Balance Bike on the St James cycleway

Road trip, Milo Style!  Last weekend we drove up to the St James area, Lewis Pass in the Southern Alps.  Milo's happy to do the road trip if he can watch Sesame Street on the Ipod whilst sucking his chewie.

Road trip, Milo Style! Last weekend we drove up to the St James area, Lewis Pass in the Southern Alps. Milo’s happy to do the road trip if he can watch Sesame Street on the Ipod whilst sucking his chewie.  We’re a little chagrined that our 3 year old still wants his “dummie,” as they call it here, but parental embarrassment is a small price to pay for a quiet happy car ride.

I don't like our 4-wheel-drive Isuzu Bighorn.  It's smelly, uncomfortable, and starts unreliably.  But I'll have to admit that our sleek little VW Golf wouldn't have hacked it over the road we took to get to the remote St James Cycleway along the Waiau River.

I don’t like our 4-wheel-drive Isuzu Bighorn. The diesel is smelly, its uncomfortable, and starts unreliably. But I’ll have to admit that our sleek little VW Golf wouldn’t have hacked it over the road we took to get to the remote St James Cycleway along the Waiau River.

 

This is a good section of the road, near the pass.

This is a particularly well-formed section of the road, near the pass.

Jeremiah's wearing a silly grin as he surveys the scenery available to the manly owners and operators of powerful vehicles like his own.  Even Milo likes the green car, because "it's really tough."

The St. Jame Conservation area is 193,000 acres of public conservation area for our enjoyment, just one of the many public areas for outdoor adventures. it was a working cattle/sheep station until the Gov’t purchased it in 2008 to have as conservation land. now  it is open to trampers-a 5 day 40 mile loop and a separate 2 day-33mile mt bike track.   We only touched a small portion of the cycleway, many more valleys to explore here!

 

 

Here "she" is strutting her stuff while fording a little stream.  Though why boats and cars and trucks are feminine is beyond my powers to logic.  Someone once suggested that it's because they're expensive and high maintenance.  I wasn't quite bold enough to give him the dope slap he deserved.

Here “she” is strutting her stuff while fording a little stream. Though why boats and cars and trucks are feminine is beyond my power to logic. Someone once suggested that it’s because they’re expensive and high maintenance. I wasn’t quite bold enough to give him the dope slap he deserved.  Jeremiah’s wearing a silly grin as he surveys the scenery available to the manly owners and operators of 4wd vehicles like his own. Even Milo like the green car, because “its really tough”

No motorized vehicles beyond this point, so our friend Carrie and I put our babies on our backs while they guys put the remaining gear into their packs and hopped on their bikes for the trip into Lake Guyon.

No motorized vehicles beyond this point, so our friend Carrie and I put our babies on our backs while they guys put the remaining gear into their packs and hopped on their bikes for the trip into Lake Guyon.

Here we are, four adults and three kids.  The guys dreamed up this adventure.  7 kilometers down the mountain bike track sits a small mountain lake full of trout.  On the edge of the lake sits a 4 bunk DOC hut.  Surrounding hills are full of deer, wild pigs, and sand flies.  What more could a man ask for?

Here we are, four adults and three kids. The guys planned this gentle family trip, a flat track milo could walk/ride. 7 kilometers down the mountain bike track sits a small mountain lake full of trout. On the edge of the lake sits a 4 bunk DOC hut. Surrounding hills are full of deer, wild pigs, and sand flies. What more could a man want?

Milo did great on his little balance bike, and he was proud to be riding like the dads.  A couple renditions of "The Three Billy Goats Gruff," some strategically metered jelly beans, and this rugged little balance bike got Milo to the hut entirely on his own leg power.

Milo did great on his little balance bike, and he was proud to be riding like the dads. A couple renditions of “The Three Billy Goats Gruff,” some strategically metered jelly beans, and this rugged little balance bike got Milo to the hut entirely on his own leg power. We were extremely surprised he made it all by himself, Jeremiah brought the trailer only because he was expecting to haul Milo in a majority of the way. Next time the trailer will be staying home. Time to put a set of panniers on Milo’s bike and have him carry his own gear!

Here's my little bundle!

Here’s my little bundle!

"Look at me, I'm a big strong boy!"  The turn-off to the side valley with the hut meant we were almost there.

“Look at me, I’m a big strong boy!” The turn-off to the side valley with the hut meant we were almost there.

Bravo Jeremiah and Milo, you've made it to the hut!

Bravo Jeremiah and Milo, you’ve made it to the hut!

For some strange reason, the hut's one and only small window didn't face the lake.  But it had a working wood stove and 4 functional bunks.  We also set up our two tents for extra sleeping quarters.

For some strange reason, the hut’s one and only small window doesn’t face the lake. But it had a working wood stove and 4 functional bunks. We also set up our two tents for extra sleeping quarters.

Milo spent much of his first day plunking rocks into the lake, endless amusement for kids throughout the ages.

Milo spent much of his first day plunking rocks into the lake, endless amusement for kids throughout the ages.

A wood stove and a one-year-old isn't a particularly good combination, but we managed to keep all children burn-free and the hut warm.

A wood stove and a one-year-old isn’t a particularly good combination, but we managed to keep all children burn-free and the hut warm.

Milo was a hand-full in the small space, but here Ben is playing a game of Uno to help keep the peace.

Milo was a hand-full in the small space, but here Ben is playing a game of Uno to help keep the peace.  Stella’s first night camping was “a bit average,” to use a Kiwi term.  That actually doesn’t mean middle-of-the-road at all.  She awoke crying in the tent every 2o minutes for the entire night, and by morning poor Carrie was shattered.  Somehow Ben convinced her to try it again for a second night (in the hut this time), and thankfully things went much better.

Ah, those elusive fish!  This river had a bridge so Milo did his best to scare the fish upstream toward daddy by tossing in rocks, but to no avail.

Ah, those elusive fish! This river had a bridge so Milo did his best to scare the fish upstream toward daddy by tossing rocks over the railing, but to no avail.

Lake Guyon is full of trout, but they were smart little buggers.  They'd swim up to the lure, take one look, and reject it as a fake.

Lake Guyon is full of trout, but they were educated little buggers. They’d swim up to the lure, take one look, and reject it as a fake.

Ben is addicted to fly fishing.  The evening we walked in he just had to stop at the lower end of the lake, 10 minutes before the hut, to try some casts as the wind was perfect to land the flies out on the water.  The small detail that he had his family's food and gear in his bag and that it was nearly supper time escaped his notice.

Ben is addicted to fly fishing. The evening we walked in he just had to stop at the lower end of the lake, 10 minutes before the hut, to try some casts as the wind was perfect to land the flies out on the water. The small detail that he had his family’s food and gear in his bag and that it was nearly supper time escaped his notice.

Sweet success at last.  Apparently the trick with fly fishing is to figure out what the fish are eating at that present time in that body of water, then pull out of your extensive set of flies the fake that looks most life-like.  Ben tried the dragonfly larvae lure and that was the ticket.  Milo was concerned that the gutted fish was still moving, apparently not dead yet.  I would have been too.

Sweet success at last. Apparently the trick with fly fishing is to figure out what the fish are eating at that present time in that body of water, then pull out of your extensive set of flies the fake that looks most life-like. Ben tried the dragonfly larvae lure and that was the ticket. Milo was concerned that the gutted fish was still moving, apparently not dead yet. I would have been too.

Passage into The Hood (manhood) has begun, and I'm watching with concern as my son is indoctrinated into the hunting and fishing guild.

Passage into The Hood (manhood) has begun, and I’m watching with concern as my son is indoctrinated into the hunting and fishing guild.  Will Naomi be next?

Our second night at the lake it rained a gentle soaking rain all night.  Naomi and I shared this tent, enjoying the soothing patter and the improbably dry spot underneath the thin tent fly.

Our second night at the lake it rained a gentle soaking rain all night. Naomi and I shared this tent, enjoying the soothing patter and the improbably dry spot underneath the paper-thin tent fly.

Here we are, cozy in our tiny little efficiency tent.  Though I'm glad we didn't have to spend a full rainy day cooped up in there.

Here we are, cozy in our tiny little efficiency tent. Still, I’m glad we didn’t have to spend a full rainy day cooped up in there.  The first day I took Naomi and walked up the hill next to the lake–quiet and solitude, it was lovely.  That night the rain started and continued through until morning, but thankfully stopped during breakfast for our walk out.

The extra puddles were a bonus for Milo on the way out--he moved from puddle to jelly-bean stop to the next puddle all the way to the end of the track.

The extra puddles were a bonus for Milo on the way out–he moved from puddle to jelly-bean stop to the next puddle all the way to the end of the track.

Whee, fording a stream on the balance bike!

Whee, fording a stream on the balance bike!

A pit stop to scan the valley slopes for wildlife turned up two deer.  After many stern warnings of how tardiness back at the cars would annoy the womenfolk, the guys set out to chase those poor creatures.

A pit stop to scan the valley slopes for wildlife turned up two deer. After many stern warnings of how tardiness back at the cars would annoy the womenfolk, the guys set out to chase those poor creatures.

They succeeded, and luckily caught up to us at the cars just 10 minutes after we arrived.  Look at those grins.  "Me strong hunter!"  "Ug, me Man!"  Right.  As much as I don't understand the rise they get from a successful hunt, I know it's a real phenomenon, and I'm thankful for the meat in the freezer.

They succeeded, and luckily caught up to us at the cars just 10 minutes after we arrived. Look at those grins. “Me strong hunter!” “Ug, me Man!” Right. As much as I don’t understand the rise they get from a successful hunt, I know it’s a real phenomenon, and I’m thankful for the meat in the freezer.

 

Frosty boots in Chamois territory

First off, why is Molly posting about Jeremiah’s hunting trip?  Jeremiah’s busy cutting up chamois (mountain goat) so he contracted with a ghost writer for this one.  The price?  A ginger beer, and the stipulation that I get to write it my own way.

Early Saturday morning a group of 3 guys headed out to the Canterbury side of the southern Alps, parked their trucks, and mountain biked in to a flat river valley to set up camp.

cold frosty tent

The weekend forecast was amazing for the beginning of winter–clear skies and hardly a breeze.  The only catch was that it was COLD.  Well, cold for NZ, dipping to perhaps 20 degrees F (-7 C).  Cold enough to make impressive frost on the tent and freeze the guys’ damp boots solid.  In the morning they peered out at the frigid valley willing the sun’s rays to reach the tent just a bit faster.  Nothing doing.  That little star up on the mountain shoulder is where Jeremiah spotted his chamois.

    Riding a mountain bike with a full pack is no mean feat--or so they tell me.  Only meat fiends would try it (like the pun Mom?).  I guess biking beats walking the same distance, both in time and effort.  It took an hour to bike in, where walking would have taken 2 and a half, precious time saved for stalking animals.

Riding a mountain bike with a full pack is no mean feat–or so they tell me. Only meat fiends would try it (like the pun Mom?). I guess biking beats walking the same distance, both in time and effort. It took an hour to bike in, where walking would have taken 2 and a half, precious time saved for stalking animals.

Look at those mountains--Naked!  The animals still take quite a bit of effort to find.  Jeremiah marked out his route in red going nearly to the top on this photo. If only I had video taped the version of the stalking story that Jeremiah told Milo.... "I climbed, and climbed, and climbed some more....then I sat down and got out my binoculars (hands to eyes in feigned

Look at those mountains–Naked! The animals still take quite a bit of effort to find. Jeremiah marked out his route in red going nearly to the top on this photo.
If only I had video taped the version of the stalking story that Jeremiah told Milo…. “We got up EARLY in the morning, in the dark, and drove the green car to the mountains.  Then we got on our bikes and pedaled, pedaled, pedaled (arms working in circles to indicate biking) to where we set up our tent.  Then I climbed, and climbed, and climbed some more (panting with effort in the story retelling).  I sat down and got out my binoculars (hands to eyes indicating binoculars), and looked and looked.  I saw a chamois WAY over in the rocky scree…I sneaked, sneaked, sneaked (whispering, shoulders hunched).”  I’ll spare you the shooting and retrieving parts, but Milo listened spellbound to the whole recounting of the tale.

In case you didn't know what a dead chamois looks like.... I'm inclined to feel sorry for it. Goats are smart, mischievous, endearing creatures.  Jeremiah says it was an even match, because the goat has 9x better eyesight than humans, and he had to climb into its territory to find it.  He didn't waste anything, at least--all the meat cam home as well as the head and the hide.

In case you didn’t know what a dead chamois looks like…. I’m inclined to feel sorry for it. Goats are smart, mischievous, endearing creatures. Jeremiah says it was an even match, because the goat has 9x better eyesight than humans, and he had to climb into its territory to find it. He didn’t waste anything, at least–all the meat came home as well as the head and the hide.

Doesn't the world look different under the blazing sun?

Doesn’t the world look different under the blazing sun?  For some unknown reason, hunting men do not share tents.  Three guys, three tents.  Maybe they snore?  Probably they stink?  Perhaps they’re sketched out seeing each others’ undies?

At least they can share a camp fire!  It's amazing how much comfort that warm blaze brings on a cold dark evening.

At least they can share a camp fire! It’s amazing how much comfort that warm blaze brings on a cold dark evening after a long day hunting.

Monday morning first thing Milo wanted to go out in the garage and inspect Daddy's chamois.  Or at least the head with the skin still attached, laid out on the floor looking all deflated.   "Where are it's insides?" Milo queried.   Jeremiah pointed to the bags of meat hanging from the rafters.  "It has dead eyes" he pronounced.   "Yup Milo," I said.  That's very observant for a three-year-old.   "Why?"   Well now Milo, do you want the physical answer or the philosophical answer?  Jeremiah provided the start of the physical answer.  "So we can eat it."   "It can't talk any more," Milo continued, but without any real trace of remorse in his tone.   "Where are it's feet?"   "I left them up on the mountain," Jeremiah explained.   "Why don't you want the head on your wall?" he asked, looking at me.  I guess he's listening when I tell other people that as long as Jeremiah doesn't come home with any head mounts, I'm happy.   "It can go in my room," Milo offered.  We hesitated, and he must have taken that to mean Jeremiah might not want to share it.  His next offer:  "You can have some, and I can have some."   I guess for kids whatever they grow up with as 'normal' is their normal in lots of different dimensions, including wall decor.

Monday morning first thing Milo wanted to go out in the garage and inspect Daddy’s chamois. Or at least the head with the skin still attached, laid out on the floor looking all deflated.
“Where are it’s insides?” Milo queried.
Jeremiah pointed to the bags of meat hanging from the rafters.
“It has dead eyes” he pronounced.
“Yup Milo,” I said. That’s very observant for a three-year-old, I think.
“Why?”
Well now Milo, do you want the physical answer or the philosophical answer? Jeremiah provided the start of the philosophical answer. “So we can eat it.”
“It can’t talk any more,” Milo continued, but without any real trace of remorse in his tone.  “Where are it’s feet?”
“I left them up on the mountain,” Jeremiah explained.
“Why you don’t want head on your wall?” he asked, looking at me.  I guess he’s listening when I tell other people that as long as Jeremiah doesn’t come home with any head mounts, I’m happy.
“It can go in my room,” Milo offered. We hesitated, and he must have taken that to mean Jeremiah might not want to share it. His next offer: “You can have some, and I can have some.”
I guess for kids whatever they grow up with as ‘normal’ is their normal in lots of different dimensions, including wall decor.

 

Southern Alps Alpine Hunting

The New Zealand Alpine region is a very luring lace that provides vast magnificent views of untouched wilderness.

The New Zealand Alpine region is alluring–it boasts vast magnificent views of untouched wilderness.

Mark and I went out on an overnight mission to find some Tahr high up in the Southern Alps. The plan was to climb up high on top of the ridges and use our binoculars to look down into all of the vast basins below in hopes there were some Tahr hanging out below.

My buddy Mark and I went out on an overnight mission to find some Tahr high up in the Southern Alps.  Mark was just wanting to get out for the hike and hopes of running into a big bull trophy.  I, on the other hand, was on a meat gathering expedition, though I love getting out into the mountains purely for some exercise too.  The plan was to climb up high on top of the ridges and use our binoculars to look down into all of the vast basins below in hopes there were some Tahr hanging out down there.

Winter is not far away. perhaps the first snowfall of the season at this lower elevation of 1700m.

Winter is not far away.  This was perhaps the first snowfall of the season at this lower elevation of 1700m. The far ridge in the background was our aim.

The views are spectacular from heights like this! At these elevations (I am standing at 2000m) , it wasnt terribly long ago glaciers were here, ence the lack of topsoil and vegetation. The Alpine zone is a very unique environment, that does not hold a ton of life, just the various patches of tussock grass and many types of moss.  on days like this when there was zero wind and temperatures were near freezing, the air was very still you could here falcons soaring overhead looking for rabbits to prey on.

The views are spectacular from heights like this! At these elevations (I am standing at 2000m), it wasn’t terribly long ago glaciers covered the ground, hence the lack of topsoil and vegetation. The Alpine zone is a unique environment that does not hold a ton of life, just the various patches of tussock grass and many types of moss nibbled by rabbits, tahr and deer.  On days like this with zero wind and temperatures were near freezing, the air is so still you could here the NZ falcons soaring overhead looking for rabbits.

ccccc

We were sitting on top of the ridge enjoying the views, eating some lunch and thinking about taking a nap in the sun when I spotted some animals WAY down at the bottom of the mountain where we were perched, the opposite direction from where we came… I was watching that spot for about 30 min, and didn’t see them until one of them stood up and walked around eating some grass.  Mark and I contemplated going down there.  It was down a huge scree slope, about 500m vertically down and nearly 3/4 mile away, which meant we would need to come back up with heavy  packs full of meat if were able to stalk into range and get a couple tahr…  “Why not?  We are young and fit and have 8hrs of daylight left.” (Well, “young” is relative I guess, I am starting to feel old after carrying a heavy meat laden pack up and over mountains and I get sore hips)

So here we are after scrambling down the scree slope and sneaking in on the mob of Tahr.

So here we are after scrambling down the scree slope and sneaking in on the mob of tahr. In the end there were no bulls to be seen in the group, just nannies.  Now the real hard work begins! We deboned the meat and filled our meat bags with every bit of meat from the animals.  Mmmm Tahr burgers, Tahr Curry, Tahr stew!

Marks not so thrilled about the climb back up the scree slope, Definitely the hardest I have ever worked for some meat!

Marks not so thrilled about the climb back up the scree slope, Definitely the hardest I have ever worked for some meat!

climbing up loose scree is "soul destroying"  as Mark would say.  its 3 steps up and 2 steps back, worse than trying to climb loose sand.  we opted for the zig zag approach, hugging the cliffs where there was some stable rock to climb up on.

Climbing up loose scree is “soul destroying” as Mark would say. It’s 3 small steps up and 2 large steps back, worse than trying to climb loose sand. We opted for the zig zag approach, hugging the cliffs where there was some stable rock to climb up on.

phew, finally made it back up to the top, its all down hill from here.  The mountain Tarn was almost a turquoise color, very inviting for a swim, but extremely cold! our vehicle is somewhere down towards the bottom of the valley, still a long walk back down.

Phew, finally made it back up to the top, and it’s all down hill from here. The mountain tarn was almost a turquoise color, very inviting for a swim, but extremely cold!  Our vehicle is somewhere down towards the bottom of the valley, still a long walk back down.

another photo for those interested in animals and guns!

Another photo for those interested in dead animals and guns!