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Tahr Hunting in New Zealand
About the New Zealand Tahr
The Himalayan Tahr, originally from areas around Tibet, were introduced into the Southern Alps of the South Island of New Zealand around 1904 to 1906. Initially considered a pest, the New Zealand government controlled Tahr herds with guns and aircraft. to the government. Over the past twenty years, the status of Tahr hunting has changed from an unwanted pest to a manageable, renewable and valuable resource for many domestic and overseas trophy hunters.
The tahr is a majestic animal found on the rocky hillsides with a long “lion-like” mane blowing in the wind. This is truly a magnificent sight. When pursued, the Tahr hunter will be in awe of their climbing skills in the steep New Zealand Alps they call home.
The Himalayan tahr is closely related to the free-ranging mountain goat. A Tahr has relatively short legs and a small head with large eyes and small pointed ears. Their hooves have a flexible, rubbery core that allows them to grip smooth rocks, while a hard, sharp edge can set into small footings. The Tahr inhabits steep rugged mountain landscapes ranging from 3000′ to 8000′ above sea level. Males are much larger and have different horn color and structure than females. The adult Himalayan Tahr can weigh 300 to 400 pounds and be 2½ to 3 feet tall. Sows (females) weigh only 45-55 pounds. This is one of the largest “pair” ratio differences among any mammal in the world. The Himalayan Tahr are herbivores, subsisting on tall alpine “tusock” grasses and shrubs. The Himalayan tahr can be found in herds of 2-25 animals and can live up to 14 years in the wild.
What makes a Tahr Trophy Bull?
A Bull Tahr has 8-9″ horn bases and a sharp rounded horn of 10 to 14 inches. A Tahr hunter will judge a good trophy male by his long side as well as his horns though the record book entry uses only a combination of the diameter of the base horn and the length of both horns. Most Tahr hunting guides will require horns over 11 inches in length. Tahr horns of 12.5 to 13.5 inches are considered an average over “trophy” and horns over 14″ are outstanding. There have been a few New Zealand Tahr taken with antlers over 15″ and these usually fall into the SCI Top 10 Record Category.
When should I plan my Tahr hunting trip?
Like wild boar hunting, Tahr hunting can be done annually. The ideal time to hunt Tahr is in New Zealand’s late autumn and winter. By hunting Tahr in winter, the Tahr will have their winter coats and manes. Tahr buck can grow 5-8″ in length from February to early June and become darker in color. Late May, June, July and August are ideal months to hunt Tahr and chamois. . The Tahr run runs from late May to July, usually associated with the first snow of the season. The rut is a great time for bowhunting. The Tahr can be hunted along with the “howling” or red deer rut in March and April, but the hunter will have to work harder to find a Tahr with a long mane at that time of year. The coats will also be lighter in color before winter sets in.
What is the best way to hunt the New Zealand Tahr?
Most of the Tahr hunting mountains are accessible by two trails or fire trails to the mountain tops. Hunters usually glass the mountainsides in the early morning and again in the late afternoon and then hunt the mountains and hail from the vehicle below. Tahr hunting terrain can range from 3′ tall grass to rolling hills of rock and clay. In most cases, the physical demand for this type of hunting is much less than that of hunting goats or mountain sheep. You should allow at least 2 days for a Tahr rifle hunt (in good weather) and 3-4 days with a bow for a good specimen. If you’re strictly chasing the record book trophy, you can easily double that time period.
What about hunting Tahr by helicopter?
Helicopter assisted Tahr hunting allows hunters to access the most remote mountain areas where there are excellent trophy animals. It also gives greater certainty of success if the hunter has a limited amount of time in New Zealand to hunt. Helicopter hunting can be an exciting alternative with spectacular flights and the chance to get an incredible trophy. It is important to note that the helicopter is only used as a means of transporting and retrieving animals. Hunters are not allowed to shoot, chase or collect animals from the air. Tahr hunters spot their trophy from the helicopter and are sent to an area where they can follow their spot and jump on foot. This type of hunt contains an element of caution as you will be stepping out of a moving aircraft onto an unknown mountain ledge.
What should I bring on a Tahr hunt?
Most Tahr hunting takes place in the higher elevations of the New Zealand Alps. Some of these mountains are covered in 2-3′ tall clumps of Tussock Grass and some are rocky outcrops of broken rock and clay. Starting in June, the same mountains may even have snow on them. Make sure you have good broken in boots. Since you may be hunting in the snow, you’ll want your boots to be insulated and waterproof. If you’re hunting on a mountainside with tufted grass, wear a good pair of gaiters. Gators will keep snow or morning dew from getting wet and chilling your hunting pants. Premium optics are essential. Buy the best “glass” you can afford. I recommend a binocular harness as it will come in handy when traversing shale and missing rocks. This will prevent your binoculars from bouncing or worse, hitting a rock. Most shots with the Tahr rifle will be in the 150 to 250 meter range. A good range finder will be useful to both rifle hunters and bow hunters. At 300 pounds plus, the Tahr is a good sized trophy animal. I would recommend a 7mm or larger expandable bullet and 164 grain or larger. A good caliber 3000 fps. 30 with an expanding 180 grain bullet is ideal for the Tahr. Your rifle should be equipped with a good quality scope in 3×9 or 2.5×10 magnification. I would also recommend a good backpack that can hold your rifle or bow. This will keep your hands free when moving around the mountain slopes. If you’re archery, a good archery guide can usually get you within 40-50 yards of your Tahr during the rut. Getting a Tahr trophy is a pretty good achievement with a bow. Allow yourself extra hunting days. Your biggest challenges in Tahr hunting are the nannies that give their warning whistle as you chase your Bull Tahr.
How should I mount my Tahr taxidermy?
I recommend that all Tahr hunters, especially first time Tahr hunters, really think about how you want to mount your Tahr bull. The shoulder mount is the most economical taxidermy mount, but it really doesn’t do justice to the long hair on Tahr’s mane. Here’s a tip for your first (or only) Tahr hunting trip.
Leave the guide cape for a complete body assembly. It will be 4 months before you get the cape back to the US and maybe a few more months before your taxidermist sends it off for tanning. This will give you some extra time to decide (and save) whether or not you want to do a shoulder mount or a full body mount. If your guide shuts it down for a field shoulder mount, you’re stuck with your choice. The full body Tahr bull mount is spectacular and will be a focal point for any hunter’s den or trophy room. You may also want to consider getting a Tahr Nanny. Some rigs will let you harvest a nanny for a few hundred dollars relative to getting a Tahr bull at their standard trophy fee. A tahr bull and nanny make a great pedestal mount.
Global Sporting Safaris, a hunting consultancy company, offers the best Tahr hunting opportunity in New Zealand. Whether you’re a bowhunter, muzzleloader, bowhunter or rifle hunter, we have the locations, guides and experience to put you on the Tahr trophy hunt of a lifetime.
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