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Tahr Hunting in New Zealand
About New Zealand Tahr
The Himalayan Tahr, originally from the areas around Tibet, were introduced to the Southern Alps of the South Island of New Zealand around 1904 to 1906. Initially considered a pest, the New Zealand government controlled the Tahr herds with government sharpshooters and aircraft. Over the last twenty years, the Tahr hunting status has changed from being unwanted pests to a manageable, renewable and valuable resource to many local and overseas trophy hunters.
The Tahr is a majestic animal found on hillside rocky outcroppings with their long “lion like” mane blowing in the wind. This is truly a majestic sight. When put to chase, the Tahr hunter will be in awe of their climbing abilities in the steep New Zealand Alpines they call home.
The Himalayan Tahr is close relative to the free range mountain goat. A Tahr has relatively short legs and 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 rim can lodge into small footholds. Tahr inhabits steep broken mountainous landscapes ranging from 3000′ to 8000′ above sea level. Males are much larger and have different coloration and horn structure than the females. Adult Himalayan Tahr can weigh from 300 to 400 pounds and stand 2½ to 3 feet tall. The nannies (females) only weigh 45-55 pounds. This is one of the largest “pair” ratio differences between any mammals in the world. Himalayan Tahr are herbivores, subsisting on tall alpine “tussock” grasses and shrubs. Himalayan Tahr can be found in herds from 2-25 animals and can live up to 14 years old in the wild.
What makes a Trophy Bull Tahr?
A Bull Tahr has horn bases of 8-9″ and a sharp round curled horn of 10 to 14 inches. A Tahr Hunter will judge a good trophy male by its long mane as well as its horns although record book scoring only uses a combination of the base horn diameter and length of both horns. Most Tahr hunting guides will look for horns over 11 inches in length. Tahr horns of 12.5 to 13.5 inches are considered an above “trophy” average and horns over 14″ are exceptional. There have been a few New Zealand Tahr taken with horns over 15″ and these usually fall into the SCI Top 10 Record Category.
When should I plan my Tahr Hunting Trip?
Like Chamois hunting, Tahr Hunting can be done year. The ideal time to hunt Tahr is during New Zealand’s late fall and winter. By Tahr hunting in winter, the Tahr will have their winter coats and manes. A Tahr’s mane can grow 5-8″ in length from February to early June and turn darker in color. Late May, June, July and August are ideal months to hunt Tahr and chamois. The Tahr rut runs late May thru July which usually correlates with the first snow of the season. The rut is an excellent time for Bow hunting. Tahr can be hunted in conjunction with the red stag “roar” or 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 New Zealand Tahr?
Most Tahr hunting mountains are accessible by two-tracks or fire trails up to the tops of the mountains. Hunters usually glass the mountainsides in the early mornings and again in the late afternoon and then hunt down the mountains and are greeted by the outfitters vehicle below. Tahr hunting terrain can range from 3′ tall tussock grass to rock and shale hillsides. In most cases, the physical demand for this type of hunt is a lot less than that of Mountain Goat or Sheep hunting. You should allow at least 2 days for a rifle Tahr hunt (in good weather) and 3-4 days with a bow for a good specimen. If you are strictly record book trophy hunting, you can easily double that time period.
What about Tahr hunting by Helicopter?
Helicopter assisted Tahr hunting enables hunters to access the more remote mountainous areas where there are excellent trophy animals. It also gives greater assurance of success if the hunter has a limited time in New Zealand to hunt. Helicopter assisted hunting can be an exciting alternative with spectacular flights, and the opportunity to take an exceptional trophy. It is important to note that the helicopter is only used as a mode of transportation and animal recovery. Hunters are not allowed to shoot, drive or herd animals from the air. The Tahr hunters spot their trophy from the helicopter and are taken to an area when they can pursue their spot and stalk by foot. This type of hunting does contain a element of caution as you will be exiting a moving aircraft on an unknown mountain ledge.
What do I need to take with me on a Tahr hunt?
Most Tahr hunting is done in the higher elevations of the New Zealand Alpines. Some of these mountains are covered with 2-3′ tall clumps of Tussock Grass and some are rocky outcroppings of rocks and broken shale. Starting in June, these same mountains could also have snow on them. Make sure you have good boots that are broken in. Since you may be hunting in snow, you will want your boots insulated and waterproof. If you are hunting on a mountainside of tussock grass, wear a good pair of gators. The gators will keep the snow or morning dew from getting your hunting pants wet and cold. Premium optics is essential. Buy the best “glass” you can afford. I recommend a binocular harness as it will come in handy when traversing shale and lose rocks. This will keep your binoculars from getting bounced around or worse, banged on a rock. Most Tahr rifle shots will be in the 150 to 250 yard range. A good range finder will come in handy for both rifle and bow hunters. At 300 plus pounds, the Tahr is a good size trophy animal. I would recommend 7mm or larger and 164 grain or larger expandable bullet. A good 3,000 fps.30 caliber with an 180 grain expandable bullet is ideal for Tahr. Your rifle should be equipped with a good quality scope in the 3×9 or 2.5×10 magnification. I would also recommend a good backpack that is capable of carrying your rifle or bow. This will keep your hands free when moving across the mountainsides. If you are bow hunting, a good bow hunting guide can usually get you within 40-50 yards of your Tahr during the rut. Taking a trophy Tahr is quite an accomplishment with a bow. Allow yourself extra hunting days. Your biggest challenges in Tahr hunting are the nannies giving their warning whistle as you stalk your Bull Tahr.
How should I have my Tahr taxidermy mounted?
I recommend that all Tahr hunters, especially first time Tahr hunters, really think about how you want your bull Tahr mounted. A shoulder mount is the most economical taxidermy mount but it really doesn’t give justice to the long hair on the Tahr’s mane. Here is a tip for your first (or only) Tahr Hunting trip.
Have the guide cape it out for a full body mount. It will be 4-months before you get the cape back to the USA and probably several more months before your taxidermist will send it out for tanning. This will give you some extra time to decide (and save up) whether or not you want to do a shoulder mount or a full body mount. If your guide capes it out for a shoulder mount in the field, you are stuck with your choice. The full body bull Tahr mount is spectacular and will be a highlight to any hunter’s man cave or trophy room. You may also want to consider taking a Nanny Tahr. Some outfitters will let you harvest a Nanny for a few hundred dollars in conjunction of taking a bull Tahr at their standard trophy fee. A Bull & Nanny Tahr make a great pedestal mount.
Global Sporting Safaris, a hunting consultant company, offers the best opportunity for Tahr hunting in New Zealand. Whether you are a bow hunter, muzzleloader, crossbow hunter or rifle hunter, we have the locations, guides and experience to put you on the trophy Tahr hunt of a lifetime.
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