We broke out of the Chatham Island bush onto the “clears”. The dense fog and rain prevented us from seeing too far. The bush we had come through was unlike any I had seen before. Dracophyllum and tree fern dominated forest. Not a full sized tree in sight. The bush was soggy wet. There was a rudimentary track which we had followed from the shelter at the Tuku reserve. We’d come past the taiko nesting area which was the main reason we were here. They are the critically endangered magenta petrel, only breeding on the Chathams. We’d been doing predator control work in the reserve. Now we were hunting.
Breaking out of this vegetation revealed a pakihi type low vegetation cover on essentially flat peat land. It was very boggy underfoot. Ian and I headed south along the edge of the clear. The first animal that showed up was a big ram. The owner of the stock, Bruce, was happy that we hunted his animals that wandered into the reserve. The cattle particularly were having an effect in the reserve. The effort of mustering and the cost of transport meant that the cattle and sheep were worthless to him. I found that the islanders I met were very protective of the island's natural values. We hunted carefully south along the eastern boundary of the dracophyllum forest. There were plenty of cattle marks. Really unexpectedly we saw the big ram, a full wool which probably had never been shorn. It was just too far from any handling shed to have had any attention. Lined up the ram with my 35 Whelen and let strip with a soft point bullet. No result. The next bullet in the mag was a full metal jacket, designed to penetrate heavy animals. The ram had barely moved before I fired the solid. It collapsed at the shot. We went to the ram to check it out. The fleece was amazingly dense. The horns were very impressive so I recovered them. I had intended to autopsy the carcass but the dense mat of unshorn wool was a bit daunting. I still don’t know why the first shot did not appear to have any result but the solid bullet did the job.
We continued on south. The misty rain was intermittent. During one of the clearer spells we saw a couple of small mobs of cattle at widely spaced intervals across the clear. Wind direction didn’t appear to be a problem so we approached the first group from behind what cover we could find. They saw us and off. They were the spookiest animals I have ever hunted. Clattered off for miles. We’d have to really sleuth up to the next mob. Finally located another mob, four animals, two cows with a couple of younger bulls. There was a finger of bush which we could use for cover. We stalked ever closer and this time it was successful. We spread out a bit so that each of us could shoot without endangering the other and opened fire. The young bull staggered at the shot, lurched a few metres and went down. Next one on my side was a cow. She made off after the shot so I fired again. She went down. All the shots were centre chest shots. The other two animals were still on their feet so hit them as well. Eventually all four were down. It was not possible to assess the relative effectiveness of either Ian’s seven mil or my 35 Whelen as the animals were hit several times. They did not, however, travel very far after getting hit the first time. I was happy with the effect of the solid bullets on these animals. Sufficiently so that when I hunted in Botswana for buffalo I had Trophy Bonded Solids in the mag of my 375.
Ian butchered the younger animals, cutting off the backsteaks. This amount of meat was all we could carry and it was a long way back to the quad. We had some of the steak at a staff barbecue a bit later. The party was a roaring success. The islanders were the nicest people.