19th May – 22nd May 2017
The Northern Kaimanawas would easily be the one area where I have spent much of my time in the pursuit of sika – the Kaipo River, the lower reaches of Ruatea ‘Jap Creek’ Stream, and the Tiki TIKI Stream top the list of places I’ve hunted in this region.
As soon as I had my firearms and driver’s licences, missions into Oamaru Hut, a gateway into these areas, became a regular occurrence and I began to clock up some serious time hunting from this hut. Even back then much of my hunting was solo and as I gained confidence I began to head further afield.
Tiki Tiki Stream became an instant favourite and I began to spend a considerable amount of time chasing the sika around this fantastic piece of back country. So, when deciding on where to go for the next hunt, and thinking it was about time to hunt some bush, it was a no brainer!
For this mission, I planned to park at the end of Clements Mill Road and hunt my way up to the ridge between Whangatikitiki and Te Iringa, and then into the Tiki Tiki Stream headwaters. There are several decent ridges that lead directly to the Tiki Tiki that would provide some hunting along the way.
High up on the ridge that divides the Tiki Tiki Stream from the Hinemaiaia Stream catchment.
Post rut is a great time to be in the hills. Winter hasn’t quite kicked in and you can still expect some activity on the rutting grounds. At the same time, stags will be looking to put on some condition and may be a little less wary as they seek out any available feed.
The forecast for this trip was mainly fine with just one small spell of bad weather due around midday on Saturday.
I always try to have breakfast with my wife and kids before I leave for an extended hunt. Nathan is old enough now to understand what it is Dad does when he disappears for a hunt! Heading off at around 7.30am, I made my way to Taupo, stopped at the range for a quick zero check and then continued towards Clements Mill Road.
I always enjoy driving this stretch of road. You often hear reports of other hunters catching deer out on the road, although I have yet to have that happen to me! As usual there were a few vehicles at the popular spots along the way. The road-end car park however, was empty.
I wasted no time getting ready and hit the track a little after midday. The weather was fine and I was looking forward to getting up onto the main ridge. This was the first time I had come in from the road-end so prior to the trip I created a route in Google Earth and loaded it on to my brother-in-law’s Garmin Rino 650, just for some piece of mind that I was on the correct ridge leading up to the main one.
It was great being back under the canopy. A sense of familiarity combined with covering some new ground. Hunting my way up the ridge was easy going, the remnants of an old track formed years ago making the walk just that little bit quicker.
Cold conditions on the hill – it doesn’t hurt to take an extra layer of clothing or pack some extra food if there is a chance of foul weather.
The walk in was uneventful apart from a few distant chirps from a sika off the side of the ridge. Upon reaching the top I had about an hour and a half left before dark so I began heading north along the ridge to find a suitable campsite.
Deer sign was prolific and although the bush was quite thick in places, navigating through it was made easy due to the game trails. A little further along I found a spot to pitch the tent, had some Back Country and settled in for the night, eager for a day of bush stalking...
That night, the bad weather (forecasted for midday Saturday) arrived and I woke to a mixture of rain, snow, sleet and high winds – bugger! While drinking a coffee I mulled over what to do. Before any trip I’ll set out a route and possible locations to set up camp that should put me on or near to prime hunting areas. However, even though my next campsite location was only about 3kms away, I decided to sit tight and keep as dry as possible. The hope being the forecast would at least be half right and that the bad weather spell would pass by quickly... It wasn’t to be and Day 2 ended up being a ‘hut’ day!
During the night the rain turned into snow and the next morning I was greeted to a liberal dusting of the white stuff and temperatures to suit. I later learned that the barometer had dropped well below the freezing line, reaching around – 4°C.
With an entire day already lost I was eager to push onto an area I had hunted on some of my previous trips – a lengthy, open ridge that leads down to the confluence of several small creeks that form the Tiki Stream.
Fresh deer marks – Day 3 of the trip produced clear weather and a chance to get some stalking done.
Not 30 minutes after setting off I came across a set of small clearings with fresh deer marks leading onto them. Exercising some caution, I slowly moved in, but not slow enough – no more than 20 metres to my right, two sika bolted and within a few seconds they’d vanished off down into a gully. I only just saw them, but they appeared to be, and judging from the sign, a hind and yearling.
Continuing along the main ridge it was obvious that the deer were yarding-up and keeping to their winter range. Some areas looked like a cattle yard, which to the uninitiated might look like there were deer everywhere but most likely it will be the same deer moving back and forth between their feeding and bedding zones.
Prior to reaching my next campsite I put up another two animals; one I saw move off from within a pepperwood pole thicket and the other spooked and heard as it crashed off to safety.
A well used wallow that has succumbed to some early winter sub-zero temperatures.
I reached the top of the ridge that I intended to hunt down just after midday. After setting up the tent and a bite to eat, I headed off down the ridge. The next few hours were spent slowly moving down through the beech. Although there was a bit of windfall around, it was still plenty open enough to get my stalk on. During that afternoon, I spooked another three animals but unfortunately only managed to hear their squeals as they mocked me from the safety of cover.
View down the Kaipo Valley towards Oamaru Hut.
It had been a good day with a total of seven deer seen and/or heard, and despite not managing to get any photos or footage I headed back to camp satisfied with the hunt.
Up early and a quick stalk back down the ridge, nothing seen. The sky was clear and it was shaping up to be cracker day – typical that it was the last day! No bother though, it was good to be able to head out in fine weather. I decided to take a different route on the way out and followed a different ridge back down to the track. The walk down was relatively straightforward and much like the walk in, uneventful.
The last day (much like the first...) of the trip – spawned beautiful, sunny weather!
Despite only a few brief animal encounters and not managing to capture any footage or photos, it was still a great trip.
There are three ways to reach the Tiki Tiki Stream. The first and most popular route is to park at the Te Iringa Carpark and walk in over the Te Iringa track. I have never walked in via this track but as I understand, it takes around 3-5hrs – approx. 3 hrs to the Te Iringa Summit where you can then drop into the Tiki Tiki or, approx. 5hrs and continue onto the Kaipo Swing bridge which is where the Tiki Tiki Stream confluences with the Kaipo River. Secondly, you can come in from the Oamaru Hut end which will bring you to the swing bridge and the bottom end of the stream, and thirdly, the route I took which is to park at the end of Clements Mill Road and head up the Hinemaiaia Track for about 15-20 minutes before selecting a ridge to take and hunting your way into the Tiki Tiki Stream headwaters.
While the Tiki Tiki Stream is a popular location, due to the reasonable isolation and effort required to get there, the stream arguably experiences less foot traffic than the easier reached and closer country. I have spent many days and nights in and around this area and would have only bumped into half a dozen hunters during that time. The roar period will most certainly see an influx of hunters, but what sika hunting area doesn’t?
By late June the mercury is beginning to drop and it isn’t uncommon to see a few snow flurries hit the mountains. On my trip, I experienced all four seasons – sun, snow, sleet, wind, ice. Being prepared for any eventuality is crucial as sub-zero temperatures can affect your performance on the hill. A little extra clothing and food could make the difference between a comfortable trip and an unpleasant one.
Hindsight is wonderful thing and if there was only a single piece of advice I could offer, it would be to slow down. I have adopted a ‘bad’ habit of moving too fast, perhaps a by-product of continually hunting with a pack on and moving from area to area. It is a well-known fact that deer restrict their movements during the winter months and the bottom line is that if you see fresh sign, the deer generally aren’t too far away. I found several areas where the deer looked to be yarding up – a cross section of deer prints and droppings. In this situation, it is worth considering a still hunting approach and simply waiting in ambush.
A fly in/fly out mission with East Kaweka Helicopters into an area of the Kaweka Ranges that I have yet to visit – the Manson.
Only the best advertise with NZG&H! To ensure you get only the best products available, make sure you check out New Zealand’s leading importers, retailers and distributors.