Womens Nelson Lakes Hunt Part 2

National Women’s Promotional Hunt – Nelson Lakes National Park Part 2 Of 2

10 January 2023

Hunting and Wildlife Magazine - Winter Issue 221

Words By: Courtney Pellow

Lisa and Gwyn reflecting on a very eventful trip.

In the ever-evolving world of hunting, significant changes have taken place in recent years. Game animal management hunts have gained popularity, and an increasing number of women hunters have emerged as active and passionate participants in the sport. Venturing deep into the remote and rugged wilderness, these women seek challenges and exhilarating hunting experiences.

In this story, we delve into the journey of two remarkable women from the New Zealand Deerstalkers Association (NZDA), Lisa Webber and Courtney Pellow, who embarked on a week-long hunting expedition in Nelson Lakes National Park. Their pursuit of red deer and Chamois showcases not only their own skills and determination but also highlights the thriving community of women hunters within the NZDA, with the hope of inspiring others to follow their lead.

The anticipation grew as the expedition drew near, and the weather became a crucial factor to consider. Securing a wilderness management hunt landing permit with fixed dates, the primary objective was to manage the population of red deer while also having the chance to encounter the elusive Chamois in the remote corners of the park.

The journey began in Murchison, a gateway town to Nelson Lakes National Park, where the hunting party comprising Lisa, Courtney, Gwyn Thurlow, and Josh Boyd-Wilson, the Assistant Editor and Photographer of The Hunters Journal, assembled at the Murchison Heli Tours hanger. Unfortunately, the initially sombre weather conditions prevented their departure. However, as predicted, the weather cleared up the next day, setting the stage for an exciting week-long adventure in the wilderness.

While waiting for the weather to improve, the team arranged overnight accommodation and camped at a private hut near the national park. This provided an opportunity for them to do some last-minute gear sorting, as well as bond and get to know each other. During this time, an evening hunt was undertaken, Courtney's precise shot with her 6.5 Creedmoor rifle secured their first red deer hind, marking the beginning of their successful hunting trip.

The following morning, with cleared skies and excitement in the air, the team took to the skies at 8 am, relishing the breathtaking scenery of Nelson Lakes National Park during their helicopter ride. Despite having to alter their landing site due to poor visibility, they managed to touch down at 1600 metres, granting awe-inspiring views of the park and its surrounding peaks. They had arrived at their destination.

Lisa’s Buck

Lisa's story unfolds with an eventful stalk on a Chamois buck. As a member of NZDA Nelson Branch with a rich hunting background, Lisa had been pursuing the elusive Chamois for years without success. Positioned on a knob near their camp, Courtney spotted a lone Chamois below the snowline and bluffs. Excitement filled the air as it was confirmed it was a buck through the spotting scope. Crafting a game plan, they embarked on a slow and direct stalk down a ridge, inching closer to the buck. Hours passed as the group snuck their way down the basin, paying careful attention not to disturb the feeding buck. It was a good example of a less-than-ideal approach for a stalk, but proof that extremely slow speeds and patience pay off.

The gap was closed on the Chamois to 370m, where he continued to feed broadside. Despite a few nerve-racking moments, Lisa, entrusted with the shot, aimed carefully with Courtney's 6.5 Creedmoor Tikka T3x. Unfortunately, she missed twice, discovering later that wind drift and a howling wind had influenced her shots. However, Gwyn's backup shot with his 7mm Rem Mag found its mark, ultimately ending their pursuit of the buck.

Lisa was dejected after missing the mark but coming from a family of hunters she was all too familiar with the letdowns of the chase and set her sights optimistically on what the following days in the hills might provide. She and her husband, Chris, share a passion for hunting and regularly embark on expeditions together.

Ungulate Control

Following Lisa's missed opportunity with the buck Chamois, the group supported her by making a promise: if they came across another Chamois, she would have the next shot. Little did they know that fate had something in store for them, albeit a few days later.

While the main objective of their trip was ungulate control, they decided to shift their focus and target some red deer management hinds feeding on a distant face near the edge of the bush.

Seeing an opportunity to regain her shooting confidence and practice longer-range shots, Lisa seized the moment. A well-executed shot at 290 metres on a hind lifted her spirits, reaffirming her marksmanship abilities.

Courtney shot a further few hinds that were left undisturbed. With distances ranging from 300m - 420m, she confidently and cleanly placed her shots. The ability to shoot long-range on big open tops like Nelson Lakes National Park is imperative.

Courtney understands the importance of having a reliable rifle setup. Her rifle of choice is a 6.5 Creedmoor, a popular calibre known for its long-range capabilities and accuracy. Equipped with a Leupold VX5 scope, her setup includes a ballistic turret that allows her to adjust for various distances and nail tougher shots with precision. The scope's ample zoom ensures she can maintain a clear and focused view of her targets. To further enhance her shooting confidence, Courtney relies on a tried-and-true drop chart, providing her with the necessary ballistic data for consistent and reliable performance. With this well-configured rifle setup and time well spent on the range, Courtney is able to approach each shot confidently.

Throughout the expedition, they successfully harvested six management hinds, accomplishing their mission.

With a rewarding day of animal spotting and red deer management behind them, they embarked on the arduous journey back to camp under the scorching sun.


Lisa’s Second Chance

After several unsuccessful days of hunting, luck took a turn when they spotted another lone Chamois within shooting range. This is the tale of that memorable encounter.

As the group neared the top of the basin, a sense of being watched crept over them, echoing the photographer's earlier words, “Do you feel like we are being watched?” Gwyn, with his keen eye, spotted a Chamois perched on the rocks above. Urgency filled the air as they silently prepared for the shot, aware that time was running out.

Without hesitation, Lisa readied herself for the crucial moment using Gwyn's rifle. And then it happened—the bullet found its mark! Relief and joy washed over her. Finally, after investing so much time and effort, she had successfully taken down a Chamois.

Hearts still racing, they cautiously climbed a scree slope to examine their prize. Disappointment followed as they discovered it was a nanny, not the desired buck. Amidst the excitement and adrenaline of the moment, they had overlooked the subtle distinctions between male and female Chamois.

Nevertheless, shooting her first Chamois after a five-year pursuit filled Lisa with immense joy. The entire experience was nothing short of extraordinary. Surrounded by the breathtaking landscapes she couldn't have asked for a more fulfilling adventure. Going back home without a buck only intensified her determination to return to the hills, eagerly anticipating the next opportunity.

Courtney’s Chamois

Courtney, a member of the Auckland branch, embarked on a remarkable stalk that unfolded four days into their trip. Under the scorching sun, they reached the summit of an unnamed peak, treated to breathtaking panoramic views of untouched valleys. Little did they know that this day would etch a vivid memory in their minds, leaving them with wind-burned hands and sun-kissed faces - a testament to a fulfilling and exciting journey.

By that point, the expedition was already deemed a success. Gwyn had bagged a buck Chamois, Lisa had experienced her first Chamois encounter, and they had successfully fulfilled their mission of managing red deer hinds. It was a moment when any other achievement would surpass their expectations, elevating the trip from great to extraordinary.

Navigating ridges and valleys, the group meticulously scoured the landscape through their binoculars, ensuring no nook or cranny went unexplored. As the sun grew stronger, casting its warmth upon them, Gwyn's sharp eyes caught sight of a delicate game trail beneath a snow-capped peak, barely visible over a kilometre away. Fascinated by the footprints, they realized the animal had gracefully descended from a rocky outcrop and was now crossing the snow-covered basin. Excitement rippled through the group as they observed a Chamois venturing towards them across the barren snowy landscape.

Lisa took her first Chamois on this trip after of years pursuing them without success.

Their curiosity piqued, they watched intently as the Chamois made its way along the mountain's crest, eventually settling in a rocky fortress over 700 metres away. The unexpected abundance of snow on the mountain tops posed a challenge they hadn't anticipated. With vast stretches of snow and formidable terrain separating them, the allure of the impressive Chamois seemed tempting but unreachable.

Three hours passed, and their hope of the Chamois circling back towards them for a potential shot began to wane. Realising they needed to seize every hunting opportunity, Gwyn and Lisa decided to explore the basin beyond the ridge while Josh and Courtney stayed behind, keeping a watchful eye on the animal.

In a matter of minutes after their departure, the rhythm of the day shifted abruptly. Gwyn hurriedly made his way back up the slope, accompanied by Lisa. "The snow feels manageable now, we can cross it," he proclaimed. Warmed by the November sun, Gwyn's confidence in traversing the snow inspired Josh and Courtney, who swiftly packed their gear to set off on the stalk, leaving Lisa as their remote spotter equipped with a phone scope.

The three embarked on a journey where exposure became the defining theme. Without crampons, they were driven by a sense of urgency, mindful of the possibility of icy conditions if out after sunset. As they trod across the snow, they left deep tracks as a precautionary measure. The plush snow showed no signs of danger, zigzagging them from one rocky island to another. Though partially shielded by the undulating terrain, they periodically turned to view Lisa in their binos for updates on the Chamois, ensuring their efforts wouldn't be in vain. Each time, they received a reassuring thumbs-up.

The hunt they embarked upon was what they referred to as a "50/50" situation—odds that were not necessarily in their favor due to the unknown size of the terrain and the lack of cover. Gazing at the sun, the remaining distance, and the challenging landscape in between, they paused to discuss their plan of action and the wisdom of proceeding. Just as Gwyn stepped forward, ready to push on, Josh's exclamation cut through the air—the Chamois was "RIGHT THERE."

In that heart-pounding moment, Josh, momentarily positioned on a higher rise, witnessed the Chamois descend the next spur, heading directly towards them. Acting swiftly, they all dropped to the ground, Courtney retrieving her rifle and loading a round into the chamber. The Chamois had closed the once-daunting gap between them, meeting them halfway. It had arrived a split second before Courtney squeezed the trigger. Closing in at a mere 40 metres, the inquisitive Chamois appeared before her, offering the perfect pose for her 6.5mm projectile to find its mark.

The jubilant celebration that followed was a testament to their collective joy. The sizable Chamois, boasting impressive horns, turned out to be an aged and barren nanny—a remarkable trophy to cherish. This hunt encompassed all the elements hunters seek: a picturesque landscape, the thrill of the unknown, the challenge of navigating rugged terrain, and the unpredictable odds that make a hunt come together. For Courtney, this adventure reaffirmed why she hunts.

L-R: Gwyn, Lisa, Josh.

Are you a woman wanting to learn the skills and gain the knowledge and experience to undertake epic hunts like Lisa and Courtney’s?

A good first step is to get in touch with your local NZDA club. With 49 branches spread nationwide, all NZDA clubs warmly welcome women. Whether your aspiration is conquering rugged alpine terrains or exploring the bush, signing up and getting involved with your local club is a fantastic idea. They offer a supportive environment for women hunters.

If you know a woman, have a daughter, a niece, or a colleague, always consider extending an invitation or opportunity. The ever-growing ‘HUNTS course’, (Hunter National Training Scheme), that NZDA offers will see more than 400 people trained to hunt over the next couple of years. This is a great start and NZDA looks forward to women making up a decent proportion of trainees.

The NZDA sees investing in and promoting female hunting as an important assignment. Gwyn Thurlow, NZDA’s CEO, has taken an active personal role in highlighting and encouraging female participation in the sport at a national level. NZDA is using its voice to advocate, promote and educate not only men but women and children about hunting and shooting. This is one of the many ways NZDA has been modernised in recent years.

We hope this NZDA woman's promotional hunt to Nelson Lakes National Park is a brief way we can show you the changing demographic of hunters. It’s a small showcase of the skill, ability, and quality of female hunters.

In a future issue, this story could be you or the successful hunter could be her.

P.S. Stay tuned for Part 3 story where the team returns to Nelson Lakes for the roar.

Hours of glassing and a good spotting scope are key to hunting this type of terrain.




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