Taking New Zealand Tahrs with Pat Reeve and Nicole Jones
Editor’s Note: Pat Reeve and Nicole Jones’ TV show, Driven with Pat and Nicole, airs on the Outdoor Channel Tuesday nights at 8:00 pm and Friday nights at 10:00 pm EST. For the last 3 years, this husband- and-wife duo has won a Golden Moose Award for excellence in TV production from the Outdoor Channel. “Driven” features big-game hunting around the world, but its main focus has been whitetails. Pat and Nicole wear the Mossy Oak Treestand and Break-Up Infinity camo patterns.
Last week we told about hunting red stag in New Zealand. After Nicole had tagged out on red stag, we drove 7 hours to get to our tahr camp. Tahrs are tough mountain-goat-like critters and true trophies. As soon as we arrived at tahr camp, our guide said, “This isn’t exactly the tahr camp. We have to drive 2-hours up this creek bed to get to tahr camp.” I was amazed at how much water our little truck could go through. As we got closer to camp, I spotted a little plateau with a cabin in the middle of several mountain drainages. Our guide told us this was one of the best places to hunt tahr in the world. In morning, we got up and start glassing for tahr right away. The tahrs, which were in full rut when we arrived at camp, had long manes like a lion’s. We spotted them from the cabin the next morning and took off after them. The terrain was very steep and rugged, reminding me of my Dall sheep hunt in Alaska (see last week). We took our .270 Thompson/Center with us up the mountain, since the guide had told us we’d have to shoot these tahrs more than once.
We finally spotted a tahr that the guide suggested we take. To get to the tahr, we had to make a long hard climb up a big ridge. I took off my pack and laid it on the ground. I found the tahr in my Nikon scope and squeezed the trigger, but the tahr didn’t go down. I knew the bullet was placed well, but I still had to take a few more shots to put the animal down. We took our time. We filmed the recovery and shot the still photos we needed. Nicole had been filming me, so I gave her the rifle, and I picked up the camera. We put the tahr meat and cape in our packs and climbed all the way to the top of the ridge. We saw one tahr at the summit, but he had a broken horn, so we headed back to camp. We only had 2 days left to hunt.
The next morning, we got up early and made the climb back to where I had taken my tahr. When we arrived, we didn’t see any animals. We climbed 2-more hours to reach the summit and look in the other drainage between the mountains. When we got to the summit, we spotted two shooter tahrs, each with a different band of females. We had to crawl down this mountain on our hands and knees. The guide finally said, “This is as close as we can get.” We were between 200- and 250-yards from the tahrs. Luckily, we had brought a BOG-POD, so we would have a steady rest. Nicole got in position, took a deep breath and squeezed the trigger of the Thompson/Center.270. When the bullet hit the tahr, he jumped and cartwheeled down the mountain. The guide looked a Nicole and said, “Perfect shot.” When we finally got down to the tahr, the guide said the animal was 12-years old and one of the biggest animals ever taken in that region. We took photos and video, caped and quartered Nicole’s tahr and headed back to camp.
Nicole got a funny look on her face and said, “Oh my gosh, we still have one day left before we have to leave. We can go back to town, go skydiving and ride jet boats to the white water down the river.” We had talked about this earlier, and I really was hoping Nicole had forgotten about it, but she hadn’t. Nicole finally screamed out, “We’re so blessed. We’ll get to go skydiving tomorrow.” I said, “No, we don’t need to do that. I don’t want to go skydiving.” Nicole looked at me and said, “We are so going skydiving.” I did everything I could to convince Nicole that we didn’t have enough time to go skydiving, but I failed. The next morning we got up still arguing about going sky diving. Finally, Nicole said, “Skydiving is on my bucket list. I’m going with or without you. You can stay on the ground and watch, or you can jump too.” I knew that Nicole had thrown down the gauntlet. If I didn’t skydive with her, she’d tell everyone how great and wonderful it was for the rest of her life, and what a chicken I was. I’m dreadfully afraid of heights, but this skydive was a point of pride. I knew I had to face this fear or hear about what a chicken I’d been for the rest of my life.
We took our video camera, and I filmed taking the class to tandem skydive. After everyone suited up, I filmed everyone getting into the airplane. I was the last one inside, and as the airplane started to move down the runway, I knew I had made a terrible decision. Since I was the last person to get in the airplane, I would have to be the first one to jump. When the airplane got to 4,000 feet, I asked the instructor, “Are we about to jump?” He said, “Oh, no, we’ll be at 12,000 feet.” I asked, “Why are we going up so far?” He said, “You’ll get at least a minute of free fall at 125 miles per hour from 12,000 feet.” Then I really was terrified. I looked back at Nicole, and she was giggling at me. We had two guides from the tahr hunt with us, and all three of them were laughing. Finally, the instructor opened the door on the side of the plane. He explained, “Sit on your butt, right on the edge of the plane, and let your feet hang out. Whatever you do, don’t look down.” Instinctively, I looked down. The instructor was standing behind me. He said, “Are you ready?” Just as I started to say no, out of the plane we went. I could hear the instructor saying, “Keep your mouth closed, and breathe through your nose.” With as much terror as I was facing, there was no way I could close my mouth.
However, that jump was the most-exhilarating feeling I’d ever had in my life. I realized I was a screaming tourist at 125 mph. I didn’t see anybody behind me, since I was looking down at the ground. We were so far up that I couldn’t see any details on the ground. As we got closer to the earth, I spotted buildings and cars. I was thinking, “I hope this parachute opens.” The chute opened automatically, and we floated like feathers in stark silence. Around us had changed from screaming wind to the most-silent silence I’d ever heard. We did several banks and turns. Although we were the first ones to jump, we were the last ones to get to the ground. When I spotted Nicole, she was petrified. She hadn’t enjoyed skydiving at all. Her tandem instructor was an anti-hunter. When the chute opened, he turned the parachute sharply. Nicole spun around, around and around. When she finally reached the ground, she was almost ready to throw-up. I thought that was neat, because she had convinced me to skydive and had told me how much fun it would be. I really hadn’t wanted to do it, but she was the one to get sick, so now I have a story to tell about Nicole.