In comparison to hunting whitetail in Iowa, Tahr are the most different species of game I have ever pursued. They live in high country and the challenges presented while hunting them are far from the challenge of deciding which treestand to sit in. My experiences have come down to understanding tahrs’ patterns, glassing, and determining which risks to take.
Patterns of Tahr
In the summer tahr spend their time lower, near the bush, to get out of the sun. We found tracks on the valley floor while hunting in March. In the winter and during the rut, when the tahr have grown their full manes, they will be in the snow higher up the mountains. The winter will give you the best mane of a tahr but you will also have to take more risks to get near them.
If you have multiple days to hunt tahr, it is a good idea to gain intel on where the tahr are feeding in the evening. Tahr will likely do the same thing every day during the summer months if they are not pressured. If you see a group of tahr feeding down into a creek one evening, sneak in close the next day and you will likely find them there again. That said, my brother and I often get tips like “the tahr will be on the left side of the river” or “they are always under the bluff past red creek” only to get to the hunting spot and find that the river is ten miles long, or there are a thousand identical bluffs. Tahr are patternable from one day to the next, but don’t expect them to be in the same spot as they were when your friend came through. It is better to gain a vantage point and glass rather than hiking up a slip believing the tahr will always be in the same spot.
Glassing is an important component in limiting miles hiked, risks, and chances of spooking tahr. My brother and I have found the most success tahr hunting when we are able to see multiple valleys and slips from one point. In the summer when the tahr are low, and you don’t mind walking up and down a few ridges you can go with lower powered optics (I used 8.5×50 Vortex binoculars). But in the winter when the tahr are higher up, you may want more powerful glass. If you are trying to tell the size of a trophy tahr, you will also want a good pair of binoculars. Topomaps.nz offers good topographical maps for finding locations that may offer vantage points before you ever get to your hunting spot. By transitioning from satellite to topographical image on the top right you should be able to identify prime locations.
The biggest challenge when hunting tahr may be deciding which risks to take. It can be tempting to think nothing bad will happen. Josh James and Adam Greentree are both good hunters to watch if you want to see tahr hunting at its best. They are extremely experienced in New Zealand landscapes and are often hunting during the rut in the snow. But they are capable of taking much greater risks than anyone hunting tahr for the first time.
Even if you hunt in the summer months, watch out for rain in the forecast. I went on a West Coast tahr hunt in the rain and I was mentally drained after the first day of inching across wet rock faces. My brother slipped and fell while walking down a boulder so don’t lose focus while climbing back down. The grass tussock is extremely slippery as well, so take it easy and know your limits. I don’t mean to discourage anyone, just find a good hunting partner, get in good shape, and don’t take any unnecessary risks.
The Moment of Truth
Tahr are extremely tough animals and their shaggy coats can make them challenging to hit lethally. Also their shaggy coats absorb a great deal of blood so don’t expect thick blood trails. Watch videos of tahr to understand where to aim when the time comes.
I focused on these four components of hunting tahr because I found them to differ the most from whitetail. Once you have actually spotted the tahr killing one is just like hunting any other animal. Pay attention to the wind, move slowly, and read the tahr’s body language. You will be carrying out a tahr in no time.
If you want to see my hunt near Lake Tasman check out the New Zealand episode 1. tahr hunting in the episodes tab.
Harrison hunts in Southwest Iowa and New Zealand. He creates videos and writes blogs for Iowa Slam with his brothers Stuart and Max Hoegh.