Back to Balnagown!


A trip to Balnagown to experience the Roar!

Following up from my trip up to Balnagown with the camera, Richard suggested I head back up with The Missus to stay the night in the hut and hear the deer roar. It was a great excuse to head out overnight for a bit of time with my partner, and experience something new (it’s my first roar). Right about now we are heading into ‘peak roar’ – and from the moment we got there, we knew it was going to be a bit of an experience.

The experience for everyone

On the way up we caught up with Richard and his client for the day – a young guy (with a decent beard and an awesome Valiant) who had been out with Richard for the day getting himself an animal. If I understand it right, they had got a deer, cleaned it and put it in the chiller, then in true Richard style – headed back out to check out the animals some more. Richards enthusiasm for it all is contagious. He has a pile of knowledge and is keen to share it.

The particular client he had was still in the process of sorting himself a firearms license – but he was able to head out with a Richard and score himself a nice animal after a decent stalk and walk away with the experience. I am sure he will be back.

After a coffee and some excellent Lumberjack Cake (thanks Stephanie), Richard took us out to the hut, made sure we were settled, planned the next day, chucked us a new spotlight to try out and left us too it.

Loud evenings

I, unfortunately, didn’t get many night photos. But what I really should have done was taken up a decent audio recorder. I must have spent close to an hour standing outside just listening to the bullfrog like croak of the Fellow Deer all around us.

Richard’s hunting block is awesome in that it is also a bit of a natural amphitheatre. A big bowl that reflects all the sound of the deer through the bush blocks down into where the hut is located.

We had nearly 360 degree roars going on. Animals grunting, the crashing together of large sets of antlers, the separate calls of the Doe and Fawns. With the spot light we had on us, we could sweep the countryside and see all these green eyes glinting back at us from the distance.


After waking up a couple times during the night to the sound of very deep, throaty roars from the distance, we had a feed and then a quick walk around. I was reminded how fast the animals disappear when you head out on foot. More than once, I waited, trying to spot anything in the bush in front of me, only to step off and realise I had an animal within meters to my side. They might be loud, but they can also be very quiet when they want to.

I took the camera with me, but much like last time, it was many shots of the rear of animals as the bolted. I need to practise my stalking much more.

Learning to process a deer

I had expressed to Richard that I was keen to go through the process of skinning and gutting an animal again. We had covered it previously during the HUNTS course, but I wanted to get more hands on and just reinforce what I had learned.  I am planning on heading out into the Kaimanawas in the next couple of weeks for a week of stalking Sika. So I wanted to be sure I has the appropriate skills, should I manage to take one of the ‘Ghosts of the Forest’ down. Anyone who knows me will appreciate I like to be prepared to go into things, so I figured this was the perfect opportunity to learn and practise these skills.

I think this is one of the great advantages of what Richard offers – if you want to stalk – you can head off into the bush block and do the hard yards. If you don’t have the time (not everyone can escape all week to hunt), fitness levels (older hunters, disabled hunters) or resources (gun, knowledge of areas) – then Richard can customise the hunt to you.

Entry and Exit wounds

In my case, I basically wanted an animal to process. So Richard was able to very quickly lead us to a suitable animal, which I dropped with the X-Bolt; Quickly learning a valuable lesson in the process – you need to be mindful of both entry and exit points on the animal. I hit it right in the shoulder. So it took a couple of steps back (I also learnt back means dead – it’s disabled, cant run and drops quickly) and dropped dead. Unfortunately, I should have let it get a little bit more on a right angle to me, as the exit would passed through the gut. A little-spoilt meat, but lesson learned.

While we waited for a few moments before walking up to the animal, we checked out a couple of other bucks, seemingly totally uncaring to the plight of their younger herd member close by, having a good old scrap on the hillside. Richard explained their behaviour – the walk, the back away, the challenge and the engagement. It’s great having someone so schooled in habits of the animals explaining the how/why and what of their behaviour. We grabbed the animal and brought it back to the hut to process.

Simple, effective tools

Honestly, I think Richard could process an animal with his bare hands. His father worked at the meatworks, showed him how to process animals at an early age and it’s a skill he has quite plainly honed over the years. While many a hunter initially goes out and buys the biggest baddest skinning knife he can lay hands on, Richard is quite efficient totally skinning and gutting the animal with, wait for it… his $8 pocket knife.

Richard went through the process with me from beginning to end. Passing on a pile of tips and tricks along the way. I walked away with a new skill set (that I am now keen to practise, an animals worth of meat and a very unique experience for both myself and my partner.

Weather you are getting into hunting (like myself) and want to develop and practise your skill-set before heading back county, you only have a short amount of time to get in your hunting fix or you simply want a unique experience (and maybe will only ever do it once), Richard and Balnagown is certainly a way to do it. I am already planning on heading up again. Even if it is simply to spend some more time up there with the camera observing the animals doing what the do. Hiding from me!

Balnagown Hunting –