Lewis Pass 2-day Mountain Hunt - Big Red & Chamois | Pre-Rut 2022

I hadn't planned on hunting the Lewis Pass, however unexpected circumstances often lead to new and interesting adventures. The drama was that my first chosen hunting area ended on a surprising closed road... So with only 3 days up my sleeve I had to quickly form a back up - any mountain top I liked the look of when driving past. Seemed like a good plan to me! Just for the record - I walked through the Lewis Pass reserve to the Lake Sumner Forest Park. 
Camping up for the night next to my truck, I used my spotting scope on a mountain I liked and come morning I hiked in that direction. Having just recovered from Covid my fitness was wrecked so I decided to go the long way and hammer my body. I was in search of long-range hunting shots & a decent buck.
Lewis Pass walking track
Campsite Lewis Pass
This hunt was mid-March which is typically pre-rut in the South Island, just before the hordes of trophy hunters arrive. The stags are already paired with the hinds and they're out and about feeding hard—my favourite time of the year to hunt.
Hunting a ridge Lewis Pass
Overestimating my day hiking ability with the strenuous route - fortunately there was an unmarked DOC track that led to my base gully and then by surprise another unmapped marked track that took me right to the tops! Possibly a possum run? Saving a rugged bush bash I was stoked. With post-Covid fitness issues it took me 10 hours from truck to the mountain tops. The general rule for getting away from hunting pressure (in the South Island) is to head in further than a day or weekend hunter would. 10 hours is about the sweet spot.
Hunting chamois New Zealand
8.5" chamois buckchamois kill shotFinding a flat campsite I set up and headed to the closest best-looking ridge. At sunset, just as the light got dim, a young chammy buck popped out from behind a rock. At 320m it was easy for the XLR Chassis to smackdown in the steam slip. With the shot commotion, a young 6pt buck and hind popped up 350m away from a gut with the hind barking at me. A tempting shot but I was here for something bigger. I photographed that hind out past the 500m range.Glassing for deer - NZ Mountains
XLR Industries rifle with Tikka T3X 7mm Rem MagRed Deer NZRed Deer feeding NZ - Lewis PassLewis Pass mountainsSouth Island mountain fogLewis Pass mountain fog NZ
Leaving the chamois until the next morning I woke to a total fog that ruined the morning hunt plan. With no options left it was time to recover the buck.
This took till mid-morning when I was happily surprised the buck went 8.5 inches. With the fog sitting around the scrub edge I decided to walk the steep guts in the direction of where I saw the stag the night before. Certainly not something I would normally do but with fog hanging around my options were few. Crawling up on the ridge-line I spied a hind roughly 30m away. How I didn't get winded with the morning thermals on my back I still have no idea.
Knowing the time of year there had to be a stag close by...
Loading my gun I belly crept up and there he stood, just a stone's throw away. Pulling my gun up he turned his head in my direction and I pulled the trigger. The stag ran a few metres and dropped right on the edge of the fog.
NZ Southern MountainsRed Stag NZRed Stag - NZ MountainsA few hours of processing the animal and hiking back to camp took me til about noon, just enough time to hike out of there in a rush making this epic hunt only a 2-day trip. I wasn’t planning on taking more than one animal, let alone being able to carry it out. So my hunt was done. I never got to shoot a long-range animal on this hunt, which in my books starts at 600m, but still stoked with the time I got.

The rifle:
Total weight = 3.8kg
Tikka T3x 7mm Rem Mag
XLR Element 4.0 aluminium chassis (non magnesium model) with Carbon Grip and Folding Carbon Butt Stock
Nightforce NX8 4-32
3HGR Overberget rifle strap

Meopta Spotter MeoStar S2 20-70x
Vortex Diamondback HD 12-50 (fogging issues)

Outdoorsmans Tripod with Pan Head

1: 12x binos for the tops.
2: Hunt the side valley ridges and always walk to the end of them. Always glass the guts and keep glassing.
3: Setup to shoot past 600m with a range finder and ballistics app and your chances of success will be massively improved.
4: Morning and evenings you want to be set up for glassing in a likely spot. Daytime is for travel, spotter scoping & planning.