Venison, Pork, Trout – All in Four Hours?

by Will Rickerby
(Published New Zealand Wildlife, September 1989)


Venison, trout and porkIs it possible to take a deer, a pig and a trout, all in one day? It was no problem in the old days, but there are still some of those spots around today. The old man and I collected all three, within four hours, once. In fact I was back in camp sucking the old enamel mug at 9.00am. I had finished breakfast and was sitting on a log by our campfire admiring a leg of venison, a trout and a leg of pork that lay on a newspaper nearby.  Not bad for a few hours effort, but in this beautiful Urewera valley game was plentiful, making the chances of success pretty high. The old man and I had been coming to the valley to hunt and fish for many years. We didn’t know at the time, but this was to be our last trip together.

Next morning we were up very early and the old man started fishing downstream, while I went upstream after deer. To be truthful I was still asleep for a couple of hundred yards! That’s about where I disturbed a hind feeding right alongside the stream. I refrained from firing a quick shot amongst the shadows although I can confirm I was definitely awake from that moment on.We wandered up the stream one afternoon taking twice the normal time to reach my camping spot. We set up camp, had tea, and then darkness was closing in so we went to bed. We yarned for a couple of hours in the darkness, catching up on past events.

Dad boiling  a brewI travelled on for half an hour, criss-crossing the cold stream until I came to a side creek. This creek was a favoured spot of mine. I slowly crept forward. Hardly 20 metres upstream I came across fresh deer tracks. The ridge on the left bank of the creek was steep at first, then suddenly levelled out. At the end of the flat a bank rose about two metres and then there was another flat similar to the first. The ridge was like a giant set of steps. The treads and risers continued to the top of the ridge. However, it was those bottom two flats that were the “hot spot”.

Tall kanuka provided the top cover, while underneath grew a course grass. On clear days, plenty of sunlight would filter through the kanuka. It was warm and dry; an ideal spot for deer. I climbed up the side of the creek, so that only my eyes and the top of my head were exposed. I could not quite see all of the first flat, but by glassing the area with binoculars for several minutes, any animal that was there would have probably moved and that’s what I hoped to pick up – movement. Nothing. So I moved up a foot or so higher. After looking for several minutes I moved slowly to the base of a large kanuka and stood up slowly, all the time looking through my binoculars. I had reached my full height and had been leaning against the tree for perhaps five to ten minutes. I had ceased using the binoculars and was just watching, when something caught my eye on the “riser” or bank at the end of the flat. And there it was – through my binoculars I could make out the lower part of a leg of a deer. Unfortunately the animal was moving over the “riser” and onto the next flat. I had been about five minutes too late to catch it on the first flat. The wind? It was still okay. The gentlest of breezes was coming downhill. I never trust wind though! As I made my way slowly and carefully towards the next flat I spent more time watching hanging lichen floating from branches than watching for the deer.  Even though I had taken many deer before this day, it was still a thrill to stalk this young stag. You know the feeling: heart pounding, trying to get out through the chest or mouth or ears! Will the stag be mine or will he be free? Well, this young buck turned out to be mine. Elation!

I dressed out the stag, leaving half the meat tied to a tree for collection later and made my way back down to the river with the rest of the venison. On my way back I came across the old man fishing the second pool above our camp. I dropped my load and waited until he had fished to me. “Pretty good eh?” he said, nodding his head towards the hindquarters. Going by the grin on his face I remembered thinking he must have something in that old pack of his. Sure enough, without any words, he placed his rod aside, unslung his pack and hauled out two very nice trout. I would say they’d go about three and a half to four pounds each. Thought of the bright pink inside made my mouth water!

The old man decided to fish upstream for half-an-hour before coming back to camp for a bite to eat. He told me he had seen a little pig sign half a mile or so downstream. I could not resist having a look. After dropping my load of venison at camp it did not take too long to make my way to the place where the old man saw the pig sign. Sure enough, they had been there alright. The pigs nearly caught me out though. I was so busy looking at the sign that it was several minutes before I notice two pigs feeding on the opposite river bank. I crept closer and took the opportunity to take some photographs. The pigs soon made their way out of sight into the cover  of the bush. After checking the wind, I raced upstream a little way and crossed the river, then started to stalk back to where the pigs were last seen.  I was a bit too hurried in my stalking for suddenly both pigs burst from amongst some ferns and raced towards the ridge rising from the river flat. I ran forward hoping to catch a glimpse of them, and for a chance of a shot when they started to climb the ridge. I managed a quick shot at one. The animal appeared to be hit. The next clear view was from about two metres, with the pig retracing his steps downhill. Straight for me! To be quite honest, I’m not sure which way I went, except that I got out of the way. The pig laid down so I decided to finish him off with my knife. I placed my rifle against a tree and moved in. I reached down to grasp the pig’s snout when, all of a sudden, the pig was on his feet swinging his head wildly and rushing at me. I sure had the urge to climb a tree, but I didn’t have the time to look for one! When the dust had settled, I did not have my knife, and the pig was between my rifle and me. The pig? FilmWell, he was still very much alive, sitting on his haunches watching me very intently. I slowly moved back a little and picked up a short branch of wood that lay nearby. It was 150mm thick. After a bit of manoeuvring, I was able to approach the pig close enough to deliver the coup de grace. So I thought! I struck the pig on his head but the branch broke into three pieces. There was another flurry of activity by the pig and I! This time I found myself and rifle re-united. One shot and it was all over for the pig, but a few lessons to ponder on for me.

In the evening the old man and I lay around the campfire watching the flickering flames. Nothing much was said. Nothing needed to be said. We had no trophies to hang on a wall, but it had been a good trip. I’m sure that if there is a Happy Hunting Ground the old man would still think so too.