Thar
PHOTO: Gordon Roberts © 

Introduction

Learn about tahr hunting in the South Island of New Zealand.

In this section

Description

Tahr.
Tahr
PHOTO: Gordon Roberts © 

Size: Himalayan tahr (Hemitragus jemlahicus) are similar in appearance to large goats with adult males measuring up to just over one metre at shoulder height. Mature adult females seldom weigh more than 36 kg while adult males have been known to weigh as much as 136 kg.

Colour: In winter bull tahr have a much prized, thick reddish to dark brown pelt, with a lighter coloured mane and a more or less distinct dark stripe on their back. Females are usually lighter in colour. In the spring tahr lose much of their coat, and it becomes lighter in colour.

Horns: Both sexes have horns with males having slightly larger horns than females. The horns nearly touch at the base, curve and diverge backwards, and approach again at the tips. Tahr horns are measured from base to tip along the outside of the curve. Good specimens range between 28–36 cm. long.

Social behaviour: Tahr are gregarious animals forming three distinct social groupings, which come together around April-May in preparation for the rut. The first group consists of females, kids, and young males up to 2 years old. The second group is made up of mature bulls over 4 years old with younger immature bulls, 2-3 years old, forming another third separate grouping.

During the middle of the day tahr rest, often well above vegetation line amongst rocky outcrops before descending to feeding areas in mid to late afternoon. The evening is spent at the lower levels before returning up to the higher altitude restring sites.

In heavily vegetated areas (like South Westland) where helicopter hunting regularly occurs, animals often have the reverse behaviour, resting and sheltering below the vegetation line and feeding upward into favoured tussock feeding areas or laterally onto open slips in the evening and returning to cover in the early morning.

Reproduction: The rut occurs late May to mid-July and at that time the mature bulls mix with the female group staying only if there is a female in oestrus. Bulls competing for the same female can enter prolonged displays which rarely end in fighting. Females give birth to a single kid.

Gestation period: About 165 days.

Birthing: November-January.

Nomenclature: Male = bull. Females = nanny. Young = kid.

Where to hunt tahr

The tahr feral range covers approximately 1.7 million hectares of the central South Island – spanning the Southern Alps from the headwaters of Canterbury's Rakaia River to the Young Range of Otago.

Tahr graze at high altitudes in alpine grasslands and sub-alpine shrublands.

Tips for hunting tahr

Characteristic/behaviour

Hunting response

Tahr are large bodied animals with heavy coats of long hair and often difficult to approach closely.

Flat trajectory calibre with high striking energy. Recommended .270 and above.

Take care to allow for long ridge and mane hair with shot placement. Bull tahr are a notoriously difficult animal to put down once disturbed or if shot placement is not perfect, be prepared for a quick follow up shot to achieve a clean kill.

Tahr are found in difficult and potentially dangerous country.

 

Rifles should be equipped with a strong sling to enable both hands to be used as necessary.

You will be in a mountain environment so dress and be equipped accordingly. Good footwear is essential, ice axe and or crampons recommended during winter hunting of tahr in alpine terrain.

Never hunt alone.

Tahr can occur in separate groupings all over a face.

 

By sitting at a vantage point and observing a wide area it can be easier to spot a potential trophy animal. Quality binoculars and, if possible, a spotting scope are an advantage. (Remember when spotting over an area don’t just look once leave it a while and look again as animals may have been under cover the first time.)

Tahr whilst having good senses of smell and hearing, appear to rely largely on their excellent eyesight.

When planning a stalk to an animal take advantage of as much cover as possible moving into the wind.

South Canterbury or alpine areas South Westland: tahr move vertically up and down faces resting high in the middle of the day and dropping down mid to late afternoon to feed.

South Westland lower areas: A mix of high animals feeding down from rocky outcrops/caves and bush/scrub dwelling animals feeding upwards and out onto slips.

Scope areas and plan to hunt animals mid to late afternoon when they are lower down feeding.

Hunting seasons and ballots

Tahr can be hunted year round, however, there are restrictions around aerial access to some areas.

The winter is the most difficult time of year to hunt tahr with climate and day length working against you. However, if you want to get a bull in the best condition then there is no substitute for the rut in May/June.

In spring time tahr are coming out of winter coat. They are a lot lighter in colour and easier to spot. Also at this time of the year tahr descend to low to mid altitudes, meaning you don't have to climb so long or high.

Tahr operational and control plans

These operational plans identify how tahr is managed, and where necessary, controlled within the region:

The following is a Wild Animal Control Plan for the management of Himalayan tahr:

Vegetation report

The following vegetation report was prepared for DOC by Landcare Research:


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