Tussock Hut and the Harkness Valley
There is another DOC heli-pad in this area that could be used as an alternative access to the head of the Harkness valley. It is the Otorehinaiti Saddle heli-pad and is at the very most southern part of the valley.
The Harkness valley is located in the northern part of the Kaweka ranges. This area is another really popular sika hunting spot with an awesome big open valley floor that is covered with high country tussock and a large area of mountain beech; it a superb place to hunt.
Sika generally do well in this area, which could possibly be due to the large open area of tussock that gives the deer easy access to feed. That said, if it has been a tough season they can sometimes lose condition. After chatting to a few of my customers about their experiences in this area it quickly became apparent that there are both types of sika here, the Nippon and the Manchurian. The Nippon, which is the smaller of the two, can be up to 10-15 Kgs lighter than the Manchurian.
I have noticed this also when looking at the two different types of sika stags while guiding. The smaller Nippon stags appear to have biggish looking antlers when you match them to their body size, yet are often smaller when they are on the ground. If you are after a high Douglas scoring trophy then this is something to be aware of.
The Harkness valley is one of those great spots where you can hunt all year round. It’s an especially good spot in springtime when sika are in their bright chestnut summer coats, which makes them easier to spot.
Trophy potential in this area is similar to most of the other areas in the park where you would expect a trophy to be around the 140 DS to 160 DS mark. Always remember though, that like some of the other areas of the park, it can produce a record book stag.
There are two DOC huts that are available in this area - Tussock Hut and Harkness Hut, which are located at either end of the Harkness valley. Tussock Hut was built back in 1964 and is located at the northern end of the valley. Harkness Hut was also built in the early 60s and is at the southern end of the valley. Both huts have heli-pads and unless you are an extremely fit individual, flying in would be the best way to get there.
There are a few good operators that can fly you into this great bit of sika Country – Chris Crosse of East Kaweka Helicopters is a good option as he is based at Puketitiri and it’s a relatively short flight time from his hanger.
There are several options to hunt from both huts. I would recommend a good quality pair of binoculars to glass the tussock and bush edges. These are good spots where deer like to feed. Hunting in the bush and mountain beech can be productive too.
If you are up for a challenge and want to walk into this great sika hunting spot then you should allow at least two days to get there. You can visit the DOC website, which has detailed info on their recommended route: http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/places-to-stay/backcountry-huts-by-region/hawkes-bay/hawkes-bay/harkness-hut/
There is another DOC heli-pad in this area that could be used as an alternative access to the head of the Harkness valley. It is the Otorehinaiti Saddle heli-pad and is at the very most southern part of the valley. Where the Harkness-Ngaawaparua stream meets the Ngaruroro River is a DOC hut known as Ngaawapurua. If you are a keen trout fisherman as well as a sika hunter then this part of the river offers some great fishing.
Glen's Eight Pointer
The trophy I have selected for this feature was shot by a good mate of mine Glen, who is also a hunting guide on Ngamatea. We do a lot of work together each year. Glen recounted the highlights of this trip to me recently.
After winning a fly-in voucher at a local hunting competition Glen and his crew decided they would change from their annual Boyd trip and try somewhere new. Tussock had always looked like a neat spot to hunt so in late March they flew with Helisika into Tussock hut.
The pilot was very forthcoming with good info. He had seen a few animals in this area while ferrying hunters back and forth. They decided to do a night or two at the hut and then go and explore and fly camp for a few nights.
The first evening hunt was successful with Glen’s mate Al securing the first deer, a nice yearling sika in the main Harkness valley. The following morning Glen was up early and noticed a sika hind feeding on a face not far from the hut. Quickly getting a rifle and some gear sorted, the second deer for the trip was soon on the ground.
Later that afternoon on a hunt down the valley Glen spotted a stag feeding a long way off. They put in a big stalk to close down the distance. Getting closer revealed a six point stag with good length to its antlers. It was Al’s turn for a shot and he lined up the stag. Unfortunately he missed and the stag disappeared over the ridge untouched.
The next day the crew left the hut to spend a night out fly camping in another catchment. There looked to be some promising country so they tramped for a while and found a nice area where they could set up their bivvy. Hunting later on, Al caught a glimpse of a deer while glassing a nice looking face. Glen confirmed it and also noticed antlers.
The height of the scrub where they were glassing from became the next challenge as there was nowhere to take a clean shot from. Glen grabbed his pack and stood it upright. This was the perfect height for a kneeling shot behind the pack. Rifle now ready he found the stag in the scope, which was sitting down and completely unaware.
Bang! The stag rolled over.
They made their way down to the animal, which was an eight pointer. Glen was rapt to have taken a nice Kaweka eight point trophy. The following day they tramped back to Tussock Hut and spent the next evening enjoying the hunting around the hut.
Glen also pointed out that if you are going to do chopper trip into an area, sometimes it can be just the luck of the draw. If you are flying into an area where a party of hunters has just been, it can be tougher to get onto deer. On the other hand, if an area like Tussock has had a rest then it can be great fun with a few animals around. Copyright 2015 NZRod&Rifle