In late March 2021 I had the pleasure of hunting for the first time. David, my partner had reserved a luxury glamping dome at Glen Dene Lodge in Lake Hawea.
I had no idea what to expect, I asked myself, “could I even shoot a rifle?”.
When we arrived at the domes I could immediately see the amount of hard work and attention to detail that had gone into this project. I found out that we were one of the first guests in these domes.
David has known Richard through Safari Club and the hunting community. My first impression of Richard was that he is genuine, hard working and family orientated. Sarah is enthusiastic, uplifting and a wonderful host, the couple are an incredible team and I felt comfortable right away.
Raynart was our hunting guide and he offered to take us on a tour of the station. Little did I know, I would be shooting a rifle that afternoon. We embarked on a small excursion through a beautiful piece of land. I’d never seen Lake Hawea before, hunting and fishing is right at your doorstep. We came to a halt at a paddock where a shooting range was set up.
Raynart and David got the equipment ready to shoot the targets, while I quietly observed from the backseat. After almost a year of learning about David’s passion for hunting I finally was about to witness him shooting a shot. Once David had his turn the pair turned to me and asked if I would like to try it out myself. I was keen but didn’t expect the rifle to be so heavy I nearly fell over when it was handed to me. Much to my amazement after Raynart gave me a crash course, I built up some courage and I shot the bullseye. Not just once. But Twice! I shot it twice!
This was my first experience using a rifle and I was beaming the rest of the evening. We enjoyed a delicious meal cooked for us by the chef, Carol who is such a delight to be around also.
I’m not a morning person, I never have been. So when I was setting my alarm for 6am the next I was slightly nervous I would struggle. Fortunately, I couldn’t wait to see what Carol had made for breakfast so I was up out of bed. We met the crew at the lodge and were greeted with another nutritious meal made with love. Carol really understands how much energy you use while hunting, everything she served us provided all the goodness that we really needed for our day ahead.
David and I set off with Raynart and before I knew it we were climbing up a gravel road in a off road buggy. I felt like we were in Jurassic park, except deer were the dinosaurs. At first I found the deer hard to spot, I wasn’t used to studying the horizon and looking for colour changes. After driving even further in the buggy we reached a checkpoint and from here we would continue on foot. I heard a noise that sounded like a roar, David and Raynart looked at each other and smiled. They both pointed in the distance and we could see a mighty stag just over the hill. After trekking a bit further, we found ourselves amongst a thick bush of Manuka trees that covered the whole hillside we were on. We eventually came to a lookout where we could see a clearing in the valley below. We could spot several hinds, fellows and 3 or 4 small stags. Raynart spotted a large stag resting beside a tree, but to get a chance at even aiming we had to walk even further into the bush.
The ground around us was very uneven, steep and thick with the Manuka trees, this made carrying the trophy later very difficult. David had described many of his experiences hunting to me where he faced some tough challenges. I was prepared for anything on this day and the tricky terrain is all apart of the experience. If you’re not reasonably fit and aren’t familiar with being in nature then hunting probably isn’t for you. We needed to be quiet as we approached the clearing where the stag was sitting in the valley. Raynart and David set up the equipment for the shot that was about 200m away. David asked me several times if I would like to take the shot, however I was more interested to watch and learn. David was figuring out how to find something to rest the rifle on, so Raynart set up some hunting sticks for him to stabilise the gun. I had ear plugs in, in anticipation of the noise that will come out of the gun. BOOM, David fired and he’d shot the stag in the back of the neck. In hindsight, that was the easy part. Now we had to hike down through unknown territory, to retrieve our prize.
After a photoshoot, Raynart and David began butchering the animal right infront of my eyes. We were aiming to take with us as much meat as we could carry. On the way back David carried the antlers and the head, Raynart carried the meat which had been boned out and I carried our pack and the rifle. It took over an hour with several rests to climb our way back to where the buggy was. As we approached the buggy Raynart picked up pace and got there before us to fetch two cold drinks for us to enjoy the moment we reached the buggy. That gesture was completely unexpected and a great example of the service you will have at Glen Dene station. We were driven to a tent camp that is set up on top of the range with breath taking views of Lake Hawea and surrounding mountains. A lunch was prepared for us which was devoured and filled all of our stomachs. That evening, Carol delighted us with another dinner at the lodge. We were joined by Richard and Sarah, Raynart, SCINZ president Mike Knowles and a friend of his. Mike and his friend were also hunting on the same property.
After sharing stories and finished our meal David and I soaked in the “stoaked” wood fired hot tub and were entertained by a red stag roaring on a bushy slope above us. The next day the boys tried to convince me to have a shot at a deer but I was still hesitant. So instead, we had a tour of Raynarts taxidermy studio, I had no knowledge on this subject and I was very intrigued and fascinated. I started to piece together the process, start to finish, from the moment the deer is shot to the minute it’s on your plate in a meal or being proudly displayed on a living room wall.
The whole weekend changed my perspective on hunters and I can now say I will never miss an opportunity to take part in this sport. Next years season David and I are booked on another hunt and I’m determined to have my first success with a rifle. I look forward to having another thrilling experience next year.
Thank you to Sarah, Richard, Raynart, Carol and all those who made it possible for us to have this experience.