Killing in the name of...

FIRST KILL: Reporter Kelsey Fletcher stands over a deer she shot in the Pohangina Valley.
FIRST KILL: Reporter Kelsey Fletcher stands over a deer she shot in the Pohangina Valley.

Everyone was surprised when I told them I shot and killed a deer. Scared even.

Obviously no-one thought I had it in me. And despite turning up to the hunt with no gun experience, and a little under- dressed for the weather, I shot my deer right through the brisket from 150 metres. A perfect shot.

My hunting partner, Palmerston North businessman Richard Barnes, assured me before we left Palmerston North that we would return with venison. And we did.

We arrived about 6pm - it was a warm, moist summer evening.

His "spot X" remains a bit of a mystery to me - I could have been blindfolded it was so well hidden in the enormity of the Pohangina Valley.

I had time to practise shooting before we disembarked, my target was a nail in a scrap of wood. The deafening noise of the suppressed 270-calibre gun was so startling I declined further practice, despite only just missing the nail.

Our trail led deep into the bush and by far the most difficult part of the night was hanging on to the quad bike as it skipped rucks and plunged down gullies.

Clouds were rolling in and at times it began to rain lightly, but we continued searching the hills for deer. At the top of a ridge we stopped the bike. My hunting partner could see the white hide of a deer over a kilometre away. But not me, everything was just shades of green and brown, with sheep sprinkled about. Even binoculars proved fruitless. But as we drove closer I could see it.

And then things got exciting.

We dumped the bike at the bottom of a gully, jumped over a stream - or waded through in my case - and snuck up the steepest hill I've encountered.

There was no talking, Indian file, and it was dense bush.

From behind a log we looked up at a female and calf. We stalked the pair for some time, intent on taking the mother.

Would it have bothered me, leaving a baby alone in the wild? Perhaps, but we went into the bush with the objective to bring venison home, and this was simply what we came across.

Fortunately, for the mother and her baby, they evaded all our offensive actions. She smelt us and moved silently over the ridge, occasionally popping her head up to check where we were.

And on best advice I was told shooting her in the head was not a good idea.

We began moving around the side of the hill for a better look. As we slunk behind a slender tree a deer came over the top of the ridge. The tree provided little cover so we quickly went to ground. My hunting partner set up the gun as our sitting duck remained motionless on the top of the hill. With the gun set on its tripod we switched positions, making enough noise to raise the dead.

And still the deer stood, watching us.

I grasped the gun but I couldn't see the deer through the scope. My position in the dirt was terrible. It took an age to line up the deer, I was vibrating with excitement. Or fear. I couldn't miss it.

The deer stood staring at us, face on from 150 metres away up the hill. I pulled the trigger and shut my eyes.

When I looked up I saw the deer fall to its knees, stand up, then collapse and roll down the valley.

I looked at my hunting partner, he was smiling and he shook my hand. Was I sure I'd never fired a gun before?; that was the perfect shot, he said. I looked back at my deer. It was running across the gully. No, it was another deer that had run into our range after hearing the shot.

My hunting partner grabbed the gun, ready to take his shot. He lined the deer up and gunned it down.

We gutted the beasts in the valley and strapped them onto the quad bike to bring back to the ute. Two young bucks, still twitching when we reached them. We found the remains of the bullet in my deer, a keepsake. The second deer had been punctured through the lung.

The buzz lasted for days, I was high as a kite on venison - and it tasted great.

Manawatu Standard