Rafting at Mangatutara With Roarsome

When it comes to heights I really struggle and roaring over acres of prime hunting country in a helicopter is something I would love to enjoy but don’t. For most normal fellas it’s a real highlight to perch in the front of a Perspex clad coffin with mountains and scenery flashing by. 

My preferred spot is in the back surrounded by gear where no one can see me cowering and gripping tight at the slightest sign of turbulence. After flying with Steve from Opotiki helicopters numerous times he was aware of how I battled with a real fear of heights and upon arriving at his hanger the news wasn’t good for me, high winds meant the ride in was to be a bit bumpy.

 “Might be a good idea for you to come in on the second load” Steve suggested with a sly grin. The fellas with me jumped at the chance to climb up front in the window seats and I sat on my own next to the pile of camera gear and bags with my dogs keeping me company as I watched them whistle off into a sea of fast moving dark clouds. 

My nervous half hour wait ended with Steve roaring back in, “jump up front” he said. So with headphones on, seat belt fastened tightly and sun glasses lowered so he wouldn’t see my eyes screwed shut, I was ready. 

Being the good buggar he is Steve kindly suggested a longer flight up the Motu river that would be lower and less bumpy. We sat chatting as he tried to distract me by pointing out popular hunting areas and the odd deer as they snuck away. 

Our camping spot soon arrived and smooth as silk he banked and had me back on firm ground. Now the fun could start and with wobbly legs and a brave smile I stammered something about what a great flight it was and slunk off to begin setting up my tent.

Deerstalking at it's best

Deer Hunting what a life

Mangatutara is a place I have hunted quite a few times and on board for this trip was my cameraman and the two fellas from Roarsome, Tim and Andrew. 

Hugely successful deerstalkers these two fellas were in for a change and the plan was to run them ragged through the supplejack and side creeks chasing tusky Motu boars. 

The first night cemented them as good buggars when Andrew produced plenty of Scrumpys cider from his pack and Tim created one hell of a camp fire including punga seats. 

Sleep came easy on night one with dreams of big tusky boars in the river.

The plan was to hunt the easy country up the stream on the first morning and see if we could fluke a good pig on the benches above the stream. Pigs weren’t a problem but even my super soft bailers showed them no respect and with small skinny pigs being caught easy we decided another plan was in order. 

So with a series of small pigs released wiser and unharmed it was time to head up and gain some altitude. Two hours of climbing saw us on the leading ridge and as we sidled around the heads of the side creeks the pig sign was full on. The dogs left us and for the next 4 hours it was a mad dash from pig to pig. 

The size of the pigs hadn’t increased any over the last few hours and with a good bail up being our target for the day we started to loose faith. The dogs hadn’t stopped and whilst we chatted about the condition and size of the pigs the dogs vanished off the tracker at 600 meters, I suggested this could be the sign of a better pig. Andrew and Tim seemed to have an unlimited supply of energy so with radios on we split up and I sent them up and over to ensure the dogs hadn’t crossed into the gulley’s on the other side, I keep to my side and clambered around trying to keep up. A blip of signal on the tracking gear told me they were still 500 meters away. 

The madness of the last few hours was telling and as I stumbled along I was hoping the Roarsome boys wouldn’t beat me to the bail by too much. Wont hurt to gain some distance before I let them know the dogs are on I thought, kind of like a golf handicap and 2-300 meters should ensure I get there first. I raced along a nice open ridge and with the sound of a good bail echoing out of the valley in front of me I thought I had enough of a head start and radioed up with an update, my voice immediately echoed from another radio nearby and I swung around to see both Tim and Andrew sitting relaxed on a big fallen log with cans of tuna and crackers. 

Took you a while laughed Andrew as he finished up the last of his canned tuna, they’ve had a good bail going for a while now. What are you doing sitting here waiting I asked thinking maybe these deerstalking fellas were a little bit shy of a decent bail up, way ahead of you said Andrew – You’re the only one with a bloody gun! We slipped and slid through the supplejack with me telling everyone to get real sneaky as we got close. Both dogs were bailing hard and facing into a huge fallen tree which had my heart racing. 

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 Roarsome at Mangatutara

Perfect set up for some wicked footage I thought. A quick plan had the cameraman up on the log safely filming the action and me sneaking in along the base of the log.

This was exactly the scenario we had been aiming for and with cameras rolling I was sneaking in ready to make a move on a good boar.

The Roarsome boys made up a grandstand of interested spectators and I was sure this excitement would convert them to the dark arts of pig hunting rather than shooting rats with hooves, that was until the pig poked its long and very small snout out from under the log. 

The only reason the dogs were bailing hard was due to frustration because they couldn’t get to the pig, it was a cunning sow of about 60lb and well hidden in a small hole under the log. 

The added pressure of me arriving pushed her to make a last ditch dash out from under the log and with cameras still rolling my “big boar” magically appeared as an extremely fast angry little sow. 

Your bloody doing the carrying I said as laughter rolled out from the deerstalkers perched in the cheap seats on the log.

After a long carry back through supplejack clad guts and side creeks we decided to fly out a few days early as the pigs didn’t seem to be getting any bigger and deer were a bit hard to find. 

We were a bit disheartened and fired a quick message to the chopper pilot Steve on the Garmin Inreach as soon as we arrived back to the tents. His immediate reply had us a bit more excited – some fellas had only just cancelled a rafting trip for the following morning, if we came out first thing we could jump in their place if we were interested. 

Well why not I thought as we had struggled to get the job done where we were. Tim decided work and marital bliss was more important and so it was to be Andrew, me and Matt our camera fella. 

So part two of our Adventure was an unexpected rafting trip and kicked off the following day.

Sometimes when your rushing the important things get mixed up with those that well are just not as important. 

Upon arriving off the chopper we quickly split gear up and Tim headed off back to civilisation with a couple of excess dogs and the gear we didn’t need. Unknown to us within the pile of gear leaving with Tim was the one bag I couldn’t do without, my hunting bag containing tracking gear, radios and knife belt etc. 

So a rafting pig hunt started with one very distressed pig hunter loading a raft to find he only had his 44 mag rifle , four bullets and a Mercator pocket knife. 

To really put the icing on the cake I turned around after doing a little haka on the riverbank cursing my lost bag to find the dog gone. Maybe we should change it to a deerstalking trip suggested Andrew with a smile….

Calling produced nothing and a quick scout around only uncovered fresh pig rooting – bloody hell we hadn’t even got in the raft and the dog was gone with no collar on and we had no idea where she had gone. We split up and I headed up the river whilst the other fellas fanned with plans to retrieve the dog and get the rafting on the go. 

The little dog had decided why wait for the rafting when she could catch one here and the faint sound of barking rolled down to me. I raced up the river with my four bullets and Mercator knife jangling loosely in my pocket to find my little dog bailing a fat boar of around 70lb. 

Matt arrived soon after and my goal of a good bail up on film was all go. A quick swim across the river and a well placed shot sealed the first decent pig for the trip. Maybe deerstalking might be a good option I thought as I trudged back to the raft, hunting without tracking gear in a new area wasn’t something I was used to doing.

The rafting trip started with bang and the next two days were some of the most exciting and productive hunting I have experienced. I had started out trying to convert a couple of good buggars to pig hunting and my mistake in leaving my hunting gear behind flipped everything on its head. 

Roaring red stags and deer everywhere as we rafted along some amazing country made me think that calling them rats with hooves and telling everyone that deer just get in the way of real hunters might need to change. 

Sitting in the back of the chopper on the way out scrunched between a wet dog and the heavy timbered 10 point head we got I even sneaked a peak out the window and realised my views on deer hunting had changed but heights were still an area that needed work.

The footage of this trip is available free to view on our You Tube channel or visit us on Facebook to watch the full professionally filmed adventure.


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