Located in the South Pacific, the North and South Islands that form New Zealand offer a cornucopia of hunting opportunity that may be more affordable than you think. Being in the southern hemisphere, you’re enjoying the fall season while North America is experiencing spring. With very little hunting opportunities at home, New Zealand offers everything from upland game birds and waterfowl to a host of big game and unique critters such as wallabies.
You really can’t plan enough days to experience all this little country has to offer. The Kiwis are some of the friendliest people in the world, and their hospitality is genuine. Just be warned, once is never enough.
The rugged natural beauty of New Zealand’s landscape offers a postcard-like view no matter which direction you turn. The clear blue lakes, rocky outcrops, and native bunchgrasses can keep an angler and hunter occupied for weeks. It is the perfect backdrop that can only be described as a sportsman’s paradise.
Glen Dene Hunting provided an opportunity of a lifetime to hunt a red deer stag. The massive antlers are eye-popping, so a hunter needs to take his time as it is easy to get excited and want to shoot the first one you see. My Silver Medal stag is by far the largest deer I’ve ever harvested and leaves me longing for another adventure. Red stag are not native to New Zealand but were introduced in 1971. Deer managers work to create the incredible genetics to grow stags that are now recognized as the largest in the world.
The most rugged terrain in the Southern Alps of New Zealand is home to the sure-footed chamois. Often affectionately referred to as a chammy, a big buck would sport horns stretching a tape to 10 inches. There are stable populations of chammy on Glen Dene for the hardcore hunter wanting to do things on foot. If the mountain elevation is intimidating, hunts are also available from a helicopter in the backcountry. I earned my chamois with close to 14,000 vertical steps under my boots and stayed concealed with Mossy Oak Mountain Country.
The long, gold flowing mane of a mature bull tahr is breathtaking. My bull’s horns measured over 12 ½ inches in length, but any mature bull is a trophy. Being able to watch the bulls in action during the rut through a spotting scope was like a National Geographic documentary unfolding before your eyes. I tip my hat to the guides who are better described as human-mountain goat crosses for their incredible ability to run up and down the steep mountains without breaking a sweat.
Don’t judge your shelter by its looks; this rustic, picturesque, tin-roofed casa is fit for a king – a king in search of a tahr. This remote mountain cabin was the base camp for hunting Himalayan tahr. Fresh spring water and a good selection of red wines made it easy to come back to after a hard day in the hills.
The greatest reward for a tahr hunt is getting back to the base of the mountain with a trophy in hand, or in this case, on your back. The guides’ confidence and encouragement make this hunt truly achievable for those who feel the terrain may be insurmountable. Or, there’s always the option for a helicopter hunt, where you can often take a tahr and chammy on the same excursion.
Waterfowl is by far the most popular target amongst residents. Ducks are the only thing that requires a hunting license. The season opens the first Saturday of May every year. And in rural areas, everyone from your young brother to your grandmother takes part in a traditional, duck hunt. Mallards are king, but for the visiting hunter, paradise ducks are a unique trophy. Males sport a tuxedo of black plumage while the smaller females have white heads and bodies. You would think it couldn’t get any better with limits as high as 25 ducks a day, however, Canada geese can be hunted 365 days a year with no limit and black swans are also fair game.
Picture an oversized jackrabbit streaking down a mountain at 45 miles an hour while hopping erratically. Now, try to steady your crosshair on it. To say you’ll need extra ammo is an understatement. Wallaby hunting is incredibly fun and challenging but also plays an important role in managing this introduced marsupial. Where hunters don’t control populations, sharp-shooters are brought in at night by ranchers and farmers to keep the wallabies in check.
It isn’t uncommon for livestock producers to have a full-time sharp-shooter on staff to control hare and rabbit populations. Of course, a visiting hunter can spend a day bunny-bashing or a night with a spotlight for some bigger hare. To say New Zealand is a target-rich environment would be an understatement.
The crystal-clear lakes and rivers of New Zealand are home to populations of feisty brown and rainbow trout. Spending a day with Greg Dougherty of Alpine Fishing Guides, and a float down the Clutha River, proved productive with the fly rod and some hardware. If you like fishing, make sure you budget time to float in the warm fall sun down one of the many rivers or on Lake Hawea on the Glen Dene station. You can fly-fish from the shore of the lake or arrange a trip on a boat.
Hearing the roar of a red stag echoing up a valley makes it easy to greet each day of your adventure with enthusiasm. Or perhaps, it would be the unique squawk of paradise ducks heading to feed that makes you look skyward. From fallow deer to arapawa rams there are unique hunting opportunities than the average hunter might consider.
If a red deer stag is on your bucket list, a trip to New Zealand should be too. There really is a hunt for everyone, where you can design the challenges and define your own trophy. Now is the time to plan your South Pacific adventure. The toughest decision is whether to hunt just stag or go for the full-meal deal.