Let me try and explain why there is so much debate around FREE range new zealand hunting in this wonderful country of ours.
Yes it should be very simple, but alas it isn’t.
Our New Zealand Red Deer are, like all our game animals introduced species, exotics for lack of a better term.
They were liberated in the late 1800’s.
We lost control of the populations in the 1930s and 40s.
By the 70s with numbers at catastrophic levels we started commercial harvesting them with helicopters to markets established in Germany and the US.
By the mid 80s we had the populations under control, to the extent that wild deer were being live captured to establish a deer farming industry, it was cheaper and more efficient to grow venison under controlled conditions than burn A1 jet fuel and fly around in very expensive helicopters, shame really as it was awesome fun, dangerous as hell but oh so much adventure!
Remember deer were considered pests not game within New Zealand.
With farming came a demand for better genetic material so we imported the very best of European and English blood lines combined with supplying the animals to the best food available and let farmers do what they do best. Net result the huge stags that you see today in all the glossy magazines.
The wild stock not captured or shot are still numerous and hunted recreationally by 10s of thousands of New Zealand recreational hunters, the genetics have not improved like the farm stock nor has the food supply in the habitats they thrive in.
Therefore, a vast majority of Hunting Guides in New Zealand hunt private land. The main reason is better management, often controlled by the guides and secondly no competition from the recreational hunter as they hunt public land.
BIG red stags are very valuable, so are fenced in to stop them wondering off and getting shot on public land, we have huge amounts of public land that often share a boundary with private land.
Many other red stags are released onto the private land from farm breed stock specifically for guided hunting, now you begin to see where black and white very quickly become grey.
There may be no high fences but you are still shooting stags that are technically not wild.
Once we reach this point there are a dozen different ways to “fudge” the facts.
Hence you’ll see a lot of rhetoric around FAIRCHASE and FREE range.
It is very simple to hunt free range, we hunt a lot of it and it’s our preferred method of hunting, but you will not find BIG stags, and now I could write a book on BIG, but being the guy that I am, I’m more into the whole hunt than the size of the animal which probably explains why my name was past on to you.
Hunting free range you should expect to see animals around the 300 inch Mark, 7×7 8×8 10×10 at tops and every combination in between along with more younger non trophy animals than you can point your rifle at.
And yes I manage the animals I hunt, and I have and will continue to release quality animals both into unfenced and fenced areas.
Point being we are able to hunt unfenced and secured very good representative trophies.
The best time to hunt Free Range is late March until mid April.
We, and we is Duncan and I, have access to 55,000 acres of private land, half of which we have exclusive access to. Now add the 2,500 acres of exclusive hunting lease property and our hunting options become more expansive.