In Blog, Hunting

Introduction of Game Animals to New Zealand – hunting tips and history on Hunting these Animals.

The first Red Deer to arrive in New Zealand did so as a gift from Lord Petre of Thorndon Park in Essex, England. The Stag and Hind arrived in Nelson in 1851,the Hind died just before arrival. In 1853 a Stag and Hind were sent from Richmond park, again The Hind died just 4 days prior to arrival. In 1860 Petre again sent 3 Red Deer to Nelson, these Deer arrived safe and well and were liberated behind Nelson. In 1861 six more Deer from Windsor park arrived in Wellington, they were transported to Carterton and liberated on Jury’s Run in the Wairarapa. The success of this Wairarapa liberation is still bearing fruits today.

The Otago Acclimatisation Society received six Red Deer from Dalhousie in Scotland. The Deer arrived in Dunedin on the frigate City of Dunedin on 21st of January 1871. This was followed with nine further Deer on the Warrior Queen in March of the same year. These Deer were liberated at Bushy Park near Palmerston the earlier arrivals at Morven Hills near Lake Hawea. The 2 groups eventually joined together.

From Bushey Park three Deer were later captured and liberated on Matapiro Station. It is the off spring of these Deer that now roam the Kaimanawa and Kaweka Ranges in the Central North Island.

So Red Deer became established in New Zealand. The Nelson herd was been hunted throughout the 1870 to 1899, when the Nelson province issued 100 licences to shot. The first Otago Stags were legally hunted in 1885 on Morven Hills.

Interestingly the last shipment and liberation by the Otago Acclimatisation Society took place in 1913, the Stag and four Hinds from Warnham Park were liberated on Clifton Station to the care of William Telford my Great Grand Father.

hunting tips and history

The Fallow Deer that now abound in Otago, and most other regions of New Zealand arrived in NZ during the late 1860’s. The liberation’s in the Greenstone and Blue Mts. being established by 1870. The Nelson liberation in 1864 appears to be the first record and these Deer arrived from Richmond Park, Surrey. Further liberation’s from Tasmania occurred up to 1870.

In 1875 two Sambar Deer from Ceylon were import by Mr Larkworthy and liberated on his Estate in the Rangatikei. These are the ancestors of today’s Manawatu herd.

Axis or Chital Deer were established at Bushey Park in Otago as well as reports of further liberation’s in Bluff, Kapiti Island, Tongariro National Park and Dusky Sound in Fiordland. Given the early success of the Otago herd at Bushey Park it is surprising that none exist today.

Moose first arrived in 1889 and after a short stay in Wellington the two bulls and two cows were shipped to Hokitika on the West Coast and liberated. In 1907 T.E Donne the General Manager of the Tourist Department sent a request to Canada and ten more Moose were liberated in Dusky Sound in Fiordland. Are there still Moose in NZ ? Watch this space…

Wapiti (Elk) arrived in 1909 as part of a deal between Donne and Theodore Roosevelt. In exchange for native birds and tuatara Donne was able to secure 20 Wapiti, 19 Whitetail Deer, and five Mule Deer.

The Wapiti were carried to Fiordland on the Hinemoa and the rest as they say is history. No game animal in New Zealand is more surrounded by controversy than the Wapiti. Its establishment in a National Park and its relationship with Red Deer saw the two species inter breed as a sad saga in NZ hunting history.

The Whitetail Deer were released on Stewart Island and at Glenorchy at the head of Lake Wakatipu near Queenstown. Both herds flourished and provide good hunting today. Of the liberation in Nelson in 1901 there seems to be no positive outcome.

The same must be said of the Mule Deer in the Hawkes Bay.

Sika Deer after an unsuccessful liberation in Otago in the 1880’s were again introduced from England. The three bucks and three does were a gift from the Duke of Bedford and bred at Woburn Abbey. These Manchurian species are larger than the Japanese Sika (nippon nippon) they were liberated near Taupo in the Kaimanawa Range.

Chamois were first considered by Haast in 1888 but it was once again T E. Donne in conjunction with Austrian Ritter von Hohnel that in 1905 negotiated six does and two bucks from Neuberg in Austria. They finally arrived in NZ on Board the Turakino in 1907.

Tahr again owe their presence in NZ to the Duke of Bedford. From Woburn Abbey five Tahr reached NZ on board the Corinthic in 1904. This early liberation was further boosted in 1909 by eight more Tahr from Woburn. How the Himalayan Tahr came to be in Woburn England, I’m uncertain. Their liberation at Mount Cook was very successful and good hunting is available to this day.

Fallow Deer hunting 100 years on from the early liberations, has seen the licence and control of hunting move away from the Acclimatisation Society which is today’s Fish and Game Council. The reasons for this are well documented in the annuals of wild animal history. In brief, Deer as an introduced species are seen as pests by the NZ Government as they compete in our natural environment with native flora and fauna.

Having survived the many and varied attempts to reduce populations to zero levels Fallow Deer have shown they are here to stay.

The saving grace with Fallow lies perhaps in the smaller stature and graceful appearance. Due to this and their habit of not moving far from their original liberation points has seen them cement a place in our present day hunting scene. They are also tolerated a lot more readily than their larger Red Deer cousins by land owners.

Today’s hunting options would therefore fall into two main categories, private land and Government land. Government land being the Blue Mountains and Greenstone Valleys in Otago, the Cobb and Ainseed Valleys in Nelson. In the North Island the Wanganui, Kiapara and Woodhill herds. All are on permit hunts from Department of Conservation (DOC) and often forestry companies. The herds mentioned all provide excellent hunting opportunity for the recreational hunter. The trophy hunter will still find excellent potential in the Blue Mountains, Greenstone and Kaipara herds.

Due to the large amounts of private land and the restriction of access to a lot of it, there is perhaps better trophy option on many private properties. The trick is to know where these properties are and who to get access from.

How to hunt? Fallow are creatures of habit and because of this offer good opportunity to those that are prepared to put in the time and get to know your hunting area extremely well. The same animals will live in the same place year in year out. Fallow if hunted hard will quickly seek the cover and security of heavy cover, they are however by nature a very gregarious animal and prefer the open grassland and fringe country.

Trophy Bucks will under good habitat produce trophy palmated antlers at the age of just three. Year one they will carry spikes 6 to 10 inches long, to the purist these animals are referred to as prickets. By year 2 they will have antlers 16 to 22 inches in length and similar spread, the antlers will have brow and trez tines and 2 to 6 points off the back of the main beams that will show a couple of inches of palmation. With the casting of the second year antlers in early November, the following February they will have grown a head with the distinctive palmation that makes them a sort after trophy. By years 4 to 6 the bulk of the antler will increase as will the palm length and width. A trophy Fallow will score 200 Douglas points, to do this he will need length and spread to be 24 to 27 inches, have strong brow and trez tines and hopefully guard tines off the back of the main beams below the start of 10 to 14 inch palms.

The best time to secure such a Buck is from the 15th of April to the 10th of May as this is the Rut period, the peak of which will be around ANZAC day on the 25th of April. Annually Trophies are taken scoring 200 to 220 DS. With the establishment of private herds the expectation of a head in the 220 to 250 class are increasing. Heads of this calibre would put NZ on a comparable footing to the European animals harvested each year.

Size wise a mature Fallow Buck will stand 36 to 40 inches at the shoulder and weigh around 250lbs. They are an aggressive animal in the rut and should not be under estimated when it comes to choice of hunting rifle. The 243 which is fine for 11 months of the year as a meat gathering rifle will be the minimum needed to secure a Buck quickly and cleanly. 7m and 30 cal are ideal. The 308 and 7×57 being ideal, flat shooting high velocity 270s and similar will often pass cleanly through a light skinned Fallow Buck.

Tahr are restricted to the Mt Cook region of the Southern Alps. Roughly between the Hopkins River on the eastern and southern boundary, the Landsborough Valley on the West and Hokitika/ Rakaia in the North. The numbers and distribution are vigorously controlled by the DOC. As it is the Bull Tahr that inspires us into the snow capped rugged peaks as the ultimate in NZ trophy animals; Lets look at the Bull Tahr.

There are many components that make an animal a trophy, none reflects this better than a Tahr, his horn length, his long golden blond mane, and the terrain he chooses to live in are the three main things. Not necessarily in the order stated. To most people Tahr hunting is a mental and physical challenge. The mountains are steep, often snow and ice covered. A wise Tahr hunter doesn’t charge off to the top of the nearest mountain on the hope of bumping into a trophy animal. One places themselves in a position where careful glassing and scoping will tell us what we need to know before they head to the animal in question. Tahr are very much creatures of habit. Winter or Summer they will feed from daylight until 9.30am then work their way back to higher safer ground in the steep bluff sections. By 3.30pm they will be up and stretching and as 4.00pm arrives be on the downward journey to the tussock and scrub zones to feed. Feeding at night is not recommended as one wrong step in the dark can be the last. The last place you see an animal at dusk is the first place you will find it at dawn. Careful study of the paths the animals take to and from their feeding grounds will often present the chance for a shot, or you may be able to approach their resting area’s and get your animal there, or lastly ambush them on there feeding grounds in the evening.

Nannies live their lives out in the same area, a Tahr hunter knows this and as the rut commences in late May will head to these places to watch for bulls moving into the nanny groups. Remember, by late May Winter will be in the mountains and the snow will hopefully be deep enough to have forced the animals out of the highest bluffs and down to hunt-able levels. It’s daylight at 7.30am so you have two good hours to be settled and glassing for animals. Always nice in sub-zero temperatures. If you haven’t located animals by 10.00am you’ll be very lucky to see anything until 3.30-4.00pm, so head back to camp or check out a new glassing position. If you have seen the animal you want then you have from 10.00am until 4.00pm to get up the mountain, hunt your animal and get down again. There are few circumstances that will see me on the steep stuff after 4.00pm. You can’t safely get off steep ground in the dark, nor can you cover frozen country after the sun has gone. Be Careful. The only way down a mountain is the way you go up, short cuts on the way down often end up as dead ends!

Once you have your Bull located – and it shouldn’t be difficult as a rutting Bull in late Autumn to early Winter during the rut is dark brown to black and contrasts very well against a snow background. You owe it to the animal and yourself to have a rifle that will secure your trophy. Tahr are not very bright animals, their common reaction to a rifle shot is to move into a nearby area of steep bluffs and back into the rock face to protect himself from his perceived danger. If you get one shot at a Bull you should get five shots at five Bulls, consider this as you hunt and don’t rush in on a one shot option.

You should consider if once you have taken your animal can you recover it? If you think not then don’t take the shot.
A mature Bull Tahr may weigh up to 350lbs, the hide over his shoulders is up to half an inch think, you will often be shooting out to 400yards with some cross wind. Do you have the right rifle for the task? Any rifle can put a Tahr down under ideal circumstances, the problem is, ‘ideal’ is a million miles away in the mountains. There are not that many good rests on a 40 degree mountain face, its cold, you’re sweating from the climb, shaking with excitement and nervous tension and have a target at 300 yards. Hit it in the wrong place and you’ll be in ‘deep deep do do’. Hit him hard and hit him with a lot of lead. 300mags are a popular calibre, 7mm pretty good. You have to shoot accurately at long range in harsh conditions, be prepared and you’ll have earned the toughest trophy you have ever hunted. Luck doesn’t come into it.

Best time to hunt is from late May to the end of July for a trophy Bull with a full mane and perfect skin.