What’s the best rifle to bring to New Zealand?
By Simon Guild.
Every single client that wishes to visit High Peak with their own firearm – bar none – asks the question what is the best calibre to bring on my New Zealand hunt? Of course, the answer to this question depends on what you plan to hunt, but given virtually all High Peak hunters wish to take a Red Stag or Elk, which happen to be our biggest game species, I give them the following answer.
“The biggest calibre you are comfortable carrying and shooting, up to a point’.
Hunting Ethics and Calibre
Why the biggest calibre you can comfortably shoot? Well, that all has to do with our hunting ethics. Unlike fly-fishing, there is no glory in taking a trophy animal on ‘light gear’. We believe that a well-placed shot, taken within the range of the rifle and within the hunters’ ability, should kill the animal more or less instantly…the classic ‘one shot kill’ if you will. This is why we will always attempt to close the distance between hunter and game to within, say, 300 yards – to make doubly sure of the shot.
It is also why any bow hunter, novice hunter or junior hunter on High Peak will always be accompanied by a guide carrying a ‘mercy rifle’ – so that the hunter or guide can finish the job without suffering in the instance of a misplaced or ineffective shot or arrow. A bigger calibre will always be more effective at the ‘one shot kill’ than a smaller one, provided the user can in fact use it.
Bringing an appropriate firearm on your New Zealand Hunt
What about ‘up to a point’? This is more about what is appropriate for the game in question. Our stags weigh in at around 400-500 pounds, elk up to 200 pounds more, which gives you an idea of their size. There is little point in bringing something designed to stop a 10,000 pound bull elephant. Yes, it will do the job, but it is most definitely overkill, not to mention hard work to lug up the hills. It helps to bring something that you’re comfortable carrying as well as shooting.
What calibre rifle should I use?
With the above in mind, calibres we recommend range from around .243, for lighter, younger, novice and some female hunters up to around .330 for guys comfortable shooting such ordnance. A good rule of thumb for any hunting destination is to look at what the locals use (and in New Zealand there are a lot of local hunters as a proportion of the population) – the .270 Winchester is an ever popular, if not the most popular, choice, along with the .308. The quicker 7mm 08 and .300 calibres are becoming popular too – especially where tahr are also on the list and longer range shots up to 400-500 yards might be called for.
The advantages of using the outfitter’s hunting equipment
Regardless of your destination, if in doubt, leave the beast at home and use the outfitter’s client rifle. As well as saving you potential hassles through customs and less than sympathetic baggage handlers, you should be able to rest assured that the outfitter’s best interests definitely lie in giving you the right equipment to finish the job.
For what it’s worth, we provide a Sako .308 as our client rifle. Over the past couple of seasons it has taken nine stags from nine shots on High Peak. Will this record be intact at the end of the 2014 season? Only time will tell.