Do the Right Thing: Ethical Hunting in New Zealand
There’s no doubt about it – New Zealand is one of the best places in the world if you’re passionate about hunting. Hunting is a very popular activity for both our locals and the thousands of visitors who come here each year to partake in this exciting sport. There’s no shortage of incredible places throughout our bountiful country, and the different species of animals available to you are plentiful too. No matter what animal you choose to hunt, whether it’s deer, wild pigs, tahr, chamois, goats, or game birds, we’ve got’em. We welcome hunters from across the globe; all we ask is that you hunt ethically when you’re hunting in New Zealand.
The Basics of Ethical Hunting in New Zealand
You know how there are laws of the jungle? Well, hunting has laws too. First, when you’re hunting in New Zealand you’ve got to respect the written law that is enforced by the Department of Conservation. That’s easy enough as their guidelines are comprehensive and easy to understand and adhere to. But the other laws of hunting are unwritten – they’re an ethical code of honour that true sportsmen and women pledge allegiance to.
Following game laws just isn’t enough when it comes to hunting ethically. Without sticking to our ethics of hunting, a law abiding hunter can still be a poor sportsman. The ethical hunter knows the limits of his or her equipment, the reach of their shooting ability, and they always try for a clean, quick kill. The ethical hunter obeys all of New Zealand’s hunting laws when hunting, and acts as a goodwill ambassador for the sport and for all other hunters. We’ve got a bad enough reputation (whether it’s deserved or not) as it is in some parts, and we don’t need poor sportsmen and women exacerbating the issue.
How to be an ethical hunter
Ethical hunting is about having regard for the welfare of the animals you’re hunting. That can be through demonstrating conservation practices during a hunt and limiting your impact on the local environment when hunting, or avoiding any form of mechanised pursuit e.g. illegal use of vehicles or electronic devices.
Ethical hunters also:
- Work on their hunting skills through practice
- Learn about their quarry
- Respect their quarry before and after the shot
- Retrieve wounded game
- Believe in fair chase and never takes unfair advantage of game
- Take pride in hunting and being a hunter
- Never take more than the legal limit of game
- Knows how to clean game and never wastes it
Unethical hunters hunt on private property, poach game, hunt out of season, and show no respect for the land, the game, or fellow hunters. They’re not driven by love for the sport but for how much game can be shot, and often in short spaces of time. In the end, it’s a lonely path to follow as real hunters won’t have anything to do with them. The choice is yours – what kind of hunter do you want to be? What kind of example do you want to set for your fellow hunters, and your family?
Hunting Time: Family Time
While some people might not see hunting as an activity for the whole family, it can actually be a great way to get your kids and partner outside and into the wilderness. It is the ethical hunter who is willing to take the time to show their children the true hunting experience and introduce them to the principles of conservation and animal welfare that make a great ethical hunter.
Hunting with your children is an excellent opportunity for you to show them how to respect the wildlife and the land, while showing them how to be responsible with firearms. New Zealand is a safe place to hunt, but there are other ways you can prepare your family for a memorable hunting experience.
First, only hunt when the weather forecast is favourable. You want to be dry and happy, especially when you’re with your kids. Second, depending on your experience, make your hunt a day trip, or a single night trip. Before you go, have a discussion with your kids about all aspects of hunting, from respecting wildlife, to cleaning up after themselves. Finally, don’t force it if they’re not keen – there will always be other opportunities. Remember, hunting is not gender specific, if you have daughters there’s no reason why they can’t go hunting with you. As long as you’re well prepared with the proper gear, everyone should be able to get a lot from the experience.
Hunting season in New Zealand
It’s possible to hunt all year round in New Zealand, but certain times of the year are better than others. Summer is a great time to hunt in New Zealand as the weather is always warmer; it’s also more settled, and less likely to change dramatically from one hour to the next. But with the fine weather comes the possibility of greater danger; with an influx of trampers or hikers from around the world visiting our beautiful nation. You’ll need to be extra cautious when other explorers are around. And ideal hunting times are going to vary depending on your choice of game to hunt.
For instance, one of the most popular times to hunt red deer in New Zealand is during what we call The Roar. The roar lasts around four weeks over the 20th of March to the 20th of April – which is Fall in New Zealand. During the roar stags are at their most vocal, calling out loudly and frequently to attract a mate and to protect their territory. Because of the popularity of this four week block, certain areas in New Zealand will have further restrictions for safety precautions. A lot of hunting accidents in New Zealand happen over this period, so you’ve got to be vigilant. The most important single rule during this time, or any time for that matter, is to always identify your target beyond any doubt whatsoever.
Knowing Where to Hunt
A quick search on where to hunt in New Zealand on the DOC site turns up over 450 spots! For most of these locations, you’re going to need an official hunting permit. If you’re hunting on private land, with the permission of the land-owner, you won’t need to worry about applying for a hunting permit as you’ll be under their specific jurisdiction.
Finding private land to hunt on can be quite a task, particularly if you’re not a local. That is where properties such as High Peak come into the their own – especially if your after a trophy. No public area can match the level of game quality management provided by a private landowner with a specific goal of providing a quality trophy hunting experience.
Knowing What to Hunt
There are plenty of hunting organisations in New Zealand that can help you learn more about the species you can hunt, the kinds of permits you need, and safety specific information for your trip into our native bush. Whether you’re hunting in a group or solo, when you’re hunting in New Zealand you’ve got to do everything you can to protect our unique wildlife and environment.
Our Wildlife Act protects native species from hunting, but some bird species can be hunted during particular times of the year. It can be tempting to hunt quarry you’ve never seen before, but bear in mind the risk: the maximum penalty for killing protected wildlife is a $100,000 fine, including jail time. No animal is worth that risk, and besides, as an “ethical hunter”, you wouldn’t stoop so low as to kill protected native animals anyway!
That said, it’s important for you to be aware of what animals you can and can’t kill while you’re hunting in New Zealand.
There are 12 species of big game available to New Zealand hunters:
- Red Deer
- Sika deer
- Rusa Deer
- Sambar Deer
- Whitetail Deer
- Fallow Deer
- Himalayan Thar
- Austrian Chamois
- South Pacific Goat
- Wild Pig
- Wild Bulls
When hunting big game in New Zealand, if you’re not a local, you’re best to enlist the services of a professional guide, outfitting company or a full service private land operator such as our operation here at High Peak.
Hunting and Gun Permits
While New Zealand is a popular hunting destination, we still require hunters to have permits, especially if you’re considering bringing in your own firearms. Permits are easy enough to get if you have the right documentation prepared ahead of time and the money for temporary permit fee. Hunters in New Zealand must follow the Firearms Safety Arms Code, and comply with the basic rules when hunting:
- Treat every firearm as loaded
- Always point firearms in a safe direction
- Load a firearm only when ready to fire
- Identify your target beyond all doubt
- Check your firing zone
- Store firearms and ammunition safely
- Avoid alcohol or drugs when handling firearms.
When you’re hunting with a friend in New Zealand, you must cease hunting if you’ve lost sight of them. Make sure you and your hunting companions are wearing high visibility clothing that contrasts with the environment including game found in that area. Your safety is paramount! And you can never be too safe. Here are some top tips to keep you hunting ethically and safely while hunting in New Zealand.
Hunting Safety Tips
When hunting with firearms it’s important to put safety first – of both yourself and the members of your hunting party. Here’s a few tips to get you started with safe hunting:
- Treat every firearm with respect
- Control the direction of your firearm’s muzzle
- Be sure of your target and what is beyond it
- Be sure the barrel and action are clear of obstructions
- Unload firearms when not in use
- Never point a firearm at anything you do not intend to shoot
- Never climb a fence or tree, or jump a ditch or log, with a loaded firearm
- Never shoot a bullet at a flat, hard surface or water
- Store firearms and ammunition separately
- Avoid alcoholic beverages or other mood-altering drugs before or while shooting
- Follow the Arms Code
- Hunt with a permit
- Never spotlight on public land
- Protect native plants and animals
- Remove your rubbish and bury your toilet waste
- Don’t litter in lakes and streams
- Respect other hunters
- Kill quarry humanely
- Look after the facilities provided for you
- Wear contrasting clothing at all times