Hunting in Queenstown and Central Otago
Hunting in Queenstown was a real eye opener for me. Having grown up as an avid outdoors-man, I had always heard of the successful hunting trips of the older generation when Deer were a plague of pest proportions in NZ. I always saw Goats and Pigs, but seldom saw Deer. Well that all changed when I moved to the South Island of NZ and especially Queenstown. If you cant have a successful hunting trip here in Central Otago, you are having a bad day.
There is Deer sign everywhere in the bush, and they actually have poison drops to cull the Deer so they can be kept in manageable numbers. Every time I go into the bush, without exception, I am scaring Deer. I see Whitetail, Fallow, Red Deer, and on odd occasion I have seen Wapiti (Elk) down in Fiordland.
The hunting season as such is during April each year during the Roar. Many areas are available for shooting only by ballot. This means you are assigned an area to shoot during a definite time period. The purpose for this is to lessen the chance of you getting shot by an over keen hunter who doesn’t identify his target first.
I personally only shoot for food, so I seldom go after deer. I think they are a majestic animal, and the amount of meat I get off just one beast keeps my freezer full for years. I am more of a small game hunter, going after rabbits, goats and pigs.
The Duck Shooting Season
The Duck Shooting season starts in the first week of May each year, and is a very popular sport here in NZ with many generations engaging in the sport, and hunting their favorite birds to eat.
Recently the laws changed so wildfowl can only be shot with steel shot and not lead shot. You will see Maimais (little huts) springing up around lagoons and swamps and lakes edges just before shooting season, with decoys in the water so that the ducks are familiar with them when hunting season opens.
Central Otago Easter Bunny Shoot
We have a twist on Easter here, with what we call “The Easter Bunny Shoot”. This is an annual hunt where up to 50 different farmers, allow groups of shooters on their farms to go hunting down as many Rabbits, Possums, Stoats and Hares as they can over the Easter period. It is actually their form of pest control as we have plagues of Rabbits here in Central Otago.
This is a competition, and the team that shoots the most wins prizes. Many of the hunting groups return year after year, and it makes for an enjoyable weekend by all participants, with several groups being turned down each year because there arent enough shooting spots available.
Wild rabbits are okay to eat here in Central Otago. I regularly have rabbit meat for dinner and barbeques from my hunting expeditions. We have permission from the farmers to shoot on their land, and we always ring before we go to advise them of our prescence, and then again after our hunting to tell them how well we did. Farmers respect this, and if you are a regular they will be grateful that your hunting is actually saving them money. Some farmers will even provide bullets if you do a good job.
Seasonal Changes to Deer Habits
When it snows on the mountains around Queenstown, the Deer move down lower to shelter and find food. This means it is easier to find them when hunting, and it also means you have to be careful when driving along some of the country roads. There have been numerous accidents from people hitting Deer or avoiding Deer that run in front of them. I had to avoid 4 deer in one night, and another night I saw 12 Deer running across the road in front of me. It is a nice problem to have, but it can be dangerous for the inexperienced driver, not knowing or expecting this at night time.
I recommend using a Hunting Guide for best results for Trophy Heads. These guys know the area, and where to find the best animals, whether it be Deer, Chamois, Thar, Goats, Pigs, Wild Cattle Beasts or whatever your interested in. They often have permission from large landholders who allow them to go hunting on their properties.
The Hunting Guides that I can personally recommend are true professionals who are very experienced with detailed knowledge of the local area and wildlife. They have many satisfied clients, and they are more likely to get you in front of the type of animal of trophy size you seek than anyone else I know of. Contact me for a personal introduction.
The trophy hunters after a good set of Antlers, can choose between hunting in the wild, and fighting the elements of nature, or if you have sufficient funds, shooting on specialist Deer farms. These farms have bred from quality Stags, often imported and interbred with NZ stock, and then released on their large estates. These are the best Trophy heads you will find anywhere in the world. You can stay in their specialist Lodges and be pampered the whole duration of your stay.
We also have Pheasant hunting on specialist estates, if that is more to your taste.
Something that I find exhilarating and much more fruitful is Heli-Hunting. I have several friends who enjoy this type of hunting for obvious reasons. It is enjoyable, it is less stressful, you can easily find and identify your target- choosing the best, you don’t have to carry the trophy or carcass out on your back and at the end of the day you still have enough energy to enjoy yourself. The only down side is the cost and the fact you will upset hunters who like doing it the hard way.
Hunting is all about getting results and sometimes paying for someones experience and knowledge is worth paying for, if you dont have to put up with weather conditions and no success while you try to find a decent animal to take home.