I could give you a nauseating slew of inspirational quotes here to motivate you to prepare for a trip like this, but if I have to write a “failing to plan is planning to…” Opps. You see? I almost did it.
So. Planning. You bet. You’re not going to pull off this trip without it. But I’m here to be the ray of hope in what can seem like a monumental undertaking. Let me stop you right there. It’s not. Especially as a bowhunter.
To tell you the truth, it was way easier than I built it up to be in my head. New Zealand is a hell of a lot like America, just with less people and a badass accent.
Let’s go over some of the similarities.
There are lefties and righties that seem to be as divided as we are. I’ll give you a quick bit of advice. If you’re riding in a cab and have no clue if the cabby cries everytime she runs over a bug or not, don’t bring up the fact that you own a firearm cleaning products company. I may as well of been waving an AR-15 out the window, cigar in mouth, bottle of Jack Daniels in the other hand and pissing American excellence all over her back seat.
The people are nice. Genuinely nice. Much the way they are here. They do however use the word “cunt” a lot. Get used to it Snowflakes, I know it may hurt your sensitive feelings, but you can virtue signal all you want when you find wi-fi and can update your social justice warrior blog on these heathens.
The terrain was very similar to hunting out west. If you feel strong in the mountains here, you’ll be just fine there. Don’t get me wrong, they’re big and freaking intimidating, but that documentary “Lord of the Rings” over-exaggerated it. There weren’t any stone giants or dragons or lava spewing mountains with eyeballs hovering over them.
And the differences:
There’s a different mentality when it comes to hunting animals (for the most part). Not better, not worse, but different. You’re a product of your environment, right? In the USA we have native species that we almost blasted to extinction. But we’re savvy and we learned from our mistakes and now care for our wildlife like you should any renewable resource. Well New Zealand ain’t the USA, far from it. The animals that you hunt aren’t native species so they are all marked creatures according to their government. If the hunters don’t kill them, their Department of Conservation will. I found a gaggle of dead tahr laying in the valleys from what I could only imagine was a helicopter outing by the boys at the DoC. Animals are often shot and left behind as a means of population control. Not ideal in our eyes, but absolutely necessary for their ecosystem.
The Kiwis decided to go rogue along with the Brits and drive on the wrong side of the road. I know, I know. Why can’t everyone just follow our lead? Driving was about twice as stressful as it was to drive through the slums of Manila because of this, but it kept me off my phone, paying attention to the road and may have indirectly made me a safer driver when I returned home. Barring any head on collisions, it could do the same for you.
Helicopters are used like we use ATVs. They’re everywhere and are constantly used to get hunting into the backcountry. They don’t have roads up every valley like we do, so the only real option to get into many of these areas is by chopper. Plan on using them.
They like rugby, like I mean really like rugby. I’d have a better chance of winning the silver in women’s synchronized swimming then I would telling you how the hell the game is played. I’m pretty sure I saw that a ball was used in there somewhere. Actually I’m sure of it. You can take that knowledge to the bank. If you plan on spending any time in the pubs, it might be worth a Google search on what’s what in the game before you go.
What To Leave Home
New Zealand is a lot like the USA when it comes to availability of food and equipment. This means there is no need to bring stuff that will take up space and weight in your luggage that you could just as easily buy there.
The major cities that you will be flying into will have some type of camping store as well as a full sized grocery. You can leave your Mountain House (and the rot gut it causes) at home as they have alternatives you can pick up. Fuel is also easy to find for your stoves. That’s a huge bonus as they’ll tackle you at security if you try to sneak it on the plane anyways.
Any little odds and ends you forgot to pack while you were “just having a few beers” the night before your flight can be remedied when you get there.
What You Will Absolutely Need
Here’s a list of what I’m glad I brought:
Rain gear. It’s a freakin rainforest over there so don’t get caught with your pants down without rain gear. Also bring a rain cover to keep your backpack dry.
Power converter/adapter to charge all of your equipment. They use a supercharged 230/240 volts, we use wimpy 110 volts. Don’t fry your electronics because you’re cheap and don’t want to buy a converter.
International cell phone plan. All major carriers have fairly affordable international plans these days. Coverage is about as good over there as it is here so having your cell phone will be super handy.
Backup archery tackle. D-loop, string, broadheads, arrows and anything else you can think of that might break on you. A backup bow would even be better. There are some shops over there but they are few and far between and it could really ruin a hunt if you have to go find one. Their roads aren’t straight highways like ours, it takes forever to get anywhere so plan accordingly.
New Zealand’s Godsend - Hut Systems
Coming from a background of being a dirtbag hunter, I’m used to sleeping on the ground and giving up all creature comforts in order to be successful on my hunts. New Zealand threw a beautiful wrench into that system. Their huts. Wood stove burning, soft mattress having, four walls and a roof, oh so glorious huts. Never have I slept so well and been more excited for the hunt after a good night’s rest.
Some are first come, first serve. Some you can book out in advance. All must be given the utmost respect. They tend to be immaculate when you walk into them and they sure as hell better be that way one you leave them.
Many are located in prime hunting real estate. You can bring camping gear with you and spike camp out of the hut, using the shelter as your basecamp.
What to Expect From the Hunting
Honestly, from my experience hunting is hunting. Some days animals fight to jump in front of your arrow, other days you struggle to find your own shadow. It’s the same thing in New Zealand. I had days go by where I didn’t see a single critter. I was also able to pass on a dozen fallow hinds in a day and take a couple tahr over a few more.
I didn’t expect there to be as many hunters as there were. Hunting is as deeply ingrained in their culture as it is in ours. And the numbers of hunters show it. Expect to see other people on public land and expect the animals to react as any heavily pressured animal would.
A special not about red stag. Take all those pictures of what appears to be tree roots attached to a deer’s head and throw them out the window. Those giant red stags you see on the internet are not wild animals, 99% of them are raised on farms and then placed in front of hunters. If shooting livestock is your thing, have at it. But don’t expect to see those giants hulking around the forest on public lands. I’m just trying to keep expectations realistic so no one is disappointed by what the internet claims a “red stag” to be.
Biggest Takeaway to Be Successful in Hunting New Zealand
I will spill the MVP award.
Use the internet to find and talk to locals. And most importantly have something to offer them in return. Trade hunts, bribe them, offer them your firstborn. But get in with the locals and you will severely diminish your frustration level.
I both solo hunted on this trip and hunted with locals. I can tell you right now that I probably would have come home empty handed had it not been for the local talent guiding me on where the animals were and how they act. It’s just the way of it.
Local knowledge of the geography and megafauna is paramount to success. Sure you can get lucky and hap upon an animal, but when spending this amount of coin hunt in a foreign location do you really want to leave it to chance?
New Zealand is an absolute Mecca for hunting. Practically no seasons to worry about, massive amounts of public land, a small population of people and some of the most beautiful country a man or woman could expect to ever hunt.
This place won’t stay hidden for long. Get after it and respect the hunt as you would your own GMU. Drop any questions you have below in the comments and I’ll answer them the best I can.
// Fred Bohm