Making the leap into the unknown. Traveling for the sake of experiencing something new and with the intent of purposely changing one’s perspective. Easier to do today than ever because of technology, but still there is that residue of instinct in us to remain in one place, to stay where we are comfortable and where we know what dangers are nearby. Better to know the devil you know than the devil you don’t.
I decided I wanted to shake hands with the devil I’ve never met by bowhunting the Southern Alps of New Zealand. Now granted, it’s not like I’m exploring some unknown region in Papua New Guinea with the potential of getting my head shrunk by the local tribesman, but it sure as hell does involve a bit more legistics than tossing my bow in the truck, grabbing food on the way and jumping over to the next state for a hunt.
So I did what any smart person would do. I bought the plane tickets first before making much of a plan at all. Commitment. That’s the hardest part, the rest you’ll figure out along the way.
OK, now I know what country I’ll be hunting in, but now what? That’s about as useful as saying, “I’m going to hunt the United States.” Yea great slick, there happens to be millions of acres you can wander through but you might want to narrow it down a bit.
What species? Are you looking to chase the infamous red stag, fallow deer or how about tahr? High or low elevation? Backpack or truck hunting? Bow or firearm? What time of year is best? What gear are you going to need? What’s the permit system entail?
The questions are endless. It’s not hard to fall into “paralysis by analysis” when trying to plan a trip out of the country. Try to answer all of these at once you’re just as likely to get a case of the “fuck its” and giving up on the trip all together.
I’ll try to break it down as simple as possible in a three part series, giving you the info I come across as I find it. This one will cover the pre-planning it will take to make the trip a success, however you define it. I’ll also do one on the gear I’ll be taking as well as a post mortem when I return so you can learn from my mistakes.
This isn’t meant for the guys headed over to New Zealand on a fully guided hunt, chasing monster stags behind high fences. If that’s your deal, good for you, you’ll find resources on plenty of guide’s pages. This is for the DIY hunter trying to do this on a budget.
Here are the things I’m working through/have worked through to get this hunt off the ground.
When to Hunt New Zealand
This will depend on what you plan to hunt and the assumption that you’ll be trying to catch the rut. Know that there are other times you may want to hunt New Zealand, but this will cover the rut. Remember their fall is our spring, so a good time to go will be sometime in March through June. Here’s a breakdown on rut activity according to species.
Chamois: May and June
Tahr: May and June
Fallow Deer: April to mid-May
Red Deer: Late March through April
Rusa Deer: July to August
Sika Deer: Late March to early May
Wapiti: Mid-March to late April
Buy Plane Tickets
I didn’t do this way in advance, just two months before leaving. A huge help for me was Google Flights. If you’re a bit flexible with timing this site can help you get the best deals on plane tickets around.
It’s actually easy to set up a car rental. Any online service you typically use (Expedia, Orbitz, etc.) can get you set up. The prices seem comparable to the USA. Careful though, apparently they still use lances or swords over there, because these guys drive on the left hand side of the road (that’ll give you something to Google while you’re bored at work).
Find Where You’re Going to Hunt in New Zealand
This one was a bit trickier. Here’s some ideas:
New Zealand DOC: Great resource that gives you all the public land available (which is substantial. They even go as far as letting you enter the species you want to hunt and then recommending spots to hunt. A great starting point.
Local Advice: Local advice is the best advice. Here’s the rub, who the hell wants to tell you their favorite spots to hunt. This is where you need to be willing to part with some of your own. Nothing in life is free, and this certainly applies to good hunting locations. I talked with people on forums who were visiting the USA to hunt. I advised them on areas I knew well and they reciprocated. Here’s where the Golden Rule comes in. Don’t be a dick. Make sure you hold up your end of the bargain when the time comes.
Permits and Flying with Weapons
- Since you’re bowhunting life is a lot easier. No firearms permits are needed. Safely pack your bow and you’ll be set.
- If you are hunting with a firearm there is some great information from First Lite's blog article linked here.
New Zealand DOC Permit: It’s free, but you’ll need to carry one on you while hunting. These permits are for open hunting areas. Note: there are restricted hunting areas (much like our limited entry hunts) that you’ll need to apply for in our fall time if you want to hunt those areas.
Probably don’t need to explain this one, but I’ve had trips delayed because I was a knucklehead and forgot my passport expired.
A preview as to what will be in the next segment. Gear, gear and more gear. This will be an extensive list that will be considered carefully. You only get so much weight when flying and you’ll want to be mobile when you’re there. I’ll break down all the gear I will be taking, how I pack it and why I’m taking what I’m taking. Look for it in the near future. Sign up to my Newsletter to get it sent straight to your mailbox.
// Fred Bohm