With beautiful scenery, friendly people and a wide range of unique big-game species, New Zealand is a premier destination for hunters from all over the world.
Most hunters would probably agree that New Zealand is a great place for big-game hunting. However, few people realize the full extent of the hunting opportunities available in the country. Whether you're the sort of person interested in trophy hunting for heavy-antlered red deer or a mountain hunting adventure for Himalayan Tahr, a hunt in New Zealand has something for almost everyone.
Though New Zealand doesn't have any native big-game animals, European settlers have introduced a number of species over the years. Due to the lack of predators and excellent sources of nutrition available in many parts of the country, populations of big game like Red Deer, Fallow Deer, Himalayan Tahr, Alpine Chamois, Sambar Deer, Rusa Deer, Sika Deer and even American Elk (also known as Wapiti) have absolutely exploded in New Zealand.
This has presented some management challenges for the New Zealand Department of Conservation, but it's also resulted in some incredible big-game hunting opportunities that no other country can match.
Without further ado, here are the best places to hunt in New Zealand.
Containing just over half of New Zealand's total area, but just 23 percent of the country's population, the South Island is home to some of the best hunting in New Zealand.
The red stag is unquestionably New Zealand's premier big-game species. Red deer have the largest antlers in the world relative to their body size and a distinctive "crown" of points at the antler tips. They're also very tasty to eat.
The New Zealand red stag roar (the rut) takes place during March, April and early May each year and is an exciting time to be afield. Just like with the elk rut in North America, the roar is also the most popular time of year for red stag hunting.
While they aren't quite as prized as red stag, Himalayan tahr are also one of the top animals to hunt in New Zealand. Originally released around Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park in the Southern Alps, tahr have also thrived in their new home.
The west coast and the South Canterbury region of the South Island have some of the best free-range Tahr hunting in the country. The Tahr get really big and have beautiful capes in these hunting areas. This is particularly true if you're booked with a hunting guide who has access to private land where the bull tahr can mature due to lack of pressure from local hunters.
The best Tahr hunting takes place during the winter months of May, June and July, which is when the Tahr rut occurs and is when they have their most impressive winter coats.
Alpine chamois, which came from Austria, live in the high country like Himalayan tahr. Just make sure you're in good shape before going on serious mountain hunt for Chamois!
Though not many people know about them, the South Island also offers some good opportunities to go elk hunting in New Zealand. Also known as Wapiti, the American elk in New Zealand are descended from a few elk originally released in the George Sound area of Fiordland on the southwest corner of the South Island. Hunting elk in Fiordland is strictly limited through the elk ballot (random draw), but hunters can chase elk in other parts of the island as well.
In addition to those animals, the it's also possible to hunt fallow deer, Arapawa sheep, feral goats and wild boar on the South Island. In certain areas, people hunt varmints like wallabies and possums or game birds like pheasant, turkey, waterfowl and black swan.
Finally, the South Island has world-class fly fishing for trout. This is a common activity many visitors partake in after they wrap up their hunt.
The North Island is more densely populated than the South Island, but both offer tremendous opportunities. The North and South Islands have vastly different climates and geographies, so each island offers a unique hunting experience.
Animals like fallow deer, red deer, wild boar and the iconic Kiwi bird (which you can't hunt), live on both islands. But, species from balmy climates like sambar deer, rusa deer and sika deer only live on the warmer, more thickly vegetated North Island.
Aside from visiting a game ranch in Texas, there aren't many other places to hunt those deer. For that reason, hunting opportunities on the North Island are particularly unique.
The North Island also has some outstanding fishing opportunities.
Getting to New Zealand
Fortunately, getting to New Zealand is relatively straightforward. The Kiwis are welcoming to visitors making hunting trips to the country.
Air New Zealand offers direct flights from Chicago, Honolulu, Houston, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Vancouver into Auckland on the North Island. Hunters continuing onto the South Island can then catch a direct flight to Blenheim, Christchurch, Dunedin (Otago), Nelson or Queenstown. They can also fly through Wellington to reach Invercargill or Timaru.
Most popular hunting rifles chambered in cartridges suitable for hunting in North America like a .270 Winchester or a .30-06 Springfield will also work just fine for the major species in New Zealand. Bringing your own rifle to New Zealand is also pretty simple. Just apply for a visitor firearms license a few weeks prior to your trip, then pick up your license from the police upon arrival in Auckland.
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