How to Get into Hunting with Tim Gale
By Tim Gale, General Manager, NZ Game Animal Council
A few years ago, there was an ad on TV that referred to New Zealand as the 'best backyard in the world'. With seven distinct species of deer, wild pigs, the agile alpine chamois and the mighty Himalayan tahr, New Zealand is also one of the best places in the world to hunt.
Hunting in New Zealand is an ethically sound activity that is an important source of mahinga kai for many communities and provides the opportunity for incredible adventures in some really special places. Hunting is also a valuable contributor to conservation. Not only do New Zealand hunters harvest many thousands of game animals each year and thereby help preserve the environment but they are also big contributors to conservation projects and predator trapping.
Two questions I get all the time are how do I get into hunting and where do I go. There is a natural preconception that hunting is an exclusive sport requiring heaps of gear, various licences and permissions and extensive backcountry experience, yet it is far more accessible than you may think.
The thing is, in New Zealand it is possible to get into hunting with very little expense. As long as you have appropriate outdoor clothing (it doesn't need to be camo) you can safely and lawfully tag along with other more experienced hunters and find out for yourself if this is a sport for you.
The best place to start is by heading into your local hunting shop or contacting your local hunting club, such as a branch of the NZ Deerstalkers Association (NZDA). They will let you know the opportunities that exist in your region, club hunting trips you can join and local hunters to get in touch with.
You can also do this more informally by approaching a family member or someone else in your community who hunts. Most hunters I know are really keen to introduce new people and really enjoy passing on their knowledge to young people in particular.
Safety is always a really big consideration in hunting and it is natural that many people get fixated on this from a firearms perspective. While firearms safety is incredibly important, the reality is that most of the accidents that happen when hunting don't involve firearms at all and are instead the usual outdoor incidents - rolled ankles, falls and being caught out in bad weather. Again, the appropriate knowledge and training isn't hard to come by. NZDA's HUNTS courses are a fantastic place to start your training in backcountry safety, while the Mountain Safety Council has some really useful practical information on their website. Again, learning from those more experienced than you is the key to a safe and successful hunting career.
I know for some people taking an animal's life can be a challenging concept and I respect that. The reality is that 99% of hunting doesn't involve using a firearm at all. You will be tramping, navigating, camping, spotting and stalking animals in some incredible places long before a firearm enters the equation.
The hunters I know take the responsibility of harvesting an animal very seriously and we make sure to do so humanely. However, if pulling the trigger just isn't your thing then you can still enjoy the thrill of hunting with a camera and get a great experience identifying, stalking and interacting with a truly wild animal up close.
So, if you are looking for a new adventure that will take you to some special places with the chance to see things that few other people see, then try something new - give hunting a go.