June 11th, 2007

Aotearoa Air Safari (New Zealand)

Here’s a report from Mike in NZ about his recent deer-hunting trip: “Under the shadow of the Matemateaonga Range in the central North Island of New Zealand there is a magical piece of land. Initially broken in out of native bush in the early 1900’s, it was left to revert during the 1930’s before being partially developed again during the late 1940’s. Now it is run as a hunting block catering for local and overseas hunters.

“Aotearoa”, meaning “long, white cloud”, is the native Maori word for New Zealand.

The country is a rolling contour, and is a mixture of rough pasture, scrubby gullies and native bush. It bounds onto the Wanganui Forest Park, which is thousands of acres of dense bush. The only access is by jet boat up the Whanganui river, or by air. (There’s a flattish piece of land on the property that is quaintly referred to as an ‘airstrip’.)

Large Photos: NZ Mist | Aerial | Morning Light | Taking Off

The area is a hunting paradise containing good numbers of free range red deer, fallow deer, wild pigs and goats. It is run as a privately-owned hunting block. I have been fortunate enough to be able to hunt there over the past six years, and have just come back from a typical meat-hunting trip.

There were six of us (Mike, Mike, Chris, Al, Colin and Jeff), and the idea was to take a couple of meat animals each. Transport was by air (Cessna 206). This is a six-seater (including the pilot), so we elected to do two trips. The first trip caried five of us plus the pilot and a bit of gear. For the second trip the back four seats are removed allowing plenty of room to take lots of gear in, and (more importantly) plenty of room to (hopefully) take meat out at the end of the trip. Beats walking….

Hardware consisted of one Tikka T3 in .223 Rem with a Leupold 3-9 variable, one Rem Model 7 in 7-08 with a similar scope, one Sako Finnbear in .270 Win with a Redfield vari, one .223 Rem Zastava with a cheapo scope, and two scoped No. 4 Enfields in .303 British.

After a 15-minute flight, we made a couple of low passes over the ‘airstrip’ to make sure that everything looked OK (well, as good as it was going to get anyway), and then touched down. There were no baggage handlers or airline hostesses to greet us, so we carried our gear up to the lodge, had a bit of lunch and got organised for an evening hunt.

I headed down to some grass and scrub river terraces that are normally pretty productive. The wind was in my favor, and I opted to drop down to the terraces through the scrub rather than take the track down as that would mean that there would be less chance of being seen from the bottom. I was doing a slow sneak around the bush edge when a red hind appeared grazing around the edge of a finger of scrub at about 100 yards. I slowly sunk down and did a quick little crawl to a handy little rise to use for a rest. As I eased the rifle up onto the rise the deer saw the movement and was instantly on alert.

I was considering a neck shot, but as the deer was on the verge of doing a runner, I played it safe and put the crosshairs straight up the front leg and a bit under half way down. Allowing for the fact that she was slightly facing towards me, I squeezed the trigger, the .223 cracked and the deer trotted about 10 yards and piled up.” Here she is, a New Zealand Red Hind:

There’s more to this story (this was just the first part), and we may have Mike write full a feature story later this year.
© copyright 2007 Michael Falconer, All Rights Reserved.