There are 11 big game New Zealand animals to hunt, 4 varmints, and a variety of birds including turkey and ducks. Due to a lack of management on government land, the trophy animals are typically much larger and older on private land because of the lack of hunting pressure, improved genetics and food quality.
Big game New Zealand animals to hunt include:
Red Stag can be hunted from mid February- August, with their rut (the roar) runs from mid March through late April. Red stag are found on both the North and South Islands, and are hunted on foot by way of spot and stalk, calling, or waiting on the edge of cover in the early mornings and late evenings. A challenging animal to hunt weighing around 500 pounds they can be hunted both free range on private land or government land or in a fair chase setting on private fenced estates where they grow much larger and score higher in antler classes. With very little game management, stags on government land will typically grow much smaller antlers due to feed, genetics, over hunting and helicopters culling taking out the larger dominant breeding males.
Bull tahr can be hunted year round in New Zealand, although during the colder months bull tahr grow the heavy winter coats which is the main reason trophy hunters pursue this king of the mountain. In the warmer months October through March the coats are short with finer hair, although an old mature bull can still have a reasonable front mane. The best time to hunt tahr is from May through August with the rut in June/July. A bull is considered mature at 6 years old. To determine the age you can count the rings on the horns plus the lamb tips. Tahr are only found in a defined area in the South Island of New Zealand and are mainly hunted free range and wild although some private properties have them on their estates behind a fence. Most international hunters are talked into using a helicopter by their hunting outfitter to hunt these animals on government land. But for the hunters that do their research and want a higher quality hunting experience for these 250-300 pound animals, it can be done successfully on large private properties in the central South Island by way of spot and stalk. Some of properties have good roads that can get hunters up high, regardless of fitness level, if required. With constant heli hunting pressure over the cooler months finding a quality mature bull on government land has a low success rate as opposed to free range private land. Tahr can be very challenging to hunt so reasonable fitness is required along with confidence on medium range shots. Suitable calibers for tahr hunting including 270/300 short magnums, 3006, 300 win, 7mm mag.
Elk hunting in New Zealand is almost identical to red stag hunting and rut (mid March through late April), with slightly different antler formation. Most elk are hunted on high fence estates that are privately owned but are managed to produce some of the largest heads in the world. On these properties the bulls can range from typical to non typical in antler formation and score 350-500+ S.C.I inches. There is one wild and free range herd the exists today at the bottom of the South Island which requires hunters to go into a ballot system. This elk herd have over the years become hybridized due to red deer living in the same area on government land. This is the only management of game animals that is in place on government land in New Zealand thanks to the F.W.F. elk are the largest game animal in New Zealand.
These New Zealand mountain antelope like the tahr are only found in the South Island. Much smaller and agile than tahr foot hunting chamois is a real challenge for mountain hunting. Found in small herds chamois are on both private and government land and all mainly hunted free range with most being hunted by way of helicopter by international hunters.
The chamois rut is over the month of May when the bucks come into the nannies. These animals prefer steeper country away from other animals but also with some native cover around them.
Fallow deer are found both in the North and South Islands of New Zealand with the most concentrated population being in the Mackenzie district, central South Island. Fallow deer can be aggressive, the bucks rut (croak) from late March though early May and quite often cause injury or even death to each other. Fallow deer in New Zealand can be hunted both wild free range or on estates by way of spot and stalk, calling, or sitting over a rutting pad and waiting; which is great for bow hunting. The males will have their own rutting pad that they guard while they wait for the female does to come in during the rut to get served. Fallow deer are the only other species apart from moose to have heavy palmated antlers.
New Zealand Sika deer are found only in the central North Island of New Zealand. Their rut also coincides with the red stag going from late May through the end of April. These small spotted deer are very aggressive and have a very high pitched squeal during the rut. Sika deer can be hunted both on private and government land, with the main hunting season from March thorough July typically with 4×4 antler formation.
Rusa deer hunting in New Zealand is limited to the North Island and mainly on private estate land due to small population numbers. As an Asian deer species the rusa typically rut in July with typical antler formation of 3×3. Much larger than sika deer the stags are also very aggressive towards each other, antler length can reach 35+inches rusa are renowned also for the quality of their meat.
The second largest deer species in the world sambar deer are the most challenging animals to hunt in the South Pacific due to their shy nature. These 500+ pound animals live in thick native vegetation that require patience, and a lot of glassing to be successful. There are three small herds that are wild and free range in the North Island mainly on private land, with some herds on private estates that have been caught by helicopter and relocated to the estate. Heavy 3×3 antler formation sambar deer have the reputation of having very strong flavor taste in the meat.
Found in both North and South Islands wild goats breed exceptionally well in New Zealand with the males growing the larger horns up to 35 inches each side. Alpine goats are found mainly in free range settings due to their ability to escape any enclosure although some hunting estate properties have introduced some herds. Found both on government and private land the higher numbers are now on the private farming properties due to heavy culling. Considered a fun hunt old males or ‘billies’ can become very elusive if hunted before. They tend to breed and can be hunted year round.
Sheep hunting is now typically done on private estates, mostly for arapawa and merino rams. On these species, their horns that can curl up to 2+ spirals and they inhabit both the South and North Islands of New Zealand. There is limited free range hunting on some properties although most of the genuine free range hunting is done off the coast of Christchurch on islands for the Pitt Island Ram. Ram trophy hunting is year round as horned animals in New Zealand do not shed, but typically they are hunted from March through August.
Whitetail deer are one least known about game animals to hunt in New Zealand. There are two herds of whitetail deer found only in the South Island and on Stewart Island at the very South of New Zealand. A very challenging deer to hunt the free range herds are on government land although there is one free range herd on private land. Any other whitetail deer are found on estates. Due to the quality of original genetics introduced they are the least hunted of the deer species in the country. These deer rut in May the whitetail is one of the most tender deer to eat in the world.
Wallaby, hare, rabbit and possum now compete with our livestock for a food source. They are listed as pests to our environment, hunting these small game animals is our part of game management in New Zealand.
New Zealand has a total of 13 huntable species.
Daily bag limits are between 2 – 25 depending on the species.
- Merrium’s Turkey
- Paradise Duck
- Grey Duck
- Shoveler Duck
- Mallard Duck
- Black Swan
- Canadian Geese
Many hunters come to us with a list of species they’d like to hunt, we are happy to build a custom New Zealand Safari package for you. Just contact us!