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A different kind of wild



New Zealand’s deep south is one of the last great adventures on earth. Hunting here requires true dedication and passion, because the landscapes that are initially so breathtaking are capable of bringing even the most experienced hunters to their knees. Perhaps it is the hardest, and most beautiful, way of learning to respect nature.



Imposing peaks, the lush green of Te Wahipounamu (the place of the greenstone), or the glittering waters of majestic fjords – wherever you go on New Zealand’s South Island, your first impression will stay with you forever. There are few places in the world so diverse, unique, physically demanding, and extreme.

The wildness and authenticity of this region is reflected in the character of its people – and in their attitudes to hunting. Anyone looking for an extreme hunting adventure in New Zealand will inevitably come across Greg Duley, author and publisher of NZ Hunter magazine. Hunting is in his blood, and together with his father Willie he also produces the documentary series NZ Hunter Adventures for New Zealand TV.

“We love and appreciate the wilds and the animals that we encounter there. You come back from a hunting trip feeling refreshed and more productive,” says Greg Duley. “We prefer to eat the meat of game that we have killed ourselves, rather than buying it from the supermarket packaged in plastic.” It is a point of view that has contributed to the high acceptance of hunting in New Zealand society.

All the more astonishing in this context is the fact that New Zealand had no native game until the 20th century. Settlers arrived in the country and introduced wild animals as a source of food. The animals quickly multiplied because New Zealand has no indigenous predators, snakes, or poisonous spiders. Too quickly, in fact. “This is why many hunters believe their main role is population control. Without them, natural diversity would be in jeopardy,” says Duley. 

The adventure begins long before the hunt

For the two New Zealanders, life would be unthinkable without hunting, and this is matched by the amount of effort they put into it. This soon becomes clear in the highly attractive but hugely demanding region that is the Southern Alps. This mountain range stretches across the whole of the South Island. Along with the country’s highest peak, the 3,750-meter (12,300-feet) Mount Cook, these mountains are part of what makes the area “one of the world’s greatest hunting experiences,” to quote Greg Duley.

“Long before you encounter your first wild animal, you have to battle the mountainous terrain, torrential glacial rivers, and fast-changing weather conditions,” he says. His strenuous hunting trips last around ten days, and sometimes up to two weeks. Among the rewards for these efforts are New Zealand’s sought-after Big Three: red deer, chamois, and tahr. 

Tahr originated in the Himalayas, so it is not surprising that this “King of the Mountains” is at home on high, craggy terrain. Tahr bulls can weigh up to 136 kg (300 lbs). They are loners who are mainly hunted in October (when they sport light manes), or during the rutting season in May/June. Bagging a tahr pushes hunters to their limits. Finding one of these animals requires many hours of difficult climbing over jagged rocks equipped with an ice axe and crampons. Then the shot has to be precisely on target – if they are flushed out or not hit cleanly, tahrs are almost guaranteed to get away.

The silence of nature

But red deer and chamois also regularly push hunters to the limits of their endurance. The Olivine Wilderness Area has left a particularly strong impression on Greg Duley. “It was a fantastic expedition in a region that is almost totally untouched,” he says. On this ten-day trip, he and his buddy bagged a 26.5-cm (10.5-in) chamois buck and a majestic 17-point red stag. 

Duley stresses how anyone who is unfamiliar with the area can only achieve these kinds of results if they use the services of an experienced guide. “Your guide not only helps you become a successful hunter more quickly, but could also save your life.” It is also important to have great respect for nature and wild animals, to know and accept your own limits, and to have exceptional endurance. Hunters who want to take on the extreme challenge posed by New Zealand’s south need to train for a year to achieve the required levels of fitness.

In the remote and undeveloped Olivine Wilderness Area, Greg Duley has not only conquered mountains and treacherous river gorges carrying a heavy pack, but also coped with storms and other freak weather conditions. But in the end, for him and most hunters, it is not the hardships that stay with him, but his memories of New Zealand’s wilderness in all its splendor. “This indescribably beautiful landscape and the silence, the solitude we found there – this is what we will never forget.”

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