Chamois Hunting in New Zealand

For more information e-mail   Steuart   of NZ Hunting Info Ltd

Chamois survive easily in the New Zealand winters.
Chamois in midwinter
Chamois buck late summer.
Chamois buck late summer

This is the most beautiful game animal to be found in New Zealand. Chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra) arrived in New Zealand in 1907 as a gift from the Austrian Emperor, Franz Joseph. The first successful releases were made in the Mt Cook region and these animals gradually spread over much of the South Island. Today they remain widely dispersed but are not evenly distributed. see map

We think of chamois as alpine animals, but on the West Coast side of the Southern Alps there are some areas where they are found in the forests almost to sea level.Chamois are not as gregarious as tahr and occur in small groups of up to a maximum of about ten animals.

Like tahr, they are absent from the North Island. The body weight of New Zealand populations is about 20% less than that of European chamois, suggesting that food supplies may be restricted here. However, both the male and females can have trophy length horns that match the best in the world.

Chamois have not recently been hunted commercially in New Zealand and there are no current control programs in operation. So they are probably at the best numbers they have been for a long time.

However, helicopters are being used to live capture trophy bucks on public land for sale to game parks. In addition, some guiding operations are using helicopters to locate trophy bucks for clients to shoot. Consequently, the age distribution of animals in some areas of the South Island may have been changed from what would be expected in an untouched population.

On public land, the hunting of chamois requires a high level of fitness and in most cases to reach chamois habitat a climb of at least 500m is needed.

The buck in the photo above was shot on scree slopes at an altitude of about 1800m. A climb of well over a 1000m was required. The unstable nature of these slopes is very typical of much of the country in which chamois are found.

Of chamois behaviours, one of the the most important to hunters is the fact that they are most active in the morning and evening. So for best results the hunter should ideally be in chamois country early and late in the day. Chamois can be located much more easily when they are moving about feeding. They also tend to spend less time watching their surroundings for danger. In the middle of the day chamois rest up on promontories to chew their cuds. Once they have lain down they are less conspicuous and very much harder to find. While they much better at detecting intruders. The main challenge for hunters is to be in a good position early or late in the day even if they have to climb from a low altitude camp. This may mean an early start before or at daybreak and possibly a late departure from above timberline as dark approaches.

Length & girth measurements for trophy scoring.
Trophy horn measurement.
Late autumn coat.
winter chamois

New Zealand has big tracts of public land available for chamois hunting which provides plenty of opportunities for the keen hunter. But finding and shooting a chamois on this land can be a lot more difficult than finding chamois in Europe. The animals are very wary because they are are exposed to unrestricted hunting. New Zealand does not impose a hunting season, or a restriction on the number of hunters in any given area. Chamois in heavily hunted areas may be exposed to regular harrassment throughout the year. Heavy pressure affects the way they behave even to the extent that they may choose to live in scrubby cover away from the areas of regular disturbance.

New Zealand hunters who have learned how to hunt these chamois may have consistent success but visitors should recognise that chamois hunting in New Zealand on public land is a significant challenge, possibly greater than they are used to. An additional consideration is that, because DOC does not closely monitor hunter activity, you can't be sure that others aren't hunting in your area at the same time. DOC permits provide no information about who else has a permit or where others are planning to hunt. Often the only clue that there may be a hunter in your area, is an empty car parked by the road.

Trophy Scoring Both the Australasian scoring system (Douglas) and the SCI system give a similar score for horned animals because they both take the sum of the length of the horns plus the sum of the girth of the horns. However, the Douglas score for a chamois or tahr will always be less because it doubles the length of the shorter horn and doubles the measurement of the smaller girth.
The calculations for the left hand chamois in the picture (Douglas Score 28 and SCI score 28¾ ) are shown in the table.
Of the four game animals most commonly hunted by international visitors (red stag, tahr, chamois and fallow) a chamois trophy is the hardest to get and commands a relatively high fee.

Scoring Chamois Horns - Douglas v SCI
R Horn L Horn Douglas SCI
Length 10 ½ in 10 ¾ in 21 21 ½
Girth 3 ½ in 3 ¾ in 7 7 ¼
Total 2828¾

Best NZ Chamois Head    Douglas Score 32 18

Refer to my book "Chamois: A New Zealand Hunter's Handbook"

or to the article titled "Beginners Guide to Chamois Hunting"


For more information e-mail   Steuart   of NZ Hunting Info Ltd