Sika in New Zealand

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

sika spiker with malformed antler
sika spiker
Typical Sika country Kaimanawas
sika stag

Sika (Cervus nippon) are deer of Asian origin, but were successfully introduced to New Zealand in 1905 via stock from Woburn Abbey Park in England. Herds of sika have become established in many countries around the world including the USA, England, Scotland, Ireland, France, Austria, Poland, Ukraine, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany and Australia. While the NZ sika are sometimes known as Japanese deer or Jap deer, they have characteristics of'several Chinese and Japanese subspecies.

Sika are now the second most common deer in New Zealand and are distributed across about 6000-7000 sq km of the central North Island in the Kaimanawa, Ahimanawa and Kaweka ranges. The DOC site Sika Description provides information about these North Island sika herds. Recently as a result of illegal releases, a separate herd of Sika has become established in the northern Taranaki region and DOC is trying to eliminate sika from near Wellington. see map

Similarly another herd was established with illegal releases near Russell but has nearly been eliminated after concentrated efforts by DOC.

In response to high hunter demand a number of private unfenced areas adjacent to DOC administered land have been put on offer to paying hunters. For a fee, hunters get sole rights to a block over a specified period. These blocks may or may not have accomodation. Access in some instances is possible by light plane or helicopter. Only a few fenced Game Estates offer sika hunting although there is good free range hunting on several large unfenced estates.
For those wishing to hunt on public land there are large areas of DOC administered land where sika are found. DOC provides excellent information on the Kaweka Forest Park and more specifically on huts that can be used as bases for hunting sika.

In New Zealand, where the range of sika and red deer overlap, sika have often displaced red deer. The main reason is probably the fact that sika are able to utilise a wider range of plant species having a greater ability to digest coarse vegetation. In other words they are more competitive when the food source has become limited. Where these two species overlap there is limited interbreeding which means that hybrid sika/red deer are shot is some areas. It is postulated, controversially,'that some of the record heads may contain'red deer blood.

Smaller and more difficult to hunt than red deer, sika trophies are highly prized. Even though they are the most vocal of deer in New Zealand they are more often heard than seen. The trophy head typically has eight points but the number of points can go to at least twelve.


New Zealand trophies compare well with trophies from wild herds anywhere in the world. There are about 200 heads that score over 170 on the Douglas Score and about 25 that score over 200 on the Douglas Score.

Best NZ Sika Head

Douglas Score 228 34 taken in 1941.

Antler Cast



Most rut activity drops away in May. However, unlike with red stags, sika can respond to roaring through the winter months up until around August.

Extra Information

The Hunters & Habitat Club based in Taupo
"has become well known through some of its key initiatives such as the annual Sika Competition and Trade Show and widely utilised Data Collection Program."
There are several useful articles about sika on the Hunters & Habitat Club website.

The NZ Bowhunters Society provides information about sika hunting and pictures of sika trophies obtained by bow hunters.


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