Whitetail Deer in New Zealand

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

Whitetail (white-tailed deer) were introduced from New Hampshire to Stewart Island in 1905. There are now two discrete herds of Whitetail (Odocoileus virginianus) in NZ. One on Stewart Island and one at the head of Lake Wakatipu. The New Zealand herd is the only one in the southern hemisphere. see map

DOC administers much of the Wakatipu area where a moratorium on hunting is still in force for part of this area. Whitetail have at times failed to thrive in the beech forests of Lake Wakatipu but the reasons why their health has suffered has never been definitively established.
Several large properties around the top of Lake Wakatipu carry wild whitetail and permit guided hunting.

The Stewart Island herd attracts most hunters because it is much larger and the deer are more accessible. About 1500 animals are taken there by hunters every year. The experience of hunting these deer on Stewart Island is highly prized by New Zealanders.

A whitetail hunting trip to Stewart Island requires good planning because the hunting blocks are in strong demand and have to be booked in advance. In addition to the requirement of booking blocks in advance, transport from the mainland has to be organized. But at least once you get there, you know that there won't be other hunting parties in your area. The many huts on Stewart Island make the camping part of the experience more predictable and comfortable.

The nature of the terrain on Stewart Island makes consistent hunting success very difficult. The majority of animals are found in a coastal strip and do not venture far inland. Yet they remain elusive. Whitetail are rated as being very clever but the vegetation provides effective cover. The scrub near the shoreline can be virtually impenetrable. Further inland the forest floor is covered with crown fern which conveniently conceals the deer and quiet passage through this fern by a hunter is nearly impossible.
Experienced hunters will know of places where they can view openings and clearings in the forest. Still hunting is a technique used for hunting whitetail and can be successful because of their small home range and recognisable network of trails.

For information on permits, transport, maps, huts and more visit DOC Steuart Island and Rakiura Hunting Information or write to DOC at P.O.Box 3, Half Moon Bay, Stewart Island. Some blocks on the East Coast are administered by the Rakiura Maori Land Trust which can be contacted at P.O Box 77, Bluff. A daily charge is payable.


New Zealand bucks are smaller in body size compared to their equivalents from New Hampshire in North America. One study in the 1980's recorded a mean body weight of around 54kgs for Stewart Island whitetail. New Hampshire bucks average over 100kg which suggests that Stewart Island whitetail might be up to 25% smaller. Comparisons of trophies are compounded by the fact that there are a number of scoring systems used for whitetail in North America such as the Boone and Crockett Club and the Grancel Fritz systems. However the average New Zealand head is a little smaller than the average New Hampshire head.

Best NZ Whitetail head

Douglas Score 207.

Antler Cast

From July/AUgust



Extra Information

In 2005, Gordon Whittington (editor in chief of the hunting magazine "North American Whitetail") accompanied by world deer expert Dr Kroll, travelled to New Zealand. They visited Lake Wakatipu and Stewart Island where they met both the local people and the local whitetail deer...and wrote accounts for the North American Whitetail Management website.


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