Spring Hunting for Red Deer

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

game      hunting mates      spring weather      chamois hunt

To date I have been on four memorable hunting trips over the spring period, all on public land.

Lining up a spiker. Spring
prime venison

The first was in early November when the first shoots of new grass were starting to appear in clearings at the forest margins. Black beech is the dominant tree species in the Canterbury foothills and the leaf buds on these beech trees were starting to move. At lower altitudes the leaf buds had already burst open spreading a flush of light yellow green over the forest.

The Hunting Routine

I leave Christchurch after work at about 4.00 pm, and drive to the foothills. After a couple of hours walk my companion and I will firstly set up a crude camp in the forest and then leave for an evening stalk along the bush edge. The deer come out when the sun has gone down and if you are lucky you can pot one. The return to camp may have to be in the dark because the last few minutes of daylight are often the time when a deer is spotted and shot.
(The new lightweight head lamps have been of the best additions to outdoor gear in my lifetime. They enable you to carry your rifle and a pair of back legs over your shoulder while the headlamp shows the way.) By last light the keen hunter probably has worked up a good appetite.

First day of Summer??? Dec 1st
hunter in snow

On returning to the campsite I knock up a brew on my white spirits burner, start a fire and cook up a meal. Then after another brew and some hunting yarns, it is time to catch a spot of sleep. Before crawling into the sleeping bag I set up my burner so that I can start it while still in bed.
The first bell birds will chime at around 5.15 am. After a shot of Bell Tea with condensed milk, it’s on with the boots, the day pack, and importantly a brimmed hat. The contrast between sky and land at first light means you really need a brimmed hat. Time yet again for a hunting adventure.

The Game

At the moment there are enough deer out there for a hunter with a few clues to score, especially while these animals are ravenously seeking out the new growth on the forest margins.

A Captain Cooker. Spring
captain cooker in spring

Most of the deer I have seen this year are yearlings or two year olds. That is what is to be expected. By now, in December these animals will have been driven away by mature hinds who will have dropped their fawns. Only once this year have I seen a mature stag. It looked big and strong compared to the younger animals and exciting with its big head of soft velvet.
The deer can be quite hard to see in poor light. But if the sun falls on them they look strikingly red and conspicuous against the various shades of backcountry green.
I received an e-mail from a mate in the North Island who had been having success with his son, picking up those young deer in the spring. So while the South Island is tops you can also pick up the odd deer in the North Island.

Hunting Mates

My companions on these spring hunts have been as follows:

Lean but choice vension. Spring
prime venison

a colleague who was able to shoot a spiker with his first deer rifle, a Canadian who has taken up hunting since he moved to New Zealand, a nephew who is now an experienced hunter and a friend of my age who had never hunted or even seen a wild red deer. We have shot four young deer and a pig and consequently there has been some prime venison taken off the Canterbury foothills.


This spring the weather has been unpredictable and often cold. Two weeks ago we were walking in four inches of snow as evening approached. Camping in the forest was less than ideal with wet conditions and the sky clearing to a heavy frost over night. It was December and officially summer. Building a fire taxed my bush skills but we got one going amid huge clouds of smoke. In addition to a couple of snow falls there have been a series of strong westerly winds. Between trips, a large tree fell over the place I had been sleeping. It was a reminder that care should be taken in forests during gale force winds. Probably you shouldn’t be in the forest when there is a risk of trees falling.

So good luck with your spring hunting.

First Chamois for Dec 22nd
Nick with chamois Mt Barron

What about the current chamois situation?

On the longest day I wanted to go for a hunt with my son, but the weather looked wet yet again. A wet cold New Zealand spring is turning into a wet cold summer. The West Coast however looked as if it would be fine on Friday 22nd December

2nd Chamois Dec 22nd
me with chamois mt Barron

Late on the Thursday night we traveled an hour and a half from Christchurch and slept in friend’s house. Early next day we drove west, away from the cloud and drizzle and found a beautiful morning.
Setting off from the car at 6.30 am, we arrived back at 5.30 pm. That is an eleven hour day. I have included some of the photos of the trip.

It was a physically challenging trip using a track that I helped maintain more than thirty years ago. To enjoy this county you would need above average fitness but the photos show that there is game around.

Another lucky break for Dec 22nd
Nick with chamois Mt Barron

So good luck with your summer hunting if you can find some fine weather.


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