DANNY DE HEK Entrepreneur Decision Maker Connector Podcaster EducatorSpecial Feature: Brilliant wilderness hunting for whitetail trophies

Rugged, windswept Stewart Island contains Rakiura National Park, a wilderness renowned for its unspoilt nature and scenic beauty.

Stewart Island is blessed with a natural habitat that is still largely intact, even with the introduction of species like red and whitetail deer. Steep, inhospitable bush clad ranges centred on Mt Anglem (1000 metres) dominate the northern coastline, and rounded granite domes like Gog and Magog and the Raggedy Mountains, stand out on the surreal central skyline. However, around the bays and harbours in rata-kamahi hardwood forests is where the fleet-footed little deer with the flashing white tails live.

Whitetail deer were introduced in 1905 and soon colonised the entire island. In recent years trophy quality has improved, particularly on the east coast around Port Adventure and Port Pegusus. All the prime hunting blocks are occupied throughout the year and DOC has set up permanent campsites around the most productive coastal scrub zones.

Whitetail offer an excellent challenge for hunters as the deer blend in very well with the dense cover and disappear as fast as a lightning bolt. Whitetail have two weakness that work in the hunter’s favour. They have a liking for certain seaweeds including bull kelp so are often spotted on the beaches at daylight . Also, unlike other deer species, they are creatures of habit and often return to the same feeding spot. Whitetail are a very attractive deer with lithe bodies, and long slender necks. They can live up to 20 years, which is unusual for deer.

Red deer are also widely spread in low numbers and prefer to occupy the mid-altitude habitats, leaving the coast to the whitetail. Some hunting blocks are allocated by ballot and some are offered by the Rakiura Maori Land Corporation in return for a hunting fee. Private charter transport can be arranged from Bluff and Oban in Half Moon Bay (the main settlement on the island).

Helicopter fly-ins for guided red and whitetail hunts can be arranged in Invercargill, Te Anau and Queenstown.