DANNY DE HEK Entrepreneur Decision Maker Connector Podcaster EducatorSpecial Feature: Great deer stalking in a boutique mountain range

Hill country sheep stations measuring thousands of hectares in extent, are spread over the Wairarapa’s rolling downland.

Interspersed with the endless sea of waving grasses, are pocket-size patches of untouched natural bush and broken coastal ranges, that are irresistible to wild game animals.

To the west is the continuous barrier of the Ruahine, Tararua and Rimutaka ranges and along the south coast is a unique miniature version of a mountain range called the Aorangi Forest Park. This ‘boutique’ range rises to only 900 metres and can be traversed in a mere four hours, but this belies the ruggedness of the many short river catchments. The Aorangis are a popular stamping ground for good keen men from the capital city and the range presents an enjoyable stalking challenge.

Red deer are present in the Aorangis in reasonable numbers and are widely spread throughout the Ruahines, Tararuas and Rimutakas. Intense commercial and recreational hunting pressure over the years have made the animals ultra cautious. Hunters need to acquire good local knowledge and ‘bush-bash’ into dense creek-head vegetation at times to seek out their quarry, but there is good trophy potential in these ranges.

Wild pigs are generally in localised low populations in marginal scrubland, particularly in the southern and eastern coastal ranges. They are not often seen in the main ranges preferring the dense cover of manuka, gorse, bracken fern and swampland in the foothills. Finding and holding dogs are essential to track down wild pigs in these thick native bush areas.

Goats are present in low numbers in the southern Rimutakas and Aorangis and in small pockets throughout the Wairarapa coastal bush reserves.

Mallard, grey and shoveler ducks as well as paradise shelducks are common throughout the region. Lake Wairarapa is an important breeding ground and is also home to black swans and Canada geese. Pheasant, brown quail and California quail are found in moderate numbers in most areas.

Guided hunting for red deer in the Tararuas and coastal ranges is available in Carterton and in Ongaonga on S.H.50. Hunting on private game estates for red, fallow and wapiti deer, boars, rams and goats can be arranged in Masterton and Pahiatua.