DANNY : DE HEKSpecial Feature: Game animals galore in 400 km of rainforest

The West Coast stands out as ‘deer hunter’s heaven’, with a wild game presence in virtually every patch of bush in a 400 km coastal strip from Karamea to the Cascade River.

There are little-known wilderness zones here where you can park the car and start hunting immediately in the finest lowland beech forests in the country. Most of the luxuriant green canopy on the steep slopes of the Southern Alps is untracked. Short, flood-prone rivers sweep down mercilessly over boulder-strewn beds and command respect from the hunter, but dense thickets in the creek heads are a sure refuge for deer.

Red deer predominate and the moderate to high numbers reflect the difficulty of the terrain and the lack of hunting pressure. Local DOC offices will provide advice on the best local hunting prospects. Fallow deer are represented here in the small Totara Flat colony, hidden away in the wondrous limestone country of the Paparoa Range between Greymouth and Westport.

Chamois are common on the open tops and in recent years they have moved down to lower altitudes. From Whataroa south they have colonised forests at sea level, which seems out of character for an Austrian mountain goat. Thar are present in low numbers on the main divide of the Southern Alps from Hokitika south.

Wild pigs are relatively scarce on the Coast but exist in small localised pockets. Goats are present in low numbers on the craggy limestone outcrops of the Paparoa Range and along the Buller River.

The Coast abounds with wetland habitats due to consistent rainfall and extensive dune lakes and lagoons. Good hunting opportunities are on offer for mallard, grey and shoveler ducks as well as Paradise shelducks and Canada geese. Upland game are present but in much smaller numbers.

Helicopter hunting safaris for red stags, thar and chamois from Hari Hari to Haast are available at Fox Glacier. Guided high country hunts for wapiti and red deer, thar and chamois can be arranged in Hokitika.