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“Not For The Faint Hearted” - Wapiti Hunters Briefed For Fiordland Adventure

Around 150 hunters are gathering in Te Anau on Thursday for a compulsory briefing before beginning what many describe as the hunt of a lifetime – stalking wild Wapiti deer in the remote Fiordland National Park.

Wapiti bugling on frosty Fiordland clearing

The event is the fourth and final briefing of this year’s Wapiti hunting season. All briefings are run by the not-for-profit Wapiti Foundation and around 450 hunters have already attended the three previous briefings over recent weeks.

Foundation spokeperson Roy Sloan says the briefing is compulsory for all hunters.

“We want hunters to get the very best from their Fiordland experience so the briefing covers their responsibilities to themselves, the environment, other hunting parties and the wapiti herd,” he said.

This year’s wapiti hunt is overshadowed by the Forest & Bird Society’s decision to ask for a judicial review of whether wapiti should be in Fiordland National Park and the agreement allowing the Wapiti Foundation to control deer numbers there.

Roy Sloan says the legal action is disappointing as it will divert much needed money away from conservation work.

“The Wapiti Foundation is a conservation organisation, not a hunting group, and our work is a great example of hunters giving back to conservation and the wider community.

“What we do has proved the most effective way of reducing deer numbers, as well as trapping predators and maintaining tracks and huts used by visitors.

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“This is saving DoC significant amounts of money, which is important when the department is facing hefty budget cuts and hundreds of job cuts.”

Roy Sloan says there is huge demand for the Wapiti hunts.

“For many hunters, this is a once in a lifetime dream and we get thousands of applications to hunt Wapiti every year, so many that we have to hold a ballot to limit numbers,” Mr Sloan said.

The Fiordland Wapiti herd is the only one in the southern hemisphere and is descended from animals donated to New Zealand by then United States President Teddy Roosevelt more than 120 years ago.

Autumn is the only time when wapiti can be hunted and coincides with the Wapiti mating season, known as the “bugle” after the species’ distinctive high pitched mating call.

Roy Sloan says hunting Fiordland is challenging.

“The very things that make Fiordland such a magnificent place – its remoteness, rugged mountains, inhospitable climate and spectacular scenery – also make it tough to hunt.

“Much of the region is without huts or tracks and only accessible by foot so hunters have to carry everything on their backs to survive for ten days in the wilderness.

“It is not for the faint hearted but it makes a Fiordland Wapiti hunt a lifetime memory and highlights what a privilege it is to hunt such magnificent animals in one of the jewels of the New Zealand conservation estate.”

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