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Simon Gibson
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Finding New Red Deer Areas
Jul 24th, 2011 at 11:38am
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Finding New Red Deer Hunting Areas



Rimutaka red photographed at first light

One of the most commonly asked questions you hear is ďwhereís a good area to hunt red deerĒ and itís a question that pops up on the forum all the time. While most hunters will tell you about general areas most have worked very hard to find good areas and are often unwilling to give up hard-won knowledge on hot spots so itís up to you to do some research and put in some hard yards on the hill. The old saying that 10% of hunters take 90% of the game is absolutely true and is simply because they put in maximum effort in all aspects of their hunting from fitness, scouting areas, to having top quality gear.†

Sources of hunting Information
There are many sources of information available that will give you a head start on finding some good areas before you head into the hills. The Fishnhunt forum is of course a good source with posts requesting info on areas and some great threads in the Hunting Reports section. Hunting magazines are a valuable source of information as the stories published in them can give up to date information on animal numbers in areas and also pictures of the terrain. Many authors of hunting stories will be deliberately vague on the exact location of their hunt to avoid a gold rush of hunters heading for their hot spot but you will get an idea of how good the general area is. Hunting books are another good source of information for terrain and routes into areas however when it comes to animal numbers these may have changed dramatically since the book was published depending on helicopter activity and poison drops. A very good publication for information on hunting areas is the Spot X Hunting New Zealand book. This lists over one thousand hunting spots throughout New Zealand and while the information is very general it will give you ideas on areas to look at. By joining your local Deerstalkers club you will get to go on club hunts and get to meet fellow hunters who you can team up with. Most hunters are happy to give general information on areas but once again don't expect those present to give up their hard won hot spot information to a newcomer. Department of Conservation field offices are worth contacting for information however I have found that generally the staffs' knowledge of hunting in the area can be quite limited. They will however be able to tell you if the area has been poisoned recently and what aerial wild animal recovery is taking place. Another source of information is old hunters who like nothing better than talking about their hunting exploits and sharing their knowledge with a keen new hunter. I was told of a ridge in the Rimutakas that produced great racks back in the seventies by an old hunter and on my first visit there I took an eleven point rack. Often an area that was good decades ago will still be good unless it's been poisoned or access to it has been opened up.

Once you have decided on an area you want to check out then itís important to get the appropriate map of the area or use some mapping software which will show you tracks and huts in the area and also access points. Google Earth is always worth a look at to get an idea of the topography.

Scouting new areas
You can read all the books, forums and magazines you want but the only way to find out if an area holds game is to visit it. I do a lot of day trips scouting out new areas where I leave Sako at home which allows me to cover a lot more country than if I was stalking it and it doesn't matter what time of day it is. An added bonus is you don't have to worry about wind direction as its only animal sign you are looking for. In many areas the bush edge bordering farm land has been heavily poisoned so you will need to get further back into the hills and spend a few days looking for sign. On these trips I am looking for an area that is not heavily used by trampers and other hunters and offers habitat that is appealing to deer.

What to look for
Good feed and shelter are very important to deer so check out sheltered basins, river terraces and creek heads. Sunny north facing slopes are always a good bet for a look as is anywhere out of the wind which gets the sun. There needs to be plenty of feed present so look for broadleaf, five finger, and grasses. An excellent source of information on what deer like to eat is the book written by Roger Lentle and Frank Saxton called Red Deer in New Zealand and in my opinion is a must-have book for any new hunter. The type of forest present will have a big impact on the number of deer present. The most common forest type in New Zealand is beach which is generally quite open underneath the canopy and it is the under story of browse species that the deer mostly feed on. In many areas especially the South Island high country the lack of under story feed will force the deer out to graze the open tops and river flats so if there's a high level of aerial meat shooting in the area deer numbers will be very low. Traveling up rivers and creek beds is often a quick way to see if there's game about as they often use these water ways for travel. Look for well-used trails that cross creeks and follow them and see where they take you.



Lots of fresh prints like this in the Tararuas show deer are living in the area and the nearby flats were covered in sign.

Travel up spurs, along ridges and sidle through nice sunny faces looking for deer prints, pellets and feed sign. If sign is present but old it may mean deer are present in this location at a different time of the year as the seasons have a big impact on where deer are living especially in the South Island mountains. If there are open tops in the area then have a look around the bush edge for tracking and deer pellets. If you see no sign or very little after a good days bush bashing then move on to another area. Once you find an area with good deer sign present then start hunting it hard. It will always take a few trips to get to know the area well and where the deer are at different times of the year.



Fresh shit like this is a good indicator deer are feeding in the area. If there's lots of old dried up shit it may simply mean deer are there at a different time/season of the year.



Fresh deer browse is another key indicator deer are present in the area. Freshly nipped off shoots and leaves where the ends are not browned off is a good sign.



Deer beds are a good indicator that animals are living in the area. Beds like the one in the centre of the photo can often be found in nice sunny, dry areas and especially on the tops of spurs where the wind is blowing up hill to any bedded deer. I have often caught deer on these while they doze or chew their cud during the day. Indicators of recent use are white belly hairs on the scuffed area where they have been lying and if you sniff the pad you will smell deer. If itís warm then thereís a good chance you have just spooked a deer.

There's no easy way to find good spots but some good old fashioned leg work and research will get you well on the road to finding that hot spot. A good hunter never stops learning and will develop a better understanding of deer and the habitat they live in with every trip so the more trips the better.
Keen to hear what others do.

« Last Edit: Aug 18th, 2018 at 10:44am by Simon Gibson »  

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Dekaz
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Re: Finding New Red Deer Areas
Reply #1 - Jul 24th, 2011 at 12:30pm
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Well written. Hard work in= reward. I like Steve Gurney's moto. The six P's to success, Prior Preperation Prevents Piss Poor Preformance.
  
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Re: Finding New Red Deer Areas
Reply #2 - Jul 24th, 2011 at 2:40pm
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Good Article Simon Cool Cool
Bet that pic wasn't taken this am though was it Wink
  
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Re: Finding New Red Deer Areas
Reply #3 - Jul 24th, 2011 at 6:22pm
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Thanks for that Simon.well written and informative very true to you dont find out until you get out there and explore Wink
  
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Re: Finding New Red Deer Areas
Reply #4 - Jul 25th, 2011 at 4:05pm
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Thanks Simon, you did a good job of that.  Smiley
  
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Re: Finding New Red Deer Areas
Reply #5 - Jul 27th, 2011 at 6:21pm
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Thanks for sharing, lots of good info...much appereciated. Smiley
  
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Re: Finding New Red Deer Areas
Reply #6 - Jul 31st, 2011 at 1:18pm
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great info mate Smiley
  

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Re: Finding New Red Deer Areas
Reply #7 - Aug 2nd, 2011 at 10:45am
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top info there simon Cool
  
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Re: Finding New Red Deer Areas
Reply #8 - Sep 14th, 2011 at 9:58pm
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Well, done to start this up Simon.† †

Deer do prefer food and shelter and to a lesser extent sun and warmth (big deer can tolerate a shady slope in summer).† I would add lushness; deer like a damp moist spot and won't spend much time where its dry and hard, unlike goats and humans.† †Lentle and Saxton's "Red Deer in NZ" does explain deer habitat best. It would deserve a reprint.†

I believe that fitness, skills and gear aren't nearly as important in determining hunting success as where you hunt.† The guy who has access to a special spot or is prepared to spend his days in an area with little in the way of enjoyable, aesthetic attraction will be among the 20% who get the 80%.† Being restless and having devoted little time to scouting and returning to good spots has certainly hampered my own success over the years.

Here are three of my ideas on how to recognise places that are both enjoyable to explore and favourable to successful hunting:

1) Consistent sign over a large area means a lot of deer, less susceptible to a drastic population reduction by a few good foot hunters, and they won't be able to be so picky limiting themselves to safe spots.† If you find heaps of concentrated sign in a just few small hot spots with large expanses of no sign between, the odds are against you.† An example of a good area like this is the Waimana, south east of the road end.† Bad areas are at Arthurs Pass where the main beech forest is quite uninhabited despite encouraging pockets of sign in broadleaf gullies and terraces.

2) Most areas will have a few "deer magnet" spots which draw deer from the surrounding countryside.† These are usually slips or grassy flats and so are most productive in spring or summer but are preferred year round so try to find these spots and plan your travels to link as many of them as you can at the right times of day.† An example for goats (now past) was the big slips on the southern end of Maungatautari.

3) You need somewhere you have a tactical advantage.† The bush needs to be reasonably open and quiet to move through or you need to be able to spy out bush edges from a distance.† Visibility of 50 to 150m is ideal.† Leatherwood scrub belts and steep areas dropping into bouldery gorges might hold a lot of deer but they are impossible to get. An area where you can gain altitude easily on a track then hunt your way carefully downhill is also favourable.†

I hope this is helpful and that others will post their ideas too.

  
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Re: Finding New Red Deer Areas
Reply #9 - Oct 26th, 2012 at 11:34pm
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awesome guys. i have taking alot from these posts
thank you gentlemen  Smiley
  

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Re: Finding New Red Deer Areas
Reply #10 - Dec 2nd, 2014 at 6:12am
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one other source is reading your local tramping club website trip reports,  if their site has a search function type in deer,  those people aren't cagey about specifics and if there have been deer sited on their trip they mention it,  hunters and their success or otherwise usually get a mention too which is also an indicator.
  
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Re: Finding New Red Deer Areas
Reply #11 - Jun 11th, 2015 at 8:45pm
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Good read that Smiley
  
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Re: Finding New Red Deer Areas
Reply #12 - Jul 20th, 2015 at 5:26am
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Great info about Red Deer areas. Thank you.

I just joined to forum and mood here is great  Cool

Regards,
Greg
  
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