Unguided: Preparing to Hunt Free Range Red Deer in New Zealand

Each year in April many photos appear on social media of hunters smiling behind giant racks of red deer. Many of these hunters use the payment system in New Zealand where you can pay 10,000 dollars for a 350” red stag. Though some hunters may enjoy this style of hunting, for many hunters in the states the idea of paying for an animal dissuades them from hunting New Zealand.

What is less publicized is all of the public land New Zealand offers for low-cost free-range red deer. Max has been hunting red deer for the past three years and each year he has been among wild roaring reds. He was unable to recover two nice stags, but his efforts were rewarded this year when he shot a fourteen pointer this year. Though New Zealand is a world away and the terrain can appear daunting, a DIY hunt is possible if you understand a few steps.


Most good stags are 12-14 points in the wild and Remi Warren believes the biggest would score 330”.  The cover image shows two examples of good free range stags depending on the area you are hunting in New Zealand. If you are less worried about shooting a trophy and just want action, many units that list even ‘moderate’ red deer numbers have produced many opportunities for Max and I.

Obtaining a Unit

Just like Colorado there are both general units and units you can apply for in October that you have solo access to for a few days between March 20th and April 20th. Units are around twenty bucks, you will only get them for a day or two at a time, but you will know you are the only one on the block. Just like calling a wildlife biologist in Wyoming to ask about antelope blocks, you can talk with the department of conservation workers in New Zealand to get an idea of where a good place to hunt may be.

If you go to the New Zealand conservation website you can limit your options down to the area, animal, and other  to see units you can hunt. For example: The West Coast region for red deer in the Franz Joseph Unit. I will write up some more specific locations in part two when disucssing strategies.

Getting guns into New Zealand and buying hunting licenses

If you plan to hunt the deer with a bow you can bring your bow in for no extra charge from the New Zealand government (and most airlines will treat it as a piece of sporting equipment). If you plan to bring a rifle in you can purchase a temporary firarms license for 25 dollars. More information on rifle permits can be found here.

Culture, Climate, and Costs

New Zealander’s are friendly and much more accepting of hunters than most Americans. I was amazed by how many locals wanted some venison when my brother or I shot a deer. I was once shooting my bow along the side of a road when a farmer started a conversation with me, and I ended up getting permission to hunt some private land nearby.

New Zealand is a temperate Rainforest so you can expect thick shrubs in their native bush terrain while you can expect more open beech forests in other parts of the country. Gear for a September elk hunt in Colorado will be fine for hunting New Zealand in April.

In terms of the culture New Zealand is a first world country. Besides driving on the left side of the road (your passport counts as a driver’s license) you shouldn’t feel overwhelmed by culture shock. Food and gas will be a bit more expensive, but a trip to New Zealand won’t break the bank, especially if you buy your ticket round trip well in advance.



  1. Hi there,

    My name is Frank lohnes an I finish reading your page part one couldn’t find the part 2, but I noticed you have been over to NZ 3 years in a row now and also it said something at the bottom of the page about Iowa slam. I was wondering are you from Iowa? I am from Missouri and I am planning to go hunt stag this coming year. Would like to talk to you more about your trips an maybe you can give me some pointers on trail head locations I have been looking on that Google search bar like crazy for info an not finding very much on trailheads specifically and general hunt units. Looks forward to talking with you.

    Text and email is fine.



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