Deer Species

Red (Cervus elaphus)

Prevalent across most of New Zealand with populations from Rakiura/Stewart Island to south of Auckland, red deer are a reasonably large deer and can produce very impressive trophy heads. They are hunted at all times of the year but ‘the roar’, from late March through until May, is the most popular period for hunting mature males.

Stags are much larger than hinds. Fully-grown males have a shoulder height of 1100-1300mm and weigh 95-215kg with females smaller at 950-1050mm shoulder height and weighing 85-110kg. Both sexes are red-brown or grey-brown in colour, with a short tail which is red-brown in colour. Stag antlers are erect and can have 10 or more points.

Sika (Cervus nippon)

Sika are found in the central North Island with strongholds in the Kaimanawa and Kaweka Ranges and are highly prized by hunters. Their range extends to the southern Urewera, the Ruahine’s and Tongariro National Park. The autumn roar period (March-early May) is the most popular time to target mature stags but Sika are hunted all year round.

A sika’s summer coat is chestnut with a cream-coloured belly. They have white spots along the back and flanks, although they fade on the winter coat, which is a brown-grey colour. They also have a distinctive black dorsal stripe. Fully-grown males have a shoulder height around 850-950mm and weigh around 75-85kg with females smaller at 700-800mm shoulder height and weighing 45-60kg. Only the males grow antlers.

White-tail (Odocoileus virginianus borealis)

White-tail are found on Rakiura/Stewart Island and at the head of Lake Wakatipu. These are the only herds in the Southern Hemisphere. They are nicknamed the grey ghost due to their elusiveness and are legendary for the challenge of hunting them. The rut runs from mid-April to June but white-tail are hunted all year round.

White-tail are a smallish deer species with a light brown summer coat and a grey-brown winter coat with a white underside. Males (bucks) stand around 1000mm at the shoulder and weigh 50kg plus with females (does) lighter at 40kg plus. Only the males have antlers.

Wapiti (Cervus elaphus nelsoni)

Wapiti (North American elk) are the largest round-horned deer in the world and were gifted to NZ by President Theodore Roosevelt. They are only found in Fiordland and are successfully managed by the Fiordland Wapiti Foundation in conjunction with DOC. This management helps preserve the quality of the herd, reducing the number of hybrid and red deer and contributing to good conservation outcomes. The bugle or rut (March – April) is the most sought-after time to hunt wapiti with the annual ballot extremely popular. Contact the Fiordland Wapiti Foundation for information on entering the ballot.

Only the males (bulls) have antlers and the winter coat is yellow to brownish grey while the summer body coat is tawnier and reddish. Wapiti have a shoulder height of 1200 – 1500mm with fully-grown bulls weighing 300-450kg and females (cows) 200-270kg. Due to the importance of the herd and letting younger bulls reach their potential it is critical that hunters can identify mature bulls.

Fallow (Dama dama)

Fallow are hunted in both the North and South Islands, particularly in Woodhill Forest near Auckland, Waikato, Tauranga, Wanganui, near Nelson, the Paparoa Range, Wakatipu and the Blue Mountains. The rut typically begins in April.

A smallish deer with shorter forelegs than hind legs. Males are around 900-1000mm at shoulder height and 60-85kg in weight with females smaller at 850-900mm shoulder height and weighing 30-50kg. The coat can vary in colour from black, dark brown, light red-brown with white spots, or cream. Males develop distinctive broad shovel-shaped antlers.

Sambar (Rusa unicolor)

Sambar are a very large deer and famously difficult but rewarding to hunt. The two main populations of wild sambar are found in the Manawatu/Wanganui region and the Bay of Plenty region. Their habitat is mostly on private land – mainly forestry blocks and will require landowner permission to hunt. The rut can happen anytime between May and December.

Sambar have a dark brown to almost black coat and only the stags have antlers. Males average a shoulder height of 1370mm and 245kg in weight with females smaller at 1150mm shoulder height and weighing up to 157kg. Only the stags have antlers, which are thick and heavily pearled.

Rusa (Rusa timorensis)

Originally from the eastern Indonesian archipelago, rusa are a medium-sized deer. They are found in eastern Bay of Plenty, specifically east and south east of Rotorua and are known to be extremely elusive. The rut runs from mid-July and into August.

Males have a dark reddish-brown summer coat and a greyish-brown coat in winter. Hinds are pale yellowish-red in summer and greyish-red in winter. Male stand about 1060mm at the shoulder and weigh up to 120kg, females are 810mm at shoulder height and weigh up to 70kg. Only the stags have antlers.


Himalayan Tahr (Hemitragus Jemlahicus)

‘Near threatened’ in their native Himalaya, tahr have found a home in the high mountains and subsidiary ranges of the central Southern Alps. The tahr range extends from the headwaters of the Rakaia to the Young Range of Otago. Male (bull) tahr are most highly-prized in winter when they have their winter coat and mane. The rut (May-June) is a popular time to target them.

Brown/black/red winter coat and a straw-coloured summer coat. Both sexes have distinctive short horns flattened sideways and curving sharply backwards. Mature bulls measure up to just over one metre at shoulder height and over 70kg, exceptionally up to 136kg. Mature adult females (nannies) seldom weigh more than 36kg.


Chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra)

Introduced as a gift from Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph 1 in 1907, chamois are found in most mountainous areas of the South Island and are adaptable across both alpine, sub-alpine and vegetated terrain. They can be successfully hunted at all times of the year although the rut (May-June) is popular for targeting males (bucks).

Their summer coat is a lot lighter than their dark brown winter coat. They have a distinctive dark stripe from nose around the eyes to the horns; another stripe from nape of neck along the spine to the tail. Bucks are 650–900mm at shoulder height and weigh 25–45kg. Females (does) are smaller at 600–800mm shoulder height and weigh around 19kg. Both bucks and does have slender black horns.


Wild Pigs

Wild pigs occupy most of New Zealand, including Great Barrier and Chatham Islands. They are not found on Stewart Island. More numerous in the North Island large populations exist in Northland, Waikato, Marlborough and North Canterbury.

Wild pigs are distinctive from domestic pigs by being smaller and more muscular with a straight tail and longer snout. They vary in colour from black to ginger to white and grey. Males (boars) stand nearly 1000mm at the shoulder and can weigh as much as 205kg, females (sows) are smaller at 600mm high and up to 114kg.