Whitetail Deer (Odocoileus Virginianus)
Whitetail are native to North America and in the Winter of 1904 the New Zealand Government purchased 24 New Hampshire Whitetails and took them on the 9,000-mile journey to New Zealand. Ultimately 18 animals survived the trip. Nine were released near Glenorchy, north of Lake Wakatipu in central Otago. The other nine went to Stewart Island off the southern coast of the South Island. The Stewart Island herd has fared far better as the Glenorchy herd is very localized up the Dart and Rees River valleys. Limited habitat and unrestricted hunting have limited their growth; there are probably just a few hundred Whitetails in this herd
The Stewart Island herd attracts most hunters because it is much larger and the deer are more accessible. About 1500 animals are taken there by hunters every year. The experience of hunting these deer on Stewart Island is highly prized by New Zealanders.
The Challenge of the Hunt
Whitetail offer an excellent challenge for hunters as the nature of the terrain on Stewart Island makes consistent hunting success very difficult. The majority of animals are found in a coastal strip. Although Whitetail are rated as being very clever and the deer blend in very well with the dense cover and can disappear very quickly. However Whitetail have two weakness that work in the hunter’s favour. They have a liking for certain seaweeds including bull kelp so are often spotted on the beaches at daylight. Also, unlike other deer species, they are creatures of habit and often return to the same feeding spot.
Stewart Island is broken up into coastal hunting blocks. Permits for huts and to hunt on these blocks is regulated by the Department of Conservation. Access to the hunting blocks is usually via fixed wing aircraft from Bluff, for a few blocks where an aircraft can land on the beach alternatively helicopter or commercial fishing boats from the island town of Oban is used to drop you at your block.
A hunting trip to the island requires good planning; the blocks are in strong demand and have to be booked in advance. Once you get there, you know that there won’t be other hunting parties in your area. The many huts on Stewart Island make the camping part of the experience more predictable and comfortable.
The New Zealand Whitetail seldom express trophies that are comparable to their North American equivalent. Several a year of 130 inches or more on the Boone and Crockett system are taken however, anything over about 100 B&C would be considered a good buck here.”
New Zealand Record
Douglas Score: 207
Best Hunting Times
Whitetail trophies are predominantly hunted from March until July. The best time to hunt is during the rut, which occurs in early May. Non-trophy animals can be hunted all year round.
Most New Zealand hunters hunt by “Spot and Stalk” in thick cover, where they mostly live, it is close and intense hunting. Tree stands are used frequently and this is quite uncommon for NZ hunting as most hunting for other species is done by stalking quietly through the bush.
A heavy rifle is not required, due to the size of the animal and something in the region of a .243 is ideal. Bow Hunting is also a good method for Whitetail.