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Hunting by Yourself: by Bill McLeod

14/05/2023 4:00 PM | Bob McMillan (Administrator)

Had a conversation with a senior member of the club the other day, he mentioned the challenges of hunting by yourself. I have long preferred to hunt by myself. I had to think about why that was. 

As a youngster with my first air rifle, I was tasked by my father with shooting introduced birds on our property. He felt that the introduced birds competed with native birds for food and nesting space. After school I would take my rifle and hunt these birds. My brothers were not interested in hunting so I was always by myself. I guess that,  having six kids, my mother thought it good that one at least could occupy themselves happily. When I went to stay with my uncle and aunt I was hard out keen to go hunting. My cousin Diane came hunting with me once or twice, cousin Robert was totally disinterested in hunting. After milking I would take the farm dog and spend the day hunting rabbits and possums. By myself.

On my first deer hunting trip into the Urewera on a club party hunt, I hunted with two other “experienced” hunters who were just a bit older than me. On the second day I climbed to the summit of Mount Tarawera by myself, saw two deer in the carpark and missed both of them. Then my first hunt into the Galatea faces,  staying on a farm. My mate didn’t want to leave the pasture. Acting on the farmers advice, I hunted up the Te Kopua stream intending to climb onto the ridge on the south side of the stream and return that night. I didn’t get that far because I shot my first deer up above the big falls toward the head of the stream. Happily carried out the hindquarters. The next day my older “experienced” mate came with me as we hunted the next stream north.

On subsequent party hunts I was lucky in that some proper experienced hunters took me under their wing and taught me a lot about finding deer. Up on the Kaimanawa faces with Ray Ridgeway, into the Waipari with Sam Lowes, into the Waituhi with Gordon Ford, into the Ruakituri with Eddie Anderton, Clements Mill with Andre van Dreil. Sometimes hunting with my teacher but frequently by myself. Having someone competent in camp was important, giving me the confidence to explore new areas by myself. I found that,  because I was getting deer, new members wanted to accompany me on some of these hunts. That was fine, I enjoyed the company. Found that, after some time, I was taking some of the same teachers into country which was new to them, Ray into the Kakapotahi in South Westland, Sam into the Tauranga Taupo. 

 After some years of private hunting I got a job as a hunter for the Forest Service. This was a different sort of hunting. There was certainly a competitive spirit among the hunters. I think some of us wanted to be the top tally hunter, some,  I wondered what they were doing there. Virtually all our hunting was by yourself. It simply wasn’t efficient to hunt together. Later on , after my stints as a paid hunter, I enjoyed the company of very experienced hunters who I shared a lot of great adventures with. 

How do you go about gaining the confidence and knowledge to hunt by yourself. I think it’s just like any other endeavour, start with baby steps and build up. Understand the basic skills necessary. Firelighting is an absolute must. Even if you use a cooker for all your meals and smokos,  the skill of lighting a fire gives you a confident mindset when in the bush. Map reading and navigation are, again,  vital skills. You will get lost, it’s not a big deal. Having a mental picture of the country you are going into helps immensely. By all means have a mate along with you when taking these baby steps but keep in mind that you may be the one that everyone depends on if things go wrong. Know how to bind up a bad cut or a broken bone. I find that, although I much prefer to hunt by myself, I like to have the company of another hunter when I get back to camp. Other hunters I know don’t mind protracted solo hunting expeditions, I think that the company of an experienced competent hunter gives an added measure of safety in your hunting. 

Heed all the advice about checking weather conditions, letting people know of your intentions, being properly clothed and equipped for the conditions, it is important. 

Then just do it. Challenge yourself. Give it a go, ya mug.

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