Alpine Hunting

Alpine hunts are very rewarding trips that require extra planning and preparation. Alpine environments are steep and exposed by their very nature, route finding can be critical. Additionally, weather can turn quickly and your ability to shelter can be minimised by terrain. Alpine environments are steep and exposed by their very nature. When a hunter loses their footing in this environment the consequences are typically worse than in other hunting environments. Alpine hunting fatalities are typically the result of falling which is perhaps of little surprise given the steep terrain.


Our Studies Show

A clear trend emerged through our analysis - four of the five alpine hunting fatalities were alone at the time. Had these hunters been with another person at the time of their fall, or were carrying a suitable communication device, some of these fatalities could have been prevented or downgraded to a serious incident instead of a fatality. Most incidents in the mountains involve falls and or getting bluffed. Sometimes compounded by weather. It is very important to keep in mind at all times, while moving in the mountains, the chances of a fall versus the consequences of a fall. The large number of incidents involving falls suggest that hunting in pairs, or more, is encouraged.

Choose Your Hunt

Choose a hunting trip that suits the skills and fitness of everyone in your group. A local hunt or backcountry adventure will all have their own risks. Carefully consider what to expect out there.

  • Consider your ability, skills and fitness of everyone in your group
  • How will you get there? Where will you stay?
  • How will help find you if something goes wrong? Will there be cellphone signal?
  • How long will it take to get around the area with enough daylight?
  • What is the terrain like? Will there be rivers/bluffs/steep ridgelines? Will you be in avalanche terrain?

Start looking at maps and websites to gain insight into what your trip will include.

  • Topomaps, DOC Hunting areas or talking to experienced hunters are just some examples of where you can begin to search for a suitable hunting area near you.

Prepare for Your Hunt

The planning you do from home will make all the difference for when you are in alpine areas of New Zealand. Whether solo or in a group, this type of remote hunting requires careful planning for self sufficiency.

Get Yourself Ready

Heading for a hunt into the New Zealand's bush takes skills, even if it is a short day hunt on a local property.

  • Get your body ready - you will last longer in the bush and prevent common injuries such as back and ankles while carrying heavy gear/ game
  • Understand the firearms rules - make sure you are licensed and understand the 7 Basic Firearms Safety Rules to keep you and your fellow hunters safe.
  • Have the skills to stay safe - As you head off track, through variable terrain and encounter risks, basic navigation, river safety and basic first aid are essential skills to the average hunter. You can find all these topics here.
  • Have specific alpine snow skills and avalanche awareness - Before entering alpine terrain, you need the skills to traverse this terrain safely. We have videos and resources, but a practical course is recommended before setting off. You can find lots of information on

Take the Basics to Keep You Comfortable and Safe

What you take with you will make all the difference if something were to go wrong such as getting lost, delayed or injured.

New Zealand weather is very changeable. Even if you set out in the sunshine and there is no rain in the forecast it's not uncommon to have an isolated shower. Make sure you take rain protection and extra layers you can put on if it gets cold. Remember a lot of alpine hunting is sitting around observing the area, looking for animals as well as routes. Having the right supplies means that you're more likely to remain warm, comfortable and safe for the duration of your trip.  

Wear the right fabrics. Clothing only retains what heat your body produces. Certain fabrics wick moisture away from the body and retain warmth. Avoid cotton clothing – when cotton gets wet it ceases to insulate you. Wet and cold clothing significantly contributes to hypothermia.

Hunting trip Essentials:
  • Waterproof Jacket
  • Headtorch
  • Emergency Communications Device (Beacon)
  • Warm Clothing (Not Cotton)
  • Hat and Gloves
  • Sturdy Boots with a full shank
  • Water and Food
  • Emergency Shelter
  • First Aid Kit
  • Binoculars and a spotting scope
  • Clean sighted-in firearm
  • Map and Compass or GPS
  • Packliner + Pack
  • Sun protection
  • Whistle
  • Permission or a DOC permit to hunt on the land as well as a current NZ firearms licence
  • Cooker, Fuel, Utensils
  • Toiletries and personal medication
  • Sleeping Bag for alpine conditions
  • Lock for storing firearms safely
  • Hut Booking

Alpine terrain items (and the skills to use them)

  • Helmet
  • Crampons
  • Ice Axe
  • Potentially avalanche rescue equipment (Transceiver, shovel, probe)

pdfBasic Gear List for outdoorsPDF – 203 KB

or you can find more on our Supplies section


On Your Hunt

Help yourself go further and make it home safe by staying alert in the bush.

  • Put safety first - always point your firearm in a safe direction and take extra care when crossing difficult terrain. Always know the load state of your firearm.
  • Be aware of the weather and avalanche conditions - you can learn how to do this on our weather page
  • Take your time - enjoy your hunt, take regular breaks and conserve energy for the trip home and keep your mind sharp.
  • Stay alert - when will it get dark? Do you know where you are on your map? Where is everyone in your group?
  • Choose your route carefully - before you go up or down a steep area, think how will you get back. Hunters are often 'bluffed out' or stuck from not considering this on the day.
  • Avoid crossing rivers - if you are not experienced, choose a track that have bridges. If circumstances change, you can always turn back. Learn more about river safety here.

What to Do Next

Continue your preparation with our online resources, there is still plenty to learn to ensure for a safe and enjoyable hunt.

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