Regional advice for Roar hunters
As the Roar 2023 is about to kick off, we chat to NZ Police and LandSAR personnel from around Aotearoa for an outlook on the traditional hunting season, and what safety advice they have for hunters.
The Roar hunting season is one hunters look forward to each year. The technology and gear improves year on year, but sometimes having the latest isn't enough. It’s the planning, packing the correct gear, safe hunting practices, good decision making and fitness while out in the hills that make a hunting trip one to return from.
Bay of Plenty
Bay of Plenty Detective Senior Sergeant John Wilson anticipates this Roar season will be back to ‘normal’ to pre-covid levels, so he is asking for sound planning, carrying the right gear, and sticking to the hunt plan. In addition, a large portion of his beat has been impacted by Cyclone Gabrielle; he anticipates common hunting areas will be hard to negotiate as a result.
Over the past 20 plus years as a Search and Rescue Coordinator, and a LandSAR volunteer, having been involved in hundreds of rescues, every year there are callouts caused by poor preparation or lack of planning.
Preparation and planning is key. The Roar hunt is often the only big trip some hunters do a year, he says. “The Roar is for such a short time, and because of this when they’re in the bush they’re hunting from dawn to dusk. Have they done any training to get them in the right shape for that? I think some people don’t.”
Likewise, Wilson says most hunters have spent the time and money on decking out their Roar kit, but sometimes there is oversight of what to pack, and when. "When you go into the bush, you need to ensure that you have some form of communication - beacons are good, enough gear on you that if you need to spend the night out sleeping under a log you will be OK - it’s not going to be comfortable, but it’s the New Zealand bush. Every time you leave the hut or camp, you need to be thinking about these things: have you got an emergency blanket, raincoat, a couple of muesli bars in case you do end up spending the night out. Have you told your mates where you’re going and when you expect to be back, so, they have an idea in case they need to put the balloon up.”
“Hunting is an acquired skill, the ability to see things in the bush and to work out what they are is not something that just happens overnight. It’s something you learn over time, and it’s something you need to work at.”
Most importantly, whenever you hunt, have a plan, and stick to that plan
Let your mates know where you are going each day and don’t deviate from what you agree on. “We see this with fatalities, where there was a plan and the plan was deviated from and deviating from the plan contributed to the tragedy such as hunters shooting their mates or other hunters.”
Inspector James Ure says the more unforgiving terrain of Fiordland and the Southern Alps poses different challenges compared to the rest of the country. Due to the high-risk country, Ure says a locator beacon and emergency shelter should be on every hunter's gear list.
The most common callouts are for hunters being bluffed, flooded campsites and river levels, and injuries, he says.
“Generally, when going into alpine environments, extra research of the surrounding terrain is needed. Hunters need to think about how they will recover the animal - they might shoot it and then it can become problematic. So, think before you pull the trigger in steep country.”
Ure was based in Te Anau, Fiordland for seven years, and says the Fiordland weather can catch a lot of hunters off guard, especially when their choice of campsite is flooded.
Omarama Constable Nayland Smith, aka ‘Bean’, says “the Roar is a pretty special time of year, there’s not much that beats roaring in a stag or hearing them roar . . . so you don’t want to ruin that by stuffing up, getting hurt or lost”.
For the past 11 years, he has been heavily involved with local SAR as a field team member and SAR coordinator.
“From a search and rescue perspective, if you don’t own a PLB yet then go and buy one. It’s a small amount to pay, about $350 - $400, if you're out in the wop wops with no means of communication and need help.
“I can’t emphasise that enough, it takes the search out of the equation and makes it a rescue, meaning a lot less time you're sitting on the side of a hill waiting to be helped.”
Popular Roar hunting areas near Omarama include the Ahuriri Valley, The Lindis Pass and the Hopkins Valley. Smith says with the technology available today, “there’s no excuse” not knowing your hunting area.
“Know your area, if it’s a ballot block know where your boundaries are before you go. Make sure you have maps downloaded before you leave, or printed out if your old school. Same if you’re hunting on public land, make sure you know where you can hunt, especially if there’s private land nearby.
“Be a to risk losing your firearms licence or facing prosecution because you didn’t do your homework.”
Fitness can be the difference between enjoying the hunt, and struggling through everyday.
“If you’re unfit and short of breath when you suddenly come across an animal, there’s a good chance the old oxygen hasn’t got to the brain as well as it could, your thought process may not be as good as what it normally would be causing you to possibly make a rash decision, such as not identifying your target as well as you normally would.”
The Roar is a busy time of year, so it’s important to take extra safety measures such as being highly visible to other hunters, possibly more than you would normally, he says.
Get ready this roar:
- Ready our 7 tips for the season as part of our Have a Hmmm with ACC
- Learn more about how to plan and stay safe while hunting big game
- Learn more about the hunting areas and restrictions on DOC’s website
- Learn more about communication devices such as where to rent a PLB
Header photo: Te Rereatukahia Hut Track, bay of Plenty, Lydia Marston