Roar 2023 wrap-up: Safety first, success second

29th May 2023|4min

From the depths of Fiordland to the bush of the Ruahine Ranges, the Roar 2023 has been a successful season for most. We at the NZ Mountain Safety Council have reflected on the season with our partner organisations, with highlights and learnings to support preparation for future Roar seasons.

A safe and success season as seen by NZ Police

NZ Police Otago Inspector James Ure
Overall we have consistently heard really heartening stories of good hunting conditions and success for the vast majority this Roar season.

There were a few standard evacuations due to injuries sustained on the hill, particularly a broken ankle of a hunter who fell in bluffs high on a ridge and had to spend two nights in his tent waiting for clear conditions before the rescue helicopter could reach him for extraction. Fortunately, he had an inReach with him which allowed him to maintain communication as the rescue operation drew on. 

During the season the importance of not solely relying on Garmin inReach devices when using the SOS function become a key point. Whilst the inReach will send a GPS location to rescue services on some jobs in thick canopy or steep terrain, the extra ability of an EPIRB to relay and trace 121.5MHz signal gives significant advantage to rescue helicopters who can use audio tracking gear to zero in on the trace signal and find people quicker on those difficult searches where the final stage to locate the person becomes difficult.

Personally, I was extremely fortunate to have a ‘once in a lifetime’ trip into the Lower Glaisnock and see first-hand the success that the Fiordland Wapiti Foundation have achieved in animal management. In addition to seeing 15 beautiful bulls, the big highlight was the educational opportunity to teach my two teenage sons the messages about animal management, the long-term benefits of not pulling the trigger on junior bulls, and making wise decisions when trying to descend bluffy country from above. No bulls shot from our party but some absolutely stunning animals seen and lifelong memories gained.

The only disappointment was finding two people without hunting permits in the area and not abiding by basic firearms safety rules. Unfortunately, this type of behaviour continues to come to attention of police all around the country at this time of year. All of us need to take a united stand about keeping the sport of hunting clean and following the rules which are designed to keep everyone safe.

Wapiti - James Ure: A Wapiti bull spotted on a ‘once in a lifetime’ trip into the Lower Glaisnock, Fiordland National Park

A Wapiti bull spotted on a ‘once in a lifetime’ trip into the Lower Glaisnock, Fiordland National Park PHOTO/JAMES URE

Looking across the country with GAC and NZDA

Game Animal Council (GAC) CEO Tim Gale

The 2023 Roar came on the back of Cyclone Gabrielle and other significant summer storms, which had an impact on hunting opportunities in some regions. Despite this it was fantastic to hear of so many hunters out there enjoying what is the highlight of the hunting calendar.

We are really pleased to again have had a Roar with no fatalities or serious firearms incidents. On the whole, people are taking safety seriously and following the necessary advice. However, the one issue that still comes up is people heading out without suitable emergency communication, such as a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB). As most outdoors people know, the landscape around emergency communications is evolving and, with Starlink on the horizon, could change dramatically in the next few years. Future technology, however, is no excuse to cut corners now and I’d urge all hunters to make sure they carry a form of emergency communication with them at all times.

Finally, we were really pleased with the collaboration across the hunting sector this season by developing and sharing safety advice for hunters.

Game Animal Council (GAC) CEO Tim Gale.

Game Animal Council (GAC) CEO Tim Gale.

New Zealand Deerstalkers Association (NZDA) CEO Gwyn Thurlow

The Roar of 2023 has been successful for many reasons. Firstly, and importantly, firearms safety standards were high and no accidental shooting events occurred, so I want to thank the deerstalking community - long may that continue. It is pleasing to see our partnership organisations of MSC, GAC and Firearms Safety Authority supporting this too.

I have received many reports of successful Roar trips where memories were made and shared with friends and families. The Roar is always an amazing time in the hills and on a personal level, I hunted with my brother, Brent, and stalking buddy and colleague, Courtney Pellow. Courtney is NZDA’s communications manager, and it was her first wilderness roar. We spent 10 days in the remotest part of Nelson Lakes National Park after flying in using a special hunting permit issued by DOC for ungulate management purposes. Each of us found and secured a red stag and saw amazing scenes that embody what enjoying our backcountry is all about. Going on trips like this reminds me of why hunting is so popular in New Zealand and why it’s important to protect our access and ability to enjoy recreational hunting.

New Zealand Deerstalkers Association (NZDA) CEO Gwyn Thurlow, left, with brother Brent while hunting in Nelson Lakes National Park. PHOTO/GWYN THURLOW

New Zealand Deerstalkers Association (NZDA) CEO Gwyn Thurlow, left, with brother Brent while hunting in Nelson Lakes National Park

Down in the depths of Southland with the Fiordland Wapiti Foundation

Fiordland Wapiti Foundation (FWF) General Manager Roy Sloan

The Roar, or in my case the Wapiti bugle, is one of the most exciting times of the year for hunters. There is always so much preparation and anticipation heading into the place we call the Amazon on top of the Himalayas.

About 600 people hunted the Wapiti blocks during this year’s ballot and 99.9% walked out under their own steam. As we know, Fiordland is very steep and wet, and things can go wrong really quickly. Those who hunt the Wapiti are normally fit and well prepared and mostly do the right thing. However, on the odd occasion, all of that can get chucked out of the window when decisions need to be made in an emergency situation. The message from the FWF is if you are in trouble, think also about your rescuers. Most of the time it will be a helicopter, delaying your decision can lead to missing weather and daylight opportunities.

Becoming a manager of a hunting organisation has resulted in my normal extended hunting trips being shortened to just a few days in the bush. On two of those short trips, I had the privilege of escorting a couple of people who had never been hunting before. When you have spent as much time in the mountains as I have, you become so consumed in your activity that you forget the why. Taking a person new to hunting is a great way to reset, as it’s an opportunity to see it through their eyes. The excitement of the morning breaking, birds coming to life, fresh deer sign and the distant roar of a red stag. But then ending the trip with nothing but happiness through forgetting the stress of life. Just being there is enough, it doesn’t matter that you didn’t shoot a deer. Then the real reality check you turn your phone on. That’s when you really remember the why!

Fiordland Wapiti Foundation (FWF) General Manager Roy Sloan stalking red deer in the Eyre Mountains in the Taka Ra Haka Conservation Park, Southland.

Fiordland Wapiti Foundation (FWF) General Manager Roy Sloan stalking red deer in the Eyre Mountains in the Taka Ra Haka Conservation Park, Southland.

A final word from MSC

Hunting Partnerships Advisor Adam Smith

Measuring the success of a Roar season can be approached from many different perspectives. For us at MSC, we hold high value in working with partner organisations to encourage safe participation. This year we worked with ACC on its Have a Hmmm campaign, identifying seven Roar tips for staying safe. The collaboration across multiple organisations went a long way in supporting the New Zealanders who headed out for the annual rut. 

Another good gauge of a successful season is incident numbers. Only a handful of incidents have come to our attention so far, and it was great to hear mostly positive stories coming out of the bush. In the coming months once the incident data is in, we will have a better picture of what actually occurred.   

We know success can vary from hunt to hunt, and from hunter to hunter. Getting a great stag is not the number one goal, neither is getting a few hinds for meat. For us though, a good story has got to be one of the most important measures, and getting out there and back is a key part of that. Navigating problems is a lot easier with solid preparation. Keep up the great work! 

Ros Wells, MSC Comms Advisor, Haast Roar 2023

Ros Wells, MSC Comms Advisor, Haast Roar 2023

*We continue to collect incident data post season from SAR data and ACC claims and will share our findings when they are complete. For further questions you can get in touch with us

Looking to winter

For those hunting in alpine areas, careful planning for difficult terrain, avalanche risk and changeable weather and the gear + skills required to navigate these areas is essential. 

Hiring or purchasing a communications device is a must especially. You can find more on the alpine hunting page of our website.

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