Top 10 essential hunting gear in New Zealand

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City Church Christchurch

Hunting in New Zealand

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1 August 2020
By Ps Ysrial Clunies-Ross

Canterbury is blessed with pockets of public hunting areas, and is home to a good variety of animals for any keen hunter. Hunting for me is a source of food, and I would happily fill my freezer rather than go for a trophy hunt.

It all began several years ago when a friend of mine bought me a short sleeve top for my birthday, hoping to get me hooked into hunting. And what do you know - five years later and I’m all in.

The length of time away and location will ultimately dictate what items to take and there is always a trade-off between weight vs comfort i.e. warmth, dryness, food & water, having experienced these discomforts firsthand. But, on the other hand, I have also carried excessive amounts of gear, adding extra weight to lug around.

The main things I consider are clothing, food & water, and first-aid.

I’m usually doing day hunts and this is a list of items I take with me (including links to manufacturers where possible). If I plan on being in the bush overnight or longer I will also take a tent, sleeping bag, gas cooker, pots and extra food.

List of essential day hunting gear

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1. Clothing

This is probably the most important consideration when heading into the outdoors.

Layers of clothing are better for maintaining warmth rather than opting for one big item.

Stay away from cotton products as these hold the moisture.

I made the mistake of buying some secondhand base layers from the army surplus store. They were German-made products which had the word “Baumwolle” which I took to mean wool, but it actually means cotton! I found myself in the rain in a remote area soaking and cold.

Use merino wool products and clothing with the ability to wick moisture away from your body.

When hiking up a mountain I am quite happy to wear a t-shirt and shorts as long as I am moving, because I get very hot and sweaty. But I will carry long sleeve polyprops and longs, a wool t-shirt and another thicker layer.

I’ll also take a down jacket if needed which is light and doesn't use much space, but it must be kept dry.

I also carry a hardshell jacket and leggings if there is any chance of rain, a pair of gloves, and a lightweight fleece balaclava.

On my feet I am wearing a full leather boot, hiking socks and gaiters.

A person holding a rifle, hunting in New Zealand

2. Rifle

I hunt with a .270 Howa 1500 rifle, a Vortex Viper scope, complete with bipod and a suppressor. I have found this rifle to be very heavy compared to my friend’s .270 Tikka. Initially I had problems with accuracy, but after bedding it, I am now satisfied with what I have.

The Vortex scope has been replaced twice under its lifetime warranty. Both times I had an issue with internal fogging and they were immediately replaced after sending them back.

I carry extra ammunition and a boresnake in case something gets lodged in the barrel.

3. Binoculars

Binoculars are a must for hunting in Canterbury with its large open areas and mountains. I purchased mine from Hunting & Fishing and have been very happy with them. They are 10 x 42’s and are reasonably lightweight.

This was one of those times where I spent a little bit more to get something a little bit better.

I use a bino harness. I like the elastic straps, but while I was stalking a deer on a steep incline with my back to the ground, I managed to tear the rubber section holding one of the straps, which I see as a flaw in the manufacturing.

4. Rangefinder

This is the latest item to be added to my kit. In the past I have had to rely on guesswork.

I had considered purchasing a rangefinder from Ali-Express but decided to buy one locally, opting for the Bushnell Prime 1700. Thus far, it has been a good choice.

I chose this one because of its strong casing design, the limited lifetime guarantee, and the ARC feature (the ability to compensate for angle distance).

5. Smartphone

I am an iPhone user and there is really good cellular coverage some of the places I go, which I count as a bonus.

The two main apps that I use are:

  • NZ Topo50 - A very handy map that uses GPS with track recording and marker creating. It also has a DOC hunting permit overlay.
  • Strelok Pro - A simple to use ballistics calculator. Simply enter your scope and load data and it will calculate your MOA and hold over for your reticle. I started using this app after purchasing the rangefinder and have found it to be accurate.

I also keep a copy of my firearms license and hunting permit on my phone.

6. First Aid

I carry a very basic First Aid kit with steri-strips, plasters, Panadol, ibuprofen, a bandage, a lighter and a tampon (excellent tinder if you need to light a fire) and anti-bac wipes. I also keep spare batteries for my headlamp and a length of paracord.

7. Headlamp

I started with a couple of rechargeable headlamps from Ali-Express which boasted high lumens, but I found they had a high battery drain and were heavy and dull.

I am now using the Ledlenser H7.2. It will last about 3-4 hours on maximum output, but will last for many more on low, which is fine for tramping.

A person taking in the view of the mountains in New Zealand

8. Backpack

I’ve tried a few different size packs.

A daybag is fine if you only need to carry the bare essentials, but I found there was no capacity for any extras by the time I put any clothing in it.

I purchased larger packs from local second hand stores and made the mistake of putting my first one through a regular washing cycle which stripped off the waterproof coating on the inside of the fabric.

I have since picked up a Macpac Torre V1. I think it's about 65L and probably 20 plus years old but is still in excellent condition. The straps have since perished and I have just ordered replacements.

9. Licences & Permits

Don't forget to pack or keep a copy of your firearms licence and DOC hunting permit on your smartphone.

10. Miscellaneous

I carry a couple of miscellaneous items as well: a knife to process any meat, batteries, a plastic bag for the meat and PVC tape (which comes in handy for various things).

Food and water are other obvious additions.

Wrapping up

I haven’t been in the hunting game for very long in comparison with some of the guys and gals I know, and I don’t particularly enjoy climbing mountains (which says more about my fitness than anything else), but I have grown to love the experience.

Going into remote areas, especially around Caterbury where I live, and taking in the spectacular wilderness landscape is an amazing blessing.

I’m always encouraged whenever encountering an animal that has the potential to end up in my freezer (which is less often than I would like), but the fact that there is a readily available food supply right on our doorstep, gives me a sense of satisfaction and gratitude for the nation that we live in.

I seldom have the privilege of hunting on private land, so most of my hunting experience has been on DOC land with a hunting permit.

I have accumulated many items over the last few years as I began to get more serious about hunting and continue to do so, but I started with nothing. My first time out was in a pair of sneakers, some track pants, a jumper and a big heavy polyester filled jacket, only to find the matagouri poking my feet through the mesh of my shoes and ripping holes in them as I scaled across the slopes covered in scree, and then experiencing some of the harsh winds with cold and drenching rain.

Starting with nothing, I have accumulated gear over several years to support my love for hunting. This can create a bit of a money-hole with gear ranging in price from a few dollars up to thousands of dollars.

I continue to swap out my second hand gear for new gear when needed but when it comes to any spending, there is always the balance of quality, value and available budget.