Special Feature: Prime chamois habitat in Southern Alps

South Island’s major city, Christchurch, is a good base for exploring fascinating inland places like Lake Coleridge, Hanmer Springs, Lewis Pass and Lake Sumner.

North Canterbury is a veritable wonderland of mountains, rivers and lakes that have that special quality of isolation that makes you feel like their original discoverer. Many of these idyllic hidden places in the foothills of the Southern Alps, have a magnetic attraction for New Zealand’s introduced big game animals.

Red deer are pretty much a universal feature of this region but they are never far from bush cover because of the pressure of helicopter shooting operations. The main concentrations are in the remote headwaters of the Rakaia, Waimakariri, Hurunui and Waiau rivers.

Chamois range freely along the main divide north and south of the Lewis Pass, which is a primary access route. These unpredictable Austrian mountain goats require dedicated stalking on the open tussock tops. The lead doe keeps good watch while the herd forages, and she whistles a warning when disturbed, which causes the herd to explode in every direction.

Wild pigs frequent scrub covered areas on the coastal ranges and the vast complex of subsidiary ranges in the Southern Alps. They are generally in low numbers with moderate sized groups around the Lake Sumner area. Goats are fairly sparsely scattered in this region but tend to congregate in remote parts of the southern Kaikoura Ranges.

Mallard ducks are abundant, having adapted to the developed agricultural land throughout the region, from the Rakaia River to the Waiau headwaters. Paradise shelduck are a popular species among hunters, and the extensive shallow wetlands, coastal dune lakes as well as high country lakes offer the best Canada geese hunting in the country. Grey and shoveler ducks are present but prefer swampy areas. Upland game birds are less prolific but pheasant, quail and a few partridge are present on braided riverbeds.

Helicopter hunting safaris and specialised free range guided hunting tours for trophy red and fallow deer, chamois and thar are available in Christchurch and Rakaia. Fly-in hunting trips to DOC estate and private stations are also available in Hanmer Springs. Professional guides operate from Methven and Rangiora.