Special Feature: Red and sika trophy herds under active volcanoes

Three striking landmarks dominate the Central North Island skyline in the region known as the Volcanic Plateau.

Tongariro National Park embraces the active volcanoes Mounts Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe plus the dormant and lower profile Mt Tongariro. The lower flanks of these peaks have ancient lava flows with dense forest cover offering a refuge for red and sika herds. These forests are criss-crossed with a mosaic of old logging roads, which present the hunter with good access and a chance to bag world class trophy animals.

Principal forest areas are the Tongariro, Erua, Rangataua, Taupo and Kaimanawa along with the very productive Mt Pihanga at the southern end of Lake Taupo. The Kaimanawa is the largest area and the most popular hunting location in the North Island. It has a huge variety of terrain from grassy river flats to steep beech forest slopes and open tussock tops.

Red deer are often found above the bush line in the Kaimanawas and the north eastern block is gazetted as a Recreational Hunting Area. Deer are present in moderate numbers in all the Volcanic Plateau beech and podocarp forests and good trophies are quite common, especially in the Pihanga-Kakaramea and Tongariro Forest areas.

Sika deer are widespread in the Kaimanawas and rapidly infiltrating the other forests, sometimes supplanting reds due to their aggressive nature and heavy browsing. Red/sika hybrids are often seen. Top trophy heads are taken from Puketitiri in the northern Kaimanawas and also from the Kawekas.

Wild pigs are scattered through all the forests with moderate numbers around Mt Pihanga and in the Lake Taupo western reserves in regenerating native scrub. Goats are present in isolated stray herds but are struggling to survive under DOC’s eradication programme.

Mallard and grey ducks, shovelers and paradise shelducks are found in ponds, streams, lakes and marshlands in low numbers. Pheasants and quail are present in isolated areas.

Guided hunting for red and sika deer is available in Ohakune. Helicopter transport and guided fly-ins to huts in the Pureoras, Kaimanawas, Kawekas and Ureweras (including private land) are provided by several operators at Taupo Airport. Outdoor guiding can be obtained at Taupo for wild pigs, turkeys, goats and rabbits.

Danny de Hek @newzealandnz

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Danny de Hek @newzealandnz

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