June 2023 Newsletter
As a hunting guide and Outfitter carrying over 25 years of experience, 2023 has to rate as a milestone. Nothing, in all of those years of hunting compares to the relief, excitement and overall success of 2023.
Foremost to these feelings is that they were shared over 4 years with what began as a random group of clients. To those of you, and its only you that know what I’m referring too, thank you for being patient, understanding and above all else committed to your dream of a hunting adventure in New Zealand with us.
Every hunt starts with excitement and expectation, what made 2023 different was a that sense of relief that this is finally actually happening, and we are back in control of the decisions we all made before the Covid pandemic.
My primary goal for 2023 was to honor the deposits we hold for over 4years, clear our booking schedule of 2020,21,22 and 23 and put Telford Hunting into a strong position to still be operating in 2024.
Hindsight may suggest that a conscious decision to commit primarily to our pre booked hunters and not focus on new bookings left some gaps in our schedule. I didn’t know what to expect and what risk we could carry.
All that doubt is in the past. Well, most of it.
Now I’m happily looking forward to the 2024 season, we will begin hunting on the 18th of February and plan to be farewelling our final 2024 hunters on the 16th of June.
4 months (120 days) of hunting, broken into 17, 5-day hunting slots. Hunts that begin with arrival into “camp “on a Sunday, hunt Monday – Friday and leaving camp Saturday, new hunters in on Sunday and on we go.
There are always exceptions and some flexibility in this schedule.
These 17 weeks will see our team of 3 guides out hunting with 3 to 6 hunters. Our hopes are to have a maximum of 6 hunters in camp for any one week. The 6 will often be 3 couples, many of which are husband /wife, please men bring your partners with you to NZ. We have a plethora of activities and adventures for any non-hunters. 2 couples are fine (gives me a rest) and families welcome.
Our self-imposed limits on the number of hunters are governed by our accommodations (4 bedrooms), out guide team (3) and importantly the animal management systems on Mt Maude our hunting lease.
We have limited numbers of animals available on Mt Maude. Our focus is about quality hunting experiences not quantity.
We aim to have no more than 50 Red stags available each season, 40 Fallow bucks, 25 Tahr and 20 Chamois. How do we achieve this? Well, it’s a juggle for sure. 80% is easy and pre booked. The juggling starts with hunters upgrading and adding additional species. We really like upgrades and add-ons, up to a point.
We deliberately limit the animals available for harvest to match our management principles.
Healthy environment = healthy animals and its matched to carrying capacity which allows for selective harvesting. Great principles that we do our best to stick to.
2023 was a huge reset for Mt Maude our hunting lease. We’d lost track of our stock take. With little or no hunting since late March 2022 we only knew that we’d harvested 23% of our available animals in 2020. Big question was what had happened to the other 77%? Well 77 % became 40% due to natural attrition.
Simply put mature harvestable stags are 8-10yrs old, it’s an exceptional stag that can carry its 10th set of antlers and maintain its constitution and antler quality. By years 11, 12, or 13 years, our 2020 animals now well past their prime heading into 2023. We were venturing into unknown places, were any of these stags still about? do we replace them, what of the younger stags coming forward, do we have more than our expected harvestable animals, lots of question and few answers. Our limit scouting due to no hunting hadn’t provided any meaningful answers. If you are not hunting, you simply don’t know what animals are still about.
Hence our reluctance to open the 2023 season for new bookings, the temptation was certainly there but the risk off overshooting our resource simply made it way too risky for us.
Hindsight. After spending 120 consecutive days hunting in 2023 and 1000’s of trail camera photos and daily interactions with animals we are back to knowing, within 4-5% exactly what our Red Stag numbers on Mt Maude look like.
Learning taken from no hunting for 3years. Mainly two things. One we had been shooting our Fallow Bucks to young. 4-5year old bucks are averaging 200-230 inches of antler, let them be 5-7 yrs old and you can have 250-270 inch bucks. And Fallow deer are way hardier and resilient than well-bred genetically superior Red Stags.
Two: our Chamois population has taken off and flourished. All we need now is to work out how to get more hunters into the places the Chamois inhabit. Mt Maude is prime Chamois habitat. As the Mt, suggests Maude is a mountain(1315M) and has little understanding or respect for age or ability. We have some ideas we will put in place for 2024 to open up more terrain for a wider group of hunters, many of whom are not accustomed to or comfortable in Chamois terrain.
Time and money can fix some of this, but fitness and mental toughness are a different matter.
Coming weeks for me are all about filling the hunting calendar for 2024.If I’m to enjoy another 100-120 days actually on the hill hunting and keep Duncan and Ruth doing the same, then I need to schedule in the 50-75 hunters that make our season happen.
2024 has some space, and I’ll be reaching out to many of you to confirm and finalize your 2024 dates with the knowledge that everything is back in full operational mode and please let’s get those hold deposit moving and advance the New Zealand planning process.
On the subject of New Zealand, its safe, its friendly, its beautiful and it’s our home and we enjoy nothing better than hunting with you AND planning your non hunting adventures. If you can schedule 10-14 days for New Zealand then hunt for 5 and spend the rest enjoying what we call home.
On a closing note, and reflecting on the last 4 years a word that sticks in my mind is/was hesitation. Couple of quotes for you:
“On the plains of hesitation lie the bleached bones of countless millions, who at the dawn of victory lay down to rest, and in resting died.”
And a little Rod Stewart from the Killing of Georgie: “Never wait or hesitate, get in kid before it’s too late, you may never get another chance. youths a mask but it don’t last, live it long and live it fast”.
Happy and safe hunting
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New Zealand hunting