Hunters flock to stalk Fiordland wapiti

March 21st, 2011

As published in The Southland Times

There should be more bucks than bangs in the Fiordland wilderness this week as hundreds of lucky trophy hunters from around the world take their shot at an elusive wapiti stag.

Only 450 hunters each year are granted the right to hunt wapiti in Fiordland during the mating season and more than 1000 others missed out after this year’s bal-lot..

Fiordland Wapiti Foundation president Roy Sloan said wapiti were a prized animal and Fiordland contained the only significant free-range population in the southern hemisphere.

During the past six years 5000 non-wapiti animals, including red deer, had been culled or removed from the area to improve the quality of the animals and help the forest.

Mr Sloan said it was a partnership with the Department of Conservation to manage the prized wapiti stocks while also protecting the area from the damage that deer caused.

“We manage the effect the deer have in the area with low numbers but a high quality of animals,” Mr Sloan said.

The popularity of the annual wapiti hunt during the roar has boosted the numbers entering the ballot from 200 six years ago to 1500 this year.

Mr Sloan said people entered the ballot from around the world.

He said the wilderness area the hunters would enter was described by a search and rescue person “like the Amazon on top of the Himalayas”. “It really is the last frontier of true wilderness hunting,” Mr Sloan said.

The first hunters went in yesterday and all 450 would be spread over three, 10-day hunting periods over the next month, around 25 blocks.

The hunters were generally very experienced and most would only shoot a good, older trophy animal and leave the younger males and prime breeding stock alone.

“We try to drill them that they should select only the best,” Mr Sloan said.

Antlers of at least 1m across and with at least 12 points could be considered a trophy.

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