Becoming a HUNTS Instructor with the NZDA

For the last year I have been part of the new core NZDA HUNTS team tasked with enhancing the delivery of the HUNTS programme around the national branches. Immediately before taking on this role, I started on the provisional HUNTS instructor pathway with the Wellington Branch, initially assisting with the course run for the Wellington-Porirua.

In September and October this year I had my first experience running a HUNTS course as a provisional instructor for the Wellington and Porirua Branches. While I had obviously had great exposure to the programme and materials over the last year, this would be my first time seeing what it meant to coordinate and run a course from start to finish.

We had an awesome group of trainees with a spread of backgrounds and reasons for attending the course:

from those who had no prior experience, those who had grown up doing a bit of hunting and wanted to get back into it, those who had done a lot of tramping and wanting to add the hunting element, and those with a good basic foundation in hunting and wanted to upskill. With a range of prior experience of trainees, I found a useful exercise was to ask trainees what their specific individual goals were for the course (other than what was in the core materials). This meant we could tailor specific topics towards each individual’s objectives and ensure we could fully deliver on course expectations.

We are fortunate in Wellington to have access to NZDA house as the Wellington Branch club base, which provides an awesome setting to deliver the course. We undertook the bushcraft weekend at Donnelly Flat off the Mt Holdsworth road end in the Tararua Ranges, which provided the perfect location to introduce trainees to elements of bushcraft, navigation and river safety. Our range day was conducted at Wellington Branch’s Ohariu range, where we were lucky to also have the support and assistance of other experienced Range Officers from the branch. Our final hunting weekend was up the Wharekauhau River in the lower Remutaka Range, which we were able to access through private land. This was the most logistically challenging part of the course to manage 12 trainees within defined hunting areas to give everyone the chance of securing an animal. We saw plenty of goats and several deer and pigs, and at least one trainee per party was able to take a goat. While it is hard to manage the expectations of a large group on a hunt like this where everyone obviously wants to shoot something, it was sufficient for all trainees to experience and put into practise all the skills and knowledge learnt on the course. After the completion of the course, we were able to arrange a follow up hunt on land close to Wellington where we were able to help get all trainees their first animals and tick all the final boxes.

I thought the highlight of the course for me would be the moment that trainees shot their first animal on the final hunting weekend, however I found it to really be the small things along the way, seeing trainees learn and put into practice small things that you often take for granted as a more experienced hunter. For example, for one of our trainees, her biggest concern was that she would not be able to handle spending a night out in the bush, but with right preparation and equipment, found that she loved it and had the best sleep she had ever had!

I found delivering this course incredibly rewarding being able to share knowledge and seeing trainees getting excited about what they have learnt and applying it in the backcountry. I would encourage any more experienced hunters out there to consider becoming a HUNTS instructor with the NZDA through your local branch. Nationally, the HUNTS program has been enhanced significantly in the last 12 months, with more branches offering the programme and more qualified instructors allowing greater capacity to train new hunters.

Improving hunter education and promoting safe and ethical hunting practices is critical to increasing the numbers of participants in our sport to promote and protect our recreational hunting rights in the future.

Information about the NZDA HUNTS programme can be found here:

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