First shot—first spiker

Doing the hard yards across this river

I’m a city girl. I like having my nails painted, brunches on Cuba Street and having full signal on my phone!

I’d never even slept overnight in a hut before October. And now here I am with a freezer full of steaks and mince from my first spiker. How did I get here?! And how can you (as a more experienced hunter) help new people like me get into the sport?

I’ve been buying hunted wild game meat for a while, but last year I thought… surely I can cut out the middle man and go hunting myself? How hard can it be?

My first barrier was how do I start when I know nothing about hunting? I don’t know anyone who goes hunting. I don’t know anything about firearms. I don’t know where I can hunt. I don’t know what I can hunt. I have no gear: no sleeping bag, no tent, no knife, no backpack. I don’t even have a car!

Sophie with her first deer – a beautiful wee spiker

My first step in anything is Google: I type in ‘hunting course Wellington’ and the NZDA website was the top result. I went to a few club nights and signed up for the HUNTs course. I remember one of the members taking me under her wing for that first club night and I just felt so welcome—maybe I could be a hunter!

The HUNTs course is even more comprehensive than I imagined (shout out to the instructors and volunteers). Not only did I find out everything I needed to know to go from absolute beginner to my first shot, but I also made some great friends who were keen to get out there and fill up our freezers. 

Brad (one of the other students from the course) organised for a few of us to head up to a private block in Pātea hill country where there was abundant fallow deer. On the drive up I was so anxious—the course had given me all the info to get me started, but now I was actually going to have to pull the trigger. We were with a couple of experienced hunters, Steve and Mark, who knew the block really well. Before we’d even got out of the ute we could see heaps of deer in the hills. We dumped our stuff at the hut and headed straight out. Brad got a doe within about 30 minutes and then all eyes were on me. It felt like it anyway.

Butchery time.

I was all lined up and watching a small group of fallow deer in a gap in the bush for what felt like a lifetime. I wanted to be sure I had a clean shot and that, if I got a doe, there wouldn’t be an orphaned baby. And, although I wont admit it if you ever bring it up to my face, I was nervous. Taking a life is serious, even if it aligns with my values. I needed to bite the bullet and so did the spiker! His head was behind a vine, but I could see his shoulder clearly, so I pulled the trigger. Down straight away.

I’d done it. I wasn’t a city girl anymore. I’m a hunter now!

When we got to him, I didn’t know what to think. Of course, there was adrenaline and excitement for my first spiker but there was also a bit of sadness; he was so pretty and soft. Ok, maybe I am still a city girl! 

When we got back to Welly we skinned the deer and gave them to the butcher. Butchers comments were ‘bit small, shoot a bigger one next time!’. Nice of him to keep me humble. Haha!

The HUNTs course, and the willingness of other hunters to share their spots, give us access to their chillers and help out meant that us newbies could go from zero to a freezer full of mince. 

If you’re a more experienced hunter, I really encourage you to talk to new hunters at club nights, volunteer to help out on HUNTs courses, take a newbie under your wing, share your top tips and hunting spots with them, guide them through skinning and bush butchery, or donate your old gear to them or your local HUNTs course. If you’re a new hunter, definitely sign up to a HUNTs course. You won’t regret it. 

This article is dedicated to Max – the handsome dog in the picture that didn’t come home from our trip.

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