Welcome to Fiordland
Fiordland National Park is a mecca for anyone who loves the outdoors and nature or anything to do with it. Known not only for its magnificent glacial carved fiords and stunning scenery it also holds some of the best tramping, climbing, hunting and diving in New Zealand.
Fiordland has them all on a larger than life scale. The options are endless for what you can see and do, be it diving beneath the fresh water layer for crayfish or paua while seeing pristine black corral, or watching two Wapiti bulls battling for their prize in a hidden basin, this place is special.
That said, it’s a place that is always changing and should be treated with respect and never taken for granted. There are many great groups and societies that manage and help keep Fiordland open and safe so that we all have the opportunity to enjoy it.
If you have never been and are planning to in the future, here are a few things to expect that may help you along the way.
It would be poor form if we didn't start with safety. Fiordland is an unforgiving place with challenging terrain and changeable weather. One day, the ridge you're using to access the tops is easy and open, the next, you could find a slip or rock fall has changed the area completely.
In places, Fiordland can be very steep with impressive rock faces and bluffs, even within the forest, proving rather challenging at times. There are rushing rivers that can become impassable faster than you'd think. In winter, you've got ice, snow and even avalanche risk to contend with.
The bush can all look dauntingly similar at times and it's quite easy to become disoriented when not on a marked track or path. To put it bluntly, Fiordland's about as diverse and gnarly as New Zealand gets. Every year, there are Search and Rescue operations for missing hunters and hikers in the region.
Make sure you research the area you're planning to venture into as much as you can so you have a better idea of what it will be like before you get in there.
Here are some basic safety tips:
- Tell someone where you are going and a timeframe of when you expect to be back.
- Carry a P.L.B. Quite frankly they can be a life saver, If you don’t own one many places hire them out.
- A GPS is a handy piece of kit to have and there are also some great navigational and topo apps available that have GPS functions, which are just as accurate as the handheld GPS, such as NZ Topo50.
- Carry that extra muesli bar, a torch and warm jacket. You should always be prepared to stay another night or two if the weather packs in or you get lost or injured. Prepare for the worst, hope for the best.
You can access Fiordland by land, air and sea and the region's well serviced by hunting and charter companies that know the region.
Te Anau is the Gateway to Fiordland. It is where most people stay the night before heading off to start one of the many fantastic walks located nearby.
Using a helicopter to access and see Fiordland is a fantastic way to travel while also getting a true appreciation for the size and beauty of the place. If using them to get into your chosen hunting spot, it's also a great way to get a better overview of the land and terrain you are heading into. The local companies are experienced, know the area well and wont put you wrong. Check out Fiordland Helicopters for a solid transport option. They're one of the few companies with concessions to get you into the heart of the national park.
The local water taxis are available to take you deep into the mountains via the arms of Lake Te Anau or Manapouri. This is a great way to access some of Fiordland's best remote hunting areas quickly and affordably. Check out Fiordland Outdoors water taxi service. If you're extra keen, you can use a packraft to access these remote areas like we did here. If it's fishing, diving or spearfishing you're after, there are plenty of Fiordland boat charters that can take care of you.
If you're in a car and willing to put in the yard on foot, you can carve your way through the Southern Alps and into the heart of Fiordland via the scenic State Highway 94. From here you have access to multiple walks and some great hunting areas. Keep in mind the road does shut sporadically during the winter so keep an eye on the road conditions. You can view the Milford Road status here.
Meet the Locals
The Fiordland locals are a horrible bunch of annoying blood suckers. I recommend avoiding them at all cost. Yep, you've got it, I'm talking about the resident sandflies. These wee buggers are relentless, swarming around every inch of uncovered skin trying to get a piece of the action.
Fiordland is renowned for sandflies and no matter how weathered and tough you are, these tiny pests have the ability to ruin a perfectly good day out hunting.
Here are some tips to help deal with Fiordland's sandflies:
- They like dark-coloured materials. When packing opt for a lighter blend if possible.
- Cover up completely. Long sleeves aren't gonna cut it in this neck of the woods. A Buff or the Bushbuck Combat Merino Neck Gaiter and a light pair of gloves for when you’re glassing will be a life saver and may also save the sanity a little.
- Close the tent fly. There is nothing worse than heading into the tent after a big day in the hills ready for some rest and having to spend the next hour swatting sandflies.
- Vitamin B is said to repel them but don’t go rubbing Marmite all over you. A sandwich or vitamin pill may do the trick.
- Use a mixture of Dettol and baby oil as a repellent. It is less damaging than Deet but slightly oily, Both options have a strong scent so i wouldn't recommend using this mixture if hunting. You best bet in this case is to keep moving.
- Sandflies are most prolific the hour before rain and prefer calmer days. In this instance, wind is your friend.
And in all fairness, the actual Fiordland locals are down to earth and happy to help out. Most local people and businesses would be more than happy to have a yarn and or offer local advice. They probably won't spill any of their hard-earned secrets, but they will point you in the right direction if you ask nicely.
When you're coming to Fiordland, be ready for rain.
Fiordland has a whopping 200+ days of rain per year with average annual rainfall of 7-10 metres. It is a spectacular sight, seeing thousands of waterfalls cascading down the granite faces overpowering everything in their path.
However, the weather can change at the drop of a hat so it pays to be prepared. It's not just the rain that can put a dampener on your trip as Fiordland can get all four seasons in one day. It's not to be underestimated.
Here are a few simple tips for being prepared for Fiordland's wild weather:
- Check the weather leading up to any trip. Cross-check multiple sites as it will give a better overview.
- Rivers, creeks and streams can rise rapidly. Keep this in mind when crossing them, especially if rain is forecast and you need to get back across later.
- Choose your campsite carefully. Even just slight hollows in the ground can become paddling pools.
- Good wet weather gear is essential in Fiordland as there is nothing worse than spending your days soaked to the bone. Carrying both a light waterproof jacket like the Bushbuck Stowlite Jacket and heavy weight jacket is recommended. The Bushbuck Typhoon Jacket is Fiordland-proof, being lightweight, durable, windproof and extremely waterproof.
- Make sure you're using a quality layering system. Temperatures can fluctuate a lot in the mountains so you'll need to be adjust accordingly. This is a great guide to layering clothes in the outdoors.
What to Hunt
On land or in the sea, there are endless opportunities to cross paths with the bounty of animals Fiordland has to offer. In just one day, you could be fishing for blue cod, diving for crayfish and paua then hitting the hills to chase the elusive chamois or fill the freezer with some venison. Here are just some of the hunting species that inhabit Fiordland.
Red Deer is the most common of the deer species to be found around Fiordland. Dusk and dawn can be a productive time to find them feeding out of the bush and onto grassy river flats or clearings, especially in spring. They can be found anywhere from the river flats up to the open tussock tops depending on the time of year, with some stags feeding their way up to the bush line and out into the open around late December to early February. When stalking, the bush can be very tight in places. Make the most of the open areas along mid valley terraces by slowing down and stalking carefully.
Generally found in the high open country, but will occasionally occupy lower altitude forests. Chamois are very agile and can move across rock faces with ease. Getting into a head basin and glassing any rocky outcrops or bluffs is a good place to start searching. Chamois like to sit in places where they have a good look out, like on top of rocks or spurs. Save some energy and let the binoculars do the walking. Once you have glassed over the area and think you are done, glass again. It doesn't take much to miss a chamois bedded down in the tussock, only to find with the last sweep of the binoculars that it has stood up and is now out feeding.
There is only only one wild herd of Wapiti in New Zealand which can be found in the remote areas of Fiordland, between Sutherland and Charles Sound and backing onto the sestern side of lake Te Anau. The Wapiti area is closed to hunting from December 31 until April 29 to allow for the four ballot periods between mid-March and the end of April. This area is split into 25 blocks. Being the only herd in new Zealand, they are well managed by the Fiordland Wapiti Foundation who do an amazing job of finding synergy between providing a high-quality herd and protecting the environment.
Learn more about how to enter the Wapiti ballot here.
In summer, fallow tend to feed prominently at dusk and dawn then rest in heavy scrub during the day. But in the cooler months, fallow can be found feeding out in the open for most of the day. There are small pockets of fallow in the national park with the highest concentration being found in the northeast, the Greenstone/Caples recreational hunting area (RHA). This area can only be hunted by ballot between April 1 and September 30.
Learn more about how to enter the Greenstone/Caples RHA ballot here.
Below the fresh water layer, the underwater world of Fiordland is just as spectacular as it is above. From kingfish, tuna, paua, and crayfish to black coral found in relatively shallow waters, which is unique to Fiordland, there is something for every diver and fisher to experience. In summer, the warmer water currents from Australia venture our way and bring with them a variety of fish, such as tuna and kingfish, to chase.
While it's true that Fiordland is an incredible hunting destination, the region has much more to offer. During your adventures, you may be fortunate enough to come across rare native species like the Sinbad skink only found in small valley up the Sinbad Gully in Milford Sound or the tawaki (Fiordland crested penguin), which come back to isolated areas of Fiordland every year for nesting after months traveling around at sea feeding.
The native birdlife is amazing too with kea, kaka, whio and fantails aplenty, just to name a few.
Fiordland is an extremely special place that draws people in from all parts of the world to experience everything it has to offer. Whether you enjoy hunting, fishing, tramping, the outdoors in general or are looking for a place to relax and detach from the hustle and bustle of city life, Fiordland should be at the top of your list.
There is something for everyone in the family and if you have never been, I highly recommend making the journey.
To learn more about hunting in Fiordland, make sure to check out the Fiordland Boys Hunting YouTube channel, which has plenty of incredible videos from their hunting trips.
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