Deer Hunting in New Zealand

We offer a range of Red Deer hunting opportunities for the trophy hunter, hunting on public land either in the South Island back-country or on a private free range block of land with a managed herd of SCI trophy stags in the Central Otago region.



An additional trophy fee is required for this private block but they offer better hunting opportunities on easier country. Many of the stags taken on this block have scored between 280 – 350 SCI.

We also offer free-range hunting for red deer in public hunting areas (Department Of Conservation land) in the central region of the South Island. No staged hunts when you come with me on public land! The best time to come for a free-range hunt is between March and April during the rut. Clients have the option of either backpacking in or flying into the hunting country either on the East or West Coast of the South Island.

View our Sika Deer Hunting page for information on Sika deer hunting.

Sika deer Cervus nippon Sika can be hunted on either public or private blocks though bookings need to be made well in advance to secure the best private blocks.

Learn More

View our Fallow Deer Hunting page for information on Fallow deer hunting.

Fallow deer Dama dama - Although Fallow deer can be hunted on both free-range crown land as well as on privately owned properties, I prefer to guide on a number of private hunting blocks for fallow in the South Island solely because of the superior trophy potential on offer. Click on my link page for more information on Fallow deer hunting.

Learn More

Red Deer Hunting

Red Deer Cervus elaphus were first introduced in the province of Nelson back in 1851 with another 220 further liberations taking place until 1923, with stock being acquired from both England and Europe. This has led to a wide variety of antler growth and form in different parts of the country. With some areas having great trophy bearing potential while other areas have almost none. For this reason, local knowledge of an area’s history is essential when planning where to go.

According to deer culler and author Jeff Thomson, the first deer shot in this country was back in 1873 when Major F.E. Campbell illegally shot a Red Stag in the Wairarapa that he claimed had charged his wife. Control of red deer was originally handled by acclimatization societies and tags were only sold to shoot stags during the rutting period (the roar) and it was then that a new profession first started in this country The Hunting Guide!



Early guides included the Muir brothers who guided visiting clients mostly from England taking some great heads in the heyday of stalking in the 1920’s. However, this honeymoon period was not to last long, as by the 1930’s the unchecked deer herds had reached plague proportions. Trophy potential fell and all protection was lifted from all introduced game animals. In a government effort to control these unchecked herds another new profession was born the Deer Culler! For more information about Deer cullers see . At first the government’s plan was only to reduce the deer numbers to improve trophy potential, hence the name deer culler. This idea soon past as cullers were never able to totally manage the deer, despite shooting many thousands, but the name culler stuck and is a term still used to this day.  Rex Forester restarted the guiding business back in the late 1950’s but by the mid 1960’s could not compete with another new industry which targeting the vast deer herds ‘the venison industry’.

Deer numbers were finally brought under control by the use of helicopters to shoot and recover deer for the sale of the meat. Later deer were captured using a net gun fired from the helicopter and put onto farms.  As deer numbers on farms built up during the late 1980s the aerial hunting pressure on wild deer populations began to decrease. Once again the guiding business was rekindled by guides like Garry Joll, with some of these operators choosing to use farm-bred animals to produce trophies that out shone anything ever taken in the wild back in the early days of the 1920s. Stags are confined to fenced enclosures and clients are guaranteed trophies of a set standard. More recently a new trend has seen some of these farm-bred stags released into the wild on private land to improve the quality of wild stock with outstanding success. This has not only benefited the clients that hunt there but also had a flow-on effect for local hunters who have benefited as some of this progeny has found its way onto crown land.

One of the options I offer clients is the option to hunt for wild Red Stags hunting on public lands. While this sort of hunt can never compete on the antler size on a whole this can excel on the true pleasures of hunting with all its uncertainty and thrill of hunting wild animals in wild places. It is something you simply cannot buy behind a wire fence.




"I have been hunting with John before some years ago and decided then and there that if time allowed I would go with him again. John is an expert at what he does and his knowledge and skills are second to none. He has vast knowledge of game trails and productive area’s to hunt which guarantee's a successful outcome. We were sighting animals every day which included deer, chamois, pigs and some big stags as we glassed ridge lines, faces and beach forest before deciding on where to start a stalk. The morning chorus of stags roaring was magical and all this added to the excitement of what was a memorable week.

"I had the chance to shoot 4 stags the first a wide beamed angry stag that charged us through the bush but unfortunately I had a miss fire and he turned and disappeared with his hinds in tow.


"Day 3 and we were back in amongst good numbers of animals and although I was physically exhausted John had the ability to keep me motivated when the going got tuff. Because of this I managed to shoot a 13 point stag on a beautiful morning in a steep gully, what a way to end a trip!

"John is the real deal,  a very experienced hunter who knows what he does and does it very well. You would be hard pushed to find a more dedicated hunting guide in this country than John and I don’t say that lightly.

"If you are considering a hunt go with John Royle, you won’t be disappointed."  Darryl O’Keefe