Central Otago HUNTS Course 3

Central Otago HUNTS Course

Hunting and Wildlife Magazine - Spring Issue 222


HUNTS instructors Scott Gillam, Melissa Jager and Pete Henderson showing off their new Swazi HUNTS instructor jackets. 

NZDA’s newest branch, Central Otago (No 49), has been up and running for nearly two years and now holds its own HUNTS courses. Right from the start it has been a game changer with huge benefits, not just for the branch but for all involved and the local community. Within their first year they held a HUNTS course and over the last month held their second.

Getting a HUNTS course up and running is not that difficult when you have members keen to step up and help. The more that step up the easier it is to run a course. Between Southern Lakes and Upper Clutha NZDA branches there are a number of HUNTS instructors who have been able to assist Central Otago to run their courses.

The HUNTS trainees are inducted into the course and then, over a series of days, all the HUNTS modules are covered off which include butchery, river safety, bushcraft/navigation, range day and a final weekend hunting trip. Looking at how both branches run their respective courses, it's not hard to see that they are well thought out. A lot of planning and detail have gone into ensuring they are run well, covering all the modules of the HUNTS programme. Both branches run successful and extremely well organised courses.

With the knowledge of those HUNTS instructors and a well set out course plan it was pretty easy for Central Otago to get on board and get their HUNTS course up and running. Already several Central Otago members have filled in the paperwork to become provisional HUNTS instructors and assisted in the running of the last course.

On the last course, 7 trainees signed on with one travelling from Dunedin and another up from Balclutha, which shows how much people are wanting to get on and do a HUNTS course. All the trainees were super keen and enthusiastic to get involved and engaged.

Chatting to them over the weeks of the course and getting their view on how it ran, was it value for money and would they tell others to do a HUNTS course, all were so supportive. There is just so much to take away, suddenly they are all on a new Facebook group and now 7 new friends are already making plans for a group hunting trip. Central Otago has 7 new members who are already promoting the HUNTS course and the benefits of being a member. 

The running of the course theory modules in the classroom sessions does take a bit of time, generally about 16-18hrs. The field work, the butchery session, the river safety day, the range day, a bushcraft/navigation day followed by a weekend hunt are when the trainees are going to get 'hands on'. It is important to get them involved and actively engaged on those days.

For Central Otago, running a course this time of year does have its downside and that is the Central Otago weather. Some days, the temperature was down to -4.  Fortunately, the Galloway Shotgun Club was our home base for running of the modules and thanks go to them for the use of a great facility. It is the kind generosity of the likes of the Galloway Shotgun Club that just makes this course that much easier to run. 

We were also very fortunate that just on the other side of the valley (about a km away) is Galloway Station where we were able to run our butchery session and range day. Again, having the station owners on-board with the NZDA branch and so supportive of the HUNTS programme is just such a huge bonus. It goes to show how having such great support can help run these courses.

The final part of the course was the weekend hunting trip. Once again through the generosity of a local station, the owner gave us permission to hunt on his land. We had to present a well-run safety and risk management plan, mapped out hunting blocks, contact information and be able to be contacted while in the field. All attendees were wearing the Stoney Creek Hi-Vis which in that terrain were awesome. (Thanks Stoney Creek) And we were all in contact with each other via handheld walkie talkies.

The hunting trip consisted of three groups of three. Getting off early to our blocks, conditions were frozen with a -4 hoar frost in the lower valley. Walking up through the cloud and coming out above it was pretty special. We were out in the sun all day while the entire valley was covered in a thick -4 fog. Plenty of animals were seen with two fallow does, four pigs and a few goats being taken with field butchery sessions afterwards.

Sunday saw the trainees doing the practical part of the river safety module and hats off to them for getting in that water. I was cold just watching. I'm sure I saw clumps of ice floating in that river.

It's interesting when you look at how the course was run and how it could be run better. At the end of the day, the HUNTS course is set up in such a way that it follows our NZDA standard operating procedures (SOP). It is important that they are followed, the course content is covered, with the trainees and instructors looked after in that nothing bad happens. It's all about mitigating risk. At the completion of the course there were things we would run differently and what that means is the next course will be that much better.

All I can say is well done Central Otago NZDA, and a huge thank you to all who were involved.

This is what HUNTS is all about, after all the learning, it all comes together for a successful hunt. Pictured is HUNTS trainee Lee and instructor Melissa.

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