Wellington & Porirua HUNTS
13 December 2022
For the last year I have been part of the new NZDA HUNTS staff team tasked with enhancing the delivery of the HUNTS program 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 Branches under the wise tutelage of Rob Howey. This was my first exposure to the HUNTS program and was fortunate timing as a vital prerequisite to help with contributions to the redrafting of the HUNTS manual and development of HUNTS classroom resources, which have been key projects we have been working on over the last year within the HUNTS team.
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 program 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. On reflection, this hunting weekend would have been better managed over two weekends as two groups to give everyone a better chance, however this would need to be balanced with the extra volunteer capacity required to do this. 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 there 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!
Overall, this was an incredibly valuable experience to help me develop an understanding of what it takes to successfully run a HUNTS course and gave me ideas for further enhancement at a national level moving forward. It also made me understand the huge amount of time and effort that goes into running a course, and I appreciate those instructors who have been doing this routinely for years. It also made me realise how important it is to have multiple HUNTS instructors active within branches to help share the load and delivery of material, as this is what will ultimately increase the overall capacity of the branch to deliver courses. At Wellington we have the goal of having four instructors qualified over the next two years, which should enable us to deliver two courses per year.
I received some really good feedback from trainees for improvement next time. For example, I would look to rely more heavily on trainees reading and being familiar with the HUNTS material before classroom sessions, allowing these to be more discussion and/or activity based, rather than giving full coverage of materials drawn out over the evening.
I found the support that Erin provided as the national coordinator invaluable, as she was seamlessly able to assist with tasks that would have contributed significantly to the overall workload, such as taking care of ordering equipment and manuals for the trainees. I was also fortunate to be able to bounce things of the Mike and Pete through the course, as well as having the support of Les and Rob from the Porirua branch as instructors, and Deb and Lyall as the newest Wellington Branch provisional Instructors.
I am excited for the future of HUNTS within the Wellington Branch as I can now see it as a core part of the foundation of the branch and gateway for new members.
Tom McCowan Assistant HUNTS Coordinator & Iwi Liaison