National Women’s Promotional Hunt - Nelson Lakes National Park Part 1 Of 2

Spring Alpine Hunting Gear From A Female Hunter’s Perspective

27 August 2023

Hunting and Wildlife Magazine - Autumn Issue 220

Words By: Courtney Pellow

Early November, four deerstalkers traveled from across the North and South Islands to embark on an epic spring hunt in Nelson Lakes National Park. Lisa Thurlow, Liz Roberts and I were set to form a female hunting crew but unfortunately Covid-19 took Liz out just days before. NZDA CEO Gwyn Thurlow along with Canterbury branch member, Josh Boyd-Wilson on camera, were there to help promote NZDA and all that we do to advocate for hunters. We secured a ballot block through the Nelson Lakes DOC office, which provided a permit for us to land in the pristine alpine country.

Before we tell the story in Part 2 (be expectant for the next edition of H&W), we thought we’d give a gear overview. Our permit allowed for a total of six days in the hills. Given our pre-trip discussions and topo analysis, we’d pack appropriately for shifting campsites on foot. No grand luxuries were coming this time, if you want it, you carry it. The shifting November spring weather meant we ended up with all four seasons in one week. Snow, rain, wind and scorching sun, we had it all.

Female Hunters and the Carry Weight Conundrum

The research on how much weight you should carry on multi day treks varies, some say only 10% of your body weight, other’s say no more than 25% of your body weight and so on. For female hunters, the hunting necessities you carry i.e. rifle, binos, tent, sleeping bag, and anything else considered ‘gear’ is no different to that of a male. The disadvantage comes when you may very well weigh almost half that of a male counterpart. This percentage shrinks very quickly and carrying half your kit isn’t an option. From what I’ve observed, women by default are lightweight or minimalist hunters, and with the above considered, it makes sense.

Lisa and I hadn’t met before, but when we rocked up to her living room and I spotted her pack that matched mine, we kicked it off straight away. There are very few hunting pack options out there for women in New Zealand, what we found was that the Osprey Ariel 65 caters well to the serious female hunter. It has various loops designed to attach walking sticks, an ice axe and the side pockets are (although a squeeze) just large enough to pack your rifle down the side. I prefer this over a scabbard. In the tussock, especially when it gets slippery, I’ve found that having your rifle hanging low leaves it too vulnerable for knocking if you do end up going for a slide. The top lid compartment conveniently unclips from the pack, and a hidden zip reveals lightweight straps that turn the lid into the perfect sized day pack. Some fancier American branded packs have similar features on their specialist packs, but for the price and warranty of the Osprey pack you simply can’t go wrong. The only downside is the literage of the pack, but like we’ve discussed already, there aren’t many options, and we shouldn’t be packing the kitchen sink anyway.

Supplementary to a good pack, an alpine adventure calls for walking poles. Lisa opted for the single and I was grateful for both. Despite the kilometers traveled and altitude climbs during day hunts and campsite changes, we both stayed physically refreshed and didn’t blow the legs out.

Gear Highlights

What Courtney and Lisa Loved

  • Osprey 65 Ariel backpack
  • Walking sticks
  • Merino sports bras
  • Scalpel knives
  • Homemade ration packs

What Our Hunting Party Loved

  • The fry pan
  • Sunscreen
  • Josh’s spotting scope

Merino is a must have in the hills, if you desire to keep the odour low and comfort high. Lisa recommends ladies take it to another level and wear Macpac merino underwear and sports bras. Another top tip for any hunter, is that icebreaker merino socks have a great warranty, look it up!

Scalpel knives were a must have on this trip. Spoiler alert, we needed to use them. They make easy work of head skinning any trophy and are easily replaceable especially if you’re learning and hacking bone a bit more than you should have.

Homemade ration packs with the help of Glad’s snap lock bags are one of those minor details that makes digging through your bag a bit more of a pleasant experience. I use the snack sized bags to prepare daily rations so that I’m always prepared to a level I’m happy with.

The fry pan is a bit of a luxury item these days now that the billy and pan have been traded for a jet boil unit. If you can fit a pan within your hunting party, it transforms a mundane cheese and salami wrap into a gourmet cheesy pizza at 2100m. Yum!

Sunscreen is a must for any long trip, especially when there’s snow around but is easily forgotten. We came home with pretty wind-burnt faces and glad to not be fried on top of that.

You can get away with just bino’s but having a spotting scope when potential trophies are around makes for a much more analyzed and evaluated quality hunt.

What we missed

  • Crampons for unexpected levels of spring snow
  • Lip Balm

The last noteworthy piece of kit worth mentioning was one that we missed, that was crampons. You might be getting an idea of how this spring trip might have gone for us, but you’ll have to stay tuned for the next edition of Hunting and Wildlife to hear all about our chamois encounters, red deer control and why crampons were needed.

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