We’re Deerstalkers - A different kind of hunting story

“We’re Deerstalkers”

A different kind of Hunting Story written by Hugh Devereux-Mack

23 April 2024

NZDA CEO Gwyn Thurlow helps Dulcie navigate the hill as her husband John keeps an eye on the deer in the background.

Hubert Humphrey wrote that “The moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; and those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly”. I believe this also applies to membership organisations like the NZDA who exist to serve and support the interests of our members.

This was highlighted to me when one of our longest-standing members, Dulcie Riley (aged 89), told Gwyn that she wanted to go out hunting again because she had a Tikka M55, purchased in the 1980s which had never shot a deer. Now Dulcie is a sharp woman who frequents the NZDA offices as she works for the Heritage Trust alongside her husband John (81). But at almost 90 her body isn’t racing around the hills like it did when she was young so the prospect of taking her hunting was a challenging one.

Dulcie and John have been married more than 50 years and are still glassing deer together.

When Gwyn said that we had a break in the bad Wellington weather and we were going to take her out for one more trip, despite the amount of work at the office to do, at 5am we were helping load Dulcie and John into the truck and headed up to a property for a meat hunt. 

Having found a mob that were content grazing in the late morning sun, we slowly made our way up and around some large mounds of grass which kept our approach hidden. I helped Dulcie navigate the bumpy ground and with her cane in one hand and her arm leaning on me we got her in position behind the rifle that Gwyn had sighted in and set up ready for her. After a steady dryfire of the .243 to ensure her hands were steady, we loaded a round and then Dulcie’s years of hunting experience were put to the test for the first time in more than a decade.

As we sat enjoying lunch in the sun with a fallow to bring home, we heard stories of Dulcie and John’s early years hunting together. A lifetime passion for stalking deer which time has not lessened at all. It was a privilege to spend time with them both and give them both a chance to answer the call of the hills one more time.

Above: Dulcie, Gwyn, and Hugh preparing to take a nice Fallow.
Below: Dulcie's 'new' Tikka M55 .243 rifle.

Reflecting on the day, I realized why Gwyn and so many others are passionate members of the NZDA. Our guide for the day commented how impressed that we would take the time to give them this experience and that when he got to 90, he hoped someone would do the same for him. When discussing where we’d grab dinner on the drive home, John said “You know us, Deerstalkers will eat anything’. That sense of identity that both John and Dulcie have, and willingness to include young people like Gwyn and I was something special.

As I sit in the office again asking myself “what makes people join the NZDA” I realize that more than the financial discounts, political advocacy, competition prizes… it’s community. Dulcie and John have seen the organisation grow and change over the years but still believe that they belong here because they love to hunt and know that we are here to take care of our members now and into the future.

We’re all deerstalkers, it’s as simple as that. 


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