The new National Wild Goat Hunting competition, a joint effort by the New Zealand Deerstalkers Association (NZDA) and the Department of Conservation (DOC), is encouraging hunters to get out and help control the goat population while protecting the environment.
Getting out after goats is just like any hunt in that a little preparation can go a long way towards success. The NZ Mountain Safety Council has a range of safety tips to ensure a successful goat hunt, here are their top 5.
For many hunters, it’s likely the first wild animal you hunted for was goats, and it’s a terrific way to get introduced to hunting game animals. Targeting the shot for goat hunting is the same as other game animal species such as deer and tahr, however while there are many similarities, there are some important differences to consider. One difference to point out is when you are after more than one animal, a focus on good safety practices is just as important as the competition.
#1 – Understand where you’re hunting
Think about where you are going – the terrain, if permission or a permit is required, and how you will get there. Talk about the area with your mates – if it’s on private land, when you get permission you should get a thorough description of the terrain and preferably a walk around to get familiar. Are there obstacles that you might need to navigate, like fences and rivers, or hills and bluffs to climb? Farmers and land managers are typically more than happy to brief hunters so you should incorporate this opportunity into planning the hunt and take advantage of local knowledge.
If hunting across Public Conservation Land (PCL), it’s good to identify any public walking tracks in the hunting area, and place notification signs at the start of the tracks informing the public and giving a point of contact. Raise a job number with the NZ Police and inform them of the activity on public land, especially where a special permit has been raised to allow the activity. Remember whether on public or private land other non-hunters can move into the area undetected. Safe direction and a safe firing zone are always paramount.
37% of big game injuries are a result of falls, so when you are negotiating obstacles, help each other and go through safety precautions before handing a firearm to someone else. Think about where this might come up beforehand. If you cross fences, climb a steep hill or edge a riverbank, you might need to hand firearms to each other. Think about slings as well, they can be very handy when scrambling over loose terrain on a hillside.
#2 Consider spring conditions
During spring in alpine areas, snow and ice can still be present at low elevations, and spring storms can bring new snow, filling up gullies and significantly increasing avalanche danger. The frozen ground on shaded faces will have a slippery layer of frost-heaved dirt on it over a frozen base underneath. This is particularly slippery – so be aware of it and avoid steep shaded faces where possible.
The competition requires that you provide a goat tail as proof of a kill. In steep country that may be difficult or dangerous to retrieve. Remember a goat tail is not worth risking your life for, only travel in terrain you are comfortable in, never push it.
#3 – Having a plan and regular comms is important
Keeping track of everyone’s location and having good communications amongst your party is always paramount. Wearing blaze can help with this, but talking about the plan is essential, and staying in regular communication with each other. If multiple parties are engaged in the same area, make blaze a mandatory requirement.
#4 Check those firing zones and know where everybody is at all times
It is important to properly identify your target every time. If you have more than one shooter at a time, be sure everyone else is unloaded. Ensure that the shooter knows the firing areas and the areas to avoid. Talk it through on the day. When culling goats, there are often many hiding out in the high points, but shooting at them on a skyline is a no go. Think about dividing up the tasks if you have a couple of extra people, some can be designated shooters and spotters. If you do split the group up, be sure to have considerable distance between your groups and firm rules about where and when to shoot. At all times keep in mind “it’s just a goat” and never worth endangering someone else’s life, or your own.
If you are using vehicles, firearms must be unloaded first before any vehicular movement is started.
#5 – Pack the right kit, no matter the hunt
Even if you are day hunting, be sure to have a rain jacket and your other minimum hunting kit, including torches, first aid kit, emergency shelter, and extra warm layers. Hearing protection – use a suppressor or ear protection and ideally both – multiple shots even with a suppressor can do permanent hearing damage. Remember that some of your party may not be as fit as they’d like to be, always carry rehydrating mixes for cramps and plenty of water. Have a recovery plan if a hunter in your party gets a sprain or strain.