Hunters converge on Pureora for annual competition

The Pureora Forest Park Hunting Competition runs from 13 March to 19 April and is the only hunting competition in the country organised by the Department of Conservation (DOC).

It has been held since 1988 and, along with the annual Sika Show and Competition, is one of the most popular hunting competitions in the upper North Island. It will see hundreds of hunters converge on access points to the 78,000ha forest.

Kina Campbell, DOC Te Kuiti’s Senior Ranger Community says the event suits experienced and competent hunters with a high skill level.

“Hunters entering the Pureora Forest Park Hunting Competition need to be prepared for some pretty rugged terrain and challenging hunting environment,” Ms Campbell says.

“They’ll need a current DOC permit for Pureora Forest Park hunting to enter. They’ll have five weeks to compete, and deer must be shot during the competition period,” she says.

The competition culminates with official head measuring by trained New Zealand Deerstalkers Association Douglas scorers.

Prizegiving will be held at DOC’s Pureora Village Field Base (Barryville Rd) from midday on 19 April, with entries taken from 10am. The prizegiving event has a festive and family friendly atmosphere, with plenty of hunting tales told, and anything up to 60 deer heads (antlers) of all shapes and sizes to be marvelled at.

Hunters entering heads for measuring must have them at Barryville Rd on the day and can have them pre-recorded at one of several locations during the five-week competition prior to the prizegiving event.

Casual observations through the 32 years of the competition suggest recreational deer harvest through the roar has remained reasonably stable, with an improvement in antler quality.

The annual competition is now an intergenerational affair for Te Kuiti hunter Bruce Dunn, who has entered every year since its inception and is now joined by his teenager grandsons when he participates.

Mr Dunn says one of the biggest changes he has seen in the competition is the evolution of technology – particularly the use of GPS systems, allowing hunters to go deeper into the forest.

A hunter for more than 60 years, Mr Dunn says he always tries for one reasonable deer head, “and I probably pass up more deer than I shoot these days”.

“As you get older, you get more selective,” he says. “I plan to keep involved in this as long as I can stand up.”

There have been years when he’s come back from the competition hunt empty-handed – part of the challenge and mystique of hunting and emphasising the need for hunters to be prepared and experienced with their stalking and roaring/calling skills.

Mr Dunn points to two key aspects as being crucial for those entering the hunt – the need for individuals to be fit (he does a lot of walking in the lead-up to the competition), and hunters taking the appropriate measures while in the forest.

“There will be a lot of hunters roaming around with rifles – they need to be safe and make sure they identify their targets,” Mr Dunn says.

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