New Zealand Adventure
By Norma Draper

Early in 1998 my husband, Dewey, and I attended the annual meeting/show of the Dallas-Ft Worth Chapter of Safari Club International. This was probably only our second show since joining the Safari Club and we were looking at everything and talking to everyone trying to figure out where our next adventure would take us. While walking around looking and taking everything in, we happened upon a booth advertising hunts in New Zealand. We stopped and talked to two very nice people who turned out to be Alan and Sue Stewart of Leithen Valley Trophy Hunts. They told us a lot about New Zealand and showed us a lot of pictures of huge Red Stags as well as Tahrs and Chamois. We took the information and continued on our rounds of the other booths at the show. We did not actually give hunting in New Zealand much thought at that time. Later at the auction we purchased a hunt to South Africa with another couple so all thoughts of possibly going to New Zealand were put on a back shelf in our minds.

The following year, 1999, at the annual meeting of the Dallas-Ft Worth Safari Club, after talking again with Alan and Sue, we decided we would attempt to purchase a hunt to New Zealand for the year 2000 at the auction. We waited and were anxious and ready to bid, but the bidding went fast and furious to the full value of the hunt so we were not successful with that attempt. We did, however, have some time with Alan and Sue, gave them a deposit and scheduled a hunt for May of 2000.

Unfortunately due to some health problems that arose, we had to contact the Stewarts to see if we would be allowed to delay our trip until 2001, or possibly later. Luckily they are very understanding people and readily rescheduled the trip for May of 2001 and indicated they would work with us if it had to be delayed again.

During all the time we had between early 1999 and our trip in 2001, we talked about New Zealand all the time. We read books about New Zealand (Dewey more than I) and counted the days until the time for the trip. I kept in close contact with the Stewarts via e-mail and asked many questions all of which were answered promptly.

With the time for our trip was approaching we set out to make sure we had all the clothing, etc. that we needed to take with us. Never having been to New Zealand we were unsure exactly what and how much to take with us. As usual, I over-packed a little, but I planned for our entire time. I did not plan on spending my vacation time doing laundry so we took along enough to wear for the entire trip. We had been told, in advance, to be sure we were able to "layer" our clothing because the weather in New Zealand can change often and quickly. That was a good piece of advice. We were also told to bring a good pair of boots - another good piece of advice. We found that fleece wear is the best for layering and warmth.

We also had to take the firearms to the Customs Office and have the firearms looked over and Customs Paperwork issued. This was not difficult. The Stewarts had provided us with paperwork to complete and fax to the New Zealand Police at the Auckland Airport to make the checking in of the firearms easier when we got to New Zealand.

FINALLY the day (5-9-01) arrived and we were off to begin our journey. The plane to Los Angeles was pretty much on time and the flight uneventful. We flew via American Airlines from Chicago to Los Angeles. We spent the first night in Los Angeles and the next evening (5-10-01) we were off on our journey to New Zealand. At this point we encountered the only "real" difficulty in flying with firearms. At the airport we had to have the firearms inspected and had to unpack the bag with the ammunition so it could be looked over. This was not a major problem, just in inconvenience. Luckily, we had plenty of time before the flight to take care of this sort of thing. The flight from Los Angeles to Auckland, New Zealand is about 13 hours. We flew Quantas Airlines for this portion of our journey. We were lucky enough to have three seats to share between the two of us so we could "spread" out a little. The flight, even though long, was not too bad and only had one small amount of turbulence in the early morning. We slept a lot of the time and of course there were movies to watch if you could not sleep. We had about a 4-hour layover in Auckland before we were off on the next leg of our journey from Auckland to Queenstown. During our layover, we had to register the firearms with the New Zealand police. This involved having the officer look over the firearms, the customs paperwork, Walter's Illinois Firearms Card and issuing a Permit for the cost of $25.00. This portion of our flight was on Air New Zealand and also was not eventful.

As we were flying in for the plane to land we actually flew past Queenstown and then back to again. We flew over beautiful mountains (the Remarkables) and over the ocean and back to the town. Queenstown is not a large town and quite commercial, but quaint.

When we landed in Queenstown on, 5-12-01, our guide and host, Alan Stewart, was on hand to meet us and to assist with picking up our luggage. Then we were off for a two-hour ride to the Leithen Valley Lodge.

The day we arrived was a sunny warm day. The land in New Zealand is very green, very hilly and the roads are anything but straight. We saw hundreds and thousands of sheep (I have never seen so many sheep) and I remembered that New Zealand is a BIG producer of fine wool. We also saw a number of dairy farms with the herds of dairy cows. There were also a large number of farms with huge herds of deer. We were told that deer (red deer) and some elk are raised there for the meat and the hides and some of the antlers. The meat is sold to Europe and appears to be a big business for these farmers.

I must explain the term "farm". Here in the United States, we would probably call these ranches because they encompass many thousand acres, but there they are called farms and those who run them are called farmers. From what we saw, it appears that farming is the main industry in the area where we were.

When we got to the Leithen Valley Lodge Sue (Alan's wife) was there to greet us and promptly wanted to feed us. The lodge is not huge; it has three bedrooms and two bathrooms for guests/hunters. The view from the lodge is beautiful; you can see many miles of green hills. After a short rest and some chatting, we were off for a ride to see what we could see.

We entered some land where Alan told us we would see some Red Stag and sure enough we started seeing them. We happened upon a really big, regal looking stag and Alan took the video camera and tried to sneak up on him for some good shots. Dewey was looking him over pretty good and eventually decided that this was the Stag he wanted to get. Alan was able to get some video of him as well as a couple others that we could not see. We drove around for a couple hours seeing more Red Stag, Fallow Deer, Goats and some Arapawa Rams. Many of the animals were in shooting range, but we were not hunting yet, just looking. Dewey was getting excited and looking forward to beginning the hunt the next day.

The first day (5-13-01) Alan had business to take care of so he assigned one of the guides to take Dewey to site in his rifles and take us looking for an Arapawa Ram.

Arapawa Rams are of the sheep family. They are only about three feet tall and have heavy coats of wool. It can be brown or white and is very thick. They are rather ugly animals. The horns go out from the head and curl around tightly close to the head and then out.

When sighting in the first rifle, a Weatherby 270, it was discovered that there is apparently something wrong with the scope as it would not hold so we went back to the lodge for the 7mm Browning (thank goodness we brought two rifles along). Got the 7mm sited in and off we went to look for the Arapawa Ram. While we were looking for the ram, we saw Red Stags, Fallow, Goats but no rams so we went back to the lodge for lunch and a short rest.

After lunch and the rest we started out again and finally spotted some rams. Dewey and Billy looked them over for awhile and finally decided on the one to take. Dewey took the shot and down he went. When we got to the ram we found that apparently Dewey had jerked during the shot and actually had shot off the bottom half of his face. Well, this was not exactly a good start. We looked him over and decided there was no way he would make a good mount, but he will be a good European Mount or Horn Mount. We went back to the lodge and made a plan for the following day.

The search for the Red Stag began on 5-14-01. It was raining and rather chilly out, but off we went. We drove and looked and glassed and saw a number of Red Stag off in the distance. So, Dewey, Alan and Billy set off on foot to stalk over to see if "he" was in that group. I watched and glassed from the truck and could see the Stags for awhile and then over the hill they went. Finally the men all came back and said "he" was not in that bunch so off we went again. We rode around and looked and saw more Stags, but not the one. It was still raining off and on and the roads and hills were getting greasy (this is a New Zealand term for slippery). We went back to the lodge for lunch and a short rest.

Dewey and Billy went out again (Alan had farm business to take care of) and found another Arapawa Ram. This one was bigger than the first and Dewey decided he wanted to take him. He will be a shoulder mount and will add another trophy to our trophy room.

The weather was still raining and cold on the morning of 5-15-01 and I chose to stay at the lodge while Dewey, Alan and Billy set out to look for that Red Stag again. It rained and rained and rained sometime it was so hard that I could not see out of the lodge and I was wondering how in the world they could hunt in it. Then it turned to sleet and we watched the hills turn from green to white. Dewey, Alan and Billy came back in for lunch soaked to the bone and advised that they had not found the Red Stag. After lunch and getting on dry clothes they set out again but the afternoon was filled with more of the same, rain, rain, and rain and they were not lucky enough to fine "him" either.

The following morning (5-16-01) I again chose to stay at the lodge because it was still raining and cold. As luck would have it, the weather got better and Dewey finally got the Red Stag he had been searching for. This Stag is a 22-point non-typical and is a really beautiful and regal animal. He is an outstanding animal and will be another fine addition to our trophy room. I only wish I had been there to see everything. That will teach me for being such a whimp.

At this time in our adventure we got to experience a "cattle drive" New Zealand style. We went with Alan to move some cattle from one location to another. He uses a dog and watching the dog work is really interesting. When Alan wanted the dog to do something he would blow a whistle and the dog would know what to do.

Dewey even got to drive a little which only seems unusual because of the steering wheel being on the right making the gearshift backwards from what we are used to. I am not sure I would want to try and drive on their roads, especially in the towns. They have these strange circle things in the towns and it always seemed like we were going the wrong way. I am sure it is all seems normal for the people who live there, but to me it seemed a very confusing.

We then went by a group of five Wapiti (New Zealand Elk). They are huge and so impressive. They did not seem to be afraid of us, but as we all know, animals seem to know when they are being hunted and when they are not. The Wapiti in New Zealand seem to be much larger than the Elk in Wyoming, Colorado, and Montana. They are really awesome animals.

At this time we loaded up our gear to move to the lodge at Wanaka. Wanaka is a small town, but a bit commercial. There were a number of "students" roaming about the town on break from school. Wanaka is beside a lake (Lake Wanaka) and there is a background of mountains that are quite beautiful.

The lodge at Wanaka is somewhat like the one at Leithen Valley, as far as the layout goes. This lodge was a bed and breakfast prior to when Alan and Sue purchased it for a hunting lodge.

We ate and made plans for the helicopter ride to hunt for the Chamois and went to bed to get a good rest.

Unfortunately, the morning of 5-17-01 the weather was too windy for the helicopter ride so Dewey, Alan and Rachel (Alan's Daughter) left to go hunt for the Tahr. I was terribly disappointed that I could not go along, but I had to miss out on that part of the adventure.

While they were gone on the Tahr hunt, Sue took me touring around the town of Wanaka. She showed me the two places she and Alan had owned prior to buying the lodge and we just in general took things easy. We did a little shopping and a little looking.

We did not hear anything from Dewey and Alan that night and the next day we had to go to Queenstown to pick up other hunters and take them to the Leithen Valley Lodge.

We took a different route to Queenstown on 5-18-01, through the mountains and I saw a lot of different area. We picked up the two new hunters (Tony and Carlo) and proceeded back to the Leithen Valley Lodge to await the return of Dewey and Alan. That evening, we got the call from Dewey and Alan and found that Dewey had gotten a 13-inch Tahr. That is a pretty big one and he sounded thrilled.

About 11:00 am on 5-19-01 Dewey, Alan and Rachel got back to the lodge and it was decided that Dewey would go try for one of the Wapiti we had seen.

The hunt for the Wapiti had to be done by bow and Dewey had never hunted with a bow before and of course, we did not have a bow with us, but Alan had one Dewey could use. Since Dewey had not bow hunted before, some practice was in order. The bow was actually a little small for Dewey since Alan is a smaller man, but after some practice Dewey had the art down good enough to go and hunt for the Wapiti.

We found the Wapiti and picked the one we wanted and then the great stalk was on. They parked me on a hillside where I could see a long distance and Dewey and Alan set off on foot after the Wapiti. Part of the time I could see the Wapiti and see Dewey and Alan, but they were not seeing each other. Dewey and Alan stalked around after those Wapiti for a couple hours and could not get close enough for a shot. It was getting late so they had to stop for the day.

On the morning of 5-20-01 we set out again in search of the Wapiti. After a long and quiet stalk Dewey successfully took a 7x9 Wapiti with a bow, his FIRST bow hunt. He is really a beautiful animal and will certainly make another great addition to our trophy room. According to Dewey this was quite a challenging hunt. I am worrying now that he might want to bow hunt more which would mean buying a bow and arrows and such. Another "expensive" hobby.

After getting the Wapiti skinned and back to the lodge and having lunch, we were off with Alan again to move more cows and some sheep. Again I was amazed at watching the dog work while he moved the animals.

On the morning of 5-21-01 Dewey, Alan, Rachel and I took off early for the drive to the far south part of the island after a Chocolate Fallow. We drove through rain, rain and more rain. The landscape got a little flatter as we got farther south. We finally got to where we could actually see the far South Pacific Ocean. Unfortunately it was raining so hard there was not much that we could see. We got to the property where we were to hunt for the Chocolate Fallow and the rain seemed to stop. We drove a little and then stopped and glassed, drove more and glassed more and finally found Fallow. After a short stalk and glassing the one we were looking for was found and he became another of our trophies.

On the way back we were able to stop near the ocean and look and take some photos. I am one who loves the ocean and could sit and look and listen to it for hours. Unfortunately it was too cold to do much sitting and looking, but we were able to get some good photos before we left to head back to the lodge. All the way back we drove through rain and even a little snow, but we were finally back.

On the morning of 5-22-01 Dewey, Alan, Sue and I were up early to head for Wanaka to go on the helicopter for the Chamois hunt. When we got up we found it had snowed quite a lot, but we took off anyway. For part of the trip the snow was quite bad and I was wondering what in the world we were doing out there in such bad weather. Again we were assured that at this time of year it almost never snows in New Zealand. Of course this made me laugh to myself considering we were driving in very heavy snow. As we got closer to Wanaka we found there was no snow and the day was actually very nice. We dropped off our gear and Sue at the Wanaka Lodge and Dewey, Alan and I headed for the place where the helicopter was. As we got closer, I got a little nervous, but I was determined to go up in the helicopter.

Dewey got his instructions from Harvey (the pilot) on what would happen and what he was expected to do and when during this hunt and off we went. What a THRILL for me.

I don't know quite how to explain how beautiful the mountains with all the snow are when you can view them up close from a helicopter. We would fly right up to them and could look around and then we would fly off. I found myself wondering how we could get so close without crashing, but quickly put those thoughts out of my mind. We had been warned in advance that there was a possibility of us getting air sick (motion sick) while we were flying, but I had no problems with that. I just had fun.

After flying around and looking and following tracks for awhile, we finally saw some Chamois running up the mountain. The one we wanted was not there. It is amazing to see how quickly they can run up the mountain over rocks and in the snow. It is also amazing to see how well they can hide by rocks or brush when they get a chance. We looked around more and finally a good one was spotted. Harvey took the helicopter down real close to the ground and Dewey and Alan got out. Harvey and I flew off and Dewey and Alan set out on foot after the Chamois. After awhile and no luck, we went down and picked them up and we started looking again. This routine happened several times and finally Dewey was in the right spot at the right time and got his Chamois, a 9 7/8 x 10 inch Chamois.

If you are like me, you wondered how we would get the Chamois back to the landing area. Well, he was tied to the helicopter with a rope and was swinging in the air. We went to a place where the helicopter could actually be landed on top of the mountain and the photos of the Chamois were taken then the Chamois was tied back to the helicopter and off we went back to the landing area. We spent the night in Wanaka and on the morning of 5-23-01 we headed out to go shopping in Arrowtown. We looked around a lot but did not buy much and then we headed back to the Leithen Valley Lodge.

When we got close to the lodge we found it had snowed even more. Getting in to the lodge was quite tricky. On the way we had stopped so Sue could pick up her vehicle from the shop and she even got it stuck on the way home. The rest of that evening we just sat around the lodge and talked with everyone and watched it snow.

On the morning of 5-24-01 plans were being made to take Tony and Carlo (the other hunters) to the airport in Queenstown. Since the weather was so bad and since we had to leave on 5-25-01 we decided to take our gear and spend the night in Queenstown so we would not risk being snowed in at the lodge. As it turned out, the weather was so bad that Tony and Carlo's plane was canceled and they also spent the night in Queenstown.

We spent the night in a place called the Park Royal Hotel. It was a very nice hotel and the staff treated us very well. We took a little walk in Queenstown that evening and then settled in.

On 5-25-01 we got to the airport and although it was a little late, our plane took off and our return trip had begun. This flight, though long, was uneventful. We made it safely to Los Angeles where we spent the night and then we were off on the last leg of our vacation. We landed in Chicago the afternoon of 5-25-01 and headed home.

The trip was exciting one. Although it was colder in New Zealand than I would have liked and I did have to spend more time inside than I would have wanted, I had a good time. Dewey had a great time. He was successful in taking 7 animals and they will all make wonderful additions to our trophy room once we get them from the taxidermist.

Now we must decide where we will go for our next hunting adventure!!!!!!!

Date finished: 7-20-01
Written by: Norma Draper 900 Merrill New Road, Sugar Grove, Illinois 60554
Email: Wddnsd@aol.com


Steve Mahurin
25 North Heights
La Marque, Texas 77568
409-935-9673

Email: samahurin@comcast.net

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