Hunters must comply with two critical aspects: 1. Identify your target 2. Do not hunt during the hours of darkness.

Firearms Safety Code

Always follow the seven basic rules of firearms safety.

Hunters must follow every part of the Firearms Safety Arms Code, and should know and comply with its seven basic rules at all times:

  1. Treat every firearm as loaded.
  2. Always point firearms in a safe direction. 
  3. Load a firearm only when ready to fire.                            
  4. Identify your target beyond all doubt.                                           
  5. Check your firing zone.
  6. Store firearms and ammunition safely.
  7. Avoid alcohol or drugs when handling firearms.

Arms Code

All hunters should know and understand the Arms Code well, and conform to it at all times. The Arms Code is available to download at the New Zealand Police website: Arms Code on Police website.    

Hunting on public conservation land

  • Hunting on public conservation land is not permitted during the hours of darkness (½ hour after sunset to ½ hour before sunrise).
  • Do not load a firearm in or near a hut - wait until you're hunting.
  • Do not discharge firearms in the vicinity of huts, tracks, campsites, road ends or any other public place in a manner that endangers property or endangers, frightens or annoys members of the public.
  • Do not discharge load or discharge firearms within 500 m of a Great Walk hut.
  • When in a hut or camp, ensure you remove and store your firearms bolt and ammunition separately. Where practical also secure your firearm.

Plan for safety

Prior to the hunt

  • Firearms training: Before going into the field be fully familiar with your weapon, competent at shooting, aware off and understand hunting safety measures.
  • Hunting training: Join a club and learn from experienced hunters or take the New Zealand Deer Stalkers' Association Hunter National Training Scheme course.
  • Trip planning: If entering unknown country learn as much as you can about the area before venturing out.

During the hunt

The stalk

Be seen and don’t assume others are not in your vicinity

  • Wear clothing that contrasts with the environment and the animals being hunted - minimise the likelihood of colour similar to that of a deer.
  • When hunting with a companion:
    • Stop hunting if you lose visual contact with that companion. Do not resume hunting until visual contact is made and confirmed.
    • Agree on hunting areas with a clearly defined 'no fire zone' between areas. Do not hunt outside the agreed area, including on the way back to camp. If a linear boundary is agreed (eg. a ridge line or creek), do not shoot toward or over that boundary line. If it is absolutely necessary for one hunter to knowingly move into another’s area, eg. because of an emergency, do not stalk into the area - enter in a way that it is obvious you are not a deer.
    • When hunting in parallel, keep sight of each other, maintain an arc of fire 180 degrees away from your hunting companion with a ‘no fire zone’ between shooters, including forward and back.
    • Take turns hunting. The non hunting companion should not resume hunting until mutually agreed.
  • Do not behave like a deer knowing your mate is hunting nearby - they may end up hunting you.

The shot

Identify your target beyond all doubt.

Identify your target beyond all doubt

  • Do not shoot at shape, sound, movement or colour, including those that belong to a deer, without confirming that your target is a deer.
  • Develop a self-awareness that enables you to identify buck/stag fever in yourself, and counteract it with extra care while hunting.
  • Use binocular vision to identify the target; use the scope only to place the shot.
  • Avoid snap shooting unless target identification is complete.
  • Do not move into the firing zone or arc of fire of a hunting companion.
  • Sight more than a single small part of the deer and confirm it as the target.
  • Do not shoot when others are known to be in the firing zone.

After the shot

Remain vigilent - the hunt isn't over until you're safely home

  • If pursuing a wounded animal don’t assume what you're looking at can’t be anything but the animal - go through the procedure of positively identifying your target again.
  • If carrying a deer carcass or trophy head, cover it in some way so that it's clearly contrasted with the environment, including deer in that environment.

(Adapted from To hunt and return – developing safe hunting practice, by Inspector Joe Green, Wellington 2003.)

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