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Community Support for the National Wild Goat Hunting Competition

The Red Stag Timber Hunters Club with their competition entries. Photo: Hunters Club.

Communities nationwide have supported the National Wild Goat Hunting Competition, and a collective effort has resulted in the removal of thousands of wild goats. The competition sparked some great organised hunts and events across the country.

The competition closed November 26 and the prize draw was held on December 15. Check out the Department of Conservation and New Zealand Deerstalkers Association Facebook pages to find out who won – there was over $50,000 worth of prizes.

In Westport, DOC Ranger Craig Soster took an active role in promoting the cause. Craig is highly involved with the Buller under-16 rugby team and rallied his son and some of the older boys with firearms licences to join in on the goat-hunting action. The boys have collected around 100 tails, with most of their hunting expeditions taking them to the lower Buller Gorge.

“Most of the boys have grown up hunting, and it was great to get them involved in conservation,” says Craig. “The Buller is known for its dramatic limestone country, but wild goats pose a significant threat to the ecosystem by eating the smaller native seedlings, removing forest understory and changing the composition of the forest.”

Goat-hunting terrain is rugged and tough going, offering a great backcountry adventure. Craig said the ability to capture timestamped photos of unreachable goats has been a great way for the boys to participate in the competition.

Apart from honing their hunting skills, the boys have also been making the most of the wild goat meat. With transport and ammunition costs, finding tasty ways to make use of the meat is important.

Before joining DOC, Craig worked in the farming sector, and he encouraged local farmers to join the hunt as well. Wild goats do not respect property boundaries, breed quickly and can also cause significant damage to farms.

“More coordinated action could help protect New Zealand’s unique biodiversity,” says Craig. He organised a hunting trip with the boys to a local farmer’s property where they tackled a population of about 300-400 wild goats that needed to be removed; the farm was also next to the Orikaka Ecological Area in the Buller District.

How Others Got Involved

The Red Stag Timber Hunters got in on the action as well. They removed some goats for a local farmer, honed their hunting skills and made delicious food using the goat meat.

If you haven’t seen the episode, the show is free to stream inside New Zealand through SKY Go. Click here to watch.

The Southern Lakes Branch of the NZDA organised a successful goat hunt on public conservation land early in the competition, braving the chilly winter temperatures. Over two days, they bagged an impressive 114 wild goats.

In Kaitaia, the local Hunting & Fishing, DOC and Fish & Game staff members teamed up to run a ‘Bush to Belly’ event. The event was used as a promotional opportunity to inform the local public about why goats are a threat to our native ngāhere and to encourage hunters to enter the competition. A goat butchery demonstration was led by a couple of local hunters, and attendees enjoyed a gourmet goat-sausage barbeque and goat curry.

It’s been great to see such enthusiasm for the competition. The 2023 Sika Show also supported the competition and was an official entry point; we had 189 heads and tails entered at the show. People could bring in their wild goat heads and tails and be in to win personal locator beacons and a Back Country Cuisine food pack as well as going into the national prize draw.

The enthusiasm from participants has been evident in their comments, highlighting the value of the competition to motivate people to contribute to wild goat removal.

“Thank you very much for the amazing prizes. It will be a great peace of mind (for us) for [winner] to have a PLB on him while he is out hunting, and the Back Country food pack will be great for some overnight trips … there were lots of plans made for trips into the outdoors over the coming months.” 

– parents of prize winner.

“So pleased as it has been quite an effort for me walking up hills to retrieve the tails … the prizes will be used in the bush while hunting more goats to help save our biodiversity … it’s a great competition. I hope you guys do it next year. Just gives everyone a little more motivation to get more goats.” 

– prize winner.

A big thank you to our 2023 sponsors:

• Founding sponsor – Hunting & Fishing NZ

• Major sponsors – NZ Hunter and Huntech

• Supporting sponsors – Traeger Grills, Back Country Cuisine, LOWA Boots, InfiRay, Te Tari Pūreke Firearms Safety Authority, Tatonka, Bushnell, LedLenser, Thorlo and Topo4GPS.

The competition was a joint endeavour by the Department of Conservation and the New Zealand Deerstalkers Association to help raise awareness of the wild goat problem, build relationships across sectors and encourage hunters to target wild goats. It was supported by Federated Farmers of New Zealand, and Hunting & Fishing NZ Ltd.

Although the competition is over, wild goats breed quickly. Continuing to hunt them is important to help protect the environment.

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