In our Learn to Hunt courses for veterans and their families that we’ve been running for the last four years, our focus and central themes have always been on the personal benefits of hunting – such as fitness, health and well-being – and the benefits of building a community of likeminded people who enjoy the outdoor adventures available in the NZ wilderness. These are all cornerstones of our teachings. The importance of saving money by utilising fresh game meat was only a minor factor in the early courses. Fast forward to 2022 and this has become a much larger consideration. It’s never been a better time to have the ability to fill your family freezer – as well as those of your friends – with game meat. I encourage you all to share the bounty where possible, as there are a lot of struggling families. For one, it feels great to be able to give; secondly, it benefits our communities; and thirdly, it can open conversations with prospective hunters about how they can benefit from learning this ancient skill.
I’d like to bring your attention to Chris Burton’s article in this issue: One Last Ridge. In one particular paragraph, he relates the inner conflict he experienced when shooting extra hinds for culling purposes and not recovering the meat. In his estimation, with the animal numbers seen and there being an imbalance with too many hinds, he decided to cull some extra animals after they’d got their stags. I absolutely applaud his thought processes and his decision. None of us want to waste valuable meat – it doesn’t sit right with us – but also, none of us want the Department of Conservation mass culls, which will result if hunters like Chris don’t do their part.
In another article, Dylan Wright talks about his 216 DS trophy sika stag, and although the antlers were hard underneath, he was concerned about the light layer of velvet. This is a conundrum for many hunters, and it’s a decision only you can make at the time. The time Dylan was hunting, in my opinion, was when almost all mature stags in that area were hardened off, so he was justified in taking his trophy. However, at the same time, he doesn’t need my – or anyone else’s – vindication in taking his magnificent stag. What I don’t like seeing is hunters tearing down other hunters for the decisions they make. We’re a small group of New Zealanders – let’s not make our group smaller with toxic statements and hunter shaming. You’re the only one who can make those decisions on the day given your own values and the circumstances in front of you.