Hunting guides appeal to domestic market

Gerald Telford: Coronavirus couldn’t have come at a worse time for the industry because we were two weeks into a 16-week season [the roar]…when the lockdown happened. Credit: Manuka Point.

New Zealand’s guided hunting industry has been impacted severely by coronavirus, and at least 15-20 guides in the Upper Clutha are in this boat.

Gerald Telford of Telford Fishing and Hunting, Hāwea said there are two categories of guides in the Upper Clutha; the outfitters, such as himself who own properties [he leases Mt Maude], stock their animals and employ guides. And there are a “fair handful of guides” whose work is a lot more seasonal, are operated by the outfitters for four to five months a year and have another job in the off-season.

“Outfitters like myself, we are feeling it because we don’t have a fall back such as farming,” Telford said.

“Coronavirus couldn’t have come at a worse time for the industry because we were two weeks into a 16-week season [the roar] and were just hitting the peak when the lockdown happened, and it got stolen from us.

“The government subsidy of $585 a week is nice, but the week previous to that subsidy coming through my income was $58,500.”

The NZ hunting industry is appealing for support from domestic hunters looking for a unique hunting experience said Game Animal Council general manager Tim Gale

 “Guided hunting was worth over $50 million a year to the New Zealand economy and provided primarily international visitors with fantastic Kiwi hunting experiences on both private and public land.

“It has also been a significant employer in provincial regions and has a low impact on our environment. It has been a New Zealand tourism success story.”

 Safari Club International New Zealand president Mike Knowles said “The reality is with coronavirus having decimated the international tourist market, hunting guides, game estates and other commercial operators are facing a very uncertain time. Many may be forced to consider their future in the industry.

“With New Zealand leading the world in combating coronavirus, the recovery period presents a unique opportunity for New Zealand hunters to get out there and support local New Zealand businesses while having some fantastic hunting experiences.

“Our members would love to take Kiwi hunters on guided hunts, where they can go after the trophy of a lifetime or put high-quality free-range meat in the freezer,” said Knowles. “At the same time, they can learn new hunting skills from some of the very best hunters in New Zealand.”

Many hunting operators are reconfiguring their offerings to cater to the different skills, experience and budgets of domestic hunters, he said.

New Zealand Professional Hunting Guides Association president James Cagney explained that the travel and logistics of going hunting could be difficult and typically involve a significant investment in both money and time.

“With many hunters having less time on their hands due to work commitments post-coronavirus, the benefit of going on a guided hunt is that they can maximise the time they have with the best possible opportunity for success.

“This applies to both managed herds on private land as well as using local guides to hunt for high-quality animals on public conservation land.”

“While Kiwi hunters are rightfully proud of our ‘get-out-there and do-it-yourself’ attitude there will be many that have often thought they would like to make a trip with a guide or on a game estate,” said Gale.

“Well, there will never be a better time, and what better justification is there than to help support Kiwi businesses struggling in the aftermath of coronavirus.”

“New Zealand hunters?”said Telford. “Most New Zealand hunters don’t want to spend that sort of money for the experience that they can give themselves. This is very much a North American/ European market that we play with.

“I do some fishing guiding, but this is very much overseas as well. There are a handful of Kiwis who might do the fishing. But Australia is quite important from a fishing point of view. If we get this trans-Tasman bubble going we could expect some Aussies’ coming over for fishing.

“I have invested in a lot of animals [deer] - $250,000 worth. They will last till next year, but the single biggest unknown for us is that we will not have our borders open to us by next February- so we won’t have a season next year either, and that is going to hurt,” Telford said.

“I say this based on the state of the coronavirus in the US, the signals we are getting from Tourism Aotearoa and the messages coming out of Wellington.”

Read edition 976 of the Wānaka Sun here.


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