When writing about the subject of wapiti hunting in New Zealand, authors are engaging with a subject which, for most hunters, represents the pinnacle of the sport in New Zealand. Great hunting books written by authors the likes of John A. Anderson, D. Bruce Banwell, Jack McKenzie, Ray Tinsley and Major R. A. Wilson immediately come to mind and draw instant comparison, and I was filled with such a mind-set when I picked up Simon Gibson’s first book entitled Wapiti Hunting in New Zealand to read.
Did this book live up to its esteemed company? Yes, in short. Will it be a classic New Zealand hunting book? Almost certainly.
Simon is clearly passionate about wapiti as evidenced by his epic trips in the Glaisnock Wilderness Area, recounted in Chapter 8 (Survival) and Chapter 9 (Stay Focused). Armed only with his camera and the goals of exploring famous areas and photographing pure wapiti-type animals, his stories capture the essence of wapiti hunting. The colour photos from those trips and many more taken over the years illustrate each Chapter.
The first chapter tells the story of New Zealand’s wapiti herd, which is best characterised as a tragedy of the commons. In it Simon summarises the wapiti herd’s history from its introduction, acclimatization, near decimation, and current day revival.
The remainder of the book covers diverse subjects, from Simon’s first hunt for wapiti in 1992 in the Stillwater block to Fiordland weather systems, how to hunt wapiti, fitness and food requirements, travelling in the area, and Simon’s top ten wapiti heads secured in New Zealand.
The focus of this book is to provide a guide to each of the 25 “blocks” — a designated area, usually a river catchment, that a party of up to six hunters is allowed to exclusively stalk for a 10 day ballot period. Covered are access tips (either by boat, helicopter and float plane), drop zones, routes, campsites, likely hunting areas, and difficulty ratings. For each block, a bit of its history is provided along with a topographical map outlining its boundaries and colour photos of its terrain.
About the only tip that Simon doesn’t disclose is identifying the first-rate blocks which produce or hold trophy bulls, believing that something needs to be learned (or rather earned) — a rationale I tend to agree with.
Simon’s book has certainly ignited a desire within me to hunt and secure a majestic 6×6 trophy wapiti bull head — especially as trophies with antler length in excess of 45″ are now obtainable on some blocks.
This is a book destined to sit on many hunters’ bookshelves as a trusted reference guide to hunting wapiti in Fiordland.
The Hunter’s recommendation is: buy it
The Hunter’s ratings are:
- Overall rating: 8.5 out of 10
- Photos and illustrations: 4 out of 5
- Trophy quality: 5 out of 5
- Writing quality and style: 4 out of 5
- Page-turner status: 4 out of 5
For your information the following is the book’s blurb:
Ever since their release at the head of George Sound in March 1905, nothing has aroused hunters’ passion more than the greatest of all the deer species, the magnificent wapiti. A big bull taken in Fiordland’s demanding terrain is New Zealand’s premier big game trophy. Rampant commercial exploitation, eradication efforts by bureaucrats, poaching and politics, combined with the dedicated efforts of individuals and groups to save the wapiti, all played a part in the herd that exists today. The gift of ten wapiti from US President Theodore Roosevelt, himself a keen hunter, plus another ten purchased by T E Donne, Manager of the NZ Government Tourist Department, formed the nucleus of the herd. Today they range from Charles Sound in the south to Sutherland Sound in the north with Lake Te Anau forming the eastern boundary. In 1923 the first licences were issued and as interest grew and the herd spread, more blocks were made available. By the 1950’s demand was so great that the blocks were opened to a ballot system. Today there are 25 blocks that attract hundreds of applicants each year. Simon Gibson has spent thousands of hours in the wapiti area over a period of twenty years and is well qualified to write this essential guide for the modern hunter. It is an important information resource for those who want to accept the challenge of trying for NZ’s toughest trophy. How to hunt wapiti, keeping fit and mentally focused, the right food, reading the weather, travelling Fiordland’s daunting terrain safely plus information on every block fill the pages of this book along with dozens of colour images that portray the wapiti and the wapiti country in all its beauty. Written by a man who loves the beauty, challenge and danger of the wapiti country, this book adds to many books written about one of the world’s great game animals.
Bibliographic informationTitle: Wapiti Hunting in New Zealand
Author: Simon Gibson (1963—)
Publisher: Halcyon Publishing, Auckland, New Zealand
ISBN: 1877566462, 9781877566462
Format: Softcover, 232 pages, illustrations (chiefly colour), maps (chiefly colour), 24 cm
Book review of Wapiti Hunting in New Zealand by Simon Gibson book review