Hunting Wapiti in New Zealand

Wapiti (elk) are abundant in our hunting region, and it's common to see several trophy bulls a day. The wapiti comes from the Rocky Mountain Elk bloodlines, and are some of the largest elk found around the world. In fact, at shoulder height of over five feet, and a body length of 8.5 feet and live weight of 700-1000 pounds, wapiti elk bulls are the largest of all round-horned male deer.

Their tan summer coat turns dark brown in winter, and they are easily distinguishable from other deer by the buff colored patch on the rump and short tails. A dark shaggy mane covers the neck and chest. The coat thickens during fall, and their manes thicken.

Male wapiti grow antlers in spring, and shed it at the end of winter every year. The bony antlers grow at a pace of up to one inch a day, and are covered in a substance known as velvet, which protects it during spring. Wapiti bulls' antlers follow a pre-prescribed form which rarely deviates. A trophy wapiti elk has a set of antlers with six of more matching points on each antler, and a length approximately 50 inches in length.

During mating season, the hair-raising bugling of an elk bull can send tingles down even the most experienced hunter's spine.

In New Zealand, there is no seasonal restriction to hunting Wapiti, meaning generally they can be hunted throughout the year


Wapiti Fact Sheet

Scientific Name: Cervus canadensis
Male Weight: 320 - 330 kg
Female Weight: 220 - 240 kg
Gestation period: 240 - 262 days
Height: 150 
Length: 245 cm


Hunting Considerations

Wapiti elk typically frequent steep hill country, which means that  the hunter requires a reasonable standard of fitness. Free range hunting in NZ allows you to hunt the old-fashioned way, and you may well be rewarded for a challenging hunt with a spectacular wapiti trophy.

The ideal caliber for wapiti hunting ranges from .270 to .338. Ultimately, the hunter must be comfortable with the gun. The .270 tends to work well for hunters of various levels of experience, as it is comfortable to hold and the recoil is good. It is uncommon for a wapiti to get away when hunters use a .270. However, the 7mm is another excellent choice, as it has the magnum power, without the kick of a .300 or .338.

Shot Placement

Shot placement is crucial when it comes to hunting wapiti. It is a big animal, and the most humane shot is the one that puts it down instantly. The heart, lungs and central nervous system are the best areas to aim for when hunting wapiti.

When faced with a full frontal opportunity, aim just above the bottom of the mane, to the right for a heart shot. Facing the broadside with the animal facing towards your right, place your shot right in the upper crease where the upper foreleg meets the torso. If the animal is facing left, aim just above the front leg, approximately a third into the upper body.

If you are unsure at all, speak to your professional hunter, who has years of experience and extensive knowledge about wapiti hunting in New Zealand.


Wapiti Shot Placement


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