Hunting Whitetail in New Zealand

New Zealand is the only place in the southern hemisphere where you can hunt whitetail deer, which is a prized experience for any hunter.

White-tail deer are typically found in the coastal strip and don't usually venture too far inland. However, they are very smart and elusive and hide in the dense vegetation and impenetrable scrub near the shoreline. Crown fern further inland conveniently conceals these sought-after animals. However, an experienced professional hunter will expertly guide you to the clearings and openings frequented by white-tail deer.

Whitetail deer in New Zealand tend to be smaller in body size compared to those found in North America and red deer. The whitetail has a well-developed sense of of sight and can detect movements easily.

These elusive deer feed during the day in winter, and in summer, they prefer feeding in the morning and early evening. During the hot summer days, they rest in the shade of shrubbery. Since they are creatures of habit, they will often return to the same spot at the same time every day, following well-used trails.

Weighing in at around 120 lbs, the New Zealand white tail is approximately 25% smaller than the New Hampshire buck, from which they originated. During winter, the whitetail is grayish in color, but turns tan or brown in summer. It is distinguished by the white spots on the throat, underbelly, around the eyes and nose. Male whitetails have antlers.

When alarmed, a whitetail will stomp its hooves and make a snorting sound to alarm the other deer. It may flag (raise its tail to show the white underside) to help her fawns follow her. Good leapers and fast runners, a whitetail can run at a speed of up to 30 mph. Interestingly, white-tail deer are great swimmers that won't hesitate to take to the water.

Whitetail stags enter the hard antler phase in March, followed by the rut in May.

New Zealand has the only herds of white-tail deer in the southern hemisphere.


Whitetail Fact Sheet

Scientific Name: Odocoileus virginianus
Male Weight: 50 kg
Female Weight: 40 kg
Gestation period: 187 - 222 days
Height: 100 cm
Antlers: Only males


Hunting Considerations

Whitetail hunting in New Zealand is tough and demanding, but it is rewarding for the tenacious hunter. Eight point free-range trophies are the norm with a typical antler length of 18-22 inches, and ten point trophies are rare.

Still hunting is one of the whitetail hunting techniques favored by recreational hunters, as is sitting and glassing.

Typically, shots range between 200-300 yards, and some experts recommend a .308 for successful double-shoulder shots. The 7mm Mauser (7x57), and .270 are also good options.

Shot Placement

Although the whitetail is a small deer, it is quite tough, and a non-fatal shot can cause a lost animal. Whitetails are notorious for running off before dying, even after a good shot.

Professional hunters recommend avoiding spine and brain shots, and recommend the centre lung shot instead. You can line up this shot by following the back line of the fore leg towards the center of the chest, and slightly down.


Whitetail Shot Placement


Whitetail Shot Placement


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