The Foundation was concerned that it meant allowing 600 people to hunt the Wapiti and we didn’t know if the herd could sustain that.
All ballots were full, and our new system allowed for around 40% extra hunters, with six in each block. To give credit where it’s due, really mature decisions were made by most people.
Of course, there’s always going to be a ratbag here and there. The Foundation will assess the success of this new system over time; if hunters do the right thing, we will certainly continue to look at increasing hunting opportunities.
While undertaking management work during the year leading up to the ballot, the FWF saw some respectable trophies. Our expectation was high and we thought some reasonable bulls would come out.
Not so however. There were some very nice young bulls shot but they were nothing compared to what we have been seeing out there. Maybe there’s a lesson in there somewhere.
The number of bulls that were reported shot was not as high as we had feared. Nonetheless some of those should still have lived as they were far from mature. Ageing Wapiti is an interesting process and we all get it wrong sometimes. That’s OK – it’s a guide not a science – but what I hear from some hunters is that they just don’t care. If you go into Fiordland and shoot several bulls, you are there for the wrong reason.
Eighty-Six bulls were logged into the Wapiti app as shot but the sad thing is that not all 86 jaws were logged and handed in. Data is so important to our future and it’s simple to use the app and return your jaw. This is part of accepting your ballot – you are agreeing to log your data into the app and return your jaw. We understand that there are some issues for overseas hunters but there is no excuse for New Zealanders. Please do the right thing, we do not want to have to penalize hunters for not doing it. Out of the 86 bulls reported, only 59 jaws were handed in. We are also aware of animals that were shot and not reported. This is not good enough. To those who didn’t hand their jaws in, read the rules, failure to do so could affect you in future ballots. The Foundation puts a hell of a lot of effort into providing and managing this amazing area for you. Supplying your data returns is a very small price to pay.
The use of the app has been outstanding except for some of those who shot animals and didn’t report. We had 1770 data entries logged in the app, which on average is more than three per hunter.
Boiling all this down and looking at the value behind recording your time in the Wapiti area, it adds up to around 240,000 hours – almost a quarter of a million daylight hours spent in an area of 175,000ha over 40 days. That’s a hell of an opportunity to grab some really valuable citizen science data.
This is interesting data but like all data, an individual year doesn’t tell the entire story. Data is about trends over time, so many factors come into play like weather, hunting days etc. The more years you record, the better the data becomes.
Let’s look at deer management now. The Wapiti deer management strategy is based around a low-numbered, high quality herd. When we carry out deer recovery, our focus is managing females as well as males. Our goal is to have around 1.1 males to every female. Why? Simple – the fewer females we have, the fewer the calves that are born. It’s about managing population. The fewer deer we have, the less we must remove. How and why is this different from deer management outside the Wapiti area? Other areas focus on the males; this is purely a financial decision, males are heavier and therefore worth more money.
In most other areas of NZ, the WARO focus is on shooting the larger, more valuable males. Therefore, generally the deer population in DoC land outside the Wapiti area hovers around two females to one male, and in some areas it’s a lot more than that.
So how do we think we are tracking in the Wapiti area?
|Data from 2021 ballot|
|Old ballot system – around 400 hunters|
|Total deer seen||1162|
|Data from the 2022 ballot|
|Old ballot system – around 400 hunters|
|Total deer seen||1196|
We have three years of app data now and one figure that immediately stands out is the change in female/male ratio. Clearly it looks like our animal management strategy is working. Our observations while undertaking deer management also support this.
The Foundation’s number one goal – our slogan if you like – is to protect Fiordland and we are doing this with sound deer management projects.
The data you return as hunters is so valuable, keep it coming.
Bird data. There is some interesting data coming back from the native species side of the app.
|2023||271||New ballot system, more hunters|
|2023||700||New ballot system, more hunters|
In this year’s ballot there were 86 deer reported as shot.
Some of these were too young and had huge potential but overall the average age of the animals taken is the highest I’ve ever seen come out of the Wapiti area, at 6.3 years.
This average also supports our deer management strategy as the second part of our programme aims at increasing the percentage of males making it through to maturity.
Old males are better for the herd structure, they stop the young males from breeding and that gives the Foundation more opportunities to remove the rubbish animals before they breed.
Older males are the ones that hunters should be shooting.
We believe the first trial of allowing 600 people to hunt 40 days during the ballot didn’t inflict too much harm on the herd. Yes, we had the same old problem of some young superstar Wapiti bulls getting shot. And no, not all data was returned but in general, results were very positive.
|4.3||1||no block listed|
|4.3||3||no block listed|
|5.3||4||no block listed|
|7.2||6||no block listed|
|12.3||9||no block listed|
|5.3||14||no block listed|
|9.3||19||no block listed|
|5.3||21||no block listed|
|6.3||22||no block listed|
|5.3||27||no block listed|
|7.3||29||no block listed|
|6.3||32||no block listed|
|8.3||34||no block listed|
|4.3||35||no block listed|
|4.3||36||no block listed|
|7.3||41||no block listed|
|3.3||61||no block listed|
|4.3||78||no block listed|
|Average age||6.3 years|