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July 2022 Issue
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Chasing Stewart Island lore

John DeLury, author of a book about hunting deer on Rakiura

John DeLury’s Chasing Whitetail Bucks: Stewart Island Hunting Magic is chock-full of Stewart Island hunting lore, told by a wide cast of characters as well as the author. DeLury is also chair of the Rakiura Hunter Camp Trust, which manages 18 huts on the island. By Ben Mack

What was your motivation for writing Chasing Whitetail Bucks?

My first book [called simply Chasing Whitetails] was a personal thing, but there was a lot of stuff people were saying I should have included. Over the years I’ve known a lot of hunters, and they have a lot of stories, a lot of lore and experiences. There’s a lot of history on the island, especially hunting history, that’s never been recorded. I didn’t want it to get lost, to slip into oblivion. 

I also wanted to share my knowledge and experiences on Stewart Island with others and to promote recreational hunting here.

The book is packed with Stewart Island hunting lore. What was the importance of having that included?

Hunting history was part of the whole process of writing it. It’s a part of the history of the island. A lot of people are pretty interested in what’s happened here in the past. Again, I wanted to record some of those stories so they’re not forgotten.

What are the particular challenges of hunting and navigating the bush on Rakiura? 

The topography’s just so different compared to anywhere else in New Zealand. It can seem very confused. For instance, a lot of the creeks can go back on each other and lead you around and around. You can get lost very easily if you’re not careful.

There are also few open areas to get your bearings. It’s heavily forested, especially on the east coast. And conditions can change quickly.

But you’ll find whitetail all over the island; it’s a great place for hunters.

Do you have a favourite hunting spot there?

Anywhere from Lords River/Tūtaekawetoweto in the south-east to Mason Bay on the west coast. I don’t really have a favourite. It’s a real paradise everywhere you go.

Any advice for people experiencing Stewart Island’s outdoors for the first time?

The easiest thing might be to read my book! It covers things in there, including a bit of gear. But seriously, do your homework. Look at maps before you go, know which way you’re planning on going. I know of instances of people who’ve been on a beach, become scared, and ended up getting stuck trying to get around a headland.

Everyone should have a GPS on Stewart Island. There’s no excuse not to have one. And also have a map and compass.

The other thing is it’s pretty remote. There are no cars going past, and not a lot of boats in some parts. So you’ve got to have a mountain radio or some way to contact people if you run into trouble so you can call a rescue helicopter if needed. I know of two occasions where hunters were evacuated after being badly burned from boiling water spills. Had they not had communications, they’d have been in serious trouble. It’s just basic common sense.