Category Archives: Destinations

ARSC announces Costa Rica expansion!

Merry and I would like to officially announce that we are the new owners of the Sportfishing operation Pelagic Pursuits Costa Rica and the 31′ Luhrs Go Fish.  The boat is located at the world renowned Los Suenos Marina and Resort near Jaco, Costa Rica on the central pacific coast.
We now offer Offshore fishing for Sailfish, Blue Marlin, Black Marlin, Stripe Marlin, Yellowfin Tuna, Dorado, and Wahoo. If Inshore fishing is your game then you’ll love the Rooster fish, Cubera, Grouper, Jacks, Snook, and Tarpon.
Together with Captain Randall, mates Luis and Abrancy, we plan to offer our clients, friends, and family the same quality of experience we’re known for in the PNW! You can also expect to see and use the best products from Okuma, Raymarine, Tuf-line, P-line, and more.
Dedicated to customer service, reliable charter boats, friendly crew, and CATCHING FISH, we plan to bring our charter fishing experience to the table in Costa Rica!
Getting there is easy!  Most major airlines (including Alaska Airlines) fly to San Jose International Airport (SJO).  From there the drive SW to the Jaco area is less than 90 minutes on modern highways.  Rental cars are inexpensive as are transfers if you prefer not to rent a car.  Transfers, lodging and fishing can all be reserved through Merry or myself.
What about All Rivers & Saltwater Charters???  Everything will be business as usual at ARSC with plans only to continue and improve our 13 year charter service in Washington State!  Merry and I will be in Washington State May-October, managing ARSC on the ground, and travel back and forth every other month to Costa Rica November-April.  We will always be available via email, and phone 365 days a year.

Take a look at this HD Video of one of our Offshore fishing trips!

The Go Fish!

Over the next year the Go Fish will get quite a make-over.  To name just a few things on the list:

  • – Install the full compliment of Raymarine Electronics, including high power CHIRP Sonar, and a large display.
  • – Outfit the boat with new Okuma fishing rods & reels, and many other cutting edge products.
  • – Re-upholster the cockpit bolsters, tower seat cushions, and client seating area.
  • – Have on-hand mission critical back-up parts that will reduce down time when break-downs occur.
 

Pricing:

  • Year-Round, Full-Day Offshore or Inshore…$1350, 4 ppl, $50 add’l for a fifth person, 5 max.
  • Year-Round, Half-Day Inshore…$1150, 4 ppl, $50 add’l for a fifth person, 5 max.
  • Full-Day Tortuga Island, no fishing, $1150, 4 ppl, $50 add’l passengers, 6 max.
  • Half-Day, Tortuga Island, no fishing, $1050, 4 ppl, $50 add’l passengers, 6 max.
  • Sunset Cruise, $300 (max 6 passengers)
  • *Peak Season Charter, December 24thJanuary 4th, Add $100 per trip. 
  • *Don’t forget fishing licenses (purchased at the dock for $), and gratuities for crew, 20% is customary and the guys really work for you to earn it.
“We look forward to getting you out fishing again!”
Mark & Merry Coleman – Pelagic Pursuits Costa Rica
“Go Fish”, Los Suenos Marina, Slip 12, Herradura, Puntarenas, CR
+506-4001-8430 (CR) (Let it ring)
info@pelagicpursuitscr.com (We respond FAST!)

A Dream Fishing Property

Looking for a dream California property catered for an outdoor junkie? Check out this ad (courtesy of East River Public Relations in Truckee via Sotheby’s:

Cabin 2-3 Cabin 3 Cabin 3-2 Cabin 4

Escaping the cacophony of everyday life is seemingly impossible, but given the right piece of real estate and possibly a small aircraft, anything is possible.

A 320-acre sanctuary, complete with two private lakes and four rustic cabins, awaits just outside the small Northern California town of Fort Bidwell. And while the property is accessible by car, a nearby airstrip has been put to good use by current and previous owners.

The property, which the owners have coined the Forest Lake Retreat, is not only a haven for busy professionals, but also a soothing menagerie of wildlife. Guests and owners can unwind by searching the skies for bald eagles or casting for trout in either the five or three-acre spring-fed lakes.

“We purchased Forest Lake retreat in 2003 to escape the population explosion of the North Lake Tahoe area,” said current homeowner Jack Bazler.  “This special spot was a short drive from our Northstar home and exceeded our desire to find beauty and adventure in a tranquil environment. The gorgeous trees, wildlife and lakes exceeded our expectations.”

 

Cabin 1

Cabin 1-3

Cabin 1-4

The retreat has three A-frame cabins (adjacent to the five-acre lake), as well as a traditional home (on the smaller lake), comfortably sleeping up to 18 total. All structures, including an attached workshop and garage, are served by essential utilities.

Listed at $1.6 million, the property can be divided into two parcels, each with its own lake. It is represented by Chris Hinkel of Sierra Sotheby’s International Realty.

Nestled at a 5,500-foot elevation in the Northeastern corner of California, the surrounding forest was once used as a logging area. Old logging roads now serve as meandering trails for exploring the endless cedars, white fir, aspens, and ponderosa pines. The property still lies on a timber production zone, with special tax benefits.

A small dirt airstrip (Ft. Bidwell on aviation charts) just a few miles from the property could be used by pilots with small aircraft, while those with larger planes can utilize a larger, paved strip in the town of Cedarville just 20 miles away.

For more information about the property, call Chris Hinkel at 530-412-2644 or go to http://bit.ly/2a30gJl.

 

 

 

DCIM101MEDIA

DCIM101MEDIA

Cabin 1-7

Cabin 1-8

Cabin 1-9

Cabin 2 - 2

Cabin 2

 

 

 

 

Island Getaway Hunt

I remembered sitting in the kitchen as he spoke, hanging on his
every word as he described the chase. Even before I knew where
the island was, I wanted to hike those same hills with a rifle, just like
my grandfather had.

QUITE A BIT has changed on Catalina Island since my grandfather’s days. The island’s resources are now managed by the Catalina Island Conservancy. The conservancy has partnered with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Wildlife West, a privately owned guide service, to utilize hunters to control the number of introduced mule deer on the island. Mule deer were first introduced to Catalina Island in the 1930s by the Los Angeles County Forestry Department and thus are a non-native species to the island. In the absence of predators, the deer have propagated unchecked for over 80 years. Even with an annual deer harvest, the island population remains a healthy 2,400 animals. Over the years, the conservancy has gradually reduced the number of non-native plant and animal species that inhabit the island in an effort to protect the native plant community. The hordes of pigs that used to run wild throughout most of the island have now been reduced to a single lonely male. The voracious goats that used to mow down whatever they could feed on have been dwindled to a trio of nannies that will likely live out their last years unmolested and barren. The island’s iconic bison, also introduced to the island, have been shipped off, leaving a reduced herd of a little over 100 head to roam Catalina and pose for photos. Hunting deer on Catalina is a unique experience and opportunity for California hunters. Located just 26 miles from the mainland, your adventure begins as soon as you start the crossing. Outdoors men wishing to experience Catalina Island hunting need to contact Ben Myhre and Jim Settle of Wildlife West (503-519-4902; catalinahunting.com) for an absolutely amazing hunting experience. I’ve hunted with Ben and Jim during their deer management hunts a couple of times, and each trip I find the entire hunt a true adventure. Ben’s group will take any California

The Catalina Island deer processing area is one of many areas on the popular destination for Southern Californians that are normally not accessible. But outfitter Wildlife West offers control management hunts in the late summer.

The Catalina Island deer processing area is one of many areas on the popular destination for
Southern Californians that are normally not accessible. But outfitter Wildlife West offers
control management hunts in the late summer.

Many of the island’s bison that once populated the island have been shipped away, but there are still about 100 roaming Catalina and are favorite targets of photographers. (TIM E. HOVEY)

Many of the island’s bison that once populated the island have been shipped
away, but there are still about 100 roaming Catalina and are favorite targets
of photographers. (TIM E. HOVEY)

deer tag for the state’s current deer season and trade it out for their special island deer management tag when you check in for your hunt. Transportation to and from the Avalon harbor is provided, and you will see sections of Catalina Island that are not normally accessible to the everyday tourist.

A FEW YEARS back, I gathered up a group of five friends to hunt Wildlife West’s island doe hunt. After boarding the Catalina Express and making the crossing, Ben picked us up Friday morning at the Avalon harbor. We loaded our gear into his truck and were taken to a large house in the town of Avalon. This was to be our elegant and very comfortable home base for the two-day hunt. We were greeted with snacks and drinks as we relaxed after the channel crossing. Ben and Jim guided us through the paperwork, trading our deer tags for island management tags. They then asked if we wanted to head out that same day to hunt the north side of the island. A few hours after hitting the shores of Catalina, my good friend Eric Frandsen and I were hiking the steep canyons, rifles in hand. From the ridge we could see the brilliantly blue Pacific. We sat in the shade of a large boulder and glassed several ridges from our position. The surrounding terrain was bordered by the bright blue of the ocean and we could see for miles. Sitting on that island and hunting with Eric, I wondered if my grandfather had sat on that same ridge while he hunted. We spotted some really good habitat in several of the adjacent canyons. Whenever I hunt and see animals off in the distance, or quality habitat that may hold animals, I don’t care where
it is or how difficult it is to get to, I go; Eric feels the same way.
We made a quick plan and started hiking towards the edge of the
canyon. As we reached the ridge, we spotted movement on the next ridge over. Two mule deer doe flushed from the canyon brush, hopped to the next ridge and stopped. Several shots later, one from me and a few more than that from Eric, we had two tags filled. Over the course of the next two days, our entire group tagged out on Catalina Island mule deer does. The group at Wildlife West is great about accommodating your hunting wishes. Our group was fairly experienced and desired to hike the area ourselves

Eric Frandsen (left) and the author with two Catalina Island does. Wildlife West will trade any California deer tag for the state’s current deer season for its special island deer management tag. (TIM E. HOVEY)

Eric Frandsen (left) and the author with two
Catalina Island does. Wildlife West will trade any
California deer tag for the state’s current deer season
for its special island deer management tag.
(TIM E. HOVEY)

looking for game. Ben let us explore the island while we searched for deer. Ben and Wildlife West take care of field dressing and processing the deer if you like, or you can get in there and do it yourself. Despite this being an island, the hunt is anything but easy. The terrain is steep, rocky and vast. There are countless canyons for deer to hide and escape detection. The terrain will also test your shooting ability.Many times the shots are from one ridge to another. My longest shot during our hunting weekend was right at 300 yards.

FOR MOST OF my hunting career, I’ve hunted without guides. In situations where guides are required, I have been lucky enough to find individuals that have been professional, friendly and competent. Ben and Jim are at the very top of that list. It’s a lot more than just their treatment of their clients. Both Ben and Jim have a thorough
understanding of wildlife management and articulate that to their clients as they travel the island. Both have degrees in wildlife management and understand the important role hunting  lays in true resource management. Hunters will also find Ben and Jim’s historic perspective of the island refreshing. They are both very familiar with Catalina’s rich history and freely educate their clients on landmarks and events during the drive to the hunting area. Being wildlife biologists, they also understand animal movement, habitat requirements and animal health, all extremely important factors for a successful hunt. Hunters can reach the island by private boat, plane or the very popular and affordable Catalina Express, which makes the 26-mile crossing in about an hour. This aspect of the hunt just added to the overall adventure for me. Once there, you feel like you’ve been transported back in time. Catalina maintains its unique history, and, if you’ve never been there, you should at least make a trip out to see the island.

The author came to Catalina with memories of his grandfather’s deer hunts there. Once there, he envisioned glassing some of the same terrain, providing emotional nostalgia. (TIM E. HOVEY)

The author came to Catalina
with memories of his grandfather’s
deer hunts there.
Once there, he envisioned
glassing some of the same
terrain, providing emotional
nostalgia. (TIM E. HOVEY)

If you’re looking for a reasonably priced and unique, outdoor experience, give Ben Myhre a call at Wildlife West. His outfit offers both trophy and management mule deer hunts on the island during the California deer season. The accommodations are comfortable and impressive. Located in the historic Avalon area, our group thoroughly enjoyed exploring the harbor and waterfront area a short walk away after the day’s hunt was over. For me, the island deer hunt was much more than hunting with good friends. Knowing that my grandfather had hiked and hunted those same hills put a nostalgic spin into the trip. I thought about him often as I glassed distant ridges and during frequent stops to catch my breath. I never got a chance to hunt with my grandfather, but I felt like he was with me as we chased deer on Catalina Island. We will definitely be back.

By Tim E. Hovey

Fishing In The Balkans

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I recently returned from a week road tripping through four different nations/territories (technically five, as our rental car briefly crossed into Croatia but only for about an  hour’s worth of driving) that were once part of the now dissolved Yugoslavia: Serbia, Kosovo (a fascinating place that,  despite claiming independence from Serbia in 2008,  is still not recognized as an independent nation by 110 other flags), Montenegro and Bosnia. I could relay a lot about the cultural diversity and strong opinions my friend and I experienced spending time in nations that hate each other and had a war to prove it.

But this is a far less tension-filled fishing and hunting website. So rather than show off my less than knowledgeable stand on politics and religion, how about simply a collection of fishing images I snapped throughout my trip:

I never figured if these Belgrade, Serbia anglers were fishing the famous "blue" Danube or the converging Sava River that also flows through the capital city.

I never figured if these Belgrade, Serbia anglers were fishing the famous “blue” Danube or the converging Sava River that also flows through the capital city.

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Belgrade has fishing shops too!

Belgrade has fishing shops too!

 

This guy (pictured above) had quite a great time around the Bay of Kotor

This guy (pictured above) had quite a great time around the Bay of Kotor in Montenegro catching a lot of small fish that he surely made a great meal from.

 

Lake Skadar is a massive freshwater fishery that is bordered by Montenegro and Albania on its southeast shoreline. We saw a lot of folks fishing for trout, carp and even eel, which is a delicacy in this part of the country.

Lake Skadar is a massive freshwater fishery that is bordered by Montenegro and Albania on its southeast shoreline. We saw a lot of folks fishing for trout, carp and even eel, which is a delicacy in this part of the country.

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I stumbled onto the remains of a Bosnian fish hatchery next to the Buna River.

I stumbled onto the remains of a Bosnian fish hatchery next to the Buna River.

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In the same area, a cool outdoor restaurant patio had a small pond of seemingly carefree trout that will likely become a pond-to-table dish.

In the same area, a cool outdoor restaurant patio had a small pond of seemingly carefree trout that will likely become a pond-to-table dish.

The author and her guide Toni Tonchev pose with her ?rst mou?on ever, not a bad way to spend an afternoon in Macedonia in the Balkan region of Europe. (BRITTANY BODDINGTON)

HUNTING THE BALKANS

TINY MACEDONIA IS A EUROPEAN GEM FOR ADVENTURE SEEKERS
By Brittany Boddington 

You may be scratching your head and trying to remember eighth-grade geography class to answer the question, where in the world is Macedonia?
It’s a small Balkan nation located directly above Greece and better known as the birthplace of Alexander the Great. The country is small but rich in culture and even has its own language, though there are only 2 million people who call it home. Hunting areas in what is of?cially known as the Republic of Macedonia range from the ruins of ancient cities to spectacular mountains looming over unexpectedly large lakes. (BRITTANY BODDINGTON)
I got the opportunity to hunt in Macedonia a few years ago, and I’ve decided to go back again – not just this year, but next year as well! I’m going back the first time to hunt the racka sheep and a big European boar, and next year I am going as the celebrity guest on a hunt going up for auction at the NRA Annual Meeting & Exhibits April 10-12 in Nashville. I encourage those of you who are attending the show to please drop by the auctions and show your support!

A BALKAN ADVENTURE
My first trip to Macedonia focused on hunting the Balkan chamois. It was my first “chammy” hunt, and I was very excited to challenge myself with the fierce terrain that they inhabit.
We set out early in the morning, parked the car around daybreak and took off on foot. I was mentally prepared for an extremely long and arduous day. Less than an hour into our hike I bumped into my guide Toni Tonchev, who stopped short and pointed downhill.
I was so lost in my thoughts that I had not been paying attention to my surroundings: we found ourselves standing directly above a group of feeding chamois. We had just come to the bend in the hill and the animals were not yet spooked, so Toni carefully pointed to

Wild boar on field

European wild boar are just one of Macedonia’s huntable game species. Others include chamois, mouf?on and even wolves. (BRITTANY BODDINGTON)

the biggest of the group. It was obvious with the naked eye that this particular chammy was much bigger in horn than the rest.
Toni made sure that I had the right one picked out and then he bent forward and plugged his ears; he motioned for me to shoot off of his shoulder. The animals had spotted the movement so there was no time to argue. I did as I was told and dropped the chamois in its tracks. I was thrilled, and the long hard day just became a short wonderful day!
The chamois was even more spectacular up close, even bigger than the one my dad Craig had shot a few years before in the same area; that made me smile a little.

THE NEXT DAY we went to hunt in a different area, and there we sat in a blind. The blind overlooked some open fields dotted by a few scattered trees. Toni assured me that lots of animals came through the area as sunset nears. Sure enough, just around 4 p.m., the first group of animals came in, and there was a nice mouflon among them.
I had never shot a mouflon, so Toni checked it out through the binoculars and gave the go-ahead. This mouflon had lovely horns but also a beautiful skin and mane. Since we still had a couple hours of daylight, we hurried to take care of the mouflon and get back into the blind, hoping that we had not disturbed the area too terribly. About an hour went by with no movement, but then a group of European wild boar came trotting in. There were no giants in the group, but Toni’s friend needed a midsized boar for a barbeque, so we picked one that would cook up nicely
and added him to our collection.

BRITTANY AND THE WOLF
The final and most exciting part of hunt in Macedonia was when we went after a wolf. I had never even thought of hunting wolves

Brittany with her wolf

After a local farmer requested that her guide hunt wolves causing problems for his animals,Brittany spent a night in a burned-out, abandoned van that served as a makeshift blind from which to kill this big Balkan wolf with the aid of night vision. (BRITTANY BODDINGTON)

before, since most of my hunting has occurred in areas that do not have them, but I was eager to give it a try. The hunt got more exciting when I found out that we would be using night vision.
We drove out to a remote area where a farmer had been having trouble with wolves and had set out a pig as bait. There was a burnedout old Volkswagen van sitting in the field that had probably been there for two decades at least. Since the animals in the area were already used to it, we used the vehicle as our blind. We settled in and got ready for what was most likely going to be an all-night wait.
About two hours into our sit, I heard a rustling and Toni heard it too. There were shadows moving around the van and toward the bait. We did not want to spook the wolves, so we let them get close to the bait before turning on the night vision. I could see somewhere between six and eight wolves moving around in the scope. They were close by, but I had never used night vision before, so it took me some time to figure out the front end of a wolf from its back.
Toni assured me that we had plenty of time, so I picked the one that looked the biggest to me and I found the ears and worked my way back on the body to where I thought the shoulder would be. The grass was high that time of year, so there was a fair amount of guesswork involved. I got steady and took my shot, and I was surprised to see the wolf somersault in my scope. It also let out a high-pitched noise that convinced us it was hit. We searched and searched, but the high grass hid the wolf too well on that dark night, so we went back sad and empty-handed.
The next morning Toni showed up with a big grin on his face: one of his friends had gone back that morning and found the wolf dead in the grass.
Macedonia is definitely off the beaten path, but it should be a consideration for those of us who like new adventures. The NRA Annual Meeting is just about a month away, so if you are thinking about this as a consideration, come to Nashville and bid on the hunt!
Larysa Switlyk, who last year appeared on the cover of California Sportsman and is a contributor to sister magazine Western Shooting Journal, will also be accompanying the winner to Macedonia for this amazing adventure. Don’t miss out on what could be the hunt of a lifetime! CS
Editor’s notes: For more on hunting Macedonia, see huntingconsortium.com/europe-balkans.htm. Brittany Boddington is a Los Angeles-based hunter, journalist and adventurer. For more on her, check out brittanyboddington.com and facebook. com/brittanyboddington.com.

Lake Mary has a ton of ?shable shoreline and is big enough to comfortably accommodate everything from kayaks to pontoon boats, with plenty of room to spare. (MIKE STEVENS)

MAMMOTH TROUT AWAIT

TWIN LAKES, MAMIE AND GEORGE AMONG TOP-NOTCH FALL FISHING OPPORTUNITIES
By Mike Stevens 

Fall in the Eastern Sierra is characterized by light crowds, mild temperatures and incredible trout fishing that will make the “summer-only” veteran wonder why he or she doesn’t come up after Labor Day every year.
Late-season trout take on an entirely different attitude no matter where on the east side you are chasing them, and the Mammoth Lakes Basin is no exception, as the following breakdown illustrates.

TWIN LAKES
The two things that are evident within minutes of your first visit to Twin Lakes is that there are actually three interlocked lakes with a lot of weeds out there. While the weeds can cause headaches for those fishing from shore who didn’t score one of the few primo spots, they create an ideal environment for trout by giving them a place to hide, as well as support the ultimate source of protein in the form of aquatic insects. Both of those factors make Twin a popular spot for float tubers, fly anglers or a combination of both.
From a float tube, you can kick through the channels along the weedlines and work the open-water areas. Those fishing with spinning gear can attack Twin Lakes with green or brown Rooster Tails, trout jigs in any natural color – the Sierra Slammers jig in the grasshopper color is to die for here – and it’s a great spot for fly-and-bubble fishing with dries like California mosquitoes and callibaitis, or streamers like Doc’s Twin Lakes Special or
olive Matukas.
The upper lake below the waterfall is a great area for larger-model rainbows or big browns that patrol this highly oxygenated, protein-rich spot. The middle lake doesn’t get a lot of angling pressure, but it produces better-than-you-would-think numbers of brook trout along the rock slide. The lower lake stands as the best one for shore fishing, with the best spots being along the road, where open water is within casting range.
Here’s a quick tip for Twin Lakes: The sun dips behind the peaks earlier than at other Mammoth Basin lakes, and that can put the bite into “evening mode” as early as 4 p.m. If you plan on fishing your way around the lakes in late afternoon, start here.

Two men in a boat on lake George

Lake George isn’t the biggest of the Mammoth Basin fisheries, but it’s deeper and has been the most trout-productive of its neighbors heading into the fall. (MIKE STEVENS)

LAKE MARY The largest of the basin’s lakes, Mary has a ton of fishable shoreline and is big enough to comfortably accommodate everything from kayaks to pontoon boats with plenty of room to spare. Naturally, this is a great lake to troll in, and top-line trolling with pink Berkley Flicker Shads or Tasmanian Devils is a great way to locate and hook Lake Mary stockers looking to get fat before the big freeze.
The coves by both boat ramps and stump areas near inlets are historically productive spots for producing big fish, and while Mary isn’t known as a “brown bagging” lake, it will kick out above-average numbers of brown trout around the inlets toward the last couple months of the season.
Bait dunkers can expect easy limits on PowerBait or Mice Tails on longer leaders, or using a water-filled bubble instead of a sinker to stay above the weeds. Lure chuckers do well on all the Sierra standards like Thomas Buoyants, Kastmasters and trout jigs with a trout-worm trailer.
As far as divulging secrets for catching fish at Lake Mary, here is one that I discovered about five years ago and have been taking advantage of ever since. Show up here and fish from 7 to 8 p.m. (This also works in the summer, but you fish until 9 p.m.)
Every night – like clockwork – a major insect hatch takes place, and what seems like every trout in the lake rushes the shore to feed on them. You’ll see dimples and splashes in both directions within 20 feet of the shore, so even rookie bug-slingers can plop a dry fly (size 18 to 20 Parachute black gnats or elk hair caddis) on top of them. And while this feeding frenzy always seems to turn them off of chasing lures, PowerBait fished just beyond where they are visibly feeding can often produce a quick limit.

man on lake bank

Bank anglers should consider a trip to Lake Mamie with some of the best options among all the Mammoth Basin lakes. Float tubers also do well here. (MIKE STEVENS)

LAKE MAMIE
Mamie is similar to Twin Lakes in that it is shallow and has a fair amount of weedy areas. But it is much more accommodating to shore fishermen, so much so that the best spots are among the easiest to get to.
It’s all about finding the deeper holes and channels that dot and carve through the smallest lake in the basin, and most of these spots are conveniently located directly in front of the parking lot near the outlet or within a 15-minute walk up either shore.
Unless you get there early, the shore right by the lot will be occupied, but you can typically sneak off to the left side and access the brush-lined cove near the resort’s boat dock. It’s a great spot to throw Buoyants on a slow retrieve for rainbows cruising the shoreline early and late in the day. Larger trout like to hang out near the bridge on the other side of the parking lot for a few days after they have been stocked. A local secret for catching these trophies is tossing nightcrawlers with no weight and letting them drift in the current as it funnels toward the outlet before dumping off the cliff into Twin Lakes.
Like Twin Lakes, Mamie is a great option for float tubers using a long rod. Positioning your tube well offshore and directly in front of the parking lot and stripping olive or brown Woolly Buggers on an intermediate or sinking line will produce both numbers and lunkers at Mamie.
Sometimes, trailing smaller nymphs like Hare’s Ears, Pheasant Tails and Prince Nymphs behind them can make all the difference when plying these waters for fall trout.
“Use sinking lines and brightly colored red, orange and fluorescent green streamers to draw strikes from bigger fish,” says Doug Rodricks of Sierra Drifters Guide Service (760-935-4250; sierradrifters.com). “That really applies to all the lakes in the basin throughout the season.”
Bait aficionados can fish PowerBait, Berkley Mice Tails or Pinched Crawlers on a shorter leader in these locations, and if you want to get into the fly bite at Mamie on spinning gear, you can fish the aforementioned streamers on a fly-and-bubble rig (fill bubble all the way with wet flies) and do just as well as the tubers, once you find them.

Man holding brown spotted fish

This is a typical late-season brown that Eastern Sierra anglers catch in bunches this time of year. Twin Lakes provides anglers with good locations for catching the German trout. (MIKE STEVENS)

LAKE GEORGE While smaller in surface acreage than other lakes here, George makes up for it in depth. A good portion of the shoreline requires a little rock-hopping to make your way around, but there are plenty of bank-fishing spots to accommodate the fishing pressure ol’ “Jorge” receives all summer. Indeed, this upper basin lake was this past season’s most consistent trout producer.
The best way to attack George is to start off on the shoreline to the right of the boat dock and use spoons like Buoyants, Kastmasters or Hot Shots to experiment with depth and cover as much of the cavernous water column that you can. Hit all the spots as you move up the shoreline toward the first inlet and spend a bit more time in this area, as it is one of the most productive areas for larger trout on the lake.
Something you also might be lucky enough to notice at Lake George is how groups of trout like to school up and move up and down the shoreline, which makes them the perfect target for trout jigs or trout worms rigged on a size 8 Owner Mosquito hook and a BB splitshot. Finding an elevated section of bank will help you spot them; if they breeze through and disappear, wait about 20 minutes or so before you chase after them because they will likely swing by again.
Trolling is so-so at George, but trophies have been caught by guys going deep with leadcore line and Needlefish. If you want to fish bait along the steeper shorelines, it’s best to use a water-filled bubble rather than a lead sinker because the neutrally buoyant set-up will slowly make its way through that deep water and find biters eventually. CS 

chopper on helipad

THE PERFECT KIWI HUNT

FREE RANGE OR GAME ESTATE? FOOT OR FLY? PUBLIC OR PRIVATE LAND? A GUIDE TO SELECTING THE BEST NEW ZEALAND ADVENTURE FOR YOU | SECOND OF FOUR PARTS
By Simon Guild 

Editor’s note: This is part two of a four-part series on New Zealand hunting. Last issue reviewed the country’s modern hunting history.

OK, so you have a dream of hunting red stag in New Zealand. You jump online and start researching outfitters.
You quickly work out there are more than 100 such companies to choose from, all offering variations on the big New Zealand trophy species, along with the appropriate superlative claims of being the best there is. There is also a wide range of prices, and not being one to pay more than you need to, you select outfitters based on what they promise, with one eye firmly fixed on the dollars involved.
There is one operation that lures you in. The claims are impressive – a 100-percent success rate, record-quality free-range animals, guarantees and, best of all, the price seems too good to be true.

Red stags from two different types of hunts: A good free-range trophy stag (left) features a lighter beam, fewer points and is narrower. With a typical game estate stag the animal’s heavy beam, multiple points and wide spread are noticeable.

Red stags from two different types of hunts: A good free-range trophy stag (left) features a lighter beam, fewer points and is narrower. With a typical game estate stag the animal’s heavy beam, multiple points and wide spread are noticeable. (HIGH PEAK HUNTING)

You book your trip and before you know it, you’ve landed in New Zealand, and are en route to the hunting area. Yes, the guide was late on the pickup and the accommodations are less than expected. But hey, you’re here for the hunting and the hunting looks impressive. You hunt hard for the next five days and see a few smaller stags, but nothing like what you’ve been promised. That’s what it’s all about, you tell yourself; the trophy has to be earned and you’ve put in the hard yards before. But nothing shows up over the next two days.
You start to wonder, and then your guide approaches you. He’s aware that you need to fly home in three days; and if you want to take a trophy home, he has another place you can try. It’ll cost a little more, he says, but it’s guaranteed. Reluctantly, you agree to the extra money and pack up camp.
The new place looks OK, and within the first few hours you see a multitude of stags of the quality you seek. You bite the bullet and spend that money burning a hole in your pocket; but who cares, you have the stag of a lifetime! You get home and submit your monster free-range trophy to the record book. Well done, they say; just sign the declaration and get your outfitter to do the same.
However, the outfitter refuses. The stag isn’t free-range, but a selectively bred animal released illegally. You soon realize that anyone with an informed eye can tell this in an instant. Your dream hunt has turned into a nightmare.
This type of story is rare, but it has happened.
Hunting in New Zealand is largely unregulated and virtually anyone can pick up a rifle and call a guide, which opens the door for substandard operators to prey on the unwary. The purpose of this portion of our four-part series is to educate you, the hunter. There are different hunting options and environments in New Zealand, and we hope that you can choose the right one with confidence.

FREE RANGE OR GAME ESTATE?
There are two primary types of recognized legitimate hunting environments in New Zealand. One is free-range, where animals should be wild in every sense of the word; the other is game estate, where animals are managed within an enclosure for the express purpose of hunting.
Free-range is pretty self-explanatory. By definition, free-range animals should be born and raised as part of a wild population, with no barriers to roam, be they natural or manmade, end of story.
All New Zealand game species exist in free-range environments, either in pockets or widespread throughout the country. A genuine New Zealand free-range hunt is one to truly be proud of, regardless of the species or trophy taken. Herein lies the key: If it’s a massive trophy you want, then free-range is possibly not the option for you.
Invariably, a free-range trophy will be more challenging to hunt than the game-estate equivalent. It will also be smaller on average. The dimorphism between free-range and estate is pronounced in some species, no more so than red stag hunts. Indeed, a 300-inch free-range stag is an alltime trophy, compared to estate animals that are currently topping an extraordinary 700 inches.
Free-range environments exist on both public and private land. The former is a free-for-all, where the most dedicated local and overseas hunter wins, while private land can yield some incredibly good trophies for the hunter prepared to pay a bit more for the privilege. But regardless, every genuine free-range trophy should be from a genuine wild hunt.
Game estates, also known as safari parks, game parks or hunting

Two people in a helicopter

A helicopter is a must for getting better access into New Zealand’s Southern Alps, which are full of huge red stag options for traveling hunters. (HIGH PEAK HUNTING)

estates, are a more complex beast. Hunters should be aware that it is not illegal to shoot an animal on a farm in New Zealand. With this scenario as an absolute baseline, hunters need to exercise considerable discretion when it comes to selecting the right property, as acreages and animal “wildness” can vary hugely.
To this end, the New Zealand Association of Game Estates (NZAGE) sets rigid standards around hunting properties, of which there are 20 or so members. These standards are primarily concerned with the client’s safety, the animal’s welfare and the sanctity of a fair-chase hunt. The term “fair chase” is vital here; basically, the animal needs to have both the opportunity and the inclination to evade the hunter.
Game estates will invariably deliver the hunter a wider range of considerably better quality trophies of any given species than a free-range environment. However, the onus is on the hunter to do the research to ensure that the hunting experience can live up to the quality of the trophies on offer.
There is a third “option,” one that many in our industry, including me, are quick to dismiss on the grounds that it is both illegal and a lie. This is the “released free-range” trophy, as described in the aforementioned nightmare scenario. In a nutshell, a farm-raised animal is released into a free-range environment and passed off as a free-range trophy. This happens most frequently in the case of red stag. If this is something that doesn’t sit well with you, ask some hard questions of any outfitter who promises a free-range red stag trophy over 320 Safari Club International points.
FOOT OR FLY?
In New Zealand, we have less restriction on the use of helicopters in hunting than many of the countries from which our clients come from. Primarily utilized in the free-range environment, the ability for hunters to use helicopters to assist in the hunt is extensive, ranging from access only, where the hunter and guide alight to complete the location and stalking of animals on foot, through to aerially assisted trophy hunting, or AATH.
AATH involves extensive use of the aircraft to access the hunting area, locate the target species, set the hunter down in proximity to the animal and then facilitate trophy recovery.
Whether you choose to hunt on foot alone, utilize a helicopter for access or go the full AATH depends on a number of factors: time, budget, fitness and your own internal hunter’s code.
Invariably, when you involve a helicopter, the cost will go up, the time required will go down and the fitness required will become less of an issue. For example, a successful wilderness hunt for a bull tahr involving foot access and spike camps could take five days or longer. By contrast, a successful AATH could be achieved in a morning.
As far as which outfitters to use – again, this is entirely down to the hunter to research – some outfitters are 100-percent foot hunters and some may employ helicopters for access; others specialize in AATH. Of course, many will offer the whole gamut. The trick here is not to be goaded into a more convenient, profitable or easier method than you originally intended because that is what suits the outfitter.

PUBLIC LAND VERSUS PRIVATE LAND Like most hunting locations, New Zealand is no different in that we have the option of hunting both public and privately owned land. Again, the option you choose will come down to the same criteria as the helicopter versus foot decision: time, money, fitness and ethics.
Public land, by its intended nature, is a free-for-all. There is no such thing as an exclusive concession on any public land in New Zealand, despite claims to the contrary. Not only could a hunter be competing with other guides and their clients, but also the New Zealand hunting public. In short, you don’t know whom you’ll be sharing your hunting area with.
Access is a big consideration, and the easier the country, the greater the hunting pressure. That will make it harder to find a good trophy. Chances can be greatly increased by heading further back into the wilderness – either under one’s own steam or by aid of helicopter. That adds cost but saves time and energy in the process.
On the other hand, private land allows the hunter access to land that can and should be managed (in this sense) for the purposes of trophy hunting. Of course, the flip side is greater cost in terms of access fees, trophy fees or both. Private land can be either free-range or game estate (i.e. fenced), as described earlier. When hunting private

Two people hiking up a mountainin New Zealand

The key for a positive New Zealand hunt is selecting the right environment that best matches your trophy aspirations, budget, physical limitations and anything else that could de?ne a great experience. (HIGH PEAK HUNTING)

land, hunters should expect better access, game management, safety, trophy quality, trophy abundance and lodging as benefits.
Of course, many New Zealand hunting adventures involve a combination of free-range, game estate, public and private lands and could well utilize a helicopter somewhere in the mix. The key is selecting the right environment that best matches your trophy aspirations, budget, physical limitations and your de?nition of “a good hunt” for each trophy or experience you seek.
Hopefully you now have a better understanding of the hunting environments in New Zealand. In the next issue, we are going to explore a few fatal – in the sense of destroying a quality hunting experience – mistakes that hunters often make when booking their New Zealand adventure. CS
Editor’s note: Simon Guild is a director of High Peak, one of the oldest hunting estates in New Zealand. He and his brother Hamish co-wrote The Hunters’ Guidebook to New Zealand with the aim of providing quality decision-making guidelines to visiting international hunters. Find out more at huntingredstag.com.

A packtrain transports horse riders and their gear into the spectacular, lake-rich high country of the Eastern Sierras. (FRONTIER PACK STATION)

Horsin’ Around In the Sierras

TRAVEL BY PACKTRAIN TO THE STATE’S MOST STUNNING WILDERNESS TROUT FISHERIES

By Chris Cocoles 

Getting to the Eastern Sierra backcountry can be a challenge, unless you have experience hiking the Pacific Crest Trail or just happen to have horses that can get you (and your fishing gear) from point A to point B.
One Bishop-based out?tter has all your concerns covered.
“When you get up to the mountain, you want to hike or fly fish. There are only two ways to get up there: you either hike or you go on horseback,” says Rhett Harty of Frontier Pack Station (888-437-MULE, 6853; frontierpacktrain.com). “So we’ll pack all their stuff, get them up the mountain and set up camp. That’s kind of the core business we do.”

Wild mustangs in a Sierra meadow

One of Frontier’s signature excursions is riding out to the Truman Meadow Area in Inyo National Forest to watch wild mustangs frolic in freedom. (FRONTIER PACK STATION)

The company, which was established by brothers Kent and Dave Dohnel, carries the motto, “You are the boss!” Guests can customize their trip to their specific itinerary. It could mean fishing for native golden trout in a remote lake or stream. It could be checking out wild mustangs that roam free in Truman Meadow Area in the Inyo National Forest. It could be hiking or simply taking in the beauty of the Yosemite National Park and Ansel Adams/Minaret Wilderness. It could even be the popular yoga trip for those who want to mix horseback rides in the wilderness with a spiritual twist. There is a lot of ground packtrains can cover in a widespread area.
One of the special trips Frontier Pack Station offers is a five-day golden trout trip that begins at June Lake in the Eastern Sierra to the Ansel Adams Wilderness.
Fishing stops along the way include Thousand Island Lake and the headwaters of the iconic San Joaquin River for golden/ rainbow trout hybrids, brookies and rainbows of Rush Creek, and the signature stop, Alger Lakes for wild golden trout that can measure out between 12 and 16 inches.
“The golden trout trips are kind of the core of the business. You can only catch golden trout (high) up in the mountains to specific places. You’re talking 10,600 feet (at Alger Lakes),” Harty says.
“It’s a unique experience to catch these fish. And it’s not like they’re little either; these aren’t 6-inchers. You’re catching trout that are a different color from anything else that you catch. And you really can’t catch them anywhere else. These fish aren’t really pressured, but you have to work for it.”
Watching wild mustangs roaming free is another memorable excursion.

Anglers at Alger Lakes

Anglers can cast flies for various species in lakes and creeks at or around 10,000 feet, including a rare chance to catch native golden trout at Alger Lakes. (FRONTIER PACK STATION)

“Our first trip of the season (in early June) it had rained on us and hailed on us. Then it was beautifully sunny. It was cold and then it was warm. And all the while we’re observing these mustangs,” Harty says.
“We saw two stallions fighting; we saw an older stallion racing a younger stallion around the group. You talk about a horse race; we watched these horses run for probably 4,000 yards in a dead sprint, and they went by us while still sprinting. You saw (American Pharoah win) the Triple Crown (this year). We saw a real horse race.”
Do-it-yourself trips are popular with many outdoorsmen and -women, but there’s also something to be said about an outfitter who will adhere to your specific needs, set you and get you into some California’s most spectacular country.

A group of friends in an Eastern Sierra pond

The good life in the backcountry of the Eastern Sierra means partying with friends on a custom horse-pack trip with all your meals taken care of. (FRONTIER PACK STATION)

“It’s stunning. There are only a few places where you can get some of (the scenery) and you have to work for it,” Harty says. “You think you’re in the trees and all of a sudden you get to clearing and then you’re in the mountains. I’ve been doing this for eight or nine years and I’m still blown away when I get into the mountains.” CS

Fisherman at the lake

THE SEVEN-DAY PLAN

HAVE A WEEK TO FISH THE EASTERN SIERRA? TRY THIS ITINERARY
By Mike Stevens

With a quarter-century career of Eastern Sierra fishing in my rear-

Brookie in Skelton Lake

Trout as beautiful as their surroundings can be found in the Eastern Sierras; this brookie came from Skelton Lake, a hike-in water. (MIKE STEVENS)

view mirror, I feel I can maximize the efficiency with which I chase trout up there by following a finely tuned, day-by-day game plan for trips of various lengths. For nearly three decades, I have discovered new spots, eliminated some others, and have taken a wide variety of factors into consideration when deciding on which day of the trip I will make each outing.

Obviously, this attack plan is geared toward the type of fishing I do, the areas I do it in, and where I’m based. So I don’t expect anyone to do exactly what I do, but maybe if you see where I’m coming from and how I get there, you can come up with a similar playbook of your own.

Since my standard trip length is a week – give or take a day – and it’s based out of Mammoth Lakes, that is what I have outlined here. It admittedly reeks of OCD, but at the same time, it eliminates a ton of wasted time that could otherwise be used spanking some trout.
DAY ZERO
This is my travel day. I call it Day Zero because fishing opportunities are limited after a six-hour drive, and if I don’t catch anything, that would otherwise mean a Day 1 skunk, and that’s just not the way I want to get a trip started. However, Day Zero fish are bonus fish that I do count in the tally for the trip. Any Day Zero fishing is going to be done somewhere low maintenance, such as a drive-up spot that I won’t need to unbury any special gear to get to. In recent years, I have readied a rod to fish so that if I decide to check a spot out before I reach my lodging and unload, I can get in the game easily.

My Day Zero spots have included Convict Lake, the Mammoth Lakes Basin, Convict, Mammoth and McGee Creeks, and even spots hours south on Highway 395, like the streams coming out of the mountains between Lone Pine and Bishop. I have also done pretty well just turning off wherever I see one of those fishing road signs and go where it takes me.

If any fish are caught on Day Zero, I consider it a victory.
DAY 1
On my first full day of the trip, I stick to the easy-access game plan, but it works a little differently when I am working with an entire day instead of just a few hours. I still go to driveup spots, mainly because I am still acclimating to the altitude (the town of Mammoth Lakes sits nearly a mile and a half above sea level) and I’m not going to charge into the backcountry yet. But I am willing to walk a fair amount on flat ground.

I want to go to places that I know will have good numbers of fish on the board, even if they are just hatchery rainbows this time out. I want to get a strong start, work the kinks out, and hit the ground running toward my 100-trout (for the week) goal.

I hit the Upper Owens for at least part of Day 1. I can drive along the river, and while I do a fair amount of walking, it’s painless because it’s flat and open. Getting skunked is very rare; the action is wide open and produces gaudy numbers, plus you have a shot at big fish that snuck out of Lake Crowley.

Mammoth Lakes and Convict are still on the radar at this point, but

Lake Mamie

After a nice dinner in town, summer in the high country allows you to head to a secluded spot like Lake Mamie and cast for trout. (MIKE STEVENS)

Rock Creek Lake has also joined the fray because it’s a bit too far out of town for Day Zero, but there’s plenty of time to head down on Day 1. The lake is also easy to get around and is very much a drive-up impoundment. A boater? Perfect day for this one.
DAY 2

Now things are starting to get serious. Day 2 is always a Sunday for me, which means much of the weekend crowd or people whose own week long vacations are over and are now heading out of town, so any spot that typically receives heavy pressure will now be easier to fish. I also want to fish any spot on my list of favorites because if it kicks butt, I may want to return there later in the week. By now I’ve gotten used to the altitude, so at this point I can comfortably do a moderate hike. Saddlebag Lake up Tioga Pass is my favorite drive-up lake on the Eastern Sierras, and it’s almost a lock for a Day 2 spot. It takes about an hour to get there from Mammoth, and then I will take the water taxi to the far side of the lake and ?sh the shoreline right there where I’m dropped off.

Anyone else on the boat typically heads right up the trail into the 20 Lakes Basin and I’ll have most of my area to myself. I have caught big fish here, piled up numbers, and landed them on the fly rod and any other tactic you can think of. Fishing is usually so good here I will start swapping lures out that are working just to see what else I can catch them on.

If things should slow down at Saddlebag, I’ll hike up the trail and beat up brookies with the fly rod at lakes as close as a 15-minute scramble up the hill. On the way down from here, I will pull off and fish Ellery Lake by the dam where I have had some incredible days on stocked rainbows. Admittedly, I’ve had some skunkers too, but it’s right there; I have to do it. After lunch at the Whoa Nellie Deli in Lee Vining, I’ll regroup at base camp
in Mammoth and head out to an easy spot like the ones listed for Day 1 or 2.

Mountain trail

If you drove to Saddlebag Lake around Lee Vining, it’s a short hike from there to this spectacular fishing hole, Greenstone Lake. (MIKE STEVENS)

DAY 3
Vive la backcountry! Saddlebag Lake is a long day, but it’s pretty relaxing since the water taxi does most of the work, so I’m fully acclimated to altitude with fresh legs on Day 3. It’s time to put on some miles, and for me that usually means my favorite backcountry vein, the Duck Pass Trail.

With a trailhead near the back of Lake Mary, this trail brings me to Lakes Arrowhead, Skelton and Barney, in that order. Arrowhead gets passed up by most trail anglers, but it’s full of brook trout and a few Kamloop rainbows to make things exciting.

Skelton is a big lake as hike-in waters go, and sometimes fishing is so good there I don’t go any further. Barney, about 3½ miles in, always produces brookies. If I come back having caught any less than 25 fish up there, I’m a little bummed.

The base camp regroup usually happens around 3 p.m after this one, and it usually involves a stop at Mammoth Brewing and a nap, but again, a close and easy outing is still on the table that evening.
DAY 4
This is either a hard backcountry day, or my newest addition, a day spent working the San Joaquin River. I explored this area in pretty good detail last year, and I actually feel kind of lame for the fact that it took this long to do so.

I pick up the shuttle up near the ski resort that takes visitors to attractions like Devils Postpile, Reds Meadow, Rainbow Falls, and a couple of small lakes and cool campgrounds. Tying all this together is the San Joaquin River, which offers a legit shot at a Sierra grand slam – four species in one day – and good fishing on lures or flies.

I jump off the shuttle at the furthest upstream access point to the river, and work my way down. Walking along the river is easy My after-dinner runs are a biggie. After dinner each evening, I will head up to the Mammoth Lakes Basin and fish until dark. I’ll start at Twin Lakes and work my way up, sometimes spending as little as 20 minutes at a spot before moving on if I don’t like the way things look. Almost without fail, one of these lakes is going to produce a handful of fish, or even wide-open action. I like to end up at Lake Mary, because by 7 p.m., people have packed up and left and trout start visibly feeding very close to shore, all over the lake. I’ve had ridiculous fishing tossing Sierra Slammers jigs up to 9 p.m. – even if I’m wearing a headlamp, they’re still biting in the dark. I have also smoked them on long casts with a fly-and-bubble rig, or closer to shore with the fly rod. There are also times when I will get a feeling to check out a spot, earning it a hit on the following year’s seven-day rotation. That’s how I found Ellery Lake, and it’s also why Convict Lake is back on the radar after I gave up on it after a couple bad trips there over a decade ago. Stuff like this can occur at any time. While I’m based in Mammoth, if I get a tip, want to mix up the venue or, in some cases, get chased off the mountain by inclement weather (it takes a lot, but it has happened), I will head down to fish Bishop Creek Canyon. Both forks of the creek and North Lake have always been good to me; it’s just too far out of my zone for me to include it on the annual game plan. –MSthrough campgrounds and along roads, but it gets to where you need to scramble up a hill to get over an obstacle. There is some bushwacking to get to fishy-looking places, some wet wading, sliding down rocks and so on. So even though it’s all downhill once you get to the bottom, you can jump on the shuttle for a ride back up; it can beat you up. It’s a full day down there, and at the end your legs are tired and scraped up, but it’s a great area to fish and well worth it.
DAY 5
Ah, the lazy day. After trekking uphill on the Duck Pass trail and getting beat up by rocks, sticks and exposure along the San Joaquin, sleeping in one day doesn’t seem like the worst idea in the world.

Granted, I’m not talking about the Vegas bachelor party sense of sleeping in, but I think I deserve the right to stay in the rack until 7 or so, have breakfast, and get back in the game by 8, or, dare I say, 9 a.m.

At that point, where I fish is wide open. It might be the Owens again or a short roadie to the June Lake Loop to fish Rush Creek or a lake; or it could be a longer jaunt to Virginia Lakes. I might be a whim to check an area I’m unfamiliar with, but the one activity I am not doing is hiking.

DAY 6
It could be a up a new trail, or back up one I went up earlier in the week like Duck Pass if it was awesome, or really, any spot that stood out as damn close to a sure thing when it comes to fishing success. Wherever I go, it will be knowing that the end of the trip is near, and I am going to fish hard all day, no matter what. Good fishing can really throw a curveball into the game plan at any time, but that’s a good thing.

A few years ago, I fished Convict Lake four different days because it was so stupid-good. The following year, I fished for an hour and that
was it. As structured and OCD as my attack plan is, it does allow for calling audibles to go where fishing’s good.
DAY 7
The easiest decision of all is where to go on the last full fishing day of the trip – the spot where I killed it. Day 7 has been Saddlebag Lake for me so often that it’s the main reason why I know I’m going to hit it early in the week, because I want to make sure going there twice is a possibility.

In rare cases, it’s been another day hike – for instance, if I caught 50 at Skelton or something. In years where I have had about the same success rate wherever I went, I might end up at the Owens one more time because of the numbers and quality factor. But at this point, I’m not only fishing and hoping that I’m about to eclipse the 100-fish mark, I’m reflecting on the whole trip and trying to determine what adjustments can be made to this seven-day madness next time. CSFisherman at the lake

Two stags on a grassy hill

Stag Party Invitation

TRACING NEW ZEALAND’S THRIVING HUNTING INDUSTRY | FIRST OF FOUR PARTS
By Simon Guild

     The snow tussocks begin to wave in a different direction, indicating a shift in the cool wind. Your scent is now heading right for the quarry, and you know it’s only a matter of time before he’s onto you. Your pulse quickens, despite your best efforts to remain calm.
You’ve been here before, not this location, but in this situation. It is familiar, yet somehow different – exotic even. You remind yourself that this very moment is why you’re here: 7,000 miles from home.

Author and his brother

“We want people to come to (New Zealand) with an adventure in mind, not a canned hunt,” says the author Simon Guild, left, here with his brother, Hamish Guild. (HIGH PEAK HUNTING)

You steady your rest in anticipation of what you know is coming. Sure enough, the stag lifts his head and turns to face you – its awesome rack on full display – trying to work
out what it is awakening his nostrils. You allow yourself a moment to appreciate his magnificence before focusing in on your scope; you have mere seconds before he’s gone. You steady the crosshairs and squeeze the trigger like you have so many times before.
HUNTING THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORLD
Does this sound like something that lights your fire? You’re not alone. Every year, hunters from around the world make the pilgrimage to New Zealand to hunt the mighty red stag and a raft of other species that make up the most famous big-game hunting destination in the South Pacific. The dream New Zealand hunt is what they’re after, and making it happen shouldn’t be hard. However, like any high-involvement experience, there are a few simple yet vital actions that can ensure the dream becomes a re
ality and not a nightmare. Add this to the fact that hunting in New Zealand is largely unregulated and you’ll soon start to realize that a little research goes a long way.
My name is Simon Guild and my family has been hosting

A hunter, advancing crouched with gun in hand

A hunter on High Peak demonstrates the “spotand-stalk” technique in New Zealand’s rugged terrain. (HIGH PEAK HUNTING)

international hunters on our estate, High Peak, for almost 30 years. We have seen a large amount of clients over the years, sharing their experiences as they undertake a journey of anticipation, excitement and ultimately success.      Unfortunately, we’ve also heard our share of horror stories.
Over the next four issues of California Sportsman, I will be sharing our knowledge of the industry with you, along with a few insights that we’ve distilled into some vital actions to ensure you make the right decisions when booking your New Zealand hunt.
In this issue, we’ll set the scene by exploring the history of hunting in New Zealand, along with a bit about location and species, in terms that are relevant to you, the international-traveling hunter. In the next issue, we’ll look at the right type of New Zealand hunt for you, followed by the seven costly mistakes to avoid making. In the fourth and final installment, we’ll give you 10 frequently asked questions you should bring up to your outfitter.
Armed with this knowledge, I guarantee that you’ll be able to go forth and make your inquiries with confidence.

A HISTORY LESSON
     Understanding where the New Zealand hunting industry came from provides a sound background to the advice that will follow. Wind the clock back 150 years and you’ll see a New Zealand with no species of big game – at least not as we know them.
New Zealand was a country entirely dominated by birds. The early European settlers, who were missing their favorite pastimes from back home, set about introducing myriad game species – from rabbits through to moose. Some introductions were successful, some less so, but all species were introduced on the basis of being available for every New Zealander to hunt.

Two hunters and a dead Tahr pose for a photograph

A snowcapped setting and a Himalayan tahr are part of an exotic hunting experience in New Zealand. (HIGH PEAK HUNTING)

Gone was the elitism and privilege of European hunting, and to this day it remains the right of every Kiwi to grab his or her rifle and head into some of the 4 million acres of public land to hunt.
Despite this egalitarian approach, some species did a little too well. In the case of red deer, the world-leading quality of the wild trophies in the 1930s and ’40s soon gave way to overpopulation and resulting habitat destruction. In response, the New Zealand government implemented deer-culling programs in the 1950s and ’60s, whereupon paid hunters armed with military surplus .303 rifles would head into the bush for weeks on end with the sole purpose of reducing deer numbers.
A few enterprising hunters began to realize there was a demand for the venison harvested as a result, and an export trade was quickly developed. While deer were recovered from remote locations by horseback, jet boat and bush plane in the beginning, it was the introduction of helicopters that really made an impact on the numbers. Initially using the machines as a means of transporting the meat out of the wilderness, the helicopter crews rapidly evolved into highly efficient aerial gun platforms, so good at what they did that they soon realized they were going to shoot themselves out of a job!
Again the pioneers adapted to the situation and turned their flying gunships into flying live-recovery platforms. The express purpose of this was to capture live deer and sling them back to newly established deer farms.
New Zealand deer farming was thus born and gave rise to a new industry in conjunction with the venison: deer velvet. The highly valued antler could fetch some serious money in the developing Asian markets, and New Zealand deer farmers quickly worked out
how to breed bigger and better antlers to capitalize on this growth.
Now, you can probably see where this is going. As a direct result of the breeding of better velvet stags, farmers also began to breed significantly wider, heavier and more multi-pointed trophy heads.
Before long, New Zealand was producing red deer trophies far in excess of any other country, and international hunters were starting to take note. Thus, the modern New Zealand trophy hunting industry was born, with red stag as its cornerstone prize among big game, closely supported by Himalayan tahr, alpine chamois, elk, fallow deer, wild boar and a handful of other species.

A GREAT HUNTING OPPORTUNITY

Two hunters and a dead New Zealand Red Stag pose for a picture

Hamish Guild and a client celebrate a New Zealand red stag. The country’s trophy population has become a coveted option for international hunters. (HIGH PEAK HUNTING)

So what does this mean to you, the international traveling trophy hunter? Well, you now know that hunting in New Zealand is relatively free of restrictions in terms of seasons and access. You know how our big game species came to be here and how New Zealand came to lead the world in red deer and wapiti (elk) trophy genetics. And you know that the New Zealand hunting industry is an unregulated environment, one where keeping your wits about you in the initial planning stages can result in a life-changing experience for the better.
In the next issue, we’ll explore the different hunting environments in New Zealand, how they may relate to your ethics and preferences as a hunter, and a few important things that you really should be aware of. CS

Editor’s note: Simon Guild is a director of High Peak, one of the oldest hunting estates in New Zealand. He and his brother Hamish co-wrote The Hunters’ Guidebook to New Zealand with the aim of providing quality decision-making guidelines to visiting international hunters. Find out more at huntingredstag.com.