Media Release: Mountain Safety Council (MSC), Police, LandSAR and MetService keen to ensure all hunters make it home this season

The NZ Mountain Safety Council is strongly advising hunters who are participating in the annual deer hunting ‘Roar’ to focus on identifying their target correctly. Chief executive Mike Daisley is clear that these tragic events are preventable.

“We’ve known for a long time that misidentification incidents are from people not following the basics of the firearms safety code, and so could be considered wholly preventable.”

“What we know now that is different from years gone by is more about the shooter,” he said.

The recently released insights document specifically focusing on hunting ‘A Hunter’s Tale, A deep dive into hunting incidents in New Zealand’ produced by MSC has brought several data sources together for the first time. The data partners included ACC, DOC, NZSAR, NZ Police, Sport NZ, Coronial Services of NZ, Fish & Game, NCIS and Tourism NZ. The process MSC went through to produce ‘A Hunters Tale’ is robust, and comprises a ‘state of the nation’ for the hunting community.

Hon. Minister Peter Dunne, who is leading a wider firearms review for Parliament was glowing in his view of the publication.

“This report represents a significant moment in our country’s collective understanding of the nature, scale and risks of hunting in New Zealand,” said Mr Dunne.

“A Hunter’s Tale provides a deep-dive into data sourced from a wide range of government departments and outdoor sector groups to compile a detailed snapshot of what it means to be a hunter in New Zealand,” said Mr Dunne

‘This report provides a sensible and measured contribution to the wider discussion on how to successfully manage potential risks to people’s safety while enjoying our great outdoors,” said Mr Dunne.

“I very much hope that A Hunter’s Tale can be used to establish an evidentiary baseplate for discussing how to best manage the limited risks that are posed by hunting and manage timely and effective management of those risks.” Mr Dunne concluded.

Police say the data reinforces that good firearms safety practice should be at the forefront of users’ minds all times.

“We want hunting to be an enjoyable experience for everyone — but sadly, there have been many avoidable tragedies and incidents where people have been killed or injured by hunters not following the basic firearms rules — particularly by not being 110% sure their target is in fact live game before taking a shot. If in the slightest doubt, do not shoot,” says Inspector Roly Williams.

“We remind hunters to take extreme care to ensure their firearm remains safe and secure until the moment you are absolutely certain of your target and intend to fire. There is no taking it back once the trigger has been pulled, and the last thing Police officers want is to be knocking on the doors of families to tell them that loved ones are not coming home.” Mr Williams concluded.

A Hunter’s Tale has now been released free to the public to read and download. The report has some sobering statistics for those heading out this year. Misidentification remains the biggest cause of fatality for big game hunters.

“38% of big game hunting fatalities are from are from misidentification. These are completely avoidable incidents that change families in an instant,” said Mr Daisley

“What’s also troubling is that 88% of all north island big game fatalities involve a firearm,’ he added.

“It’s worth noting that if you combine March and April together, you have 56% of fatalities and 40% of search and rescue events.”

Big game hunters are being urged by the council to focus on safe practices overall, with a particular focus on target identification.

“‘Identifying your target beyond all doubt’ is one of the seven basic rules of safe firearms handling,” said Mr Daisley

‘Hunters should sight the head, neck and shoulder of the animal all at the same time, or at least sufficient of the animal to confirm target identification,” said Mr Daisley

“As we’ve said for years, no shooter should ever fire at shape, colour, movement or sound alone” said Mr Daisley

“Under certain circumstances, the brain can trick the eyes particularly if there is pressure to fill the freezer or get a trophy for the wall. Assume any shape, colour, movement or sound is a human until you can prove otherwise,” added Mr Daisley

It’s clear that the ultimate responsibility for target identification sits with the shooter. However, wearing coloured clothing that contrasts with the environment — including deer — can help you be seen by other hunters.

“While there may be no version of blaze that will ever provide 100% peace of mind in all conditions, it’s a good way to increase your chances of being identified as a hunter and not an animal and is therefore recommended,” said Mr Daisley

Daisley was apprehensive about the upcoming season particularly having been so intimately connected to the recent insights from the council.

“I’ve got to say, knowing the research as well as I do, I can’t help being worried for one or two families this year who will have a family member that won’t be with them come Christmas. The tragic thing is that the incidents are avoidable,” concluded Mr Daisley

Lisa Murray, communications meteorologist says it should come as no surprise after the weather we’ve had across the country that backcountry areas in the North Island are likely to be sodden, and very difficult to travel through. 
 “There is a high chance of isolated slips as well as high river levels,” said Murray

“High river levels may persist for a few days, particularly if there is more rain forecast for your region.”

“New Zealand is moving into a period of settled weather over the weekend and into Monday as a ridge of high pressure passes over the country. Looking out to next week there is a low approaching from the west which will bring cloud and rain. The global weather models show uncertainty in the exact positioning of this low, so it’s important to keep up to date with the latest forecast to see if it will affect your area.”

“Autumn is an unsettled time weather wise and it is best to be prepared when heading out, especially if you are heading into alpine regions. We advise you to keep up to date with the latest mountain forecasts at,” she concluded.

Steve Caldwell chief executive of LandSAR points out that preparing for the worst is a key part of hunting in remote regions for trophy animals.

“Hunters going out during this time are often a long way from a track in remote gullies and ridgelines. Because of this, we’d strongly encourage hunters to plan their hunt carefully.”

“Making sure an ‘intentions form’ is filled out is a key part of helping rescuers find you should things go wrong.”

“If you’re going off track you should consider renting or buying a PLB. That way if you fall or have a serious injury, activating a PLB makes you a whole lot easier to find in remote regions.”



Please contact Nick Kingstone, Communications Manager for further information or to arrange interviews with Mike Daisley.

Nick Kingstone



Incident statistics for Big Game Hunting in New Zealand.

Source: ‘A Hunters Tale, A deep dive into hunting incidents in New Zealand — Mountain Safety Council, 2017’

· 32% of all big game hunting search and rescues occur in April.

· 56% of big game hunting fatalities are in March and April.

· 88% of North Island big game hunting fatalities involved a firearm, South Island is 29%.

· 38% (6/16) of big game hunting fatalities are from are from misidentification.

· Since 1979, 64 people have been fatally shot due to a hunter misidentifying their target.

Data range fatality (06/2007- 06/2016)

Data range search (07/2010–06/2015)

Read and download the report here —

THE Seven Basic Rules of Safe Firearms Handling


- Check every firearm yourself.

- Pass or accept only an open or unloaded firearm.


- Loaded or unloaded, always point the muzzle in a safe direction.


- Load only the magazine after you reach your shooting area.

- Load the chamber only when ready to shoot.

- Completely unload before leaving the shooting area.


- Movement, colour, sound and shape can all deceive you.

- Assume colour, shape, sound, and shape to be human until proven otherwise.


- THINK! What may happen if you miss your target? What might you hit between you and the target or beyond?

- Do not fire when you know others are in your firing zone.


- When not in use, lock away the bolt, firearm and ammunition separately.

- Never leave firearms in a vehicle that is unattended.


- Good judgement is the key to safe use of firearms.

About the New Zealand Mountain Safety Council

The New Zealand Mountain Safety Council (MSC) is a national organisation with a mandate from our member organisations to encourage safe participation in land-based outdoor activities.

We facilitate the setting of standards, offer training and education opportunities, create and distribute resources, lead public awareness campaigns and foster positive support in the community so that more people can discover and enjoy New Zealand’s outdoors safely.