A new look at the NZ Mountain Safety Council’s incident stats for the Roar season and how to apply this to your planning and attitude in the field.
What many people might have learned, especially over the last couple of years, is to make the most of every experience they get in the outdoors. The annual Roar hunting season for one, is a highly anticipated event in the hunting calendar for many and might be their one shot for the year. With more hunters out, the pressure of a big goal and perhaps going beyond some hunter’s usual boundaries – incidents do increase during this period*. So it is up to every individual to take steps to make their Roar a trip to remember for the right reasons.
How often to incidents happen? Well, you probably know someone who has had a story to tell, whether it is a near-miss or even news-worthy article. Below is what the MSC have collated from recorded incidents:
- 300 Big Game Hunters** were involved in a Search and Rescue, equating to 50 per year. 2013-18
- Over 4,000 ACC claims by Big Game Hunters between 2013-2020. Roughly 1/3 of these claims were for injuries incurred during the Roar season.
- There have been 8 Big Game Hunting fatalities over 2013-2020. Of these, 5 occurred during the Roar season. All of these Roar incidents involved firearms.
What happens out there and how can you try prevent it?
Most of injury claims are for slips/trips/falls, strains/sprains, and to a lesser extent cuts/foreign bodies. These injuries make sense while hunters are exploring rough country to find the elusive stag.
While an injury for some might not seem so bad (‘she’ll be right’), it can cause a ripple effect that can change your hunting experience forever. A foot sprain can slow you down so you are then overdue, your body might simply not be as conditioned as it once was and you deteriorate over the course of the trip. So consider the following for your Roar so you can keep hunting for years to come.
Get your body physically ready for the challenge, build stamina, strength in legs, balance and carrying additional weight
Choose a block/routes that are achievable within your own physical limits, reduce the pressure on you and your mates
Pack a first aid kit, PLB and emergency shelter to aid in an emergency and stop things getting worse.
Search and rescues
Of the hunters involved in search and rescues, 45% of people were found to be ‘not at risk’ and did not require assistance, 42% required some form of assistance, but were not significantly injured, 13% required medical attention (beyond immediate first aid).
Whatever the reason for a rescue, it will be in your memory forever, even more perhaps than that monster stag you missed. These hunters though, made it out alive and that is because they were able to reach help when they needed it. You might not be able to completely prevent the need for a rescue, but you can plan so there is less need for one and/or make sure you’re found easier.
- Tell someone where you are going before you go Even for a short evening hunt. Include places you are staying, spots you intend to look at, your plan B (see below) and who is going with you. State when you expect to be back and at what point should they contact Police. You can do this via email or text or the Plan My Walk app if you are heading on a DOC track or hut. All of this can reduce the crucial hours a helicopter or SAR team scours the landscape to get you home.
- Have a Plan B. If a river rises, you reach a place you can’t get out of, analyse alternative routes on your TOPO map as part of your planning. Discuss all of this with your group.
- Be prepared for an overnighter, in your day pack carry shelter, PLB food and supplies in case you need to wait it out.
- Put your return trip at the front of your mind, follow the deer sign but always think, can I make it back down this ridge? What is beyond where I am going?
- Carry a Personal Locator Beacon and or satellite messenger device. You can rent/ borrow these for the trip if you do not wish to invest. Make sure you learn how to use these and set them up at home before you head out.
Never making it home
Thankfully, these are not common occurrences but it can happen to even experienced hunters. During the Roar season, all hunter fatalities over the last 7 years have been firearms-related, and therefore all preventable. No matter how many times you have been on a hunt with that mate, used that particular firearm been in the bush – stay diligent and focussed to keep everyone safe.
- Put some high-viz gear on – it makes it easier to know where others are and reduce confusion
- Apply a solid routine of Load State from home to the stag. Communicate this with those around you. You can find out more here about these states
Empty chamber, safety on for transporting firearm and walking. Check again when traversing rivers/ difficult terrain
Loading, when near a target
Action – when shooting target. Assume it is a person first.
Empty – for retrieval and continuing on
- Reduce the pressure on yourself and others. Rushed situations or fatigue leads to mistakes.
Well there you have it, some of the main risks that hunters either have no connection to in any shape or form, or they have a relation to that unfortunately still plays on their mind.
The stories from the Kiwi hunters that come out of the bush each year with amazing tales of raging rivers, roaring reds and incredible mountain-scapes are the ones everyone wants to share this Roar and the ones to come. Let’s make it happen!
You can find out more about how to prepare for your Roar on mountainsafety.org.nz such as gear lists, communication device tips, survival basics and how-to videos. It’s never too late to get squared up for your next trip. Take care!