A hunter has described how he and a mate spent an icy night in the bush huddled with their dogs for warmth after losing their way back to their ute.
Clad in shorts, gumboots and hunting jackets, Conrad Malietoa and Peter Miles, both 20, weathered a night of sleety rain after getting lost in an area between the Motueka River, Gordon Range and Beeby's Knob, southwest of Nelson, on Sunday evening.
"We grabbed the dogs and [were] sleeping with the dogs to keep us warm,'' said Mr Malietoa. "We managed to build some shelter around Douglas [trees],'' he said.
"We thought we were just going to wait for the morning and walk back out. We were just going to wait for the sun to come out and get our direction off the sun.''
The drama began after the pair separated from friends Jarrod Downing, 17, and Liam Sellars, 19. The quartet had been for what Mr Malietoa described as a "cruisy Sunday afternoon hunt'' and caught a pig.
The younger men took the pig and walked out of the bush. The other two, who had three hunting dogs with them, planned to grab the ute then go back for their friends and their catch.
"We had to go back through the same gully we came from,'' said Mr Malietoa, an engineer from Nelson who has been hunting since the age of five.
"It was pretty hard to judge where we were and instead of crossing the gully, we ended up going straight up and ended up probably about a kilometre from where our ute was. It was about 9pm by then.''
At this point, Mr Malietoa rang his father to let him know he and Mr Miles were stuck in the bush.
"He wasn't too happy. He ended up coming up and picking up the other two mates and then from there they just looked around for us for ages.''
The pair were picked up about 6.30am today by the Nelson Marlborough Rescue Helicopter.
After a medical check, which found they were suffering from hypothermia, the men and two of their dogs were allowed to return home to relieved parents.
Mr Malietoa said they were planning to return to the bush tonight for the third dog and, of course, the pig.
He said he would be better equipped for his next hunt, likely to be this weekend.