ROTORUA - A deer hunter who shot and seriously injured another hunter he mistakenly took for a deer has escaped a jail sentence.

Donald Parkinson, aged 68, of Huntly, a former New Zealand rugby league representative, was sentenced in Rotorua District Court to 400 hours' community work, and ordered to pay $3000 -- at the reqeust of the victim -- to the Rescue Helicopter Trust.

Parkinson earlier admitted careless use of a firearm while out hunting in Te Urewera National Park.

He escaped a prison sentence after being warned by Judge Chris McGuire at his previous appearance jail was "a real probability".

The court was told that the Auckland victim was still suffering from his injuries.

His chest wound was still open and the dressing needed changing daily.

Until recently he could not drive, he had started smoking again and may have to close his business because he could not yet return to work.

The court was told Parkinson had lost respect among some in the community where his league connections made him a hero.

His lawyer, Ian Todd, said Parkinson had even faced taunts in the street, with some people making statements like "when we next see you, you will have a number across your chest, or at the very least a bracelet around your ankle".

Mr Todd said his client had shown genuine remorse about what had happened.

While out hunting Parkinson had decided to leave his group and go out on his own to "try himself out". But he became disorientated and lost and had to spend the night in the bush.

The next morning he resumed hunting. He fired a shot at what he thought was a deer. Instead, he hit another hunter.

He said that as a superannuitant Parkinson received $511 a fortnight and had almost $5000 in savings. Parkinson had talked about a figure of $2000 for reparation but was prepared to pay more and did not want to be seen as buying his victim off, Mr Todd said.

"He has come to the deep realisation that life is priceless."

Mr Todd said Parkinson had been described by a referee as a person who "would do one hundred good turns before he even thought of doing a bad one".

He said Parkinson had not initially wanted his league career made public but later realised "no matter how good your life has been in the first part your accountability must also be public".

Judge James Weir conceded both the men were unlikely to ever forget the day.

He said the other group of hunters had done all they could to prevent such an event -- including asking at a Department of Conservation office whether other hunters were in the area.

"The accident therefore was solely attributed to your failure to identify your target," he told Parkinson.

Judge Weir commended the victim for suggesting the reparations go to the rescue helicopter, despite his own financial loss.