A Taupo rescue helicopter says a Tauranga hunter injured in the Kaimanawa Ranges after being shot by a companion was saved by a complicated mission in which minutes mattered.

Police have said the injured man was shot by his companion, who had mistaken him for a deer and have said it acts as a timely reminder to hunters to identify their target beyond all doubt.

Pilot Pete Masters said it took just 10 minutes for Taupo's Greenlea rescue helicopter to reach the area of a beacon activation in the Kaimanawa Ranges yesterday, where a hunter had been shot.

The rescue helicopter was alerted to a personal locator beacon activation by the Rescue Coordination Centre yesterday at about 2.15pm, Masters said.


The helicopter was in the air 10 minutes later with a search and rescue crew member and paramedic on board and in the area of the beacon 10 minutes after that.

The crew pinpointed the beacon's location to a gully about a mile behind Oamaru Hut in the Kaimanawa Ranges and Masters winched the paramedic and the SAR crew member down to the scene, which was in thick bush.

The injured man had been shot in the chest and was gravely injured.

Masters then ascended to about 3000ft for radio and cellphone coverage arrange for an intensive care unit team of doctors and extra blood supplies to be flown from Hamilton to Taupo Hospital to provide immediate care.

By the time he had finished and descended, the man was on a stretcher and ready to be winched into the helicopter.

Masters flew to a nearby riverbed where the paramedic worked on the man to stabilise him before the dash to Taupo Hospital and the waiting medical team.

He said it was debatable whether to head straight to Waikato Hospital but there was concern the man might bleed to death en route.

"The paramedic did a fantastic job keeping him alive, he [the hunter] was really crook."


The 48-year-old Tauranga man is now in a critical condition in Waikato Hospital.

Pete Masters, Taupo rescue helicopter pilot. Photo / File
Pete Masters, Taupo rescue helicopter pilot. Photo / File

Masters said the rescue was time-critical and the crew "didn't muck around at all" getting a paramedic to the scene.

He estimated a Hamilton-based rescue helicopter would have taken around 55 minutes in good weather.

He said while a "gold-standard" twin-engine helicopter of the type being sought by the National Ambulance Sector's Office might have allowed space for the paramedic to work on the man on the way to hospital, it would not have been able to get into the Kaimanawas from Hamilton as quickly as the Taupo-based chopper.

"There's no point in having the gold standard if he's dead when you arrive.

"Hamilton would have been 55 minutes to the site and that's on a nice day.

"We were airborne within 10 minutes."

The helicopter had earlier the same day performed another time-critical job, flying a 74-year-old Turangi woman who had had a stroke to Rotorua Hospital.