If you listen to the anecdotes doing the rounds, you could be forgiven for thinking the hunters who get into trouble shooting in New Zealand's alpine regions – including the five people who died in falls between 2007 and 2016 – are international visitors and Aucklanders.

"The truth is quite different," said Mike Daisley, CEO of the NZ Mountain Safety Council.

"In fact, over half of the injuries and fatalities [for that category of hunter] have been rural Cantabrians, which is in contrast to the widely held perspective."

In an interview to highlight hunting safety messages for the 2019 deer Roar and the lead-up to the duck shooting season opening day (May 4), Daisley challenges stereotypes and misconceptions, basing his comments on the detailed statistics in 'A Hunter's Tale', which the council published in 2017.


Another of those misconceptions is that it's mainly city folk, weekenders and hunting 'newbies' who are failing to identify their targets.

Mike Daisley, CEO of the NZ Mountain Safety Council. Photo / Supplied
Mike Daisley, CEO of the NZ Mountain Safety Council. Photo / Supplied

"In fact, in the misidentification of targets figures it's primarily experienced hunters who feature, and over 80 per cent of these incidents the shooter and the victim are from the same hunting party, Daisley said.

It has been known for a long time that misidentification incidents are from people not following the basics of the firearms safety code.

"Some 38 per cent of big game hunting fatalities are from misidentification. These are completely avoidable incidents that change families in an instant."

"I can't help being worried for one or two families this year who will have a family member who won't be with them come Christmas," he said.

A large percentage of the nearly 170,000 New Zealanders who go hunting each year are rural people and farmers.

They're particularly heavily represented in the big game group (deer, etc).

While the average hunting days a year for a typical New Zealand hunter is 18, those figures are heavily skewed by the number of rural hunters who get out in the hills more often than their city counterparts.

"Safety is the outcome of good planning and good decisions" Photo / Mountain Safety Council

Most farmers have at least three firearms – a .22 for rabbits, a deer gun and a shotgun.

They've got to deal with pests and occasionally have to humanely put-down stock. Many of them also like to hunt to put something different in the freezer.

Daisley is keen to reiterate that the seven firearms safety rules are a key component of reducing firearms incidents.

"Firearms-related incidents are entirely preventable, which is the great tragedy of these hugely impactful incidents. Farmers need to remember that familiarity with firearms is not the same as having clear systems and safety procedures based on the seven firearms safety rules."

"Safety is the outcome of good planning and good decisions. That means taking the right gear, finding the right place, checking weather forecasts and if you're in a group, being absolutely clear on who is going where and sticking to the agreed plan."

Daisley said for some of their very successful hunting safety videos, quite a bit of footage of experienced hunters was captured.

"When we looked at the raw footage later, a couple of the guys involved commented 'we didn't realise how lax we were being' once they'd seen the footage. This is a great reminder to experienced hunters to remain vigilant at all times."

The figures for 'Accidentally Shot Shelf', which account for eight of the 41 hunting fatalities in New Zealand between 2007 and 2016 are concerning.

You might be wondering how that even happens.

"If you're going through a fence, for example, with the firearm half-cocked; leaning the rifle against a fence while climbing over you're not acting in a safe manner and are putting yourself and others at risk. The safety rule is to clear the firearm every time. That means making sure there is no round in the chamber, emptying the magazine and finally placing on the ground unloaded so you can retrieve it from the other side."

"A shotgun in the back of the ute with the safety on is not 'safe' if it's loaded. Bouncing around, or the dog standing on it, can release the safety.

"Unloading, clearing the chamber and emptying or removing the magazine when transporting a firearm is not only the law, it's also common sense," Daisley said.

Federated Farmers Rural Security spokesman Miles Anderson. Photo / Supplied
Federated Farmers Rural Security spokesman Miles Anderson. Photo / Supplied

Besides 'Accidentally shot self', the other fatality causes are: hunting 'Falls' (11), 'Mis-identification of Target' (9), 'Drowned' (7), 'Accidentally Shot by Other' (5) and 'Avalanche' (1).

The 58-page publication A Hunter's Tale, 2017 provided the sector with a clear insights base to discuss, analyse and collaborate on suitable interventions.

This "deep dive into the hunting incidents in New Zealand" pulls together information from ACC, coroners' reports, Police, Fish & Game, the Sport NZ Active NZ Survey and other sources.

Some of the key insights:

• In 92 per cent of misidentified shootings, there is less than 75 meters between the shooter and victim.

• For 75 per cent of the misidentified shootings in NZ between 1979 and 2016, the shooter was born between 1950-1969.

• 80 per cent of misidentified hunters are in the same party, and 91% of these incidents happen in daylight.

• 37 per cent of small game hunters who shoot themselves are under 25 years old.

• 421 serious pig or dog bites were sustained by pig hunters.

• Of the five fatalities involving pig hunters in the decade to 2016, three were drownings. (From the report: "Elevated adrenaline and the urgency to reach their dogs/the pig seems to greatly increase the rate of injury, getting lost and fatality.")

The point is made in A Hunter's Tale that hunting is an integral part of life for many New Zealanders, and given high participation rates, and variable and challenging environments, things will go wrong from time to time.

"However, though this [insight development] project, we have become even more convinced that many of the serious incidents we now know about are certainly preventable," Daisley said.

Federated Farmers Rural Security spokesperson Miles Anderson said the deer roar and the impending new duck shooting season means it's a prime time for farmers to brush up on the seven firearms safety rules.

Keep in mind the need for proper storage to prevent theft and easy access to firearms.

"I would also say 'don't be backwards in coming forward with your mates if you see them doing something unsafe. Better to say something and upset them rather than staying quiet and being complicit if an incident does happen," said Anderson.