Deer hunters and Department of Conservation staff came together in the Landsborough Valley on Saturday as they celebrated the recent installation of a predator trapline that is already bearing results.

Meeting at the Central Otago Deerstalkers’ Landsborough Hut, representatives of the Central Otago branch of the New Zealand Deerstalkers Association (NZDA), Doc and Fulton Hogan assembled to thank one another for their contributions in bringing the trapline project together.

NZDA Central Otago branch president Reid Gare said it was important to acknowledge that “as hunters, we’re also conservationists”.

“We want to conserve our animal herds but protect the environment within which they live, because by doing both we all prosper.”

More than a year in the making, the collaboration between the Central Otago branch of the NZDA and Doc aimed to reduce predator numbers in the area and subsequently aid the local bird population, which included endangered species such as the mohua and the kaka.

With funding from Fulton Hogan, support from Doc and volunteer labour by members of the NZDA, 65 traps have been installed along a 12.5km stretch of the Haast and Landsborough Rivers, from Pleasant Flat to Strutt Bluff.

Saturday marked the first time the traps had been cleared since their installation a month ago. Over the course of a few hours, volunteers found over a dozen stoats, several mice and at least 11 rats along the trapline.

Members of the NZDA will be responsible for clearing the traps on a monthly basis.

Heath Sinclair, a ranger for Doc’s biodiversity team in Haast, said it had long been their goal to expand their existing trapline in Upper Landsborough, and NZDA had presented them with a prime opportunity to do so.

“One day the NZDA crew rang up and they were keen to get their hut going here and keen to put in a trapline.

“It’s been a real awesome opportunity to be involved with these guys that are super enthusiastic and keen to get more young people out here and involved in making the most of this environment.”

Checking one of 65 new predator traps in the Landsborough Valley on Saturday, November 18 2023 are (left) Fulton Hogan regional manager for Central Otago Anna Sinclair and president of the Central Otago branch of the New Zealand Deerstalkers Association Reid Gare.

Mr Gare agreed, and said it was crucial for his group to get more people, especially younger generations, actively involved in appreciating and protecting their outdoor spaces.

“If we don’t encourage youth to become involved, in another few years some of us older guys will move on to whatever and the club will go through another phase of downscaling and we don’t want that.

“There’s plenty of young people around today that just need a little bit of encouragement and an opportunity to become involved in the outdoors. So that’s what my goal is.”

Saturday’s gathering also saw the Central Otago Deerstalkers celebrate the Landsborough Hut, which had undergone substantial upgrades over the past two years with the support of a number of local businesses.

Mr Gare said he hoped to see more people making use of the hut, while also taking a moment to appreciate the surrounding birdlife the group were working to protect.

“We’ve got a flush toilet, we’ve got a hot shower, we’ve got a gas cooker and a log burner. It’s affectionately known as the no-star hotel.

“As hunter’s huts go, it’s pretty damn good.”