New Zealand Upland Game v USA Upland Game

The most interesting conversation I have had about upland game was with an American mate of mine, Mike Kruse. We were driving out to a river and there was a flood plain with lots of trees and gorse and blackberry over a relatively large area. I told Mike it looked like great quail country.Mike was a little surprised because the upland game in the United States would never live in an area like this. Avian predators mean that pheasants and quail in the United States avoid areas where birds can perch and swoop down on them.

Videos of United States upland hunting are in fields where there are few trees but plenty of cover. In New Zealand the birds do not face serious avian predation, with only two raptors, the Harrier Hawk and the New Zealand Falcon. The Falcon is rare over much of New Zealand, so I have only seen a handful of them. The Harrier is plentiful, but they are not a bird that swoops down on other birds, feeding mainly on carrion, or ground based food.

The areas I shoot are mainly river beds with willows and other deciduous trees, long grass and plenty of blackberry and gorse and manuka. This means that the birds have thick cover to hide in, so a dog needs to be tough and willing to get into the thick stuff. It means that a pointer is of limited use in the areas I shoot unless it is willing to dive into blackberry and gorse to flush or retrieve birds, and why I run Labs.

In other parts of New Zealand the conditions are a little different. Marlborough the gorse isn’t quite as thick as it is in the North Island. Central Otago does not have the big trees in the high country. Taupo is very, very tight with a lot of birds that will often break into the open. None of the places look much like the videos of upland shooting I see from the United States.