NEW ZEALAND: Exceptional Hunting & Trophies With BJ Holdsworth From Ample Hunting


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May 24, 2015
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Zimbabwe (Omay), New Zealand, South Africa (NWP, Limpopo, Eastern Cape); USA (NE, NC, MD, AZ, TX)
Executive Summary:

Just got back about a week ago from New Zealand, where we experienced some absolutely exceptional hunting with BJ Holdsworth of Ample Hunting. He is located on the north island's eastern coast, near Gisborne. The hunt took place on his family farm, that's over 10 sq mls of breathtaking scenery- rolling hills of green, dense forests, valleys, rivers, and game animals everywhere!

The hunt lasted 6 days, with one day lost to weather (rain). BJ put me on an amazing stag with 29 points that ended up measuring 433 sci. After that, my wife went through an epic, 2-day long stalk on a fallow buck she'd spotted and got him right at last light. We also hunted some arapawa rams and my mother had the opportunity to take her first big game animal ever... at a very respectable 67 years of age!

We can't thank BJ and his family enough for their hospitality and for the exceptional hunting. If you're interested in hunting exceptional red stags in New Zealand, but not on a stocked deer farm, BJ Holdsworth and Ample Hunting will exceed your expectations.

More in-depth report to follow! We also toured around the north island a bit, which I'll add in at the end.

Outfitter: Ample Hunting,
Owner/PH: BJ Holdsworth
Location: Waikohu Station, Gisborne, North Island, New Zealand
Hunted: Red Stag, Fallow Buck, Arapawa Rams
Congratulations all around the table.
Great looking trophies
That's awesome! Congratulations! I'd like to PM you for details
BJ is a good dude...and great bowhunter/filmmaker.
That's AWSOME Congratulations!
Congrats bud! Great trophies! Look forward to more
Wow, nice stag and fallow. Looking forward to hearing more!
A couple of caveats up front-

Weather considerations make it risky to hunt in the winter in New Zealand. We got very lucky and only had one day of heavy rain. A couple days after we left, more heavy rains hit and some roads have been closed for multiple days. The best time to hunt is during the roar (MAR-APR). For us, work considerations dictated that June/July would be our only chance to go. Despite all this, other than lots of mud, the weather was great for us. Chilly in the mornings and warming up to a comfortable high 50s during the day.

Rifle Import
- apparently very easy to do. Since we're living in Korea right now (all firearms are illegal), we borrowed one of BJ's loaner rifles- Suppressed Sako 85 chambered in 7mm Rem Mag with Leopold glass on top and a bipod. Its a tack driver that's perfectly dialed in. It served us well, with every animal going down after a single shot.

Accommodations- Comfortable farm house. BJ has a couple of rooms built above his garage for hunters. He also has a separate building with three more rooms for bigger groups. BJ's wife Annabel and daughter Georgia prepare delicious, home-cooked meals every day.

Day 0 - Arrival
We toured around the north island in a rental car the week prior to our hunt (more on this at the end). Our final stop was Napier, a quaint town on the eastern coast. We drove up to Gisborne and turned in our rental car at the airport. BJ picked us up in his truck and drove us out to his property, about 30 minutes from town. We got settled into our rooms and then enjoyed a delicious venison casserole. Then off to bed.

Day 1 - Stag Fever!
Our group consisted of my wife and I, my mom (dad wasn't able to make it due to work), our host BJ, and Tim the cameraman.

We set off in the morning to recon the property. Its all beautiful rolling hills, ponds and rivers, forests, and animals everywhere. BJ has sheep and cattle on the property along with timber on many of the hills. Not even 5 minutes from the house and we've already spotted some young stags silhouetted on a hillside. They're young, so they haven't figured out that its a bad idea to stand in the open looking at us. The older ones... the ones we're after... will not be so easy.

BJ uses 4x4 UTVs to get around the property- some of the hills are pretty steep! We get to a fairly high vantage point and start to glass. We spot some fallow deer on a distant hillside, but much of our view is obscured by the thick fog flows in and out of the valleys.

As the fog lifts, we spot some fallow deer, then more, and more. Over 100 fallow deer are relaxing on a hillside, warming up in the early morning sun. They are arrayed all across the hill, about a mile away. There are a decent amount of fallow bucks mixed in with the does, but many have damaged or missing antlers. BJ actually has a few too many bucks in the area, which leads to more fighting and more damaged antlers. The good news is they still taste delicious! Then we spot something interesting... a young buck is fighting with something laying on the ground... as we look closer, we realize he's fighting with a dead buck's corpse! We also spot a few more stags, but no shooters.

We jump back in the UTVs and head to the range. After a couple shots, we determine that Mrs. Scarlett (BJ names all his rifles!) is shooting straight and true. She won't let us down in the days to come!

A quick lunch and we head out to a different area to see if the stags might be hiding out there. Driving down a hillside, BJ stops and looks through his binos. He's spotted some stags in a treeline about 1.5 miles away. We pull out the spotting scope and scan the group. There's a bunch of stags relaxing and eating under the shade of the trees. They all look like shooters to me, but what do I know?!?

BJ draws my attention to another line of trees, a bit closer. There are about 5-6 stags in the area. Mine is there. He's laying down in a slight depression and we can't see his body- only his antlers. They look like an overturned treestump, roots pointing in every direction. Then I see the roots move and I know- that's no stump, but a monster stag!

Spotting him is all great and good, but how are we going to get to him? There's no avenue of approach along the direct route- far to open, no cover. And there's cows and other deer in the way that will surely spook our old boy. We decide to go the long way, driving around to the backside of a big hill. We'll stalk along the ridgeline and will hopefully be able to get within shooting range.

BJ and I discussing our plan...

After a bit of a drive, we leave the UTVs behind and begin hiking up the hillside. It's quite steep and I'm glad that I've been running all those hills in Korea with my Soldiers. Its paying off now! Luckily, the hillsides are covered in terracettes. The sheep marching back and forth create little steps known as terracettes. They're still muddy and rough, but better than just a steep and slick hillside. As we get to the hilltop, we head back towards the stags. We spot some red deer with a couple of young stags in a treeline to our front. We'll have to try and get around them, so we skirt the edge of a small forest and come to a low fence line (of note- our cameraman Tim actually works as a fulltime fence builder on the farm). We're staying just below the ridgeline, out of sight for the deer.

As we make our way to a gate, BJ indicates to freeze. We have a bit of a problem on our hands. just on the other side of the gate, a large group of cows are starring at us inquisitively. We're trapped. We've got deer to our left, cows to our front right. We need to get past all of them to get to our stags. To make matters worse, the light breeze is starting to swirl.

Our only option is to spook them. We're going to spook both groups and need to hope they run away from our stags rather than towards them. To do this, we first move towards the cows. They take off at a gallop, moving down the hillside, away from both us and the stags we're pursuing. Then we hike up towards the top. As we crest the hill, the other deer spot us and take off... also away from us and from the direction we're going. Our plan worked and we're back on track!

We start to head down the hill, hunched low to avoid silhouetting ourselves. About two thirds of the way down the hill, we have to stop. I can see the treeline where our stags were relaxing before. They've now moved under the trees and are enjoying a late lunch. A group of cattle are feeding near by, so we can't get any closer.

Our range is about 300m. I can make out some of the deer, but their antlers are obscured by the trees. I see one stag that looks pretty good and ask BJ if that's the one. He tells me no, the one to his right. I can't see this guys antlers at all and he's not presenting a good shot. So we begin to wait. The cattle are moving a bit too. One cow in particular is grazing towards the deer. The deer see him coming and begin to move to our left.

As my stag comes into the open, I can immediately tell that his rack is bigger than the others. As he walks, he seems burdened by his antlers, each step heavy.

About 15 yeards from the treeline, he stops and begins to graze.
Two young stags begin to fight behind him.
He's slightly quartering towards me.
I line up the crosshairs and squeeze the trigger.
The gun jumps and I loose sight of the stag.

I look to BJ for confirmation and he's just smiling. A good hit!

We head the rest of the way down the hill. The last we'd seen of the stag, he'd run about 15 yards and disappeared into a ravine. As we approached the edge of the ravine, I spot my stag! The ravine was actually pretty deep, maybe 60 feet down, with a stream curling its way through, large trees on its banks. My stag had run over the edge and tumbled down to the bottom, where he'd expired.

Each step down the decline brings me closer to the stag, and he's not getting any smaller! Once I get to the bottom, I take his antlers in my hands and take a moment to reflect on this magnificent animal.

His antlers are amazing, almost symmetrical on both sides. Each antler has a very unique 4th tine before splitting into the crowns at the top. I count 29 points - 14 on the left and 15 on the right (the unique 4th tine splits into two points on this side). Later, BJ shows us how to measure antlers and this guy stacked up at an impressive 433 sci - in large part because of the unique 4th tines and the extra length that adds. Awesome!

It was a great way to end our first day. Now that the pressure's off, I'll get to enjoy the rest of the hunt! My wife will be chasing fallow starting tomorrow... this will prove to be an epic, multi-day stalk! More to follow soon!
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Very nice! What an exciting hunt with amazing scenery, congrats on a great stag!
Day 2 - Follow that Fallow!

Today, we set out in search of a fallow buck for my wife. Here she is kitted up and ready to roll.

We drove to another hilltop and looked around to see what we might see. Turned out to be a bunch of fog. Visibility in the valleys was very limited and the fog was only getting thicker. We did spot some fallow does and a couple of red stags. One of the stags had lost an antler. Despite only having one antler, he kept trying to fight with one of the other stags. The bigger one with a full rack was just pushing him around.

We change locations a few times and then head back in for lunch. On the way to the farmhouse, we spot two pheasants in a field fighting. It was pretty cool seeing them circle one another and then pounce in attack.

BJ sends Tim out to do some scouting. Towards the end of our break, BJ gets a text with a great looking fallow buck on it. After lunch we head out towards that area to see.
Once we park the UTVs on top of a hill, we walk down partway to "sniper's paradise." Its a very nice, elevated spot that overlooks a valley with a river, a large swath of grassy area, and then a large forest that makes its way up the hillside. Above the treeline, we spot lots of fallow deer, but nothing worthy of a stalk.

As we're glassing, my wife spots two fallow bucks about 20 feet into the treeline of the forest. She has amazing eyes, because even with my binos I can't make out what she's talking about. We move a bit closer and I can just barely tell there are some deer in the darkness of the forest.
They are well out of range and we can't get any closer because our hillside has no cover or vegetation other than grass. Our one hope is that they will start feeding and then work their way across the field and across the river to our side, where they'll then be at about 250m.

Amazingly, after about 20 min of waiting, a deer emerges from the treeline and begins feeding. Later, another. And then another. After about an hour, most of the deer are out in the open, but not the two bucks. Finally, they stand and move out to make their appearance. Both are nice looking bucks- one has nice antlers with large palms and is walking with a limp. The other has very nice guard tines on the back of his antler palms. Its decided that he's the one we're after.

After another thirty minutes or so, the limping buck leads our target over towards the river. It should be noted that the river is actually quite wide - maybe 8 ft across at its narrowest, and pretty deep to boot. Seemingly miraculously, the two bucks cross the river and slowly begin feeding towards us. Our line of sight is somewhat limited by a row of large trees growing along the river. My wife's shot window is maybe only 40m across at about 250 yards- not much space!

The bucks continue to feed in the shade of the trees as the sun begins to set. The lame buck is out in the open, presenting a great shot, while my wife's target is still obscured by tree branches, teasing us. We just need him to move five feet to the right, into the open. The darkness is approaching quickly now. I can barely make the deer out in my binoculars. Now my wife can no longer see the crosshairs. We watch as our buck moseys across the road, protected by the darkness.

We'll have to try again tomorrow.
Awesome stag! New Zealand certainly looks well worth the long plane.
Day 3 - Fallow Finale

We start the day early and head out in the darkness. Its colder than the last few days and the hillsides are glazed in a layer of frost. We drive with lights out up the hills and quietly exit the UTVs about two miles from where we lost the two fallow bucks the night prior.

As we hike along a fence line, we spot the two fallow just on the other side of the fence, not 75m from us! Our target is the one on the left.

Quietly, we backtrack a ways and then as steathily as possible (not very), we climb over the fence and begin our approach. As we move, the fallow bucks are slowly grazing down the hillside, toward the thick fog in the valley. We crawl down the hillside and get positions on an outcrop about halfway down. The fallow bucks, along with some does, are about 200 meters further down from us.
My wife gets set up and finds the fallow buck in the scope. He's not presenting a shot, with his head down eating and almost straight on towards us. Any shot would risk destroying his antlers. We wait for our chance, but the fog is making its way up the valley, getting thicker and thicker. Soon, we've lost them.

We try to wait out the fog, but as the morning begins to warm up a bit with the rising sun, the fog continues to increase. It doesn't look like we'll find a shot anytime soon. We head back to the farmhouse, a little frustrated that this buck seems to have all the luck on his side. That's hunting though. The buck needs to get lucky every time- we just need to be lucky once.

That afternoon, we head out again. This time, we approach the area from the opposite direction. We hike up the backside of a hill that overlooks the valley and river where the fallow have been spending their time. As we crest the hill, we spot a big group of fallow deer grazing on the far side of the river from us, at about 350-400m distant. Low and behold, we spot our two bucks resting inside the same treeline where we'd first spotted them yesterday!

A predicament faces us now. We're a bit too far for a shot, but the hillside we're on top of doesn't have much vegetation or cover. Do we wait and see if the deer wander towards us or do we risk detection as we try and get closer? The deer make the decision for us as they start grazing away from us. We must move up.

Carefully, we try and stay grouped up and single file as we make our way down the hillside. About halfway down, the fallow bucks stand up and head deeper into the forest. This is tough. Second day of chasing these guys and we may have lost them again. We decide to climb down further and see if we can spot where they've gone within the forest - its a long shot but we don't have anything to loose.

As we make our way down, Tim the cameraman spots something to our left. At the forest's edge on the hillside, the two fallow bucks have just popped out into the open! Rather than following all the does to our right, they've headed the opposite direction. They're sanding near a fence and it looks like their trying to decide whether or not to jump it.

We need to move quickly now with light fading fast. We're totally in the open in the base of the valley with minimal cover anywhere near by. While keeping a wary eye on the fallow bucks, we move in their direction. Totally unawares, the two bucks jump the fence and begin to traverse the hillside.

They're moving and we're not sure how long they'll stay in the open. My wife gets set up and BJ dials in the scope.
The bucks keep moving, stopping every so often to eat. They pause on a small outcrop and look in our general direction. Its clear they can see us, but their not sure what we are. My wife capitalizes on the opportunity and squeezes off a shot...

Its a hit! The fallow buck takes a few steps and falls forward, kicking furiously. He disappears near a tree and a small stream running down the hillside.

Everyone is very happy. This buck made us work for it, but my wife wasn't going to take any chances on a risky shot. She wait and earned herself a great trophy! By the time we found him, the sun had set and we took some photos in the dark.

A great ending to two days of hard hunting! We returned to the farmhouse and another delicious dinner. Tomorrow, we'll head out in search of arapawa sheep!
What a cool pic of being on a ridge above the fog! I remember when I was there one day we were above the clouds...really!

Anyways congrats on the fallow, nice one!
Awesome stag! New Zealand certainly looks well worth the long plane.

Definitely worth it. The countryside is beautiful, people are super friendly and hospitable, foods great, etc. etc.
And now I'm itching to go back to NZ!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I remember when I was there one day we were above the clouds...really!

Next time we head to NZ, I'm hoping to head into the mountains after tahr and chamois. Would be amazing to camp out up there and watch the sunrise from the mountain tops!
Next time we head to NZ, I'm hoping to head into the mountains after tahr and chamois. Would be amazing to camp out up there and watch the sunrise from the mountain tops!

Oh it definitely was amazing!
Here's a video of our hunt. Its a compilation of a couple hunts- our part starts at 13:40...

BJ makes some great videos- I actually discovered his operation because of his youtube videos! I recommend you check out his channel for lots of entertaining footage:

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