Small Game

Small game hunters primarily target rabbits and hares during daylight hours. They often use smaller calibres, shotguns or air rifles. Small game hunters typically hunt in open country or farmland. They occasionally use some kind of vehicle to move around. 

Small game hunting has always been an accessible hunting type and is often where many hunters start to learn basic hunting skills. Because of its relative accessibility, this type of hunting tends to attract large numbers of hunters, particularity those starting out or those who are restricted by mobility or accessibility. Similar to game bird hunting we uncovered a surprisingly high number of firearms related injuries.  The details of these incidents suggest very poor firearms safety practice.

Department of Conservation - Find out more about the species you are targeting, the permits you need and much more here.

NZ Police - Information on the Arms Code and licensing here.


Firearms on a farm - Richard W

Did you know? 

Rabbit hunters are 10.5x more likely to sustain a gunshot wound than any other type of hunter.
A Hunter's Tale, 2017


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Outdoor Safety Code

The first thing to remember is that every trip needs a plan. It doesn't take much to turn a short walk into an 'unexpected night out' in the bush. If you've planned before you hit the track using the outdoor safety code as a guide, there's a good chance you'll be prepared to handle an unexpected turn of events. 

Safety is the outcome of good planning and good decision making
– Mike Daisley, MSC CEO
Find our more about the Outdoor Safety Code below. 


Firearm Safety Code

The vast majority of firearms related incidents can be traced back to one or many of the firearms safety code not being followed. Regardless of how experienced you are following the firearms safety code is essential to the safety of you and your fellow hunters. 

Helpful hint:

 Don't hesitate to call your mates out if they're not handling their firearm safely. Safety is everyone's responsibility. 

Explore the FSC


Key Insights


Developed by the New Zealand Mountain Safety Council (MSC) 'A Hunter's Tale' represents the most comprehensive exploration of hunting participation and incidents in New Zealand. Building on the success of There and Back (2016) this publication represents the first in a series of comprehensive ‘deep dives’ and explores hunting and firearms safety through the presentation of key insights. A Hunter's Tale focusses on trends in participation, hunting related injuries, search and rescues as well as fatalities. The data presented in this document provides a comprehensive evidence base that clearly identifies what is going wrong for hunters in the New Zealand outdoors.

Click the cover to read

A Hunters tale Cover Page


Insights - Small Game  

Case of serious small game injuries - 56% Accidentally shot self + 44% Accidentally shot by other
A Hunter's Tale, 2017


68% of small game injuries are in the South Island. 38% of those are in Otago. 
– A Hunter's Tale, 2017


Small game shooters are 10.5x as likely to sustain a gunshot wound and are 5.5x as likely to sustain a vehicle related injury.
– A Hunter's Tale, 2017


Helpful hint:

Small caliber rifles should never be underestimated due to their risk of ricochet.

Key resources 

Activity Guides 

This guide has been developed to help you plan your trip. It's available to read and download for FREE. To read click on the image below.

Click the cover to read it online

Hunting English

We've also produced a Te Reo version below

Hunting Te Reo


You Tube

Hunting Playlist 01

Big Game Hunting NZ and MSC collaborated to produce a six part series covering off the firearms safety code. Watch the full series here

Video #1: Treat Every Firearm As Loaded 

Video #2: Always Point Your Firearm In A Safe Direction

What should you take?  

New Zealand weather is very changeable. Even if you set out in the sunshine and there is no rain in the forecast it's not uncommon to have an isolated shower. Make sure you take rain protection and extra layers you can put on if it gets cold. Having the right supplies means that you're more likely to remain warm, comfortable and safe for the duration of your trip.  

Wear the right fabrics. Clothing only retains what heat your body produces. Certain fabrics wick moisture away from the body and retain warmth. Avoid cotton clothing – when cotton gets wet it ceases to insulate you. Wet and cold clothing significantly contributes to hypothermia.

Questions to consider before you head out 

There are a few safety essentials you should have with you (or tick off the list) when you're out hunting

  • A comfortable pack - load your kill carefully on your shoulders and take your time. Consider this in your trip planning.
  • pack liner. This is one of the simplest yet most important pieces of equipment. It keeps everything in your pack dry.  An elasticated, fabric pack cover over your pack may not keep your things dry in rain
  • Clean and bright blaze gear - Wearing blaze is not an insurance policy, but contrasting with your environment is a good safety principle. 
  • Food and water - always prepare for a potential night out or an extra long day.
  • A basic first aid kit with any personal medication you may need. 
  • A map of the area and a compass.
  • A communication deviceMobile phones can have limited coverage in most outdoor locations. If you are going into a remote area consider hiring a personal locator beacon. 
  • A basic survival kit 
  • Torch/ headtorch - the chase can often lead to a walk back in the dark
  • Permission to hunt on the land as well as your firearms licence.
  • Clean and sighted in firearm - a small cloth in your pocket to clean your scope, and basic cleaning gear for you at the hut and a sighted-in firearm which you are familiar with.
  • Have you told anyone that you're heading out? Make sure you leave your intentions.
  • Where are you planning to hunt? Do you have a map of your chosen area and does everyone understand where the boundaries are? This is particularly important in balloted blocks so you do not intrude on another person's hunting area. Take a map each.
  • Are you hunting with anyone else? Do you have a plan for when an animal arrives? Choose the shooter and keep the shooter in front. Communicate often verbally or via radios to keep in touch with each other's movements. Don't seperate and don't hesitate to tell them when they are being unsafe 
  • What food will you need? Stay comfortable on your hunt and take regular break for water and food. This helps settle the nerves and listen out for any game that might be in the area.
  • Pick the right hunting buddy - We encourage you to have a great time out there with your mates, but it is your right to feel safe with the people you are hunting with.
    • Make sure they are licensed or are directly supervised by a licensed shooter. When supervising new hunters without firearms licences, you cannot operate a firearm yourself. One licence, one shooter.
    • They are medically and mentally up for the task - seeing, hearing, fitness etc.
    • They know how safely operate the firearm they are using
    • They practice safe shooting by always following the 7 Basic Firearms Rules
    • They are not under the influence of drugs or alcohol
    • They know what to do in an emergency situation
    • You all understand who is shooting and when.

Helpful hint 

Tell someone your plans before you go and take a communication device

Helpful Links

MSC Blog

Find out more

MSC Press Releases 

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Explore our insights

Find out more 

Read Outdoor Safety Code
 Find out more

Department of Conservation - You can find out more about the species you are targeting, the permits you need and much more here.

Find out more

NZ Police - Understand more about firearms safety, getting licensed and the rules here.

Find out more

Walking Access Permission - Learn about getting access to private land and the key things you need to do before you go here.

Find out more