Here is a glimpse of past glories, the heydays of the 1960’s venison recovery industry. Those amazing days of slaughtering the immense wild deer population, on foot, by boat and by air, has handed down a legacy of legends. From this has been born the history and tradition of today’s New Zealand hunters.
This page is dedicated to my Dad, the late Leslie Robert Kemp, who taught me to shoot, and to hunt and tickle trout. I owe him a debt of gratitude for these skills and for my lifetime love of the outdoors.
Les Kemp & son Ben, around 1956, at the opening of the Crooked River Bridge, Te Kinga.
A farmer, logger, saw-miller, bushman, trapper and hunter. 5ft 8ins tall, lightly built and whipcord-strong! I remember being 11 years old, watched him pick up a 256lb stag and carry it down the riverbed to the truck. I was quite impressed then. Even more so when, as a good keen young man, I attempted similar feats! He was as tough as old boots!
“The Venison Hunter”
I am the man with pack and rifle,
Killer or sportsman, who can say,
That stalks the frosted river flats at bitter break of day.
I am he who walks on high,
Through icy mounts and timbered valley,
Where the broken waters curse the rocks that seek to stem the flow.
Not for me the crowded city, corruption, bustle, greed.
I do not live there, I merely exist!
(I wrote this in High School)
Les Kemp, with pack & rifle!
Kempy was a marksman with few equals! Remembered by many as “the best shot.” As a kid, I watched in awe on many occasion as he shot wood pigeons through the head with his old army-issue 303 (equipped with iron sights). This is while they were sitting in the tops of the Miro trees, 100 feet up, and directly above us! Damn!
He’d sight the rifle in at 80 paces, 3 rounds through the logo on the Rothmans cigarette packet (or a Beehive matchbox) or it was not good enough!
One of the first venison hunters! The first man to shoot 100 red deer in one day…
Red deer were released in NZ some hundred years ago. From those early liberations in the Rakaia River, Otago and Nelson regions, they successfully colonised the entire South Island. For decades they have been officially regarded as a pest, a menace to our National Parks and rainforests. Ruthless campaigns of shooting, on foot and by helicopter, poisoning programs, and a huge wild venison export industry have steadily reduced the numbers from the highs of the 1940’s and 1950’s.
|Kempy hooking on a load of deer, Mt Aspiring in background.||Ben Morris (pilot) unknown, Kempy, and Archie McBride.|
|Power failure at takeoff, Arawata River, with a load of deer carcasses on board.||Log cabin, foot of 10 hour gorge, Arawata River. Gone some 30 years, burned to the ground.|
|Line up of beer crates and stag antlers, Mussel Point Airstrip, South Westland.||Bringing in another load. Bell G47b, registration ZK-HAY.|
|Ben Morris was flying down the river….. with the shotgun….||Ben Morris, noted Yankee “fly” fisherman!|
He saw a couple of good trout…. and the 12g was loaded with buckshot….. and he was tired of eating venison!
Bill Nottely, Kempy, and Charlie Quintal, Arawata River.