Free-range sambar in New Zealand are found only on the North Island and, unlike other deer species here, they are protected with a legal hunting season. Sambar is a unique deer in that (unlike red deer, whitetails and other cervine species) they cannot be bred on farms to manipulate trophy quality, and they are ultra-sensitive to hunting pressure. They are extremely wary and are typically seen in the open only in the very early dawn or at last light in the evening. They spend the rest of their time holed up in the thickest, roughest scrub forests you can imagine. Sambar are difficult to pattern and can be quite unpredictable as to where they will be and when. Also, this species of deer does not bugle or make any other sounds during the rut. So, the key to hunting them successfully is spending a lot of time watching them. Ferguson spends several months a year doing just that, so he knows the properties as well as the individual animals. When I arrived for my hunt, he had several trophy males identified, along with their territories.
Ferguson has exclusive access to more than 10,000 acres of private farmland with the habitat to support large herds of wild sambar. The "farms" are sheep and cattle ranches between Wanganui and Palmerston North in the lower North Island area. Ferguson works with the landowners to manage the sambar populations here, culling females to keep a good ratio of bulls available.........(continued)