Shortly after New Zealand was settled by Europeans, deer were introduced for sport from England and, later, from America. Herds have since grown to several million head and are now regarded as a pest and a menace to the native bush and high-country pasture. Government hunters now shoot them as part of a campaign to control numbers.
The first Deerstalkers' Association was formed at Invercargill on 6 June 1937. The headquarters of the association remained in Invercargill for several years and the executive were also Southland people. The association went into recess during the war and was revived in 1946. By 1948 branches had been set up in Otago, Waikato, and Nelson. Since then it has grown rapidly to 5,600 financial members and about 400 junior, life, and honorary members. The association is not solely concerned with deerstalking. It also has an established code of behaviour and ethics which all members must observe. It also tries for a better understanding of the relationship of wildlife and its surroundings and for a different approach to the economic utilisation of big-game animals.
Red deer are the predominant species in New Zealand. Although there has been a deterioration in the size of antlers, good trophies are taken each year. There are several herds of fallow deer, the Greenstone-Mavora being recognised as the best. Sika antlers approaching record size are taken from a herd in the central North Island. Wapiti, or American elk, are confined to an area in the Fiordland National Park. Here the control of hunting has been deputed to the association by the National Parks Board. A ballot is held for the right to hunt the blocks into which the area has been divided. There are small herds of sambar, rusa, and whitetail deer. In their case, however, heavy hunting would probably mean extermination. The horns of chamois and thar (herds of which are found along the main divide of the South Island) are valuable trophies.
Association members compete for the Orbell trophy which is awarded to the one securing the best deer antlers of any species.