Sika deer
Image: Gordon Roberts | ©


Sika deer are found in Kaimanawa Forest Park and the Kaweka Forest. Find out how to identify them, where and when to find them.

Hunt sika deer and allow mountain beech forests to flourish in the Kaweka Forest Park.

Description for sika deer (Cervus nippon).

Size: Males 850-950 mm shoulder height and weighing 75-85 kg with females smaller at 700-800 mm shoulder height and weighing 45-60 kg.

Colour: Summer coat typically a sleek bright chestnut colour, grading to a creamy white on the belly, with white spots along the back and flanks. Spots fade as the winter coat grows, and the animal takes on a more uniform brown-grey colour.

Sika deer typically have a distinctive black dorsal stripe, which extends from the ears to a patch at the base of the tail. This stripe is visible on both summer and winter coats, but is more defined in summer. Sika deer have a relatively large white rump patch, which flares out when the animal is alarmed or disturbed. This patch has a dark margin near the base of the tail which fades to the colour of the body hair as it extends down the hind legs.

Antlers: Only male carry antlers, which are cast in November-December and new ones hardened by March.

The antler beams of sika stags are smaller and thinner than those of red stags. In cross-section the bone component of the antler is thicker in sika deer than for red deer, and there is a comparatively smaller porous core. The brow tines (antler spikes) usually branch from the main antler beam 2-3 cm or more above the coronet, point upwards and slightly outwards, and are gently curved. In red deer the brow tines usually branch closer to the coronet and are at right angles to the main antler beam.

Sika do not have bez tines whereas these are present in red deer. In sika deer, the trez tines are relatively high up on the antler and typically small. The two top tines are forked and the outer top tine is typically longer with a considerable length of white smooth antler. The main beam of sika deer antlers has a characteristic reinforcing ridge between the brow and trez tines.

Social behaviour: In sika deer both sexes have a shrill, high-pitched whistle which they use when disturbed or alarmed. Sika hinds are generally more vocal than stags, except in the month (usually November) before fawning. Sika deer often whistle repeatedly while making their escape from disturbance.

During the roar, sika stags have a call that can best be described as being similar to a donkey "hee-haw".

Reproduction: Rut late March to early May. Hinds give birth to a single fawn although there are reports of twin embryos occurring. Hybridisation between sika and red deer may occur where their ranges overlap.

Gestation period: About 210 days.

Birthing: November-January.

Nomenclature: Male = stag. Female = hind. Young = fawn/calf

Where to hunt sika deer

You can use the hunting block search function to find hunting areas that have sika deer.

Search for a hunting block that has sika deer.

Tips for hunting sika deer


Hunting response

Sika deer are a medium sized.

Rifle calibres of .243 and above are suitable for shooting sika deer.

In spring, sika spend a lot of time in the open grazing on new grass growth.

Plan to hunt river flats and other grass areas during spring growth, hunting along the fringes.

In winter, when plant growth is sparse and conditions cold, sika are seldom encountered in the open preferring sunny mid valley, forest slopes and creek heads.

Sidle through mid valley slopes and gully heads stopping often and looking all around for animals either feeding or lying down.

During the rut, sika stags tend to be less cautious than at other times.

If hunting for stags the rut is the best time. Be careful as normally a high number of hunters pursue stags during the rut period. Wearing high viz clothing is recommended.

If a hunter is seen approaching, sika may lie flat on the ground to avoid detection.

Hunt slowly, stopping often and look at ground level ahead as well as normal height of deer standing.

In summer, especially the forest and scrub areas occupied by sika can dry out to the point that traversing quietly takes care.

Ensure clothing worn doesn’t make a noise when brushed up against vegetation and footwear that is light and rubber soled will also help to reduce noise.

In the last 2 hours of daylight, sika are often pre-occupied with feeding and are less cautious than at other times of the day.

When hunting in the last 2 hours of daylight and an animal spotted a 'purposeful approach' will often be successful.

When sika are aware of a hunters presence they will often call out. Putting a tree between themselves and the hunter sika seem to throw their voices up and away from their location.

If a sika is heard nearby, look down from where the noise appears to be coming from and look closer. Be prepared to see just a head pocking around the side of a tree.

Hunting seasons and ballots

In New Zealand, there is no seasonal restriction to hunting sika deer meaning generally they can be hunted throughout the year. There are however, instances where restrictions apply for specific reasons and periods when hunting is favoured.

Favoured hunting periods

  • The roar or rut (late March to early May) is when the stags are most vocal, calling to attract the attention of hinds and are less cautious than other times.
  • Spring is another favourable time of the year to hunt deer. During spring, deer can be seen coming out of the forest to feed on new grass and shrub growth.

Specific restrictions

  • Some areas may be closed during periods of high fire danger
  • Occasionally an area may be closed on a temporary basis to enable research or other management to be undertaken without being compromised by hunting.

It is important to check for these conditions with the local DOC office.

Kaimanawa Forest Park:

DOC Customer Service Centre
Phone 0800 275 362
Address DOC offices

Kaweka Forest Park:

Ahuriri / Napier Office
Phone:   0800 275 362
Fax:   +64 4 471 1117
Address:   Level 2
Dunvegan House
215 Hastings Street
Napier 4110
Postal Address:   PO Box 644
Napier 4140

International travel with hunting trophies

You may need CITES documentation to enter or leave New Zealand with your hunting trophy.

Check you need documentation

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