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Hunting Pheasants on Poronui

Poronui Pheasants – A Tradition in the making 

After a successful inaugural season for driven pheasants in 2022, it’s no surprise to see pheasants back on the menu with a bigger and better programme. Poronui has been renowned as a premium sporting lodge for decades and driven pheasant has fitted right in! The tradition surrounding European-style driven shooting is followed to a tee which adds to the atmosphere. With guests enjoying such a good experience first up, it is tempting to think that it is easy. It isn’t! It relies on a very successful partnership between Poronui -who provides the property and hosts the shoots-, New Zealand Gamebirds -who run the shoot itself- and volunteer beaters and pickers and their dogs. 

Driven pheasant hunts can only occur on gazetted upland game properties. The Hawkes Bay Fish and Game Council have provided permission for the shoot to occur at Poronui. All hunters must hold a current Gamebird licence. 

wooden planks used for bird hunting

Pheasant Acclimatisation 

To be recognised as an upland game property the landowners must release their own pheasants. In effect, it is a put and harvest operation. For this reason, both cock and hen birds may be shot and there is no daily bag limit. Each year new birds are released, and they join the birds who survived the previous seasons. Most of them are in traditional ring-necked colouration. 

New Zealand Gamebirds Ltd are the driving force behind the shoot itself breeding, releasing,  acclimatising, and tending for the birds in preparation for the season. They also operate all aspects of the shoot itself which involves gamekeepers, beaters and pickers and is a major logistical exercise. The experience of the team led by Jeff Niblett shows out and is a big part of the success of the programme that runs through the months of May to August.  

The pheasant programme is operated as a resident event with shooters enjoying two nights at the renowned Poronui Lodge. This allows participants to relax and make the most of the social aspects of the visit. The shoots are very popular and hunting days are highly sought after.  

A driven hunt is a great experience. On the day there are four main groups operating as one co-ordinated unit. 

A beautiful pheasant standing in the NZ Poronui forest.

The Beaters 

The gamekeeper manages the team of beaters. A day’s shooting involves 4-5 drives at different locations. A blast on the horn indicates a drive is underway and shooting is permitted, while a second blast announces the conclusion of the drive. The aim is for the beaters to slowly push small numbers of birds out evenly across the line of guns. It is not that easy though, and weather and bird’s behaviour often interfere! The shooting itself is challenging and will test even the best of shots. 

A gamekeeper standing getting ready to hunt

The Shooters 

Eight guns usually participate in a day’s shoot, shooting from predetermined pegs at each drive. Shooters draw for the initial peg numbers at the beginning of the day and then rotate along the line as the day progresses. Participants typically wear traditional European shooting attire. While at first this may seem inconsistent with New Zealand hunting, this tradition adds to the experience and is a big part of driven shoots.  

Safety is the main consideration on shoot day. Semi-automatic shotguns are not permitted, and shoot rules and peg placement are designed to ensure shooting is tightly controlled and safe.  

hunters in the Poronui landscape hunting pheasants

The Dogs and their handlers 

A large team of spaniels and labradors and their handlers work as the pickers retrieving shot  bords at the end of each drive. They do a phenomenal job and it’s unlikely to see a happier bunch of dogs – they might be shattered at the end of the day, but they seem to have more fun than anyone!  

Spaniels dog at the back of a truck


The lodge team lead by Manager Claire Hall ensures everyone enjoys the full Poronui experience which is second to none in the world of sporting lodges.  

It is a spectacular day, a mix of field sports, socialising and fine food and drinks in a great location that is hard to beat. 

Lodge team Manager Claire Hall ensures everyone enjoys the full Poronui experience

Greg Morton: New Zealand correspondent for The Birdhunting Report for over ten years
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