New Caledonia 2016
I want to take the opportunity to say thank you. Thank you for making our honeymoon an incredible experience that will never be forgotten, from the hospitality, to the great camp food and exceptional hunting opportunities. My wife and I had an absolute blast experiencing all you guys had to offer and loved the accommodations and rustic feel. Not to mention the Rusa hunting that was incredible and in some gorgeous lush valleys, quite a bit different from what we hunt here in the US. Would never hesitate to recommend your outfit to anyone, keep up the amazing work and thanks again for the Huntingmoon.
Marcus & Rebecca Vogel
HUNTING with CRANSTON WALKER
New Zealand & New Caledonia
By Steve O’Halloran 2014
It seemed like a good idea at the time, Cranston couldn’t wait and was on the phone as soon as he had seen the pig mark on the side of the road; I quickly grabbed my ridgeline and knife jumped in the old Toyota and rushed out to meet him. The dogs had already been collected and I knew exactly where he was waiting.
I pulled up not only to see him and the dogs but his hand also bandaged up?? Now things started to make sense, I had officially become the carrier for the evening.” OK, what happened? Cranston started into one of his casual stories as only he can do, relaying everything as if it was a completely normal day, and this sort of thing happened to all of us. In short, he fell out of the boat when he started the motor in gear, and got towed around the Tasman for a bit. Now the average man would have probably let go but NO, Not Cranky, he just started to haul himself up the cord until he had an argument with the propeller, which inflicted a mind changing decision to his hand. The boat was cut loose and he started his 500 meter swim to shore with a bleeding hand in the open ocean, luckily the great white hunter didn’t become the Great Whites dinner.
So here we both were standing on the side of a gravel road looking at a rather large mark that belonged to an elusive boar, which only showed up occasionally. Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you it was the end of June, raining and last thing in the evening after work. Unfortunately a fairly common occurrence for those of us who live with wild game right on the back door. The dogs were let loose and tracked straight across the road into the wind and down along the river basin, no more than 30 minutes and the bail was on. We waited for a bit just to make sure the dogs had it and then went down along the river bank only to discover the pig standing on a ledge on the other side of the river with the two dogs swimming and barking and the other standing on our side bailing.
“ Right O, hurry up and get in” I’m sure he wasn’t talking to me, Oh crap “ok” sure pleased we didn’t have a camera. Now I joined the dogs, freestyling into the current, trying to hook the back leg of this boar as I went past. First attempt failed, second attempt, perfect. Luckily for me it was too deep for the pig as well and with me holding his back legs his head only went one way. With the boar on the bank and my manhood in jeopardy, the 120lb boar was loaded on my back and we headed up to the Ute.
Back at the car Cranston asked if I had, had enough of this cold weather, which at the time I thought was a fairly strange question, seeing how he just threw me into a freezing King Country river, in the middle of winter, but the reason soon became apparent .Belle Safaris is run by Cranston and Chaz and Cranky wanted me to come over this July with him and chase a Rusa stag around in the tropics. Pretty sure he was feeling guilty about all the times he had nearly killed me, so the trip was on offer, I said I would have to think about it and by the time we got the pig hung, I had practically booked the ticket.
It was now the end of August and I had just got off the phone with Chaz who was already in New Caledonia with Cranston and they had successfully managed to obtain trophy stags for all their clients so far. I’m not a trophy hunter as such, as I believe the trophy is a bit like beauty, it’s all in the eye of the beholder. I have had countless trophy hunts with Cranston and I’m sure this one would be no different. Cranston has over 40 years of Pig and Deer Hunting experience and has gone from catching countless animals to teaching and showing a multitude of others how to do it. Ok, sometimes old school is also taught, but don’t say I didn’t tell you.
It is just over a two hour flight to New Caledonia from New Zealand and it was over before I knew it, touching down in Tontouta 20 minutes out of the capital Noumea. Chaz and Cranston were waiting for me as promised and a quick check via customs, into the country and we were away to base camp. Cranston provides a 7mm Rem Mag fitted with a Burris scope, so if you don’t have a preference for a rifle, it saves a lot of time and hassle bothering with customs and permits. I’m not fussy as this bit of kit will take care of almost any animal at any range, and seeing how you have to pay for your stag dead or wounded I wanted mine on the ground.
It took just over two hours to base camp at Poya and I couldn’t believe the amount of wild deer we saw on the way, keeping in mind my arrival was late evening. Finally arriving at the gate entrance and about another 5ks of driveway to go I was here and almost on cue 500 meters up the lane was an average size Rusa stag displaying around a 26 to 28 inch head. No was the only word I heard, from the passenger seat as Chaz already knew what I was thinking, “that’s out pet one”.
Cranston has the option to hunt six different properties in the Poya district which provides some of the best opportunities in New Caledonia to obtain a record book Rusa stag. I only had two days to secure my animal due to other commitments and other hunting arrivals; so long before first light the following day we were up and off to check things out. A short 20 minute drive and we were in the thick of it, the stags had already started roaring and sounded more like a jersey bulls than a stag.
They do a single guttural roar stop and then do it again. Unlike a Red stag the New Cal Javan Rusa don’t respond well to a challenge call, so we just use their roar to locate them. My guide new the country well and Cranston soon had me looking at several full grown animals, all in excellent condition, I was so overwhelmed with how many deer I was seeing, I wasn’t really sure what to shoot, so the decision was made for me. (Nothing new there) Let’s go back to camp for a cup of tea, plenty more area to check out yet. I would have to estimate we saw around 16 stags that morning, 5 or 6 were probably around the 28 to 30 inch size, more than respectable antler for a Rusa stag.
When I said to a trip to the tropics, I wasn’t kidding, man it gets hot there, so no point trying to stay out in the heat as the deer don’t, they disappear mostly in to shaded bush areas and when you go into to look for them, well they sort of migrate out in extreme numbers and that area is buggered for a couple of days. So late afternoon we were off again to a different property with a very nice boulder river running through it. Not to be out done, this property offered up four fantastic stags, one which I’m sure would have been getting close to that magic 40 inches. However my timing is never the best, just as we arrived in a prime shooting position the smoko horn from the nickel mine above, some two kms away rung out and that Stag must have thought his coffee was ready because he was off like a rocket.
I asked Cranston why he didn’t mention this a little earlier, and the customary response was promptly received, so we headed back for dinner and few quiet number ones. Those of you who travel to New Caledonia will soon work out what a number one is.
The next day started at the same time, and I was full of anticipation, we shot down the road at a good pace, and just before we turned into our next property, I asked Cranston was it tradition in this country not to stop for blue flashing lights. Oh shit, was the immediate reply and I was hoping he had learnt a few more French words than that. The very kind Policeman was concerned that we may not see the deer on the road at our speed and soon saw the funny side, when we explained what our mission for the day was. (Saves on ammo I guess).
Half way up the first gentle rise with the sun just breaking, we saw our first mob, so I started scanning for the stag, after counting around 62 deer including yearlings and spikers only two average stags were seen. Cranston wasn’t impressed so we carefully backed away and went around the base of the ridge to the opposing valley, where once again from a vantage point the morning turned into one of those special days that you just don’t forget, with stags roaring and fighting.
I counted two separate pairs fighting and 9 others just sitting around, that’s not counting hinds. We sat for some time looking for something special, but considering the distance and what I was seeing, I was happy to just watch. I was starting to realise what my mate was trying to tell me about obtaining a huge trophy here. Although there are plenty of stags, the big ones are also shot locally along with continual trophy hunters, which leave plenty around that 28 to 32 inch size, so you have to take your chances waiting for something bigger. I took my chance waiting, so after heaps of video and photos, we left for a Chaz prepared camp omelette and coffee.
After a bit of kip and then a brief planning session, another property was visited, this time a bit more like N.Z with a lot of trees and a bit thicker bush. We parked the Ute at a river fork and started our huge half hour walk along the flats before hearing the first roar.
Cranston gave the indication on where he was and we headed that way very slowly, as there are literally eyes watching around every tree. It couldn’t have been more than 100 meters and another roar let rip, we were closing the gap and working the wind. Little did we know that this bugger had started walking directly at us after he had finished roaring.
We both sat quietly underneath a bit of river bank waiting for the next indication of where to go, when suddenly directly above us, came blood curdling roar. It almost caused the worst physical reaction the old mud catchers could handle. I couldn’t believe it when I looked over at Cranston and he was pointing up, what!! Did he think I was deaf? No Kidding or words to that effect.
We both sneaked a look over the top and not more than 15 yards away was my Stag, looking in the opposite direction. One nicely placed shot up the arse should do it. He dropped without complaint and a 35 inch, thick Rusa stag lay at our feet.
I couldn’t believe my bad luck, nearly all Cranston’s clients could bring the Ute to where the stags were shot, but No not this one, Cranky had to drag me off into the bush where an hour later (in the dark) I had to carry this thing out.
The meat was delivered to the local farm owner and we took off with the head skin and timber, content with what we had achieved. New Caledonia was an experience that I would repeat again, if the opportunity arises and not only is the hunting and deer numbers amazing, the locals were great and the fishing opportunities also abound, so save ya pennies and give me mate Cranky and Chaz a ring.
STAN & SHAUN
Weekend Hunting with Belle NZ Safaris
I went on a deer hunting trip with my son. We hired the services of Cranston and Chaz Walker the proprietors of Belle New Caledonia Safaris to guide us on the hunt. This was not to New Caledonia but here in the central north Island of New Zealand. What a great time we had and what great hosts. The hunt was arranged for one day but we were able to arrive on the Friday evening, hunt the Saturday staying over night and left early Sunday.
First night is always the hardest with people getting to know each other, and, being from the northern part of New Zealand Cranston had to make sure we knew which end of the rifle was pointed at a target. He first tested us with a distance shot, at a boulder some 350 yards away. This boulder was situated on a hillside and was about the size of a small car. I made the comment it was a bit hard to miss, he assured us quite a few do miss it, however both myself and my son hit the target on the first try. I have to say all things considered it was an interesting shot.
Saturday morning finds us being tested again. This time a very small target at 100 yards and again we hit the mark, then off hunting we went. Cranston was most likely feeling more confident in our ability to hit the target and having a clean kill.
For those not familiar with New Zealand deer this hunt was for red deer. A reasonably sized and cautious animal, so some stalking skill is required. A thanks to Cranston on the knowledge he passed on to me, and for his patience, waiting for me to catch up. I learnt my fitness level needs some attention so before I arrange another hunt with him I intend to get the fitness level up. That will greatly enhance my enjoyment of the experience and country side.
We walked over and through some great tree covered areas and also into swamp. A large area of the bush was also adjacent to farm land and on one occasion we managed to get a large red stag cornered between the forest and a farm fence. In the spirit of the hunt, that being fairness towards the animal the stag was not shot. I took a photo and we backed off, allowing the stag safe passage back into the forest.
Some may feel it is cruel to hunt and kill an animal and be in poor taste to display the results. It is no worse than going to the butcher and buying over the counter beef, pork, chicken killed for human consumption. Its meat, food gathering and at least the animals have a very big chance of escape.
For those interested in hunting I recommend Cranston and his partner Chaz to provide an experience to remember. I don't think they go on horse back, so my horse Bugs, will have to be content to take his owner into the bush in Northland New Zealand.
Cranston and Chaz operate the hunting business called Belle New Caledonia Safaris for those who want to experience a hunt in New Zealand or New Caledonia contact Cranston or Chaz, email them at firstname.lastname@example.org or Google, www.bellenewcaledoniasafaris.com
Belle New Caledonia Safaris 2013
Wish Come True
By Mike Leonard - Gore NZ
Well I finally managed to do my hunting trip to New Caledonia with Belle New Caledonia Safaris, after a couple of false starts and it was a dream come true.
My first overseas hunting trip and it was so easy. Pick up and drop off at the airport. Driven around everywhere.
Very handy when everyone drives on the wrong side of the road!
The deer numbers are unbelievable. 500 plus a day and I'm not kidding. Pigs seen every day and turkeys galore. Great food. It's the only hunting trip I have ever been on where I put on weight. Great company because everyone is a hunting nut. Isn't it strange how you can talk hunting for hours. There was nice basic accommodation that catered for all our needs and if you want you can tack on a holiday with the better half at either end.
We had full days every day. There was always something to do . Chaz and Cranston did an excellent job.
All in all it was a fantastic trip. Great trophies, brilliant company and it was just made so easy.
Belle New Caledonia Safaris 2012
Rusa at Sunset
By Paul Clark – New Zealand Ammunition
“That looks okay,” I muttered, taking in the proud
features of the rusa stag as it fed quietly on the slopes of the steep New
Caledonian hillside, unaware it was about to become the subject of some debate.
Colin Murray shifted his gaze and scarcely hesitated before
nodding.“He’s a big bugger, alright!” he answered, “But he
might as well be a million miles away
he’s in the neighbour’s so
untouchable.”The debate was whether it’d feed closer and
eventually cross the border into ‘shootable’ territory – it didn’t.
That’s why a trophy rusa hunt in New Caledonia is
spread over five-days; not every opportunity pans out.
Jenny and I had booked a
hunt with Cranston and Chaz Walker of Belle New Caledonia Safaris and,
while I’ve had the privilege of hunting around much of the world,
island was rapidly proving to be a little gem.
Over the next couple of days we put the glasses on
plenty of game but for a variety of reasons I chose not to pull the trigger.
That changed on the cusp of an evening shoot when a nice stag caught my
attention and proceeded to play a cat & mouse game with us. We were hunting
one of Colin’s favourite hill blocks, where a beautiful long ridge dropped out
of the mountainous forest and sloped away to lowland clearings laced with
fingers of bush.
It was a natural corridor through which deer moved and Colin
had taken a number of nice heads off this ridge.
This animal wasn’t going to come easy and we had to
change position in order to keep it in sight. \
The Houdini routine settled near
dark, with the stag appearing high up the ridge at a ranged distance of 285
I was using a custom-built New Ultra Light Arms 6.5x .284 and shooting
130g Berger Hybrids that clip along at 3000fps, so felt comfortable in taking
I missed. Don’t ask me why – it happens sometimes.
The tension builds up and you miss on the big stuff. I took the second shot as
the stag was quartering away from me at 300 yards. The light was now
disappearing with the animal – Swarovski time!
My fundamental philosophy is that, if you can’t see
it you can’t shoot it, so I like good glass on my rifles. I’ve matched the rifle
with a Swarovski Z6 1.7 – 10x42 because it suits my hunting style. It’s the same
scope I busted in half when I tipped up the quad bike.
I had the factory rebuild
the scope, which is a testament to the quality of the brand – the quad didn’t
fare as well.
The shot was good, the Berger taking out the heart
and lungs. It was near dark by the time we made the animal, a nice
representative head with impressive brow tines.
It was no record-breaker but I
knew that when I pulled the trigger. That’s the benefit of using good optics –
you know what you are in for.
NZ Outdoor Hunting Magazine 2012
Free-Range Wanderings - Dogs Choice
Written By Greg Morton
In 2012 Cranston and Chaz Walker became the new owners of Belle New Caledonia Safaris, taking over from Colin and Alison Murray.
Each year, between early July and early September, they will leave New Zealand to guide hunting clients after trophy, free-range, New Caledonian Rusa stags.
Their first season has just ended and the results were exceptional for first up newcomers on the block.
Stags up to 37 inches in length were shot and all clients had their chance to snare a big trophy.
Chatting to them recently I was amazed with the success they had achieved, as the first year in a foreign country is always the hardest for
a change of ownership hunting operation. This company was originally owned by Australian Jamie Bell.
I shouldn’t have been surprised with their success as Cranston is a skilled hunter, and both he and wife Chaz mix easily with people.
What you see is what you get, and what you see is two outgoing, positive individuals who will laugh with you, feed you well, and out on the
hill achieve your hunting ambition. Chaz does the marketing, feeding and organising; Cranston does the guiding. I particularly smiled when
Cranston explained that the traditional way of hunting Rusa stags of ‘sit and wait’ didn’t always gel easily with him. Often when a stag
was roaring well, but refusing to show itself, he changed tack and took his client into the scrub after it. Some of his stags were shot at point
blank range while the accepted norm is 300 metres plus. Typical Cranston, thinking outside the square, and utilising his bush hunting skills.
I met them for the first time back in late April, just three months before they began their initial New Caledonia hunting season.
I had flown into Hamilton airport and we headed down to their rural base located in Central North Island, inland from Te Kuiti, and nestled along-
side Pureora State Forest Park. In the off-season in New Zealand they offer both meat hunts and pig hunts for keen clients. When not guiding
clients Cranston is a Forestry contractor and Chaz is involved in the hairdressing industry. Both are hard workers, and this ethic is reflected
in the approach they take to their new venture. Offer a good product, treat your clients right, market widely, price fairly, and the rest looks after itself.
Over the three days I enjoyed their company I opted for the Dogs’ Choice Pig Hunt pack-age, where what you catch each day is dictated
by the mood of the dogs. Might be a handbag, might be a big tusker, but the price is the same. Cranston has always loved hunting, particularly
pig hunting, and he is very good at it. His name regularly pops up in pig hunting competitions, and his greatest rivals are often young hunters he
introduced to the sport. In the venison recovery heyday he was involved as shooter with Ben of Rotor Works, and they made a mean team. Shooters here have to be crack shots,
as hunting deer from the air in Pureroa Park means snap-shooting game as they appear briefly in the few open areas and creek beds.
A look through his photo albums showed a lot of successful time in the hills, and a look in his shed showed a sea of big boar tusks. His lifestyle
property has both Red and Fallow deer running behind wire, and the nearby hills have enough pigs to keep him fit. His good friends Mike and
Kim joined us for tea the first night and there was a lot of laughing as Cranston described a litany of past adventures. In one escapade he had nose-
dived from height out of the helicopter, luckily into a swamp, and the body imprint he made remained obvious from the air for months.
Another time he attached a heavy video camera to his rifle and some of the resulting footage of his snap-shooting is truly jaw dropping.
The following morning we took dogs Bob, Huck, and Bart for a wander. The dogs found pigs but the short duration of each skirmish probably
meant they were small and had paid the ultimate price. We never had time to find any evidence as the dogs kept hunting. It was a good blowout over
some steep country, and though sign of bigger pigs was evident we never caught up to the owners. That afternoon we visited the farm of Brett and Paul to try our luck again.
These two have hunted with Cranston from a very early age and love nothing better than beating their mentor to the pigs.
The tusks in Brett’s garage were trophy size and proved he had listened to his teacher. He reckoned he would put us on some pigs with-out too much trouble as a mob
was ripping up pasture. We headed out to the back of the farm and found a spot where pigs were pushing through a fence to access the
farmland paddocks. The dogs shot through the hole and before the four of us had even got over the fence, barks indicated success. The pig was a runner and
the vegetation was in his favour. The gully he ran through was a maze of supple jack which has you contorted into many positions as you try and travel forward.
I quickly became tail end Charlie, but luckily for me the dogs pulled up the pig. I was nearly at the bail when he broke again
and headed further into the thick stuff. At this point Paul and I headed back to the truck to re-position and come in from another angle while
competitive Brett and Cranston tried to outrun each other to the pig. I would have loved to have watched the two of them tearing their way
through the impenetrable supple jack vines to claim ‘first there’ honours. Our trip in was pretty hairy as well but a shot indicated we were not far
away from the action. Hearing voices we saw Cranston and Brett sitting alongside a good 110 pound tuskless boar. They had arrived together
and because of this pig’s tendency to break, had quickly shot it when an opportunity arrived. It was quickly gutted and Paul did the hon-
ours of carrying it out to the truck. All over in just two hours. A couple of beers sealed the deal and we headed back to base to prepare for our next
adventure. The following morning we checked out two of Cranston’s meat hunting spots and I saw good numbers of both Red and Fallow
deer. Shooting an animal for the freezer would not have taken long but since I was travelling via plane back to Christchurch used the camera instead.
The Walker name in this area is well known and one cousin, Brett Walker, is a nationally rated bow hunter, with some big trophies to his name,
while Mark Walker is a top class taxidermist. I had not realised that Mark, who had mounted my big Rusa stag two years ago, was related to Cranston.
Hunting obviously runs in the Walker blood. That evening was my last hunt on this trip and Cranston and I took the dogs to a cutover forestry block.
We hopped on his quad and headed up the rutted track. Pig sign was scarce but we did flush three Fallow does. They were given a reprieve as we were on a pig mission.
Reaching the highest ridge we watched the dogs work the face below us. Brett had given Cranston a bit of stick about Huck being a young man’s
dog as he ranged widely, and in no time at all he was right down on the flats below us. Both of us hoped there was no pig there as it was a long way off.
They eventually headed back and with the sun getting low in the sky it looked like we were going to miss out. A small mob of goats caught our eye at the
top of the track and Cranston decided he could use one for dog tucker. We rode up a bit closer and he tipped one over. While sorting it out
the dogs disappeared again and soon a squeal broke out from the other side of the track. While Cranston headed to the bail I grabbed his rifle
and ran further up the ridge to see if any survivors of the melee were about. Parallel with me and just out of sight in the scrub I could hear the grunting of an upset, fleeing pig.
We both cleared the undergrowth at the same time and as he accelerated into top gear I rolled him over with a lucky shot.
When I joined up with Cranston he had knifed a smaller pig the dogs had hammered. Two others had escaped, though one was later
caught as we headed down the hill. This little fellow was released to get bigger. It was a great end to an action packed trip. I left for Christchurch the next morning and
the Walkers started thinking about New Caledonia. As mentioned earlier their season turned out memorable.