James Cagney

James Cagney

I was raised in the Mackenzie Country and the West Coast through the 70’s and 80’s; fortunate enough to grow up in a hunting family I started hunting at a young age. My Dad was involved in the venison recovery and live capture industries on the West Coast, helicopter and foot hunting and developing live capture gear. Recreational hunting was also a big thing for our family. We developed a bush block into a deer farm, had gold claims, trapped possums commercially and milled a bit of timber – all those good old West Coast things. We filled in our wet West Coast days loading ammunition commercially for the venison and live capture industries and doing a bit of gunsmithing work.
During this time, we had one of the early tahr farming permits and farmed tahr for 15 or 20 years. Only up to 20 or so animals and just as an interest of my Dad’s as much as anything, but it sure was an interesting time. In the end we had to get rid of the tahr - when the tahr feral range was gazetted, our property just on the North side of the Hokitika River fell just outside of the feral range so our tahr farming permit was revoked.
By the late 80’s the venison recovery and live capture industry had collapsed so at the age of 20 with no prospect of a career in that industry I joined the Air Force. I served for 16 years in the Air Force – 8 years as an Armourer and 8 years as a Helicopter Crewman and Helicopter Crewman Instructor. During this time, I did a lot of recreational hunting, particularly making the most of the really good chamois numbers and increasing tahr numbers through the 90’s and early 2000’s. Hunting opportunities then were a lot better than the lean years of the 80’s.
I finished my Air Force career at the end of 2004 and made my way into the hunting guiding industry. At this stage my family and I were settled in rural Canterbury where we’ve been living for 20 years now. I guided for Manuka Point for several years, contract guided for High Peak, Four Seasons and a little bit for some others. I established my own hunting outfit in 2014 specialising in free range hunts for tahr, chamois and red stags. We’re pretty busy with our own outfit now but I still do a little bit of contract guiding for High Peak. For several years I guided in Northern British Columbia during the Northern Fall, which has fitted in nicely at the end of the NZ season. This has been a great insight into what sound game management can achieve – for the wildlife and the environment.
Around the seasonal nature of the guided hunting industry I’ve filled my off-season over the years contract fencing, running wilding pine contracts and I did a couple of years as operations manager for a local helicopter company. We’ve also always done a bit of commercial contract helicopter venison recovery on private high-country properties and game estates through Canterbury. Now days we have a horseback trail riding outfit which is our Summer business.
Although I have a helicopter background and have done plenty of AATH or heli-hunting over the years when contract guiding, I made the choice with my own outfit to stick to foot hunting and I’m happy with that decision.
I joined the New Zealand Professional Hunting Guides Association in 2007. In 2013 I developed the NZPHGA Professional Hunter Academy – Guides Standards Course and I run that course for the NZPHGA every year. I’ve been on the NZPHGA Executive since 2015 and I’m the current NZPHGA President.
Through all of this I’ve always been a keen and active recreational hunter – always keeping a boot in each camp. These days my recreational hunting efforts have been mostly around my family’s hunting – in New Zealand and overseas.