Kaipara Hills resident Sarah Thoroughgood has become the first woman in New Zealand to win the coveted Bow Hunter of the Year award.
Sarah, aged 23, has been bow hunting for eight years. To win the title, she drove 23,000km and walked 750km carrying a 60-pound bow.
“I knew I was on track to win, but it was pretty surreal in the end to get the award,” Sarah says.
Sarah won the award by dominating the most competitions in a 12-month period. She won the Small Game Shield, Small Game Variety Shield, Most Big Game Species Trophy, Best Deer Head on DOC Land, Best Prepared Skin Trophy, gained points from record-book sized pig tusks and a blue shark, and she was second overall in the fish points category.
For the variety shield, she shot 23 different species of small game including a kingfish and mullet. But it was a ferret that claimed her the prize.
“I never thought I would get a ferret, but one day I saw one within my range and shot it. It ended up being the 23rd species on my list, which won me the shield.”
Only animals that have a running chance can be targeted under the New Zealand Bow Hunters Society rules. The addition of artificial light, laser sights and other technology is also not permitted.
Sarah shoots her animals through the heart or lungs to avoid maiming.
“If I see an animal, but it’s a difficult shot, I won’t fire in case I only injure it before it gets away. I’m a patient hunter so I can wait for hours before I get the right opportunity to make my shot.”
At times, she has been able to kill two goats at once when they aligned. She has killed goats from up to 90 metres away.
Sarah says there are a number of factors that go into making a good bow hunter.
“One of the most important things is to understand the typography of the land, which can either give you or your prey a place to hide.
“Technique is something you learn with experience, and the quality of your gear also has an influence.”
She also studies animal behaviour and traits to strike when her prey is most vulnerable.
“Pigs, for example, have great smell and poor eyesight, so you can get close in on them easily as long as you’re upwind.
“When hunting tahr, it is difficult to get them during feeding time so I’ve learnt their routine and intercept them on their way to feed.”
Sarah shares her knowledge as an archery coach and works with a number of juniors, including her 16-year-old sister, Rebekah, who recently became a master bow hunter.
Rebekah is the 123rd person to achieve this title, the 10th junior and first junior female master bow hunter.
In order to achieve this she claimed five small and five big game awards, with her favourite kill a stag whose skin is now a living room rug.
“I enjoy hunting with my sister,” Rebekah says. “We’ve had so many awesome experiences together across the country.”