Hunting and fishing runs in the blood for Hamilton plumber and gas-fitter Craig ‘Hori’ Horan, who has been enjoying the outdoors all his life. Rheem Off-site Editor John Eichelsheim caught up with Craig to find out what makes him tick.

Based in Hamilton with his own business, CH Plumbing, Craig Horan started pig hunting and duck shooting with his dad at age four. He thinks he probably started fishing even earlier… It’s an introduction he has also given his own boys, Mitchell and Jacob, now grown up and themselves doing gas-fitting and plumbing apprenticeships with local firms. Like Craig, the boys hunted and fished with their dad and his mates from a young age and both have caught the bug – Mitchell hunts every weekend and most days after work.

Craig served his plumbing apprenticeship at the AFFCO freezing works at Horotiu, not far from Hamilton. This was followed by several years as a sales representative for plumbing supply companies Plumbing World, PlumbPak Products and Micos Hamilton, before a twoyear stint back on the tools with Hamilton firm Denson Plumbing.

A nice West Coast mountain chamois
A nice West Coast mountain chamois

Thirteen years ago Craig decided to go out on his own, starting CH Plumbing, where Jacob is currently serving his apprenticeship under the watchful eye of his dad. Craig is a member of the Master Plumbers Association.

NORTH AND SOUTH ISLANDS

Craig hunts all over New Zealand’s North and South Islands and fishes on both coasts and in rivers and lakes too. Hamilton is nice and central with good hunting and fishing within a few hour’s drive in any direction. Fishing and diving out of Raglan and Kawhia on the west coast and Coromandel and the Far North on the east coast, Craig enjoys chasing snapper, kingfish and crays, tagging along on mates’ boats.

Craig enjoys nothing more than introducing youngsters to hunting and the outdoors.
Craig enjoys nothing more than introducing youngsters to hunting and the outdoors.

“I keep telling them when I’m too old to chase pigs in the bush I’ll buy one of their boats,” he jokes. Craig loves the mountains of the South Island for their remoteness and amazing scenery, as well as the unique mix of hunting species, but also the North Island’s rugged bush country with its wonderful pig and deer hunting. “I’ve enjoyed great pig and deer hunting in both islands, but for me the highlights in the South Island have been a tahr I shot up the Jolly River in South Canterbury and a chamois on Mount Victoria inland from Westport,” says Craig. Craig began deer stalking when he was 15 years old and this remains a favourite pastime. “Deer stalking combines patience, stealth, bush sense, marksmanship, the right tactics on the day and a fair bit of luck. I never get tired of it,” says Craig. Sika and fallow deer are his favourite quarry because they are so flighty and inquisitive, making them tricky to stalk, but he reckons all deer species have their challenges. It is Craig’s goal to bag a trophy specimen of every type of deer in New Zealand.

A successful pig hunt
A successful pig hunt

He’s doing pretty well so far, having ticked off red, sika, sambar and fallowdeer – wapiti, whitetail and rusa deer are still on his list. Of course Craig’s not averse to taking his dogs and nabbing a pig or three, which is where his love of hunting began, or chasing more exotic species like tahr: “a real challenge to hunt and hugely satisfying when you succeed.”

 

GETTING INVOLVED

Deer Stalking combines patience, stealth, bush sense, marksmanship, the right tactics on the day and a fair bit of luck.
Deer Stalking combines patience, stealth, bush sense, marksmanship, the right tactics on the day and a fair bit of luck. I never get tired of it.

As a keen hunter and fisher, Craig was always more than ready to get involved in the things he loves. He’s been an active member of several hunting and fishing clubs over the years, holding positions on various committees and even serving a spell as vice-president of the Tokoroa Pig Hunting Club. This was the first and largest pig hunting club in New Zealand at the time. Craig was a pig release officer for eight years as part of a disease monitoring programme undertaken by the club in partnership with The Animal Heath Board (currently known as OSPRI ) and other government agencies to determine whether or not tuberculosis (TB), a highly infectious disease dangerous to both humans and domestic stock, was present in the wild pig population of Tokoroa Forest. The club obtained a licence to release pigs into the wild, which is normally illegal. Craig would buy wild pigs, have them vet-tested for TB, and then tag and release healthy TB-free animals into the forest during hunting off season.

Craig with a big Far North snapper.
Craig with a big Far North snapper.

When these tagged animals were caught in subsequent hunting seasons, hunters would return the heads to Craig and his team. Craig would then take them back to the vet who would conduct new tests for TB infection. If any of the heads tested positive for TB it would mean the disease was present in wild pigs in the forest. In eight years not a single tagged pig’s head tested positive, evidence that pigs in Tokoroa Forest were not carrying TB. The evidence the release programme gathered over eight years prevented government departments blanket poisoning the region with 1080, preserving the hunting. Craig also helped set up the Game Animal Council of New Zealand, a statutory body instigated by the New Zealand Government in 2013 to advise and make recommendations to the Minister of Conservation on hunting issues, provide information and education to the sector, promote safety initiatives, conduct game animal research and undertake management functions for designated herds of special interest.

SHARING THE PASSION

Like their dad, Craig's sons started hunting early.
Like their dad, Craig’s sons started hunting early.

While Craig loves his trade, he’s always happy to put the tools away for a bit and head out into the bush chasing pigs or deer, or to hitch up the boat and head to the coast for a day’s fishing and diving with his mates. He enjoys nothing more than helping youngsters – boys and girls – get their first pig or deer and says he gets a real buzz seeing these kids outside in the hunting environment, watching them grow and in many cases become hunters themselves: “Many of those younger ones have their own dogs now…”