Dave Ratcliffe first started as a professional hunter in 1965 when he was employed by the NZ Forest Service in the Ruahine Ranges. In 1969 he ventured to the South Island’s remote Fiordland and South Westland. Here jet boat was the form of transport used to recover animals to remote hand-made airstrips, where the animals were flown out by plane to a waiting truck to be taken to venison processing plants.
The winter months were spent back in the central North Island, either catching opossums for the fur trade or shooting wild goats for the export meat industry. Dave also has experience in logging native bush for the timber industry.
In 1973 Dave became a helicopter shooter, covering various areas of the South Island’s mountains, including Fiordland’s Wapiti country where a cull of the herd took place in 1974.
Dave then married in 1976, and since then he has had numerous lifestyle changes, becoming a butcher, bushman, fencer, and opossum trapper for the fur trade until live capture for deer started. Building deer traps was another work experience.
In 1985 Dave took over 10,000 acres of private Maori land, which had been logged from 1962 to 1972. The focus here was on developing a Tourist hunting and fishing venture. Over the next 23 years extensive roading was put in place and an accommodation lodge and cabins were built. The Game Estate had an animal management plan implemented, and many kilometres of quad tracks in the rugged wilderness terrain were designed to make the country more accessible. Animal numbers were lifted as well as Trophy Quality.
From 1985, Dave became a passionate fly and nymph fisherman and from that time he has fished most of the rivers in the region, as well as various lakes and rivers of the South Island.