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Episode 9: Life in the hills

On the next episode screening 12 April 2014 at 7pm on TV ONE

Life in the hills

Jason Hart loves being in the back country - so much so that he spends more than 200 days a year hunting for a living, mostly in national parks and conservation areas.

"It's a brilliant place to turn up at the office", he says. "You don't have too many worries out in the hills."  

He first went hunting with his father Dick Hart, who was a deer culler, in the 1960s and caught the hunting bug. 

"I'm very indebted to Dad. He taught me all my bush-craft skills and got me onto my first deer."

Now, Jason runs his own hunting company, Backcountry Contracting Ltd, and employs seven others. 

They hunt in teams of two and mainly go after feral goats which eat threatened native plants. 

"We've been into areas where goat numbers have been relatively high and have shot around 10 goats each a day. After a few trips, that figure drops to one goat per hunter per day. The regeneration of the bush happens pretty quickly." 

Ian Cox from the Department of Conservation, which contracts Jason and his team in Nelson's Kahurangi National Park, says the hunters do a great job.

"These guys go the extra mile because they know we're achieving something - they're seeing the results for themselves."

But it's not an easy life. Jason and his team have a special skill-set - to navigate safely around rugged mountains, sleep under canvas in all weathers, handle a team of dogs and find elusive goats is not something everyone can do. 

Theie specially trained dogs are crucial to success. "Without good dogs you can walk right past animals," Jason says. "The dogs' noses will pick up the scent of the goat, but it's up to the hunter to put the dogs in the best position."  

When you're away for more than half the year, the other essential is good family support. Jason's wife Julie keeps everything sorted at the couple's Manawatu home. 

Their two children, Leah, aged three, and Richie, who is just one, look forward to seeing Dad arrive home. "Leah's first words were Dad and dog," says Julie. "Leah loves to help feed the dogs - she knows which dogs are away with Dad, and which ones are home in the kennels." 

Jason says it's always good to get home and see his family. "It's always amazing how much they grow during the 10 days I'm away. It's hard to go away again, but that's the job."

It's been 20 years since Jason first joined a team of goat hunters. "Back then, this was my dream job. To be fair, it probably still is."

To contact Jason Hart at Backcountry Contracting Ltd, email:

To find out more about Kahurangi National Park, visit:

To find out more about the threat posed by feral goats, visit:


Frank Torley

Peter Young

Additional Camera
Richard Williams

Field Sound
Don Paulin

Additional Sound
Tony Spear

Mike Townsend

Colour Grader
Alex Wright

Sound Mixer
Ian Leslie

Sound Editor
Don Paulin

Post production manager
Bailey Palmer

Production manager
Robyn Best

Vivienne Jeffs

Network executive
Jude Callen

Dan Henry
Julian O'Brien