Colin Rayner originally did not aspire to be guide and did not have a father who was a role model. He remarks, “The odds were that I would never become a hunter, let alone end up guiding. But if the fire is strong enough, then you make your own opportunities and get things to happen. I was born and raised in the big city, but from my earliest memories, I had a burning desire for the bush, mountains and adventure and to be in those wild places. During my school years, I read every hunting book I could find in the local library. I was captivated by Phil Holden’s books, especially Rod and Rifle. Although I did not realize it at the time, along with the Urewera country, the Kaimanawas/Kawekas Mountains, located in central North Island, would feature predominately in my early deer hunting.”
After receiving his first permit on his 16th birthday, Colin starting hunting with a .22 rifle. When he was 16-1/2 years old, he entered the New Zealand army and hunting was put on hold during Rayner’s infantry service. During a two-year tour in Singapore and Southeast Asia, he adapted to the hot and humid jungle of the Malayan Peninsula while enhancing his wildlife knowledge by observing the indigenous species. Rayner says, ”The wildlife was amazing. Elephants, tigers, wild pigs, monkeys, snakes were all there. I saw fresh [tiger] sign walking down a beach one night, heard a few others, but didn’t actually see a tiger.”
When a serious injury ended his ten-year army service, Rayner’s search for a second career took him to British Columbia where he began guiding hunters for big game animals. After the season, he returned to New Zealand guiding in the North Island, but his heart was in the South Island where he began working for Kiwi Safaris guiding clients for tahr. For the next eight years, Rayner guided clients on an annual circuit of hunting seasons beginning with New Zealand, then to North America and Spain, eventually adding Sonora, Mexico, home to Rayner’s favorite desert mule deer. He remarks, “Animals have the same needs no matter where they live. All you have to do is adapt to local conditions and behaviors to be effective at hunting them. Some guides struggle to adapt their technique, but I embrace the change, always learning.”
When afield, Rayner hunts with a Browning rifle and shotgun. For trophy animals up to elk size, he uses .300 Win. Mag, with 180-grain Barnes bullets. He is a firearms instructor for both military and civilians and teaches guide training courses in New Zealand.
In fifteen years of guiding, there are many outstanding experiences, but Rayner recalls one that’s especially satisfying for him and etched in his memory because the client displayed perseverance and determination.
“I had a friend who was in a wheelchair. One day at the gun club he asked me if it would be possible for him to hunt a bull tahr. I said it would be possible. We have the best area in New Zealand for hunting tahr. I agreed to take him hunting with the condition that he tell me what size tahr he wanted and we would not shoot until we found one that met his requirements. I did not want him to lower his standard because of his mobility limitations. He would drive his quad bike around the trails going up and down the mountains, looking for a big tahr that was within range of the bike. We passed on many tahr, hunting twice each season. Once I carried him to the edge of a steep draw hoping that we would get an opportunity for a shot at a good bull below us. By the time I got him into position, the animal was gone. In the fourth season, I saw “Mr. Big” and my friend took him with one shot at 107 yards. He took a 14-inch monster that was 11 1/2 years old. If we had seen him in our first year of hunting, he would have been a good bull, but by not lowering his standard he got the trophy of his dreams–a valuable hunting lesson. This animal and hunt I will remember always.”
Rayner is an SCI member and master measurer who has attended Conventions since 1996 as a Kiwi Safaris exhibitor. He supports local hunting clubs with their youth training programs. In past years, Kiwi Safaris has donated hunts to Sables. Rayner also donated father and son packages to encourage family togetherness. With his wife and daughter, Rayner lives in Geraldine, South Canterbury. He intends to continue guiding for many years for the various species Kiwi Safaris offers, but especially for tahr, which is his passion.