A strikingly handsome large deer the sambar is becoming increasingly popular with hunters. Numbers have increased steadily in recent years providing more opportunities to take trophies.
Despite it very large size the sambar is very secretive and apart from early morning or late evening hides away in thick scrub or wetland vegetation. Definitely one of the hardest New Zealand trophies to obtain but the large, heavy six point antlers are worth the effort.
The New Zealand wild sambar herds are derived from the large bodied Sri Lankan sub-species (Cervus unicolor unicolor) and are bigger than red deer. Sambar are few in number and present a serious challenge for the trophy hunter. In New Zealand, sambar deer roam the coastal mountains and gullies in Horowhenua, Manawatu, Rangitikei and Wanganui. Until recently they were protected, but the New Zealand Department of Conservation has now removed hunting regulations surrounding them, allowing them now to be hunted year round. The coat is dark brown with chestnut marks on the rump and underparts.
Sambar occupy a variety of habitats, often in proximity to farmed land. This habitat includes sand dune country, secondary growth and exotic pine forest. Their habit of hiding in cover during daylight hours and moving out to feed at night makes them a difficult deer to hunt.