Rachel Burke grew up in Leithen Valley, 30 minutes north of Gore. With hunting well and truly in her genes, her family has owned Leithen Valley Trophy Hunts for over 30 years. The business facilitates guided hunting trips for local and international guests, where they entertain, cook and guide, as well as organise shipment of trophies back to foreign destinations. Since Rachel was four years old, she bugged her parents to let her go out and be a part of it all, remembering the day when she was allowed to venture out with her Dad on horse back and pack out a deer.
These days, Rachel is found at the head of the operation, having spent the past eight years running it. Along with husband Olly and their two children Sam and Zac, they run the home block, as well as Maungawera Lodge out of Wanaka, and Tahr camp under the mountains, west of Christchurch. Rachel got Olly into hunting when she met him. "He is a people person, so hosting and guiding came naturally to him, as did the hunting luckily."
Rach was the first female hunting guide in New Zealand, and at the beginning, found it a bit tough proving herself to the hunters when they first arrived. "Sometimes out in the bush females might not have the same physical capabilities as males, but we certainly make up for it in other ways." Rachel is driven by the feedback that she receives time and time again from hunters on their blocks; they can see and feel her passion and determination when out on a hunt, something that she passes on to her team of guides.
Rachel admits to having a bit of a broken body after years of hard slog out on the hills, but she has used that experience and learned to work and think smarter. Although the outdoor office is where she would rather be, she is confined to the desk a bit more these days, running the operational side of the business. "I am proud to be running such a successful hunting business and enjoy all of the varied elements that I get to be involved in. Seeing and being a part of our guests getting a trophy of a lifetime is a pretty amazing experience."
Thanks for sharing your amazing slice of the primary industries, Rachel. What a great experience you give your international guests, and a great insight into rural New Zealand.