Revealed: Gloriavale hunter's trip with Philadelphia Eagles' Carson Wentz

Zion Pilgrim might belong to a strict religious sect, but the wilderness is very much his church.

Hunting high in the Southern Alps, his target on this hunt is tahr - a giant goat-like animal, originally from the Himalayas. His weapon of choice is a bow and arrow.

Mr Pilgrim is a member of Gloriavale, and his job for the fundamentalist community is running its world-class private hunting operation.

He can count one of American football's biggest stars as a client.

Mr Pilgrim ditches the blue uniform for this role, and camouflage becomes his kit of choice. His weapons are his work tools, and the wilderness his workplace.

This is a side of Gloriavale's business empire that has never been seen before, opened up courtesy of American sports royalty.

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz is one of the biggest stars in the NFL right now.

In two weeks, he will be shaking hands with Donald Trump, honoured at the White House because of his team's Super Bowl win earlier in the year.

Carson Wentz is a star member of the Philadelphia squad that won the NFL.
Carson Wentz is a star member of the Philadelphia squad that won the NFL. Photo credit: Reuters

He has also been a client of Mr Pilgrim, when the 'cult' of football collided with what some describe as the 'cult' of Gloriavale.

The two worlds could not be further apart.

But on this hunting trip, the two men were united by the hunt. And they are also united by religion - for as much as Carson is devoted to football, he is also not shy about his devotion to God.

Tattooed on his wrist is 'A01' - translating to 'Audience of One' - clearly showing his pride in his relationship with God.

What is not so clear is how much Carson Wentz and his brother Eric - who he brought along to play pro-videographer - know about Mr Pilgrim's membership in Gloriavale, the 550-person sect that has shut itself off from the rest of New Zealand for nearly 50 years.

Newshub has learned that Wentz took a "close interest" in Gloriavale, and had long discussions about it.

Mr Pilgrim is the son of Faithful Pilgrim, principal of Glorivale's school and one of its 'Shepherds' - the community's top eight leaders. Mr Pilgrim is also one of the so-called 'Servants' who, along with the Shepherds, make up a 16-man ruling council.

Revealed: Gloriavale hunter's trip with Philadelphia Eagles' Carson Wentz
Photo credit: Zion Pilgrim / Supplied

He is the brother-in-law of Dove Love, now Dove Stedfast, a favourite from Gloriavale documentaries. He is married to her sister Gloriana.

He's also a trained pilot from when Gloriavale ran an airline.

On Facebook, he can boast 2860 friends. He is all over Instagram, with 2648 followers - mainly through hunting.

However, there is no boasting about his connection to Gloriavale and no photos anywhere of him in the blue uniform.

In fact, the hunting company Wilderness Quest New Zealand - makes no mention whatsoever of Gloriavale either. It is impossible to tell they are linked.

Revealed: Gloriavale hunter's trip with Philadelphia Eagles' Carson Wentz
Photo credit: Zion Pilgrim / Supplied

Wilderness Quest New Zealand's website offers a week's hunting costs for US$13,950 (NZ$20,170). That entitles hunters to a shot a tahr, a chamois and a red stag.

Clients sleep in the private lodge and eat special meals made by Gloriavale. There is all sorts of hunting in what Gloriavale calls a rainforest - and trout fishing in Lake Haupiri and nearby rivers.

Business is booming, and it is booked up in advance.

Gloriavale's base is on the West Coast and it uses helicopters to ferry guests into the Alps for game. It also runs deer on its land in the Haupiri Valley for the very best in private hunting.

Revealed: Gloriavale hunter's trip with Philadelphia Eagles' Carson Wentz
Photo credit: Zion Pilgrim / Supplied

Gloriavale breeds the stags, then releases them into the 'wild' - which is actually fenced, but made to feel as wild as possible. The fence helps keep control - but importantly, it keeps other hunters out.

Hunting and Fishing lobby group Fish and Game says Gloriavale is sticking memorandum of understanding to allow people access to public land. However it agrees Gloriavale's land and its giant stags are private and for their clients only.

A stag is exactly what Carson Wentz was after. And he got one.

A superstar quarter-back hunting with a member of Gloriavale. For a big fee, Wentz was given access inside part of their world.

Much like Gloriavale itself, this is for the chosen few - and all others must stay on the outside.

Newshub.

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