Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage accidentally dropped the word Kiwis think is the most offensive of all during an early-morning TV appearance on Thursday.
Ms Sage was talking to Breakfast host Daniel Faitaua about the controversial tahr cull when she appeared to use the slur in place of the word "hunters".
"There will be control work done between now and mid-November. Further meetings of the tahr liaison group and the c**ters too have committed to doing a big educational effort so that they shoot the female tahr, not just the bulls, which have got this magnificent mane, which they like to hunt."
Neither she nor Mr Faitaua reacted visibly to the phrase, but some hunters think it was no mistake.
"Wow! That was no slip of the tongue. Purposely said. Not acceptable," one wrote on the forum at nzhuntingandshooting.co.nz.
"She [knew] what she was saying alright," suggested another. "She pauses beforehand and afterwards."
Others suggested it was indeed a slip, but revealed her true thoughts on the hunting community.
"Unreal - I guess that is a word she commonly uses," one said.
"That's what she calls us behind closed doors," suggested another. "Surely no one in politics could be dumb enough to do that on purpose."
Another said it sounded like she was going to say "culling" but switched to hunters at the last minute, resulting in an unfortunate combination of sounds.
"It would be extremely stupid and pointless for a politician to call anyone c**ts on national television which presumably someone watches."
New Zealanders recently ranked c**t the most offensive word to hear in broadcasting, with 63 percent in a Broadcasting Standards Authority survey saying it was totally unacceptable in any scenario, let alone morning news TV.
A spokesperson for Ms Sage told Newshub she "could have more clearly enunciated the 'H' sound".
"New Zealanders will understand that it was a word perhaps not enunciated properly, and it should be left at that."