One $20,000 Red Stag up, 9 Bushy Tailed Possums and 3 Wild Turkeys Down*

asaxon

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What, you won't fork out $20,000 to shoot a Red Stag in New Zealand? What IS the matter with you?



The Admiral and I were in NZ visiting her “Cousy Bros” (Kiwi talk for family/relatives) after traveling through the sub Antarctic islands (Macquarie, Campbell Is. etc.) below NZ and Australia. We arranged to do some night time possum and day time turkey hunting with Dave Robinson. Dave is a fishing/hunting guide from the Admiral’s home town, Rotorua and the former manager of a fabulous lodge, resort and hunting ranch named “Treetops”. The bushy-tailed possum, not to be confused with the American possum, is an invasive and very destructive pest that was introduced into NZ from Australia many years ago. It is also a vector that transmits bovine tuberculosis to cattle. Hunting is by jack lighting at night as they are nocturnal – no limit and no closed season. According to the Kiwis the only pest that is worse is the Aussies themselves. After a traditional Kiwi dinner of fish & chips eaten in the local park (picture 1) while surrounded by volcanic vents followed by hokey pokey ice cream (picture 2), we met up with Dave and his son Caleb at 9 pm when it was getting dark - it is summer in NZ in December.
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After familiarizing ourselves with the firearms, a bolt action Bruno 22 and a Savage 17 HMR, each with a wicked big silencer (legal in NZ) and a scope, we loading into Dave’s vehicle, drove 20 minutes into the back bush and headed off up a track on a sheep farm. The Admiral, Caleb and I climbed into the truck bed; Caleb holding onto a rifle with one hand and the roll bar with the other, me holding onto a spotting light with one hand and the roll bar with the other and the Admiral between us hanging onto the roll bar with both hands. What a night we had! There was full moon, balmy temperatures and a massive thunderstorm on the Western horizon which kept lighting up the sky. Within a few minutes, we spotted our first possum as a pair of bright RED eyes shining under some trees. I put the crosshairs between the two red eyes and “putz” (sound of 22 with silencer). The wounded possum goes a few yards up nearby tree so I put another round into it. Plop, it falls to the ground. We drive to the tree line where Caleb, Dave and I pile out to pick up the carcass when lo and behold, Caleb spots another possum among the trees. Caleb who has the rifle quickly puts a round in this one but it manages to run off so the three of us give chase as Caleb realizes that he has no more rounds – the rest is in the ammo box in the truck. We finally get the animal cornered and ultimately I use a large branch to finish it off. Thus the photo of the possum with me holding two halves of the broken branch. Oh for a video of the chase scene – the three stooges would have been proud.
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Onward we go and the Admiral next offs a really good sized possum that was difficult see up in a tree due to the foliage. It died with its tail wrapped around a branch high up enough that in spite of Dave’s heroic efforts, it just wouldn’t fall. So it remained up in the tree as a warning to all the other possums that “The Admiral was in town”. After that we alternated shooting and the end, we shot at 10 possums, killed 9 and recovered 7. Most of the shots were taken between 30 and 75 yards. Of course, the one that “got away” was one I shot at. As expected, the Admiral put me to shame. She’d fire one round; the wooly bugger would fall - “plop”. I’d take two or even three shots to finish off the tough little critters.
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This night time hunt was really a kick. Not only did we see possums, we saw a small species of wallaby (another invasive beast from Australia) but it never gave us a clear shot before disappearing. I spotted what I thought was a string of 4 or more possums on a trail that turned out to be 6 little piglets following mom, a nice sized wild pig/sow. We also managed to not shoot innumerable sheep/lambs – fortunately they can easily be distinguished as they have GREEN, not red eye reflection at night. Nor did we run over the hedgehogs found crossing the track. While recovering one possum, we heard very loud flapping of wings in the trees above us. We first thought it was wild turkeys but then Dave spotted th
ree peahens roosted in the trees. They are legal to shoot as invasive birds but as they do little harm, we left them alone. We didn’t see the peacock that night but we did see him when turkey hunting two days later.
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In all it was a most amazing and fun night endeavor, not just for the hunting – pest eradication but for the animals we saw and the spectacular evening. Even though crawled into bed around 2 am, we’d do this night possum hunting again in a heartbeat. Thanks Dave and Caleb.






* No animals were harmed unnecessarily in the telling of this tale but the truth was badly bruised in places


End of Part 1
 
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asaxon

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Part two: The Great Rotorua Turkey Shoot

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[TD]The Great Rotorua Turkey Shoot
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Two days later, we meet up with Dave for a morning of wild turkey STALKING. Yes Virginia, they do have wild turkeys in NZ, something even most NZers don’t know. The hunt is spot and stalk like deer hunting, no “calling”. We drove out near where we hunted possum to a set of small valleys that had cleared land alternating with stands of native bush and planted pines.
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On the way in, we saw the peacock walking about just at the base of the trees where we’d seen the roosted pea hens. We left him in peace. We then stopped in some bush with a plan to walk out into the next open valley on the other side of which Dave had seen “a mob of” turkeys 10 day before. However, after just a few steps when we are about to get into the open, Dave abruptly stops and motions to quietly back up. We quickly peek around the corner, a hen turkey is standing right there on a little rise right above the track. We wait and wait to see if this bird will move off so we don’t spook it and any others nearby. But that turkey is like a statue; she ain’t moving. Dave then decides we’ll circle through the woods and see if we can bag this troublesome hen. He’s seen she had no chicks with her; both sexes are legal anytime; and there is no “limit” but we didn’t want to shoot hens with chicks. So off through the bush we go, making one heck of a racket in spite of our best effort as the ground cover is dry leaves and twigs – impossible to sneak through. We come to the edge of the bush just above where the bird should be and are faced with a hot wired fence line– they use lots of very powerful electric fences in this part of NZ. We can just make out the head of the bird over a hummock – or at least I think I can but it easily could have been a tuft of flowering thistle that is everywhere. Dave and the Admiral whisper; plan is she should take a shot at “the head”. The Admiral, armed with a Browning 20ga OU with #6 federal shot and a regular modified choke, aims carefully while not touching the fence. “Bam”. The head “disappears”. Is the bird down or just gone off? We now have to get over the fence to find out. Dave goes over carefully, no problem. As the Admiral is just about over; the back of her calf brushes the hot wire. Yikes! (I can’t repeat the words she said, my hearing aids blocks out such “colorful” Kiwi language). She pirouettes and falls, landing on her back with Dave struggling to break her fall. The Admiral quickly indicates she is OK. At that point I would have laughed or taken a picture except it would have been worth my life once Dave handed her shotgun back. There is no limit on Yanks in NZ either. After I carefully pile over the fence, we hustle over the little rise to find the turkey lying very still in the grass. Wahoo! Bird #1 down.
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That evening, when getting changed to go out for dinner, the Admiral notices a rather impressive mark on her left calf where she was zapped by the fence (picture above). Fortunately it looks worse than it felt. Dave stashes the bird in a tree. We then glass the valley and see a couple of hens and a Tom (called a cockbird by Dave) a couple of hillsides away. He leads us up and around the closest hill and when we look down the other side we see the first of many hens with chicks. Being careful not to spook her, we crest the second hill. Dave and I peek over – yup a couple of hens and a Tom who is displaying. I then creep up to the crest, raise a 12ga Browning OU with a modified choke using #4 shot, and “BAM”. It’s a good hit but the bird is still standing so I fire the other barrel. Bird #2 down. At the same time, probably 9 hens take off as do a veritable flock of chicks all of which we hadn’t seen. What a sight. The bird is a large Tom by NZ standards with ¾ in spurs, a 6” beard and weighing an estimated 20lbs.
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OK, now let’s get the Admiral a nice Tom. We glass the hills and see a couple of Toms and a number of hens across the valley so we decide to clamber down to the valley floor, drop the Tom in the shade with my outer camo shirt over it so it isn’t attacked by the local scavenger hawks, and climb up the steep slope other side. DR strides right up with the Admiral and me panting behind. As we approach the top on the other side, of course we see three nice Toms right back where we had come from. And we can hear some hens just above us talking to the Toms so the Admiral and Dave creep up the final slope only to flush 4 hens that fly off across the valley. But no Tom. Bugger! We’ll just have to retrace our steps and go after those 3 Toms which have now disappeared over the crest of the hill on the other side of the valley. After much huffing and puffing, we finally reach the top of that damn hill again only to see the Toms down in the next valley where one is displaying in front of a hen that is perched with her brood of chicks on top of a large rock.
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A really cool sight but we are too chuffed (NZ talk for tired) to even think about going down there. We decide to work the hill tops back toward the truck and call it a day – we are chuffed. As we do, Dave spots 2 groups of birds, the first with several Toms to our left and the other which looks like just a couple of hens to our right. Dave and the Admiral stalk the first set only to finally re-sight them as they are already moving up the other side of the valley bottom we’d just climbed out of. We are NOT going back there. We then head towards the hens that were to our right and peeking over the last hilltop see a couple of hens. Dave and the Admiral discuss what to do; decision - creep over the rise and hopefully there will be a Tom to shoot – the problem with shooting a hen being that the grass is so tall, it is next to impossible to know if they have chicks. So the Admiral creeps behind some tall thistles, raises up and I see her pull the trigger and nothing happens! Bugger – safety on… She quickly recovers, safety off and “Bam”, the Browning 20ga lets fly. I pop over the top with pandemonium breaking loose as a bunch of hens and at least a dozen chicks we hadn’t seen are taking off in all directions. I shout; “what should we do?” The answer calmly comes; “Pick up the dead Tom dummy…” Only then do I see in a little cut (gut in NZ) below me, a Tom flapping on the ground. Bird #3 down. Once again, it was one shot/one kill for the Admiral. I then see several chicks still in the tall grass so I get some snaps and they finally fly off to join their Moms who are in the open grass areas calling loudly for the chicks. Really cool sight.
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We have high fives all around and take the requisite pictures. Dave hikes back to get the vehicle while we walk down to the track where he picks up us, Birds #1&2 and we head for his home where we arrive just about noon. Talk about one great spot and stalk turkey hunt. Thank you Dave!
That afternoon, I butcher the turkeys, make lots of feather ear rings, and then we give the meat and ear rings to various “Cousy Bros”. We drove out to Treetops for an elegant dinner in a most grand setting, a fitting conclusion to a great trip. Up on the wall in one of the large rooms was a mount of a 20K red deer - not the highest trophy/$ level but right up there.
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They also have trophy fallow, samba, sika, and rusa deer at Treetops. The living deer were in velvet so we were forced to forgo the opportunity to empty a bank account with one shot. Imagine shooting a trophy using a copper bullet, having it pass through and killing a second trophy animal behind. That would be an very very expensive “oops”.
We are planning on going back to NZ in a year or so and while there will definitely take on the possums again, probably for several nights as well as have another go at the turkeys. As for the 20K red deer, we’ll pass…

* No animals were harmed unnecessarily in the telling of this tale but the truth was badly bruised in places
 
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hunterdoug

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Asaxon thanks for that..and congrats on another great adventure! Cool story, but it wouldn't be worth beans with out those pics, awesome.
 

solus

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awesome story congrats on the kills and tell The Admiral to be careful next time we dont like seeing beautiful woman bruised ::smiley_green_with_e
 

ltdann

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Another great story! Welcome home, the weary traveler! Well done, Sir!
 

KTKT70

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nice story as always. good job yall. that looks like one heck of a trip. congrats again.
 

asaxon

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NZ road sign shirt

Today I received this shirt from our hunting friend in NZ. Shows how they feel about those bushy tailed possums we shot!
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snoopdogg

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Great story. Love reading your exploits. Are the possums traditionally eaten or are they considered vermin?
 

asaxon

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Great story. Love reading your exploits. Are the possums traditionally eaten or are they considered vermin?
Possum are considered vermin and not eaten, pitched in the bush for scavengers. I know of a folks who have eaten them but I also know folks who have eaten rat and fly larvae. They do make a real mean possum fur + wool thread by spinning the possum fur into wool and using it for gloves, sweaters etc but market for that product isn't big enough to dent the wild populations.
 

Orygun

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Outstanding!!! Thanks very much for sharing your trip.
 

CA Karen

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Great trip you had there! I will have to try the hunting out next time I am down there.
 


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