- Nov 30, 2010
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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 three 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