Sorry I have not posted in a long while and this is the reason why.
Picking up the phone, the voice on the other end belonging to Stephen (Wirehunt) says,
how about coming down south and shooting Rabbits and Hares for a job boy?
Give it a good think; and if you want I can jack it up for you to shoot with Stephen (Headcase) if you want to give it a go.
My imagination had already kicked into gear and I saw in my mind’s eye, the golden tussock plains of the MacKenzie Basin, the topaz blue, glacial fed lakes with the Southern Alps as a backdrop and Mount Cook (Aoraki) dominating the jagged skyline.
A chance to spend the later part of summer and early winter in such a unique wonderland, shooting Rabbits at night and photographing the landscape and wildlife during the day time just doesn’t pop up every day. Running the idea past a good friend and life mentor Steve (huntech) for his take on the plan and with his approval and encouragement it didn’t take too long for me to make up my mind.
So the morning of the January 9th, 6am, saw me landing at Picton, gateway to the southern bad lands. At a leisurely pace I made my way South to Tekapo, the base, for our rabbit shooting operations, arriving in the warmth of the late afternoon sun.
The training for my rabbit shooting future started right from the moment I settled down on Stephen Headcase’s porch with a Italian red wine in my hand as the sun slug lower and lower in the evening sky.
Rabbits have become a major problem in the MacKenzie country, with the numbers of rabbits escalating at an alarming rate, causing unimaginable damage to the already sparse grasslands of the Mackenzie Basin. That’s where we come in, shooting the rabbits and recovering the carcasses for processing into quality pet food, exported across the seas to ease the hunger pangs of spoilt pets.
Stephen (Wirehunt) and Stephen (Headcase) were to be my mentors with Wirehunt training me over the first few days giving me a (crash course) in handling a Quad bike over rough terrain and returning to Dunedin after those first few initial lessons, I was then to stay with Headcase and his partner and expert Thai cook (more on this later) till I found a small flat for myself and to continue my apprenticeship under his steady influence and patient demeanour.
Meantime back on the Headcase’s porch the level of alcohol consumed was rising steadily and with the sun now long gone, the advice that was to stand me in good stead, flew thicker and faster till confusion set in, I retired to bed with all that info bouncing around in my head awash with the dreaded red grape juice. I awoke the next morning gripped with fear, pure gut numbing fear, because that evening I was to be well and truly initiated into the Mackenzie countries Rabbit hunters’ way of life. The Quad bike is almost a fashion statement around these parts and a big part of everyday life for the farmer and Rabbit hunter alike.
I have never really ridden a Quad bike before and now I was to earn a living atop of one so my first steps were to conquer the mighty red beast.
That first night, sheer terror energized my aging body as I desperately clung to the roaring red beast as we navigated through deep ravines and climbed the spines of the dangerously steep…. well ok to be honest …… pretty gentle ridges and spurs, where the shooting of many rabbits took on a totally new meaning to me. Sidling across the face of those ridges filled me with the most fear and still unsettles me weeks later, I found it hard not to place my foot on the ground where the back wheel would promptly nudge and nip at my heels.
The Mackenzie country is quite unique, on the lower slopes are miles and miles of rolling hills which are covered in splattering’s of Matagouri, bushes, a hard spiny plant almost devoid of leaves and an overabundance of viscous thorns and Rosehips, a similarly spine-nefer-ous shrub planted way back by the first pioneers to the Mackenzie and Otago country as a then only source of desperately needed vitamin C.
Golden tussock covers the hills and amazingly this year, patches of green and gold top grass dot the landscape here and there due to the generous rain the region has received over early summer.
Touted as almost intolerably hot in late summer early autumn I’ve lucked out this years as its been the coldest wettest summer and as I write this up snow has covered the hills and mountains around Tekapo, I’ve had the heater turned on full time since moving into my little one bedroom flat.
Working out there in the hills at night has been an experience, one of cold often windy and pitch black. I’ve never seen the dark like this before, pitch, pitch, pitch, black which is why this area is now a world heritage area with mount John observatory overlooking the Basin and township of Tekapo. Being a world heritage site means they have the power to make sure that the street lighting in town has to have a much diminished impact on the night sky and the use, style and design of electrical lighting in town has to be in keeping with the idea of maintaining the level of darkness to a maximum.
I’ve been shooting Rabbits now for 3 weeks and I can say I’ve shot more rabbits every week than I have in my whole life previously, It’s hard to imagine just how much damage they have caused to this already fragile landscape, irreparable damage I’d say.
By the way, spine-nefer-ous is my word, I made it up.
Cheers, I hope you enjoy my ranting’s. Spare a few thoughts and prayers for the people of Christchurch and God Bless.
Ps soo many Stephens..why am I surrounded by Stephens???