A Kiwi Hunting Expedition

22 04 2012

25 March 2005 – This post is told from my British husband’s point of view of his hunting experience in New Zealand.

I hadn’t been in New Zealand very long when one Saturday night during Easter I was invited to go pig-hunting with my wife’s Kiwi friends, a married couple, Tanya and Rodney.  I learned quickly that the great outdoors, and in particular hunting and fishing, were an integral part of the Kiwi identity.  Having never had the opportunity to partake in a bit of hunting in England (a sport mostly reserved for the upper classes, their horses and their hounds), I was as keen as mustard to have a go!

Gearing up for my second hunt - the offending Puma trainers nowhere to be seen this time!

But before I continue let me explain that these pigs are not the cute little pink porkers that “oink oink” happily around the English farmyard all day.  These are killer pigs, with tusks as big as an elephant’s.  Well, not actually that big because then they wouldn’t be able to move.  But hopefully my exaggeration is effective; they are BIG MEAN PIGS.  They are extremely fast moving for their small stature and if cornered, will charge with their razor sharp tusks straight at you.  Needless to say, a good gouging in the lower limbs by one of these pigs could possibly result in broken legs; at the very least a trip to the hospital.  Heaven forbid that a tusk should horrifically manage to lodge itself somewhere else!

WOW!  Exciting stuff, I thought.  Without further delay we leaped into the Toyota Hilux and headed for the hills.  Tanya and Rodney gave me some time to practise my aim and get used to the guns we would be using.  Where a static tin can was involved, I was a pretty good shot.  I imagined it would be a different story with the pigs from hell running at me!

The poise, the execution...just the manliness of it all ay?

We set off and after a few hours of traipsing nervously through the bush, senses fully alert, a pig had yet to cross our path.  I was starting to feel a little disappointed (albeit slightly relieved!) that tonight I would not come face to face with my first kill.  And then a wild animal of a different sort stumbled into our cross-hairs.

Rodney had spotted a fierce wild goat grazing on the top of a hill on the other side of a large and deep valley.  “How do you feel about shooting a goat?” he asked.

“I’ll shoot anything” I replied, teeth clenched and eyes as big as saucers.  I squinted into the distance as he pointed out my victim.  He must’ve had vision as good as Superman because I couldn’t see a thing amongst the expansive bush, but once he had handed me a pair of binoculars I could see the wispy goatee of my target.  “Billy Goat Gruff,” I snarled in my best Jason Statham imitation, “your days are numbered.”  I viewed this as nothing less than a life or death situation…even if the goat was on the other side of a valley about 3oo metres away.  All my time spent watching war and sniper films was about to pay off!

We stealthily maneuvered our way through rugged country that was completely piss-wet through, and I thought to myself “Good job I wore my completely inappropriate bright red and white un-camouflaged Puma trainers.”  My footwear proved problematic as we navigated the slippery and uneven trail (not that I could see any semblance of a path!) towards the unsuspecting goat.

After trudging carefully down our side of the valley, I was slightly miffed to discover that the bloody goat had climbed about 50 feet down the opposite cliff face and was now happily grazing on a very steep ledge.  Mountain goat it was, mountain climber I was not!

“What shooting position do you prefer?” Rodney whispered quietly.

Shooting position?  Huh?

“Ahem, well, I find the crouching-tiger-hidden-dragon position to be the best one to attack from,” I nodded, puffing out my chest in a manly fashion.

He carefully handed me the rifle, and then it was just me, the goat and the sounds of the New Zealand bush.  I peered through the telescopic sight and just as I got the cross-hair lined up on my prey’s front shoulder, the bloody goat turned and looked straight at me.  Aw shit, here come the sympathy pains …….it was like the damn trout I couldn’t batter on the head last week!

As it gazed at me with its big sad eyes, munching harmlessly on a tasty piece of gorse, I lined up the perfect shot in the centre of its chest and manning up, I LET HER RIP!  A deafening noise erupted from the gun, made twice as loud due to the shape of the valley, and the goat started screaming and running off down the hill with blood pouring from it’s front!  Tanya, my back up shooter, took aim and fired at the shrieking beast to finish it off.  After a few moments, we heard it crash through some branches and disappear out of sight.  A deathly silence filled the valley.

“Do you want your photo with it?” asked Rodney grinning.  Well, does the bloody Pope pray I thought to myself?  Of course I wanted a photo!

“If it’s not too much trouble getting to it, I would love a photo,” I replied eagerly.

So we set off down the piss-wet through valley and began the climb up the other side.  The first 20 feet was okay, but then the rest of the hill resembled the climb from base camp to the peak of Everest, minus the snow.  I have never been so thankful for lumps of speargrass sprouting from rocks on that cliff face.  Even if they did cut my hands to pieces!

After weaving up and across the cliff face, we finally found the goat.  A single shot straight through the chest and out the shoulder had done the damage.  A perfect shot would have been a bit closer to the centre – but shit hot nonetheless!  It wouldn’t have gone much further.  Tanya’s shot had missed, much to our surprise, but definitely to my delight as it meant that I could claim all the glory for myself!

After posing precariously on the edge of a very narrow ledge for a few pictures, my grin as wide as a Cheshire cat, we nudged the goat over the edge and watched it plummet about 150 feet.  It was to be left for the dreaded pigs I mentioned earlier to gorge on.

My thanks to Rodney who leaned dangerously backwards on the edge of a precipice to get this photo. There wasn't a lot of room here...room enough for my red Pumas though!

As we had come about 150 feet up the cliff face, we only had another 50 feet to go to get to the top, so in my trusty (and again, completely inappropriate) red Puma trainers, I scrabbled, scrambled and scraped upwards and onwards.  “Don’t fall off Rog, Kiri will kill me,” said Rodney.  This part was quite terrifying.  I had visions of the Westpac Search and Rescue helicopter coming and airlifting me to safety, reprimanding for my irresponsible choice in climbing footwear!  But all joking aside, I truly didn’t think I would make it to the top and I was really worried about both myself and Rodney.  I don’t think any man had ever set foot on that particular piece of New Zealand, and if I’d had a British flag on me I would’ve planted it right on the top!

I finally managed to get to the top with the help of Super Rodney and his gun belt/bumbag that he threw down to me and used to winch me up.  Then it was a long walk back to the ute.  By this time it was getting dark and every tiny rustle had my head swinging left and right, quietly praying that I wouldn’t see a wild pig with me in its sights.  Hopefully they were all far behind us enjoying the goat buffet.

As we drove back to town I felt exhausted but I couldn’t wipe the grin from my face.  And my weekend wasn’t quite over yet.

The next night I was invited on another hunt (no doubt due to my skillful shooting and climbing abilities?) to hunt the elusive pigs again.  This time I was totally kitted out:  combat fatigues, army issue boots and camouflage face paint. I think this unnerved Tanya and Rodney a bit.  “It’s not the movies Rog,” they laughed.

And this time?  Success!  We got two pigs.  Tanya shot them both, cut them open and yanked their guts out before you could say “Eeeww that’s a bit messy.”  This is a woman you definitely want to have around if you’re stuck on a desert island!  Shooting is certainly not a male-only domain in New Zealand.

She got most of the insides out, but the special technique for cutting around the bum to take the arse out had escaped her just at that moment, so she left them in.  And if you’re wondering why I didn’t get my hands dirty, it’s cos I was standing guard over her holding a rifle to ensure that the two other pigs that ran off didn’t come back to have a go.  Well that’s my story, and I’m sticking by it!

Once she had finished, we grabbed a pig each and began to climb up yet another hill.  Tanya was struggling a little carrying her pig, so I threw mine over my shoulder and held it there with one arm, pig’s arsehole firmly ensconced next to my cheek, and grabbed hold of a leg of hers – her pig that is, not Tanya’s leg!

As we continued up the hill, a sickly shitty smell began to waft into my nostrils and it was only when I got back to the truck that I realized that the remaining feces inside the pig’s arsehole had squelched out with the jolting movement of my walking, and was now oozing down the back of my shoulder.  Just couldn’t remember the technique, ay Tanya?

I’m not sure if that was a pig-shooting initiation ritual of some sort, a bit of Kiwi humour perhaps, but I took it all in my stride.  People say it’s good luck for a bird to shit on your shoulder, so how lucky must it be for a wild pig to shit on your shoulder?!  Midweek lottery, get your ticket!

My apologies to any vegetarians or animal lovers who may be viewing this post.

And that brought me to the end of my very exciting Easter weekend in New Zealand.  My great outdoors experience had been amazing.  For days I retold my adventure, footstep by footstep, to Kiri and anyone else I could get to stand still long enough to listen.

The beauty of New Zealand is that no matter which part of the country one lives in, this kind of excitement is right on their doorstep.  I guess that’s why it is such a popular pastime with so many Kiwis, both men and women.  Let’s face it, it beats going to the pub for a pint!

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