The spent shell cartridges flee from the breech of the rifle and ping off the window down into the plastic dashboard. I imagine a trail of smoke following them down into those God forsaken car crevasses– the holes where things disappear and grow sticky. Now is not the time to think about trivial things. This is serious. This is Possum hunting (not Opossum).
This, is a kiwi drive by from the comfort of a Range Rover. My gun is propped on the windowsill, barrel pointed out, the lazer dot locked on a hapless hare. I finish him and we speed back off through the rolling paddocks, fields, and into the forest.
Grant, my wife’s dad, is in the back. A 5-shot tactical shotgun sits casually in his lap; a small grin on his face. Taz is the eyes of this operation. He scans the abyss with a spotlight, searching for those evil, little eyes poking out from beneath the impossibly starry night.
“Grant, right side in the wood stack.” It’s not quite a whisper, but Taz doesn’t seem like the type of man to whisper. He gets his point across. All too quickly Grant is out of the car and the world is rid of two more possums. He wields the steel with precision– a frightening thing to see from your father-in-law. I pull another one from a tree top using the scope. The big grey hangs by its tail for a second before falling in a heap at my feet. Seconds later we are plucking the soft, valuable fur off and then it’s back to the car for a warm up and a quick nip of cinnamon shine.
By no means am I a violent man. I was raised in a pacifist no-mans-land between an agnostic vegetarian and a Christian. But this is New Zealand and possums are an imported plague. They eat native plants, endangered kiwi birds and baby birds. They are known to do so much ecological damage that it forces them to cannibalize one another. I’m not going to say I didn’t feel bad shooting the fuzzy baby possum off its mothers back, but it is the right thing to do for the environment. In a way, I imagine myself to be one of Captain Planet’s planeteers, just with a shotgun instead of a ring. Certainly not the heart ring.
Taz runs Southern Lakes Hunting Guides, and can take you on one of his cultural and “ecological” experiences. I hear a bike version may be on the way soon, you know, to save the emissions.