Taking revenge on the wascally wabbit
Vail, CO, Colorado
Editor’s note: Betsy Welch, a former Spanish teacher at Vail Mountain School, is traveling to New Zealand and points beyond this winter. Each week, we’re running an article and photos about her travels.
You can’t open a single guidebook about New Zealand and not immediately learn that there are way more sheep than people in the country. When you get there, you quickly learn that the folks at Lonely Planet and Fodor’s weren’t exaggerating. The wooly herbivores munch their way from North to South and East to West. They cling to hillsides and meander through open plains. They dominate most landscapes.
However, there is a silent predator among them, and on Christmas Eve I set out with a few good Kiwi men to seek revenge on the worst enemy known to farming: the wascally wabbit.
Armed with two rifles, a shotgun, a cooler of Speights, heaps of ammo, and some makeshift padding for our hips, we cruised away into the setting sun of Central Otago. The boys all wore Santa hats, which was sort of sinister considering we were headed into the killing fields. After a brief target practice to make sure the guns were calibrated, we organized ourselves in the truck. A word about the preferred mode of transport for rabbit killing: a sunroof is key. With four people along for the hunt, you are basically at full capacity. We began with Eddie (the expert) at the wheel, Craig and Wayne (the grown-up boys) standing up out of the sunroof at mid-torso with guns and a spotlight, and me (the novice) in the front, mentally preparing myself for the gore.
The first paddock was chock-full of deep, rutted rabbit holes. Navigating the truck around them could have been difficult, but I was in the hands of experienced bunny busters. The strong spotlight illuminated the field, and whenever a rabbit bounded into the light someone yelled “Stop!” The rabbits had two choices then: listen to the strange human voices and stop or think, “yeah right sucker” and keep running. Either way, the boys with the guns made a split-second decision to shoot or else keep moving onwards. I must say, when the trigger was pulled, it was rarely pulled in vain. Both Craig and Wayne ” neither rabbit killers by trade ” hit almost every bunny they aimed at. What they didn’t do, however, was actually kill each one, and more than a few received what they called the “Dunlop treatment.” I’ll leave it to your imagination to figure out what that entails.
Soon enough it was my turn to feel the cool summer air against my face and the cool barrel of a gun in my hand. I had learned how to load the magazine with bullets when I was riding up front, so the 22 was ready to rumble. I positioned myself up through the sunroof and figured out that the best place to rest the gun (since I wasn’t badass enough to just cradle it and go all Rambo) was on a little platform made of the removable headrest from the passenger-side seat of the car. It worked quite well, and when I looked through the telescope of the gun, I had a nice clear view with no wobbles.
We transitioned to another paddock, this one with much deeper grass and thus a much more challenging course. I was cool and collected on the outside, but on the inside I was nervous as hell. I had to kill a rabbit. Thus far I’d proved my worth by catching and gutting a fish on the lake, and ever since then the talk had turned to rabbits. What if I couldn’t hit one? My anxiety had nothing to do with animal rights (Not that I really had an option: Eddie had made it very clear on numerous occasions that there was nothing good about these rabbits, and if I liked my flash merino long underwear then I should support their eradication from the earth, as well). I just wanted to get a good shot in.
Craig shone the spotlight across the field, and little pink eyes and cotton-tailed bums poked out through the grass. I took a deep breath and put my head down and eye to the telescope. I found a rabbit near a fence-post, lined up the cross on its sweet little face and pulled the trigger. Cheers rang out from below me in the truck as the rabbit fell flat on its side. A huge grin spread across my face. Whammo. One less rabbit in the paddock, one more pair of yummy wool socks for humanity.
Contact Betsy Welch with suggestions, comments and publishing contracts at firstname.lastname@example.org.