Team Wild TV expert Jonathan Scott talks about the ever growing population of Wallabies in New Zealand and how controlling this vermin has become a necessity.
We don’t have foxes in New Zealand. That’s good news for farmers and unfortunate if you want to be a varmint shooter here. However, some kind soul decided to bring from Australia a couple of animals to be bred for fur, namely the Australian Opossum and the Red Necked Bennetts Wallaby. Of course both species escaped and got out of control. I will talk about hunting Possums in another article, but suffice to say imagine a nocturnal marsupial cat that loves to munch through every fauna and flora, and can carry Tuberculosis (TB); you now have a pretty good idea of how much of a pest it is.
The varmint alternative in New Zealand is the Red Necked Wallaby. Introduced between 1858 & 1870, most of the small population established in Central South Island, near the town of Waimate, where it began to breed prolifically in the hill country of that area. Wallabies can grow up to 1m tall and up to 25kg in weight. The weather and feed conditions in NZ mean they can breed all year round and this has led to a population boom now estimated at 11million. They are mainly found in mountain grass (tussock) areas but live anywhere they can find cover and food. More and more large numbers descend on to farm crops and devastate them overnight. They are primarily nocturnal but can be found out in the daytime in winter when overnight temperatures are very cold and they need to warm up in the shortened daily sun.
How can you hunt them?
Hunting them isn’t hard. All year round they can be spotlighted (lamped in the UK), picked off early morning before they go to bed, or late evening as they catch some last sun before it sets. They can also be controlled effectively during the day with the use of small terriers and a line of shotgun wielding hunters. The terriers flush the wallabies out of cover from the thigh high tussock grass while the hunters advance in a line and pick off the fleeing animals. At night wallabies are not light shy like foxes. They are quite inquistive, standing long enough to be shot most times. Those that run will usually stop for a whistle.
They can be shot with many weapons. Young animals can be killed with 22 rimfire but a centrefire is more effective. I prefer to use my 243 which I have developed handloads especially for soft skinned animals such as goats or wallabies. Shotguns are effective when wallabies run. 00 buckshot or BB’s work well. Some hunters will hone their bow skills on them too. The most popular caliber is 223 remington. It is effective and cheap.
Why do we do it?
Mainly because the farmers welcome it. Wallabies consume 1/3 the quantity of a sheep, their stomach has a roundworm which spreads in its scat/faeces and their prolific breeding means they quite literally eat the sheep out of house and home. Of course, it is good practice and fun shooting them, but we also do the farmers a favour which means we mostly get free access to hunt on their farms later for the main game species of deer or pigs. They are also an easier animal to introduce a young hunter to the skills of using binoculars to spot, stalk and shoot accurately because they are not a large target.
Can you eat wallaby?
Yes, the meat is lean. We tend to harvest only the back steak (loin) and the main thigh muscle. Their leg muscles as you can guess is quite large but contains a lot of sinew, but if cut up into stewing size chunks it makes a nice curry or winter hotpot. I prefer to harvest meat from them in winter, as it doesn’t spoil in the colder temperatures.
In June last year myself and a fellow member of the New Zealand Deer Stalking Association (NZDA) hunted wallabies on a hill farm. We culled a total of 54 for the weekend, most were shot at night using LED lights, 243 and 223 rifles. Some were shot in the day with a shotgun. We harvested 15kg of meat from them, which I split into bags of mince (it makes a lean Chilli) or stew sized chunks for really nice Rogan Josh curries.
Most nights we were out from dusk at 5pm until 2am, and woke to a very cold frost of -3 even at late morning.
Stoney Creek Realtree blaze orange microtough fleeces were ideal for the winter hunting. The Realtree Blaze keeps us safe when shooting in tall tussock grass. Realtree camo helps us blend in when sitting on a hillside spotting the animals and the Stoney Creek Realtree microtough gloves when riding a quad, spotting and shooting because of they don’t restrict my fingers but keep my hands warm.