A thieving feral cat’s depredations were the only downside to an expedition for Peter Snowdon and friends to top up the freezer.
The gentle early winter worked in our favour as we covered high ground without the impediment of frozen snow.
The overnight frost had been severe but the day was crisp and clear. We were in South Island high country, keen to take some meat for the freezer.
After 30 minutes’ steep climbing the clothing layers started to peel off. As sunshine replaced the dull post-dawn light our ridge travel was momentarily stopped by the sight of three young pigs 200 metres ahead. They were browsing and no doubt warming in the early sunshine unaware of two hunters closing the ground.
It was exciting to see animals so early in the hunt and better still to take two with clean shots. They were about 15kg animals, ideal for the pot. With no handy trees, we stowed the meat in mutton cloth under bushes for retrieval on our return.
An hour later the day got even better. A stag was picked out in a small clear patch among heavy cover near a creek. It bedded down as we watched allowing us the chance to creep closer. The eight-pointer spotted us as we moved low and quiet around a scrubby face to get within a 300m range.
The wind was in our faces and we would have been only very briefly visible nevertheless he obviously noticed something out of place.
The stag bolted to the creek but made slow work of his exit allowing us several shots before he was fatally hit. The haul out was steep and it proved difficult to find good footing among the scrub and shingle but we boned and carried all the useable meat to the ridge.
With heavy loads we retraced our route stopping frequently. Along the way we disturbed a sow and two young pigs. The packs were quickly dropped and two further pigs added to the tally.
We returned to the ridge happy but burdened under the weight of the stag and additional pork. Disbelief turned to dismay. A feral cat had scavenged one of the bags of pork we had tucked away earlier. The mutton cloth bag was torn open and the meat covered with soil.
Initially I thought the culprit was another pig but the effort made to bury the prize clearly indicated cats.
Expletives flowed as we discarded the meat now no longer fit to eat. We found a secure spot among boulders for the remaining pork we could no longer carry. Planning to retrieve our stash the next morning we headed down the valley to camp.
Later that evening I was reminded just why international visitors flock to our night sky attractions. There is no doubt the stunning star displays are simply breathtaking on a clear frosty night far from the light pollution of cities.
These views are another drawcard for the many rural folks who offer visitor accommodation. But that night I had more than the night sky on my mind. It was likely we might get a chance to reduce the cat population when we returned to retrieve meat.
The morning saw us climb to the site of our meat stash. As we approached a big dark ginger cat bolted from beneath a low shrub about 25m away. It fled at speed over a ridge and into the next gully offering no chance for a shot. Although it didn’t stop it was evident it was in pretty good condition. Unfortunately, they are pretty common in many rural and back country spaces.
We had restocked the freezer, enjoyed stargazing and fine winter weather. The trip could only have been improved by eliminating a thieving cat!
Perhaps next time.
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