Going wild for mutton

While discussing flat dinners one night, my flatmate mentioned that he loves mutton but hadn’t eaten any all year as a leg of lamb can cost over $50! Way too expensive for a uni student. Luckily, I knew of a spot not far from Dunedin that was overpopulated with wild sheep.

Armed with my .223 and a day pack, I set off to score some cheap meat and fight the cost of living.

Dapples scattered the forest as the sun slowly emerged through the dense canopy. I meticulously stalked through the thick native forests, intensely searching around me and checking the ground for signs of life. Amongst the crown fern and leaf litter, I picked up on some fresh deer droppings and footprints. The amount of sign indicated the deer population was more than healthy so I slowed down, stopping every 10 metres to scan my surroundings—I knew it wouldn’t be long until I bumped into an animal.

Only 15 minutes after seeing the deer sign, something caught my attention. Like a spotlight on stage, a beam of yellow light shone through the trees directly onto a deep orange figure. Only 25 metres away stood a young red spiker, staring at me. On any other hunt the deer would be on the ground by now but this time he was safe because he wasn’t white and woolly. He quickly vacated and left me to carry on with my mission.

As I stalked further into the bush, the deer sign decreased and I began to see signs of my target species. The forest was now far more open, meaning I could move easier and see further ahead.

Suddenly, the songbirds were interrupted by an arrogant “baaa.” I turned to face the direction the sound came from and saw a flash of white moving through bushes in the distance.

The wind was perfect and there was enough cover to attempt a good stalk. I slowly put one foot in front of the other and, before I knew it, I was within 15 metres of the sheep. It was completely unaware that I was there so I raised my rifle, closed the bolt, and squeezed the trigger.

The sheep dropped instantly and the bush around it erupted. That lone sheep was actually part of a mob of 10 that were now darting in every direction. Without thinking, I reloaded the rifle and swung the crosshairs on the one sheep that wasn’t sprinting away. A confused ewe stood 20 metres away, unsure what had happened or what to do. Amongst the commotion, the .223 spoke loudly and the ewe collapsed only a few metres from the first.

I boned out all the meat I could fit in my backpack and cruised back home, smiling ear to ear.

I was greeted by a very happy flatmate, who now had a few hundred dollars worth of free-range mutton for less than $50 worth of petrol.

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