Central Otago bunny hunt begins

Shooting teams await which block they will head to for the hunt. Photo: Jono Edwards

Old MacDonald had a farm - it became infested with rabbits and he sought revenge. 

The 324 Great Easter Bunny Hunt shooters from throughout New Zealand gathered at Alexandra's Pioneer Park this morning and awaited which block the ballot would send them to as they aim to make a dent in the local rabbit population.

In the 25th anniversary of the event, hunters have until noon tomorrow to arrive back in the park with rabbits for counting.

Due to a last-minute cancellation, 27 teams turned up, resulting in the removal of one block.

Some shooters missed out on entering because of a block shortage, but another team could not be added at such late notice.

Event convener Dave Ramsay, of Alexandra, said he expected a higher kill total than last year as the Department of Conservation issued warnings about the high number of rabbits this season.

"I think it's due to the dry weather, we probably expect over 10,000 with roughly the same number of hunters."

Last year's haul was 8439. Hares would be counted in a team's tally this year, as they were also a pest, he said.

The event was a service to farmers, Mr Ramsay said.

"Well it's free for them. They've been kind enough to offer their farms, and the teams use it as target practice."

Each team takes to one block, which range from 200ha to 5600ha, spread across Central Otago and near Wanaka.

Many veteran teams showed up this year, including the Hopper Stoppers and Wabbit Warriors.

Mr Ramsay warned teams against poaching. "Please respect the boundaries you are on."

Senior Sergeant Ian Kerrisk reminded them to ensure that children were kept safe, that team members not drive over the speed limit or drink alcohol while hunting.

The Easter bunny hunt is an Alexandra Lions Club fundraiser and this year money will be donated to the Friends of Dunstan Hospital. Some 287,679 rabbits have been killed in total.

- jono.edwards@odt.co.nz