The Southern Hopper Stoppers have been second so often in the past, the team thought it might have a chance to win this year's Easter Bunny Hunt title.
But those hopes were dashed when the West Coast Bunny Bashers put their haul out for counting in Pioneer Park, Alexandra, on Saturday and won the event with 1411 rabbits.
In the end just 34 rabbits were the difference between first and second, but as Southern Hopper Stoppers member Ray Moffatt said philosophically: "We'll just have to come back and try again next year."
Easter Bunny Hunt organiser Dave Ramsey said about 15,524 rabbits were culled from Central Otago farms this Easter, slightly down on the 16,121 in 2007, but that could be attributed to rain during the night of the 24-hour shoot.
The Southern Hopper Stoppers, shooting this year on Queensbury Ridge, are a well-drilled unit.
Wives and partners are roped in to help prepare food and make sure members refuel, rearm and reconnoitre, according to team member Graham Eames, of Melbourne.
Mr Eames joined the team last year as a reporter for the Feather and Fur magazine, and returned this year to be chief photographer, ammo passer and "fire off a few rounds myself" .
"If you tried to do something like this in Australia, it would be chaos," Mr Eames said.
"You would be shut down by animal activists demonstrating, never mind that the farmers are on their knees thanking you. It really is a unique story, a slice of rural culture that needs to be retained, as well as being appreciated by the farmers concerned."
Mr Eames was also impressed that in the 24 hours "not one beer has been opened, but that might change after a bit of kip this afternoon" .
For the Southern Men and Women team, this year's event was the worst shoot from 13 starts.
Team spokesperson Lindsay Barnett said the team managed 115 rabbits from its block, but it was just down to the luck of the draw.
He spoke highly of the job a good dog does in such an event, his animal being so tired at the end of the time. "I almost had to carry him out. It might be his last time perhaps, but he has been with us from the start."
Team Oma Rapeti, from Otaki, managed 180 rabbits and 52 hares. The bad luck prize went to the Rapid Eradicators, who found just 24 fresh rabbits and a mummified one.
The total kill this year was 15,524 rabbits, 500 hares, 44 stoats and ferrets, seven possums and 13 other non-specifics.
- The Southland Times
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