Living off everything
A deer's life span is about 25 metres long after you shoot it in the heart, former Taranaki Department of Conservation boss Phil Mohi says.
He's one who should know. Now retired, he started his professional career in conservation culling deer and goats.
"A lot of people say you should aim for the head or the neck for a clean kill. If you hit a deer there it will drop. But it's still a clean kill if you shoot it in the heart and lungs. It will usually run about 25m before falling over. That's a pretty quick death," he says.
I'm confident I'll chance to see a practical demonstration of Phil's knowledge when he guides me to my first deer kill as part of my stab at living off the land for 12 days from Monday.
Part of my confidence comes from Phil's generally calm demeanour - and another part comes from the 30 or so shots I took with his two rifles at New Plymouth pistol club yesterday.
It seemed I was a natural. I had good grouping. Then again, both rifles were resting on a stand, I was sitting on a seat, and the targets were completely still at ranges of 50m and 100m.
A deer is unlikely to do the same, but by the time I see Phil I will have much more hunting, fishing and foraging experience behind me.
The plan is to start at Mokau on Monday where Steve McEwan is going to show me how to catch a breakfast of snapper and gurnard. From there I hope to meet up with Stephen Black to harvest honey from one of his Bees-R-Us beehives. The next day Ray Potroz of Upclose Safaris is taking me pig hunting around Uruti, and the day after that, Connie Bethell is putting me through a cheese and butter making lesson before lunch.
Tips have also been coming in thick and fast. My neighbour dropped off some wild spinach he'd gathered near Back Beach. A 76-year-old woman called Yvonne phoned in with a blood and bone tip for fishing, Tahora's Kerry Turner has a fail-safe way to catch a wild turkey and, like countless others, South Taranaki mayor Ross Dunlop offered me free rein of his vegetable patch.
Which I might have to take him up on. Because as well as feeding myself, the end-game is to have enough tucker to put down a pure Taranaki-sourced hangi to feed everyone who helped make it happen.
"But you don't want to put the venison in the hangi," Phil warns. "All it needs is a couple minutes on the barbecue."
Wild Appetite - Living off the Land: Starts Monday, January 28 to Friday, February 8.
Taranaki Daily News