Most of the year night shooting for possums doesn’t achieve good results. You may bag a few, but not in the numbers that are needed to achieve good conservation impact, so it’s hard to justify the time and effort. This is because for three seasons of the year possums are up in trees that are in full leaf, so they are obscured by foliage and hard to target. But spring is a different matter.
At the end of August and the beginning of September, the buds of deciduous trees all across Franklin start to pop open in a sudden eruption of green. Tasty, tasty green, because to possums, those new tender buds are just like lollies, and their favourite lolly is willow. Every spring possums move out of their regular haunts to feast together on fresh buds – nicely exposing themselves to anyone walking below with a spotlight. After the first flush of willow is over, the possums transfer their attention to poplars, which come into leaf a little later. On these sparsely-foliaged branches they have nowhere to hide.
Shooting is an allowed activity under level 3 lockdown, so if you’re feeling like blowing the cobwebs away, take up your gun and spotlight and go for a walk amongst the willows or the poplars, and you’ll find yourself in a target-rich environment. If you’re not sure if there’s possum activity in a particular area, walk under the trees in the daytime – broken twigs, small branches on the ground and missing buds are sure signs that you’ll have a good night’s shoot there.
Possum numbers can increase by up to 30% a year, so if you kill 80% of a population by targeted shooting in spring on willow and poplar it will take six years for that population to recover – well worth it!
Spring shooting lets you hit rats harder too.
Used consistently, spring shooting can get possum numbers so low across an area that they hardly hit bait stations at all. This means most of the bait in the stations will be available for rats – dropping these pests really low as well. In an area with low possum numbers you only need to use 1kg per bait station per year, even when pulsing that bait station 5 times a year. We’re seeing bait usage this low in many areas that have been under possum control for a few years.
As with all shooting activities, follow the seven golden rules of firearms to have a safe and satisfying time when out bagging possums.
- Treat every firearm as loaded.
- Always point firearms in a safe direction.
- Load a firearm only when ready to fire.
- Identify your target beyond all doubt.
- Check your firing zone – think where the bullet will go if you miss your target.
- Store firearms and ammunition safely.
- Avoid alcohol and drugs when handling firearms.