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Horn trophies: Arapawa rams
– Hunting Experiences

Poronui has one breed of wild sheep within its hunting estate, and that heritage sheep breed is known as the Arapawa. Historical records indicate this rare breed can be traced back to Arapawa Island, located in the Marlborough Sounds of the South Island. The original ancestors were most likely escapees from a merino-type domestic flock that had been introduced from Australia in 1867. The ensuing wild Arapawa herd developed their own breed characteristics over decades of feral isolation on the island, becoming truly unique in the process.

Arapawa sheep are striking in appearance and mannerism. They are not big sheep and are better described as lean and light-boned, though extremely hardy. They are a colored breed with black, brown, grey, and splashes of white being the dominant colours. Pure white fleeces are in the minority. The most spotted animals are called ‘cocktail’ Arapawas. Rams have clean faces, long necks, and merino-type spiralling horns.

They walk quickly, carry their heads low, and move at speed when feeding, giving the impression of an active disposition. The sheep are nervous, always on alert, and flee at the merest hint of danger. Their preferred terrain is warm cutover hill faces, though they can also appear on clearings within the forest.

Individual rams will join the ewe flocks to mate, but hunters will usually encounter rams in bachelor mobs numbering five to 10 animals. The main hunting tactic when specifically looking for a trophy ram is to hunt the areas they prefer, find a mob of rams, glass over the mob, and select the largest. A stalk then occurs and a shot taken from about 200 meters.

However, since many of the rams will be similar in horn size, the selection often comes down to color preference. A white, black, or blaze face, a greyish, brown, black, or spotted fleece are all decisions to make. The best-scoring ram is usually the animal that has tight curls close to the head and long, rather than wide, horns, plus thick horn bases. The accompanying ram photographs show the choices that will be encountered on any Poronui ram hunting trip.

Ram trophies have universal appeal to wild sheep hunters, so are often taken by several members of the visiting hunting family or group of friends.

 

Greg Morton
One of New Zealand’s longest hunting/fishing profile journalists. Outdoors writer since 1987. Past positions include New Zealand correspondent for The Hunting Report; The Bird Hunting Report, and The Angling Report, and writing a regular hunting article for New Zealand Outdoor for 30 years. Presently writes a monthly article named Fair Chase for New Zealand Fishing News and a hunting blog for Poronui, while continuing his passion for hunting, fishing, and wildlife photography. Lives in Alexandra, Central Otago.

 

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