Hunters take out pests in annual South Canterbury wallaby hunt

Hunters are scouring the hills around Timaru and Waimate, competing to kill as many wallabies as they possibly can.

The pests are going through a massive population boost, with hundreds of thousands now spread across South Canterbury.

As dusk falls, the Hunter Hills come alive. It's wallaby country - scrubby ridges, inland from Waimate.

The domain of a special breed of hunters - wallaby men - who thrive at night.

"Flicking the light round, you'll see the flashes of their eyes looking back at ya and once you see that, you can really hone in on them," said hunter Jeremy Agnew.

This will be the biggest weekend of their year as they compete in the annual wallaby competition.

They may look cute, but these relatives of the Australian kangaroo are actually pests that have started spreading explosively in the region.

"The numbers are increasing massively," said Zack Bennett, president of the South Canterbury Recreational Sportsman's Club. "Years ago, we'd shoot near on 70 wallabies with six guys over two or three days - now we're getting mid-200s, 300s."

That's bad news for farmers like Tom Bell on the Hunter Hills.

"A rule of thumb - a wallaby eats about the same as three sheep, so yeah, it's a considerable amount," he said.

Wallabies, which stand half-a-metre tall, are nocturnal, which means most hunting is done by spotlight.

The moment night falls, its 'go' time - you can hear Wallabies coming out, going through the undergrowth all around, but the trick will be finding them with the spotlight.

It's a win-win for the hunters, practicing their skills while controlling the spread of a pest, but they have their work cut out.

"Just doing our part for conservation," said Mr Agnew.

Their part should put a good dent in the ever-expanding wallaby population.