Recently Southern Rural Life ran an article about a freelance rabbiter who worked in the 1930s to the 1960s. Today Yvonne O'Hara talks to a modern-day rabbiter.

Lance Cooper is a professional rabbiter and spends his working day at night, patrolling Little Valley Station's blocks near Alexandra, searching for rabbits.

He uses two guns, a quad bike and a thermal imaging unit to track his quarry, instead of poison and traps.

"I enjoy it and I always say it is better than a real job," Mr Cooper said.

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Rabbiting and pest control has taken him to the Republic of Kiribati in 2008 as a contractor to eradicate rabbits and later he was "headhunted" to the Rangitoto and Motutapu islands to spend several weeks shooting rabbits.

"We took gas and traps but did not use them, because, with lack of predators, rabbits are very quiet and trusting and we could easily shoot them."

Mr Cooper first started rabbiting in 1995, and began working for Little Valley Station in 2002.

Prior to that, he has also made two trips to Montana to work on a beef and grain ranch for the summer in 1997 and 2000.

These days, he shoots rabbits five nights a week in different station blocks every night.

"It is night work, riding a quad bike out in most conditions including in midwinter," he said.

"I average shooting fewer than 10 rabbits a night.

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"When I first started on Little Valley, the rabbits were not too bad, and I would get about 40 a night.

"Last night I got five rabbits and a possum."

He also gets hares and the station is goat-free.

He uses a thermal imaging unit, which is like a set of hand-held binoculars, something he got about six months ago.

It has improved efficiency as it can pick up rabbits 400m away, which saves a lot of time patrolling, if there are low numbers in a block.

Although he has never had an accident in his time as a rabbiter, he got a bad fright a few years ago.

He was using his searchlight in the middle of the night.

"I listen to the radio when working [with headphones] and so I can't hear much."

He said a helicopter hovered behind and above him, and put its searchlight on him.

"It lit up about a 50m circle around me, like daylight.

"I thought it was aliens.

"I was one and a-half hours from home and did not expect to see anybody at that time of night, especially up there.

"I guess they were flying to Alexandra or Queenstown and they thought it was funny.

"I can laugh about it now.

"That was several years ago and I would still like to ask them what they thought they were doing."

When not working he enjoys gardening, fishing and duck shooting.

yvonne.ohara@alliedpress.co.nz