9 Feb 2024

Bay of Plenty YouTube sensation Shay Williamson eats only what he hunts

From Checkpoint, 5:30 pm on 9 February 2024

Possums, wallabies, hedgehogs and rats are considered pests by most, but for one Bay of Plenty man, they're a regular feed for the family.

Shay Williamson is a veteran hunter, forager, possum trapper and expert on all things bush. Williamson has taken these skills online, where he regularly posts on the YouTube channel "Keeping it Wild".

The channel revolves around wild foods: "Hunt, Gather, Cook, Eat - We make content [out] of primal skills that put food on your table." 

Shay Williamson from the Keeping It Wild YouTube channel. Screenshot: YouTube / Keeping it Wild

Shay Williamson chows down on cooked possum. Photo: YouTube / Keeping it Wild

One recent feat saw him going 60 days eating only food he'd hunted or gathered. It was a challenge that brought some interesting meals to the dinner table.

"I tried to focus on animals that are considered pests. So I was eating lots of wallabies, deer and some hedgehogs," he told Checkpoint.

For anyone squeamish at the thought of chowing down on possum, Williamson has a response.

"I guess we've [all] got ... habits that we're ... so used to eating particular foods these days, that we think anything else is strange."

Shay Williamson's signature dish, crispy possum tail.

Shay's signature dish: crispy possum tail. Photo: Screenshot: YouTube / Keeping it Wild

'It's just like any other food'

And he has some advice for those hesitant to try these wild meats.

"You've gotta dive in and once you've tried it a few times, it's just like any other food."

Hunting and foraging also helped him to save money during the cost of living crisis. Williamson says he didn't spend a cent on food over the two-month stretch. 

He acknowledges this might not be realistic for all Kiwis, but even a little wild eating can help lighten the load.

"There's definitely heaps of room there to harvest wild animals to supplement your diet," he said. "Often the biggest bill at the grocery shop is meat.

"We've got heaps of it running around in New Zealand -- most of it's considered unwanted -- so it's sort of a win-win if you can harvest it and feed your family with it for free."

Shay Williamson eating a cooked hedehog. Screenshot: YouTube / Keeping it Wild

Shay Williamson dines on delicious barbecued hedgehog. Photo: YouTube / Keeping it Wild

For anyone wanting to try it, he says it's vital to avoid any nasty pesticides or diseased meat.

"You definitely have to make sure if there's any pesticides laid in an area you don't harvest anything from it. And the same with harvesting plants. 

"You want to make sure that if you're getting it from a roadside or something that it hasn't been sprayed. That's all pretty easy information to find out. You can go on Google and search the DOC [Department of Conservation] pesticide summary, and that will tell you all the areas that pesticides have been laid."

And his favourite foraged food?

"Crispy possum - and crispy possum tails in particular."