Monday, September 20, 2010

TT Madness

Tt asked me if I wanted to fish the National Pairs Competition at Lake Rotoaira in November. He's done it before, saying its a great way to learn from the best in the land. I must admit that I'm uncertain about it, getting my ass whipped by the best in the land is possibly someone's idea of sport (God's maybe?) hmmmm

There's nothing like getting in some practice, but again referring to the biggest baddest storm that we've seen for some time, you would think its somewhere between plain farkin crazy and absolute madness to set oneslf adrift on a sit on kayak and go fishing at the competition venue - wouldn't you??!! I mean we were getting blown over only 100 odd km away from the lake!

Check this out TT & Mate go fishing

Banana 1 (B1) was TT, I bet that B2 was that man-fish Nick Hannam. Practice makes perfect and I suppose that kayaks are sometimes intended for white water, but I really can't imagine casting in the wind that we had.

Maybe Rotoaira was more protected, but I also bet that it was a damn sight chillier up there too. At least they got some fish.

PPPP - Working Bee, Getting Stuck In

Let's set the scene a tad - the biggest storm in absolute ages in terms of sheer size (2500 KM squre) decided to come along and test the mettle of "The Men". This very same storm has created carnage from the top of North Island to the bottom of the south Waaaboooomfah

The Men - Tim, Mick, Craig & Mitch

What would make sane people go out in gale conditions with darn near sideways rain storms? Well, there was work that needed doing. Work involving the rearing of next year's pheasants. Vital work. Sanity saving work.

Shanks did the hard yards last year with the rearing pen, using as much existing infrastructure as possible. And what a mighty result he got. This year our brief was to expand the width of the pen, to take advantage of higher ground and hopefully avoid the lower part of the pen becoming boggy. We organised roughly 150m square of Rolawn roll out grassed turf, and Aunty, Cleaky and his young fellah had the job of transporting it. Thanks to Hislop & Barley for the use of the trailer, a big double axle flat bed. They rocked up to Dickie's on Friday afternoon, got loaded and set off into the teeth of the gale. When I spoke to Cleaky at about 5 they were about to be enveloped in a big black cloud... happy to say that they arrived safe and well. Then Aunty promptly turned around and drove home, apparently wires got crossed as a result of the forecast but anyway that was a hell of a big job to have out of the way. Thanks Simon!

When I drove past the top farm, (lets use real names for now), Craig, Tim and Quinn were hauling a load of top soil on the back of a trailer. I setltled in with a coffee and waited for them to arrive. Craig dumped the soil and then delivered the tractor back.

Top Soil

When he got back, Mick & Mitch rocked up, so after a coffee we picked up the tools and set off. Mitch got to work pulling down the materials on the outside of the old pen; given that we were expanding laterally everything had to come off. The rest of us set about spreading the topsoil, this is where our new turf (Rolawn, thanks to our kind sponsor) would be laid.

Ditch Digging

We then needed to dig a drain around the pen - and now for an amazing fact. This place receives 3-5 m of rain per annum. Consequently it is the home of mud. Thick mud. Some of the mud is yellow-orange. Other types of mud include grey treacle and pure slop. Some is slush. Some is puggy. Some has animal poo hues. If you want mud then you've come to the right place. Forgetting mud for a second (only a second mind you, it is an enduring and somewhat central theme and "stays with you" long after you've gone home) - it's what's underneath that is really interesting. As we dug we hit rotten rock, possibly old metal spread for the race but maybe not. More likely substrate. This was under a couple inches of mud and sludge and it was dry. It was crumbly and friable.So all that rain just hits, sinks in a bit, and then rolls off. Amazing.

The old pen, note the slush & mould

Digging the drain took a while, but we got there. Meanwhile Mitch was in deconstruction mode and  (remember this is in a gale) we began to dig out the old corrugated iron sides of the pen, which were well dug in to stop rats and pests getting in. We then began to lay the turf, and this was time consuming as we butted up the edges, mostly laid the 'grain' in the same direction ;) and got it bedded. Sooner than you'd believe, it was lunch time. The skinnies (Craig, Mitch & Tim) needed refueling. Mick and me were all good, for we knew that real men carry lunch with them. My lunch is bigger than Mick's I think. With all the beer I'm drinking lately, I will soon have the biggest lunch in the world!!!

Old walls are down, turf is rolled out

After an hour's break with food and coffees we headed back down. Mick, Craig and Mitch began to dig in the new corner posts, while Tim and I began to shift a wall inside the rearing area to allow better airflow and more light. (UV kills all sorts of bad bugs). Things were going well and all to plan - normally this is the precursor to a major cluster, but not this time. We didn't get a vehicle stuck. No one got their leg chopped off (Craig's chainsaw is by far the biggest I ever used, bar is something like 40") and the good karma stayed with us. The boys were going hard at the new posts, and Tim and I got the new wall up (hope no one leans on it) and then laid a new plywood floor, all the better for cleaning as the existing pitted concreate held poo like a blanket holds poo. We finished rolling the rest of the turf and then before we knew it, it was 5pm. Down tools.
Driving in new posts & demoing the old wall

Scope of work

Still a power of work needs to be done (prolly not in this order):

- Build new outer walls around the pen (dig in corru. iron)
- Biuld up the walls with chicken mesh
- Lay shade cloth over the top (like 140m of the stuff)
- Brace outer posts
- Lay wires for cloth to sit on
- Plant lupin seeds in boggy spots
- Go hard on the trapping
- Fix up feeders

I can see another working bee before long.

We all went back up to the house and had a big meal of sausages (goose & duck), pasta, onions and mashed spuds and a few coldies before heading back out into the relentless weather to see if we could bag a piggie. We stopped at Pig Crossing, disgorged from the Prado (knew 8 seats would come in handy one day, even if only 6 of us aboard) and while Craig took Mick & Mitch on a walk, Tim his boy and I went cross country to the top baits. Walking around in howling wind and rain with only slight moon was GREAT. Just love being in the elements on a mission. Unfortunately to get to the baits in the howling wind was difficult, so by the time we tracked around them we were sure our scent had been taken to them. There was nothing at all on the baits, although Tim reckoned he'd heard a piggie squeal, probably as it got out scent.

If you want to get ahead, get a hat (Happy birthday Craig)

On the walk back to the car I shot a possum, fun with the 7mm08.

Tim and I stayed up watching "Watchmen", a real cracker. Up at 6am, on the road at 6.30 and back in the big smoke. The mud on my driveway is a good reminder of a decent day's work done.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Mid September

I've mentioned elsewhere that September is a "layover" month on the outdoors-person's calendar; for us in AW our gamebird season is finished for a start. But looming on the horizon is the trout opening. For the first year in quite a number, I'll be out and about chasing an early season fish. The last time I fished opening was with Milo and cuzzie Paul.

We fished a 'local' fishery for resident brownies, and as i remember we did ok despite the rain... which isn't present in the photos. We landed 4 or 5 fish ... I think. I don't remember the year, probably 4 or 5 years ago?

Those fish sure are pretty, and quite ravenous in the early season. This opening we're revisiting the scene of the crime from years and years ago where we fished side by side a small creek that hold good flow prior to summer. I expect skinnyish 'bows, but hopefully the brownies will be home and hungry.

This is the best I've felt about fishing for a while. I'd never say that trout are easy, far from it in fact, but I lost the drive to chase them. I think its back.


I plan to enjoy it. Go Mid September!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Game: To give or not to give

I started on this idea awhile ago after the Close Up episode prompted by Guy's game dinner. Tim and I talked about this the other day, which is why the unfinished draft has percolated up my thought ladder. History: given that shot game was to be served at a restaurant, Guy got an opinion from AWF&G's Legal Counsel on whether serving pheasant from Lakelands was on the light side of the law. Apparently not - Bruce Stainton's view was that the giving of game, or any part of game, to persons other than immediate family is illegal. That part of the law needs a bit of work, not that anyone would be in any danger of getting sprung for giving a handful of feathers to a fly tying mate, or at least one would hope not. Where it got fuzzy was that a chef came along saying that he'd willingly pay for shot pheasant from preserves and all of a sudden the article took a dangerous curve. The sentiment expressed was that thousands of birds were being wasted/thrown in holes and would be better sold. Not true; but none the less it is hard to defend a situation where the people doing the shooting aren't doing the cleaning and eating*.

I'm slightly cold on the idea of selling those preserve shot birds even though we know it works overseas.

But I'm colder on a law that calls me criminal if I give a duck to a neighbour, soup kitchen or old people's home.

A Law tweak is needed, but extra vigillence is needed to ensure that the change does what its meant to.

*This includes all those parrie and goose culls where the meat is sometimes wasted.

The Evening Goose

Friday morning we decided to have a lie in. I woke early enough at 6.30 and got up and pottered around a bit, but we really didn't make a move until well after 7. After a brekkie of pancakes, banana and syrup (go Andy!) we were ready to hang gear out to dry (the heavy weather had passed over) and sharpen knives for a goose filleting session. AJ, Andy & me made short work of it as Tim degrassed the blinds. Then we drove to one of Tim's mate's places to dispose of the bodies in a pit and back for a coffee. We decided on a trip around Lake Wairarapa - this being a sort of "come to god" experience for me as I'd dreamed about the place for years. Stopping for pies and beverages (this is a road trip remember) and for AJ to talk to the local girls, we then cut south to the lake. We drove the Western side first. You could call this side the 'civilised' side, with paddocks running right down to the waters edge, green pasture, and cattle and sheep farms. Tim explained that you had to be 'in the know' to hunt there, all highly territorial (seemingly mirroring the Lake Waikare scenario).

Andy Tim & AJ sucking up the beauty

The Southern end of the lake is where the outlet is, a barrage controlling water flow into the diverted Ruamahunga River. Another geography lesson, I had no idea how close the Ruamahunga flowed. now we were getting into serious waterfowling territory. The Eastern side is far swampier, with willow chokes, raupo back waters and all round great territory. We drove around some famous sites, checking the DU reclaimed area (all a bit mish mash), the famous Boggy Pond, and stopped at Kilmore Lodge, a F&G owned hunting HQ available for hire.

Not many waterfowl were present, we saw a pair of geese over there and a few swan and ducks. Heading north again we drove back to Masterton and started preparing for an evening jump shoot on a farmer's pond.

Pond doesn't really describe it, figure on a small lake of about 120m long by 50m wide with tall trees on the northern edge, and enclosed by hills on both the North and Southern sides. The Eastern edge had a row of tall poplar like trees, bare of leaves. The Western end comprised lowish scrub, some smaller trees and marshy paddock with rushes. We slogged our way through slush and mud up the hill to the lake, and on inspection found several geese in residence. Tim walked the southern edge to move the birds (hopefully back towards us) and 3 unseen geese sprang and came towards us. Me AJ and Andy were hiding in the ruushes and when AJ called the shot we jumped up and took them out. I got 2 and AJ peeled the other, Andy not able to shoot as my mellon was in the way. We then took up positions, Andy & AJ under trees on the Northern Edge (stiff wind at their backs) while Tim and I covered the NE corner. After a longish wait (30 mins?) I heard a honk over the garbling of a flock of resident magpies and called the lads that geese were on their way. AJ sparked up his caller and soon 3 geese crested the rise in front of us, turned into the wind and barrelled in. Andy and AJ smoked them with some impresseive shooting, and Max the dog was soon in action. Later another 5 showed up and came in over Tim and me; but we let them come in and the boys opened up again, this time knocking down 2 and Tim pulled off a GIANT of a shot, dropping one at an easy 55m out in the paddock. It was breath taking. The other pair swung away caliing like lost sheep. AJ socked the calling to them and they swung back over us. This time it was my turn to take out a very high bird, seeing a goose drop like a sack of spuds is pretty impressive to say the least.

With 9 in the bag we called it a night. Max had retrieved magnificently, the shooting was spot on, and now we had a km long trudge in the dark (who forgot their headlamp then?) carrying 9 freakin heavy ass birds.

Back at the truck we chatted, then headed home for soup, steak & veges with Tim as our dinner guest. Another wicked shoot. We cleaned the birds that night so as to be ready for our early departure.

What a great couple of days.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Road Trip Report

Got back yesterday at 5.30pm having left Masterton at 8.30, a slowish drive punctuated with stops here and there - I even got a couple of casts into the TT River as we stopped and hooked up with a couple of AJ's mates. Reflecting now on what a good bunch of people kiwi's generally are, and how lucky we are too with the range of outdoor opportunities still open to us.

Backing up a little, picked up AJ quite early on Weds morning, timing the run to avoid traffic. We made Hamilton in good time, arriving early to grab Andy from Tamahere. Piling his stuff into the boot I was glad that only 3 of us were going, we couldn't have got any more stuff aboard. Included was 3 shotguns, boxes of ammo, 2 chilly bins, AJ's layout blind, bags of gear, waders, gummies.. well she was chocka. Onwards to Taupo for gas, lunch and to pick up some .22 ammo, and see AJ's life size photo on the outside of one window. Porn star. Then onwards, turning off at Vinegar Hill (seeing very few Rathmoy pheasants), across to Ashurst, through Manuwatu Gorge, Magatainoka (Hail! To the Tui Brewery) Paihiatua, Ekatahuna, and finally into Masterton. We found Tim's place alive with kids and visitors, were made very welcome, and then unpacked our stuff. We set off to find our bearings and gather grass for the layouts. Tim showed us Peter Jackson's place and we were soon gathering handfuls of the greenest grass possible. Tim explained that he'd tracked down a population of birds using a paddock by the sea, and that we'd have to be there and set up well before daylight in order to meet them as they arrived. Up at 3.20, had a munch of weetbix and packed the Toyota with guns, food, shell dekes etc. Tim's ute was stacked out with full body dekes and the blinds and quad bike were on the trailer. We shipped out and drove for an hour or so out of town. Arriving at a paddock gate after a number of twists and turns we loaded the quad and trailer and somehow got ourselves out to the spot. Checking a lagoon out Tim conveyed that the only thing that could have gone wrong just had - the birds were already sitting on the lagoon. He was gutted, seriously gutted. Even in the dark I could sense his head dropping. But press on we did, 4 hands making the blind setting up and decoy laying out a simplistic task. Tim took the quad back under cover and we were hunting.

Layouts all set (Andy & AJ there somewhere)

After a couple of hours with the occasional honk heard in the distance, Tim was definitely unhappy. Then lying back and looking out I suddenly saw a pair of birds 500m away and locked up - they were coming straight in! All of us were back in our blinds under cover and just waiting. Tim called for Andy to take the birds and take the shot, and we launched ourselves out of the blinds.... waiting for Andy to shoot. Locked in as they were, the geese landed out by the furthest dekes set 25m away. They were mowed down as they took to the air and we had birds on the ground!

Tim's actually smiling!

Andy was stoked with his first goose/geese and gave it up for a quick photo.

Then it went quiet for quite some time. Tim and AJ went for a walk to a lagoon to put some birds off, there were between 50-70 just hooning around and we wanted birds in the air. While they were away a mob came into view. They circled us twice in range but never commited, and on the second pass I saw one flinch badly - straight away I knew he'd seen something amiss. The full beverage bottles we'd placed on the ground beside our blinds had been spotted. I took that one pretty hard to be honest, all the reading I'd done told me that's exactly what would happen. Silly beginner's error. So we whipped around making the place tidy, picking up some empty shells from the first shots and waited for the lads to come back. They'd got quite close to the geese which had all taken off and flown out to see. The wind was pretty mild so they were safe out there.

After another couple of hours, 4 birds came in from the North. With AJ calling they committed early, and all 4 stayed with us. Then a pair joined us so we had 8 in the bag - things were shaping up nicely. The time had just turned 12; and a Northerly front was approaching.

Tim meantime made several trips to the lagoon to put up birds. He was working hard for us and it began to pay off. The weather steadily worsened for the birds, with the wind turning and steadying there were now white caps on the sea and birds were moving. We had some good trial and error moments - with one flock approaching on a pass AJ asked if we were getting stuck in and given they were only 20m up I said
"Oh goodness me yes!" And me and AJ started peeling them as Tim was saying "NO!". We put down 3 of the 8 odd and knocked the crap out of another (I put down 2 and wounded the third) but Tim told us if we had let them come around again there was a real chance of all 8 staying. Lesson learned. (gulp). By mid afternoon we had a good bag down on the deck.

We got better and better as the day went on, not missing too many Chances. Tim grabbed a chance of his own when 2 birds charged in unseen after a lull and he cleaned them up beautifully. After a while we got out to take photos... doh!

I say "doh" because I was pushing to get photos while the light was good. (Shots in the field beat photos in the back yard). But also because birds were in the air. Leaving bodies lined up belly upwards while birds approach is not a good look, however in they came! Charging back into the blinds we claimed a couple of flocks, one which included AJ's "snow goose"

AJ & The Snow Goose (Bluddy Feral!)

The domestic bird had been seen hanging with geese offshore, so here was the evidence that birds would move back to where they'd been before.

Great Dekes make a difference

We packed it in at 5 or so, with dark coming we wanted to have the gear sorted (24 full bodies, 24 shells, 4 blinds, rubbish etc) before dark. Andy, AJ and I walked back to the vehicles talking about the day we'd just had. I was elated and I'm sure the lads were too. 35 birds on the deck, 33 of them since just before 12. Those early hours without much action just had to be gutsed out.
We packed the vehicles and got back to Masterton for a late dinner, showeer, drinks and hit the hay happy as pigs in shit.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Piripiri Pheasant Plucker's Preserve

The pheasant shoot previously known (by me) as Little Ruawai Preserve has now been officially renamed. We have a cast of good buggers now, and are putting down 500 birds this coming rearing season.

Roll Call:

Craig aka Shankspony (El Presidente)
Tim aka Cleaky (El Treasurer)
Me aka Snuffit
Hendrik aka Hendrik375
James aka Top Predator
Mitch aka GQHoon
Simon aka Aunty
Mick aka Mick Hunter

This will be the third year of bird raising and releasing, and this year we're getting more organised than ever. Including establishing working capital, because with raising birds you never know what the next event, be it disaster/calamity or triumph, will be and what will need to be covered. Mitch has raised birds before as well, not in the numbers we're talking about but his experience will be really useful.

17/18 Sep, we're holding a working bee to prepare the raising pen. Craig had put pigs in to turn the soil and expose it to sunlight, as UV kills Coxiellosis which can lay dormant. Unfortunately with the high rainfall the pen is a quagmire, so our first mission will be to establish a scoria base, and then thanks to the generosity of Dickie Sansome, we'll lay Rolawn grassed turf over the top. This is a very generous gesture from Dickie and Helen. Tim, Simon and I will pick up the turf which will weigh 2.5 tonnes and drag it down to PPPP and then we'll all get in boots and all and take care of the tasks at hand. Craig has the DOC license to hold and release. The trapping program will be stepped up, as with the lengthening days all those pesky little feckers will be breeding like mad.

I'll report as we go.

Friday, September 3, 2010

I'm cooler...

Than Justin Bieber. My daughter just said so. At almost 4, she has good taste.