Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Old school fishing

In the late 80's I was a uni student. I had a part time job - in a fishing/shooting sports store of course, which paid my rent and allowed me to meet guys with similar interests. Long term friendships were forged and they remain strong to this day. Brian had access to his dad's boat, a Steadecraft I think it was, in the 14'6" range. We'd take her out on an evening, fish late into the night and then sleep aboard in the clothing we wore. It got cold - I remember that - but being 19 or so years of age sleeping on a cold deck wasn't the drama of cramps, aches and pains it would be today! We'd berley hard and fish West Australian pilchards into the reefs and rocky areas around The Noises, Maria, Ahaahaas and various bits of foul. The fishing varied from very good to kinda average, depending on moon, tide, time of day, but one of us almost always scored a fish "over 5kg" amongst the catch (maybe my memory has faded a bit...).

I'm not young enough to consider sleeping in The Booger, she's an inshore/day craft but the weather over the weekend was too appealing to ignore. I knew exactly where I wanted to go. I needed to be there before 06.00 to have the berley pumping. There was almost no breeze to speak of when I arrived at Castor Bay to launch, however the remnants of a SE swell (peaking at a massive 12"!!) rolled in now and again, not the usual for the bay. Meant I couldn't risk backing in as far as usual as I didn't want a wave to dump over the door sill into the truck (equates to instant write off as far as insurance is concerned!. I downloaded the boat into just enough water to float her, turned her into the "swell" and anchored her. What I didn't notice was that I'd given the transducer a decent smack.... On with chart plotter, everything ship-shape and off I went. The water was glassy and I managed a reasonable 22.5 kts. The trip was smooth and arriving at my spot I turned on the sounder - hello, no signal. I reached over the stern to push the transducer into position... and it was floating. Sh1t, I'd managed to completely dismount it - rather than kicking up it had dislodged. Damn. Oh well I'd have to set the anchor by memory rather than park exactly on the rock in question. The berley went out first, then handfuls of cubed pilchard remnants from a previous trip. On the darkness a hoard of jack mackerel swam in the berley, followed by a cloud of piper. I tell myself now that the first fish that took a bait wasn't a snapper, but deep down I know it was, a screaming take then as I set the hook the big head shakes.. it made cover in seconds and pinged me. A quick re-rig and then a short wait. The next fish hit like a train but I got him under control and played out a 3kg fish in beautiful condition. Rapt! Following that came a succession of hits starting at about 07.00 as the sun came up and half a dozen nice pannies came to hand. I kept a couple and then a horse kahawai for the smoker. They were boiling around the boat - fly time! 2.5kg kahawai on the #6 are a fly fisher's dream - guaranteed to give you a sore arm. I boated several and then the temptation got too much for another boat, who came in to anchor in my berley trail. I spazzed out a bit before another passing boat kindly gave the guy the message that I wasn't happy, so he upped anchor and moved.

The fish went off the boil after the sun was well up but it was a nice place to be, plus with nowhere else I had to be I wasn't exactly in a hurry to take off.

Funny thing here - when I returned to Castor bay and anchored to go and get the truck, I saw a black wedge shaped object washing around in the small waves - turned out to be the spacer that goes between my transducer and the hull - it had been knocked off some 6 hours earlier! Should have gone and bought a lotto immediately.

Old school still works.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

I'm not sure that 1,000 rounds would have helped me...

The last couple of goose expeditions I've been on have been kind of lean pickings from a harvest perspective (by my own choice & circumstances I've avoided or missed a couple of the productive sessions the boys have had lately), but man there's been some birds to be seen - in the past 2 hunts I've seen at least a thousand geese and only shot one.....

950 (ok, ok that's just a wild stab in the dark, there was a shitwack of birds..) of those thousand came in gabbling mobs, circling our paddock sounding like migratory goose-herds. We were set up in a paddock, all 8 of us (its not easy hiding 8 people) as mobs swirled from the left, right and behind, looking down at our spread before deciding something wasn't quite right and moving on. It's hard to be pissed off when you get to see a sight like that.

How good was our camo?

Blind - well camo'd

Good enough I think. Were we on the X? Yeah, the place was layered in kak, even the bright white troughs were surrounded and the birds should've been used to those by now...

So there was another reason, perhaps the fading wind and the shots taken at the first mob that arrived had unsettled the local population. Never mind, it was a sight I'll never forget.

The other 50 (making up the 1,000) geese were seen on an evening hunt where only one mob came in, (and they did so beautifully, feet down in the breeze). 13 came in and most of them left. I took my first bird, watched the mob split, followed 2 birds to the right and didn't fire as they went into Tony's zone, swung back to cover birds going out and rather pathetically emptied my mag well above the bird I was chasing (yup, head not down on stock, an affliction that gets me now and again).

I giggled because I don't get that hung up on shooting disasters and also because our plan looked like a spectacular success and because well, just because. That was the only mob that came our way, the rest just flew on and on and on... so much for spectacular successes.

When I arrived home SWMBO pushed a package at me - turns out my Briley extension mag had arrived. I fitted it and sat back to revel in the joyous fact that from 5 shots originally,  I had now almost doubled my gun's capacity! Yeah!


The fact is that I can now pack in more rounds than I've fired in 2 hunts. On the past couple of hunts, I'm not sure that if I had 1,000 rounds at my disposal it would have helped particularly.... *sigh*

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Houses, relocation, Zon guns, hounds and hunts

Open homes are the current bane of my life.

My family’s need is driven by getting the Justin Bieber Fan Club into the ‘right’ school zones to ‘guaranty a better education’. Uh-huh. Summer seems to have been a trudge from home to home, checking little boxes – must haves that without, the house couldn’t really be a home. My wants are simple; Room to turn and store the boat, lots of storage for decoys and a man cave. Practical stuff like internal access from the garage, a laundry room (as opposed to washing machine placed in garage – a ‘90s fad) – enough bedrooms, well those are on the checklist too, not that I’m so fussed about where I wash my clothes… So the weekend just past held an open home on each day.

I had hoped to be able to travel to Waitomo to release our pheasants but she’s 3 hours each way from my place so not an option. This year the dark moon coincides nicely with weekends, so was prime goosing time. When Coch sms’d to say that several hundred geese were snacking on a chicory paddock and needed moving on I was pretty keen after a lean summer on the geese. So Saturday 5am saw me pull up to meet the boys at Rick’s (Lick’s) place. To cut down on vehicles we threw all our gear (blinds, decoys) into Lick’s little boat and hitched it to my truck, then set off to catch up with The Don (George) at Goose Mafia Central. We got there to find that George wasn’t coming with us, recently he had had a major operation and while he’s still recovering hasn’t much energy. Who we did find though was Council For the Defence (CFD – Andrew) waiting for us. In with his gear and we set off. A slow drive saw us reaching the farm and then travelling slowly to the hunting spot. In the dark I was totally disoriented (as usual some would day!) but we found our spot, and while Lick & Coch set the spread, CFD and I went willow weed plucking to fill out the blind camo. By 0600 we were set when BOOM, BOOM-BOOM – a gas operated bird scaring (Zon) gun went off about 100m away with a spray of sparks in the darkness. Hunting near a bird scaring gun – well a mate from the Wairarapa had told me that he’d been there done that before… after a while the geese just ignore the blimmin things. Here’s hoping I thought to myself… at 0700 the first ragged flock of geese appeared from the lake and set sail towards us. As they passed the Zon gun, it went off (as it did every 15 minutes or so) and the geese barely registered, they were so set on breakfast. They came straight in on set wings which was handy as there was almost no wind – which makes setting the birds difficult – and we laid into them. The next couple of hours saw some quite amazing hunting for a number of reasons. First because we witnessed some pretty amazing goose behaviours, some of which were new to me – such as a wave of geese landing into our spread and all around us – and one big gander charged up to a sentry decoy hissing and hurling goose abuse. On another occasion 2 waves of geese landed on my side of the spread – and rather than getting shots on departing birds we elected to put them off. As I sat up waving my hands they simply ran like a flock of road runners (beep-beep – like the cartoon) and I had to run at them to get them up and away. Secondly because the geese appeared to be drawn by our shots, possibly because they were using the Zon gun to navigate to their breakfast patch? Under the conditions the hunt worked really well, and by 9.30 we were carting goose bodies to the edge of the paddock to clear our spread somewhat. When pack-up time came, the count was 93 birds, a fantastic hunt.

The poor boat trailer was well overloaded as we left and the drive was slow to avoid potholes and wrecking the springs.

warm weather hunting

We stopped and talked with the farmer – he was rapt with our efforts (probably not so happy that 100 birds came back in the afternoon though…).

Back at The Don’s the ‘legging crew’ (we take the beasts, they love the legs for stews etc) were waiting and the production line got underway. We chewed through the pile, got the meat chilled and bagged then said our goodbyes and got back to Lick’s place.

CFD, Lick and I then headed off to Tui Ridge to move some feeders around and top them up. Having done that I hit the road – Open Home time. Joy. While I like the idea of a huge swimming pool, I had to question the need for all the extra bedrooms, 3 living areas.. well, it wasn’t us. Got to fly the flag though I suppose.

That evening Mick posted up photos of the bird release at Waitomo, it seemed to have gone really well with Craig, Mick & Mitch getting the job done. It’s a dirty job – upshot was birds relocated – thanks lads. And I mean THANKS lads.

Photos courtesy Mick

Then the pivotal moment of the weekend.

Matt sms’d… he’d found birds in a spot where I’d seen them before but not for quite some time. The farmer was sick to the eye teeth of watching them turn his livelihood into goose kak and his wife greeted Matt’s approach with great enthusiasm. SWMBO greeted my hints at a hunt with less than great enthusiasm… trouble… by the time we were wheeling the trolley around the supermarket, trouble had turned to a distinctly icy atmosphere… by the time shopping was unloaded at home and I was applying fake grass to my blind the situation in the Ukraine looked like a mild hiccup in the history of world events in comparison… by the time my feeble promises of more home time in the future were rebuffed I knew I had taken it too far…. Matt had said no need for an early start, say meet and be set up by 10, so with a nice (terse) family breakfast out of the way and my chores done (“Shall I vacuum the entire house including the garage dear?”) I set off.

We met up at 9.30, got my stuff into his truck and headed down to the paddock. Our arrival coincided with that of the first 2 flocks of geese – we were gutted! I felt bad because I’d held up the whole thing, but we got set with a couple dozen shell dekes and sat back and waited.

Hunting with an audience

Soon a flight appeared and came towards us from behind and to the left – we had a decent breeze and they set perfectly. Then began the numpty shooting show… we were average and got more average as the hunt progressed…. That flight gave us 3 birds and the other 8 flew away honking and huffing… not great. Small groups, singles and pairs all gave us chances and the tally increased in small increments. The final 2 flights that approached caught us on the hop and out of our blinds as they’d appeared from completely the ‘wrong’ direction… the first mob set down in the creek so Matt released his lab Zulu to put them up. They were reluctant to fly and when they did, set down in a paddock 150m away. Not good as competing against real birds is difficult.. then next birds came in, saw the live birds, then swung towards us before pulling out at long range. We laid into them and dropped a couple – the rest simply few over to our competitors and landed.

Happy, happy...

That signalled the end of the hunt so we dressed the birds in the field, bagged the meat and got ready to go (but not before the farmer’s wife came over to thank us – profusely and for a very long time...). Matt had to go and visit his wife in hospital, she’d taken a fall off a horse so I offered to look after Zulu and get the meat chilled.

Masterstroke! The dog’s presence completely took the attention away from my ‘husbandarial misdeeds’ as the girls patted, hugged and made a fuss of him. Open Home 2 was viewed with dog in tow – what a pleasure to walk a dog on a slack lead. Zulu behaved perfectly and when Matt came to collect him I thought great in-roads into getting a dog had been made.

But at that time it was not opportune to push the issue…….