As the sun rose we were able to glass 3 deer about 600m away, a tad too far for the .222. So we moved quietly down to close the gap when Richard spotted another 2 deer 150m away. We were behind some scrub so found a gap and Tony settled down behind the rifle. As he went to close the bolt the deer went from feeding to full speed in a way that only a deer can. I thought that our wind had wafted down into the gulley and spooked it but who knows? Back at the hut Matt and Chewie had breakfast on the go, so after a hearty meal of bacon, eggs, venison and hash browns we got saddled up to chase birds again.
|Dog bus, good for the fatties (labs)|
The first spot we hunted was another large rush filled paddock, studded with t tree thickets. We moved across in line abreast and soon Ted pushed a cock bird that crossed in front on me beautifully. Naturally I was fiddling with my camera at the time and got neither a gunshot nor camera shot!
|Show me better pheasant territory - you can't|
As the bird curled around to my left both Richard and Matt swung and fired – it was a good long shot from Matt that downed him. We continued when suddenly a deer burst from a thicket in front of me... once again I had to regain my composure. Having worked the paddock we returned to the quads and headed up onto a new part of the farm. As we travelled we saw a cock bird enter a hedgerow so stopped to figure out a plan. As we did another 4 cocks ran into the hedge from the opposite side... was this the hedgerow of pheasant dreams? Chewie, Richard and Matt would head up one side with Tony and I on the other and a couple of dogs in the hedge. Tony, Nera and I moved up the windward edge of the hedge. When we hit the spot where we’d seen the first bird run in, Nera’s nose hit the ground and Zulu who was in the hedge drove forward. We’d expected a bird to bust but 4 sprang, 2 out our side, one out the other and one back over behind us with the wind up his bum. Tony and I dropped a bird each, Richard got one and the last escaped.
|Nera nabs my bird|
50m on and another huge flurry – this time 4 cocks and a hen burst. I pulled on a bird, thought Tony would choose the same one so moved onto another which I only clipped; Tony smashed his bird. Hearing the clatter of wings in thick toi toi as 5 birds hit the air is not something I’ll forget in a hurry! We got back to the quads and tied our birds, took a couple of photos and waited for Chewie to arrive with Ted.
The next spot was a dried raupo choked pond area. Again as we arrived the boys saw a cock run into thick cover. Chewie and I moved to the bottom edge, Tony and Richard covered the top and Matt pushed Zulu and Ted into the cover. Soon a bird burst from the cover and Matt took a shot from behind the trees – the bird was gaining height and speed and came out over us about 25 m up. Chewie and I swung, fired and the bird dropped at Chewie’s feet. Beautiful. We moved on through the cover bumping no more birds, arriving at the harbour’s edge. What a stunning spot; I never thought a pheasant portrait beside the seaside would eventuate.
Back to the quads to move on to another treed hedgerow; this time with only sparse cover so less potential. Matt and Richard went to the bottom while Tony, Chewie, their dogs and I moved down. I saw a pheasant run ahead of us and called to Chewie but the bird burst at long range giving him two difficult shots. The bird sailed downhill along the trees in the hedge and disappeared from our view, then a shot rang out. As we walked down to the bottom of the hedge Tony pushed 2 brown quail but let them be as they were the only quail we’d seen. We met up with Matt and Richard and Richard had bagged the pheasant as it came over them. Next up would be our final destination for the day as we needed to pack up and go in the early afternoon to meet other engagements. The area in question was a fenced off swamp section studded with t tree, thick raupo and with a steep face on the right hand edge. It literally screamed pheasant. Matt worked the high bank while the rest of us dived in. My line seemed to be the boggiest, thickest and crappiest and I made heavy and noisy going. Half way through a bird burst towards Matt and he took it with his second shot. Down in my sweaty swampy hell I was thrashing through raupo bog towards a thicket of t tree when Matt called that Teal was getting birdy and a cock bird hit the air quartering away behind me. I managed to spin and take him, and plodded over to pick up a good fat bird just as the hound pack arrived to compete for the retrieve. We worked the rest of the patch out, pushing a couple more birds without result, climbed out of the bog and that signalled the end of our hunt.
9 birds for the morning was an epic result and we were a darn happy crew as we wandered back to the quads. I have to mention here that the little Merkel was a joy to carry; at one stage I hefted Matt’s gun and it’s a good thing he’s built like a gorilla because that’s a lump to haul around all day. Really stoked with the gun. Back at the hut we had a couple of beers, cleaned up and prepared for our journey out. Sitting in the sun after a couple of awesome days regaling shots missed and hit, ragging each other.. hell life’s too good some times. The fun outside of the hunt is what I appreciate about these guys. We convoyed out in trucks and quads with no dramas at all, even the swamp track (which was cut up to hell by now) was cleared with ease. At the top shed we got everyone’s gear sorted, quads cleaned and stowed and then hit the road. Sweet. Thanks lads, those couple of days will live with me for a long time.