Sunday, April 12, 2015

At last

... there's a flock of geese that have been chomping away at a chicory crop and driving the farmer to distraction. He'd been asking us to come and deal to them but with the roost very close to the crop we've been waiting for a strong wind in order to cover our shooting noise.

Finally we got the wind and were able to get setup before sparrows fart. The hunting site would be slightly challenging as we were near a ridge in a large paddock, and there was no clear X as goose kak was layered everywhere. Not a square foot was free of goose doo.

Then the wait started. As it got light, the breeze began to stiffen and then a pair came in but set down behind us. Matt released his dog which flushed them out and then they swung downwind and came back to us on set wings!

After that the long wait was on us. With our binos we watched the birds, maybe 300, drift out as the tide in the harbour receded and then as it turned, they began to drift back in. The wind grew and grew and soon white caps were thumping in. We moved our blinds to cover where we thought the birds may land - as we'd set up earlier in the dark we'd not quite nailed it.

Finally after a wee nap, I was in my blind when Tony yelled "geese, geese!" and a small mob arrived, swung wide and set to come in. At the last second they drifted to our right and set down just below a hump.. but with another mob lining up we were able to let them go.

The next 10 minutes were mayhem as we got stuck in, and dropped a heap of birds. The departing birds headed down to land in a river but with a volley of shots they departed back out into the harbour, which was in turmoil.

I had to leave mid afternoon and they didn't fly again before I left, but later on I got a couple of messages saying the final total was 54 birds. Happy farmer we hope.

Rain & wind. Photo courtesy Matt McCondach
Goose pile [Tony Dobbs]

Packing up


Monday, April 6, 2015

Walking with the ghosts of time

To borrow a lyric from Icehouse's Great Southern Land...

I've talked before about the old buggers who were past their prime even when I began hunting ducks, old Fred Davey with his Browning 5, my grand pop [who seemed the youngest], his brother in law, my "Uncle Dave" Dudding and Dave's brother Brian who never spoke much. I was young and stupid and pressed Brian to tell me about the war. He said he'd "killed some japs" and then went quiet... quiet enough for me to get the hint that the subject was thereafter off limits.

They drank whisky. They [apart from Fred] shot with old double guns and knew how to use them. I once watched Uncle Dave kill 3 doubles of mallards in a few minutes, and my granddad was a mean shot. I don't recall hunting with Brian, and my only memory of shooting with Fred was as a junior bystander while he and granddad got all crossed up on a mob of mallards and then spent the next 15 minutes abusing each other about who shot the other guys ducks... stuff like we do today, although at the time [must have been mid 70's] I thought they were going to get stuck into each other!

When we pulled down our old maimai a few weeks ago, we uncovered an absolute trove of memorabilia. Claim tags from the 60's, early and then late 70's. I took some home to clean up and its brought back a flood of memories.

The old guys are still there with us in spirit, and may the gods of duck hunting rest their souls because around about now they'll be getting all fidgety... the day bigger than any other approaches and they know it.

Prep time

The duck season is just around the corner, and yesterday was the official mark up day where stakeholders are able to claim their spot by "pegging"/"marking"/"tagging", which involves nailing your stand claim to your spot by 10am on the given day. This in turn allows you to have first dibs on the spot on any given day, even if someone who is not the holder turns up prior to 7.30am, the legally tagged up hunter has first rights. After 07.30, any licensed holder is able to set up.

The previous year's stakeholder is able to tag his pond earlier than the allotted day and time, just as long as it is done on time.

Dad and I got down to the ponds early on Good Friday and found what we'd been told about; a crew has blocked our main dam with sand [mud] bags in the belief that the water flowing over the weir affects their water levels. As someone once said "... you're a special kind of stupid aint you?" but if they believe water flows uphill, then so be it. Blocking the weir wont affect the water levels 5kms away. Just another job to extract the bags and refill the hole they made.

We pushed ducks off the ponds as we travelled, clearing fallen willows and arriving at our recently constructed new maimai, which we painted and then wired up for dressing next weekend.

Having a good season or trip is all about the preparation, which is half the fun anyway. The Christmas Island trip is drawing closer, and between Coch and I we've tied over 400 flies. As a guy I know said to me "don't listen to people who fish Aitutaki when they scoff at how many flies you take, they don't know anything. You'll get dozens of shots a day and will lose flies hand over fist".

We've found the Tacky fly boxes to be excellent, tough and with silicone slots they have better holding grip than foam slots like C&F's.

Still a few slots to fill but the pressure's off with the backbone of the tying broken.

Things that still need doing:

1. Brush up the maimais
2. String up the nets for the boat
3. Get flylines, flats boots and drybag sorted for CXI

...... all this prep never ends.