Monday, August 30, 2010

The AndyH report

Here goes:

"Well, it was a quiet afternoon.

We were taunted the whole time by herds of geese on the green grassy farm slopes opposite the mai mai (across the swamp) cackling and grunting as they chased each other around. The odd rain shower to keep us hidden. And lots and lots of spoonies and teal! Heaps of them. A heap of ducks got up when we got there too and there were quite a few moving around.

Just before dark a single goose came across in front but was out of (my) range. Paul had a crack but it continued un slowed. Then a single came around the back and was going to land on the pond (thanks to my awesome goose calling), Paul was out in the punt getting the dekes back in and he had a larrup just behind me out of sight, when it came into view it was climbing fast and directly above. Needless to say, I missed it. Kevin and Rex in the other maimai dropped it with a few shots and it fell into some nasty sheet that the dogs couldn’t get into. So one down but none back to the vehicles.

They are so much bigger than ducks, I need to completely change the lead I give them I think.

But we will see in the Wairarapa whether geese are immune to my charms as they seem to be at the moment."

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Season's end

Today's the last day of the pheasant season - and the AW goose season. The end of 4 months of the game bird season. I can't be in the field today for one reason or another, much as I'd love to. From August we now roll into September, that sort of layover month where the shooting season (here) is finished and the closed  trout streams don't open until October 1. September is the perfect month to do all the chores that you've been putting off around the house. Only 9 days until the goose trip, so really looking forward to getting away for a shoot.

Andrew's shooting with Paul Hannibel today, trying their luck on the geese. Maybe will text him later for an update.

There's a list of things we need to get done around the traps as well:

1. Late Sep we have the Little Ruawai Preserve working bee. Preaprataion of the main pen is the key mission. Underfoot conditions in the pen are horrird, so we're going to get some second Rolawn turf from Dickie, and lay that over scoria. Mitch, Mick & Simon are now also in the syndicate. That gives us Shanks, Tim, James, Hendrik, me, Mitch, Mick & Simon. We ought to be able to get plenty done.

2. Swamp - probably in Oct we need to put the new window that dad's made in. Roof repair (!). Spraying. Need to knock the poaquatica back. Maybe we'll have a bunch of traps through from Dave Klee as well by then.

3. my stream fly boxes are looking bare. Probably need to tie 6 dozen flies.... which I enjoy, but still it's a thing that 'needs to be done'.

Better get started!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The economics of digging a hole

I've been having this talk with Guy. I'm not claiming to be the thought originator, either. Its about the cost of digging a hole - or to be more specific, the cost of keeping the hole just so. A hole dug in a typical willow bound swamp will remain a hole for about as long as it takes spring growth to pop up. Extra soil warmth and daylight hours will encourage all sorts of aquatic flora to emerge, and most of the time what grows is not particularly desireable. Normally the purpose of digging a hole in willows is to open water and encourage bird life, more specifically ducks in the case I have in mind, but still its a simple objective. Keeping the water open costs time, effort and money, applied in equal doses. Skimp on one and your hole suffers. So for every dollar you spend on opening a hole, you have to budget say, $0.05 - $0.10 for every year thereafter, keeping the hole the way you want it to be. One of the biggest owners of these holes is AWF&G. The idea is that area user groups maintain the holes at their own expense, which is quite right. There's no escaping the concept of user pays, it's one of the realities of life. But what if the cost of maintaining the hole, or all of the holes, is an unbudgeted expense line in an overall financial plan? Does this mean that if you keep digging holes, you need more and more paid staff maintaining the holes? Something wrong with this picture?

Do we want to be the biggest owner of holes in the land? Maybe. But by being the biggest owner of holes, we are stuck being the biggest owner of holes. By inference you are then stuck being the biggest maintainer of holes.

We have 3 field staff in a region stetching from Raetihi to literally Kaiwaka. If even one of those staff is working on the F&G blocks at 80% capacity, then we're pretty stretched to do anything new. (Why they would be working on the properties is anyone's guess. It's not budgeted for in any approved plan that I can see).

I have to run now, but am keen to come back to this topic soon.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Boy's road trip

We're almost set. Me, AJ, Andrew & Cock are road-tripping to the Wairarapa in September, to go goosing with Tim Allen. This trip has been some time in planning, and quite hard to get the crew together for. Tim can't come because he's saving like mad for his wedding; Shanks can't come because of work (calving etc); Guy can't come because he just likes pulling the trigger and goose hunting isn't always like that :D - nah, he's busy deciding on next year's strategy; Chris from up north can't come because of other stuff he's got on. Cock may even have to pull out if work calls on him. Andrew should be able to come if powers that be allow. Strategy is quite simple - the timing puts us in goose territory on the drakest nights of the month. Hopefully the geese will not have been overly hassled. Tim will scout them the days before we arrive and make a call on where we go, be it on land, or the lake. We'll then hunt them accordingly, and with 2 days and nights at our disposal will hopefully have at least one good session.

I'm looking forward to this like mad. I like a road trip to do something different. And it sort of fits my ambition to learn more about goose hunting.

Roll on September.

Met with my old boss today. His property Hau Ora Farms in the Tukituki Valley is primo pheasant territory. He put down 400 this year and has shot 90-something in small driven days. He's getting right into it and plans to put down 1,000 next year; supported by cover crops and on the back of a 3 year trapping program. (300 hedgehogs, tons of rats, weasels, ferrets, 70 cats...) looking at all that vermin, no wonder its so hard to breed and keep birds.

He recently had to modify his land - with 35 acres of old man gorse the nasties had too many hidey-holes and the birds flew straight to it. Check this out:

The aftermath. Pretty country huh? And when the burn off goes into cover of some sort the birds will appreciate the first striking of the match.

(Apparently there was an article in the local paper as a result of all that smoke.....)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Somehow, I've done 24,000 kms in the Prado in the 1 year that I've had her. Man, I'm not sure how I've managed that, given she's not been on any really big trips. So I thought about it. A trip to Shanks' place from my house is 252 Km. I've done the trip maybe 4 times. There's 8.3% of all of the Km's. A few trips to Taupo etc.. it all adds up. Still the one year milestone is reached.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Shanks Ranch

Normally I’m not big on Sunday day trips, as I far prefer travelling and fishing shooting on Saturdays and spending Sunday at home. A little flexibility is a good thing, so given that Mick, Mitch and their hairies wouldn’t be free until Sunday it was a done deal. We (Tim & I) hit the road about 1.30 Saturday on the 3+ hour drive to the Shanks Ranch, arriving as Shanks finished up feeding the calves. We unpacked, had a cuppa then headed up the hill for a pig. Shanks immediately spied pigs on the skyline on the way in, and as we moved across the paddock we were able to identify 4 piggies mooching around. We were a ways off but still within rifle range for a good shot (I am not a rifle shooter’s butt) so we headed in to the usual shooting spot. The breeze was light to nil, but unfortunately it swirled and I’m picking that our scent wafted uphill because as one their heads came up and they turned tail and charged off. We sat and waited for 20 minutes as the mist descended then headed off to see if we could see anything on the airstrip. Nothing doing so back to the Ranch Homestead for a bowl of carrot and coriander soup with some thick bread, then a course of venison and salad. A few beers went down then Mick & Mitch turned up and after we visited the Natural Bridge (spectacular glow worms and formations) by torch light we sat around shooting the breeze until midnight when I retired. Tim woke me and just about got a punch for his trouble at 1am. Then I struggled to get back to sleep. Craig woke us at 7 and I have to say I was feeling rusty. Toast & honey & coffee for breakfast then we packed the cars and headed off. Shanks Ranch is a fine piece of land, containing everything that I’d ever want in a property: contours, duck ponds, a trout stream, relative solitude and of course all the interesting wild life that you could hope for. Now pheasants being what they are tend to be birds of habit. The general feeling I got from Craig and which Mitch backed up was come mid August the birds get on the move and move out the usual haunts. Today we were accompanied by Brutus & Heidi, Mitch & Mick’s GWP’s. These guys live for hunting over and around their dogs and it shows, their pups are great workers, and are well under control without the zealot control that I saw the retriever guys apply to their dogs. Both dogs were good workers, plenty of get up and go and really good on the point. The first gulley we worked was bare so up and over a ridge went Mick & Mitch while Tim and Shanks worked a big depression. I went around the top ¾ mark of the bowl while Craig and Tim headed down. Soon a bird barrelled over the top, stirred up by Mitch & Bru’ and headed down to Tim and Craig on set wings. Both opened up and from my vantage point I observed a couple of things:

1. The bird was hit

2. The shots put a number of birds out of the rim of the gulley ahead of me.

I moved up and along and worked a patch of head high gorse, about as round as a small car (like a mini) and up and away went a rooster. I stepped to the side but he carried on straight away before curling so my desperate shots were well behind as he cleared the 40 to 50m mark. The lads down below were waiting and hit him as he came over, dropping him into a god awful patch of crap. I met up with Mitch and Mick at the top of the ridge and we watched and waited as Tim, Shanks & his lab Silent worked the scrub over. It was thick as sh*t and after 30 minutes they gave it away, with plenty of holes for the birds to escape into it just brought home that sometimes in that terrain you’re going to lose a bird sooner or later. Earlier in the season that big old melanistic escaped me the same way … impenetrable crap. Down into the next gulley – this territory is blimmin steep – this time we were entering a deep bowl with steep edges covered in bush. Tim and Craig went through the middle while Mitch, Mick the dogs and me panted our way up to the top. We tried to move down into the valley via a depression but it was a dead end, so back to the ridge and up, up up we panted. At the top I was about to breathe a sigh of relief when a cackling rooster shot off. I was well behind with the first barrel but the second caught him and he went down on a bung wing. I marked him and then Mitch and Bru’ came over and Bru’ performed the retrieve on a very dead bird that has moved 15m from where he dropped. Bru’ was stoked, wagging his tail as he delivered to Mitch’s hand.

Mick and Heidi meantime had followed the ridge along to a bush edge and we heard another rooster go. Mitch and me wandered along to the top fence line, by now Tim and Craig were all set in the bottom of the gully to our left and well below us. As soon as we put Bru’ over the fence, he hit a scent. Mick meantime had closed in above us, so while Mitch stayed close in to the dog, I moved down the hilol slightly. The scenario was that we are all on top of a small bank that cut away below us. Bru’ was locked up on a bird that was holding tight below us, about 5 feet down the bank in an undercut. Then with a clatter of wings and a cackle he was up and away. And he kept going despite 5 shots blasting out after him. It was classic! A truly deserved escape in the most unlikely of circumstances – not quite surrounded but still. We were now entering a scrubby face at the top of the bowl that spread around to the right and with Tim and Craig in position; anything that got up would sweep down and over them. And they did, several birds took to the air one especially nice fast and high Cock bird blatted over Tim (miss, miss) then Craig and then while Tim was reliving the miss and not reloading, another bird made its escape! At least we had now located them. So far it was looking tough and the score was running 5-1 in favour of the birds. We trooped through the cave with the stream through it and pooped out in the next gulley. Mick and I went through a rimu grove to look for anything in a swampy glade Craig had told us about while the others headed off up a small scrub filled gulley. Nothing doing for either party, so Mick & Craig worked up a scrubby hill while the rest of us walked up the track of what Craig called “the steep hill”. Yes it was steep, definitely the steepest of the day and whilst I got up there first I was puffing hard out. Not easy country at all… we grabbed a breather and watched Craig & Mick put up some hen birds. Then over we went into the next gully. Tim and Mitch went into a scrubby face while I hopped the fence and walked the ridge above one of the hill pastures amongst rocky outcrops. I saw a cock zoom off about 100 yards away going full noise – wings set, head down. Then another curled away, taking off out of range and swinging around to land atop a rocky buttress. 2 steps later and a cock erupted below me, curling down and away. Now this was an interesting shot…. Shooting at something that starts below you and then curls away is not an easy shot. It’s not something you can practice for that easily either unless you have a trap or shoot sporting in hilly country. I remember struggling with this shot on the sporting course. I had enough time to shoulder the gun then realise my mount was ‘wonky’, then straighten it, swing through and below the bird and fire. It was a solid hit, with the bird dropping like a stone into the bottom of the gully. Neat, bird # 2 in the bag, feeling pretty happy with the shot as well. Then another bird went from the gulley and I missed twice, smack! Back down to earth… As I reached my bird, Bru’ zoomed into, scooped it up as neat as can be and ran back to his master – heh heh a bird I didn’t have to carry. Mitch and Tim worked the rocks I had seen the cock land in and Mitch scored his first bird after a solid point by Bru’. After the retrieve, Tim worked around a high pile while I nipped down below the scrub that any bird would naturally run into, and as the lads came through I pulled off a good second shot on a departing bird for my limit. Tim meantime dropped a fast flushing bird that was probably pushed back by my shots – all good now each of us was on the board. Mitch and Bru’ picked Tim’s bird and then came down to find mine, which had inconveniently dropped across the river which was flowing quite fast and murky. Craig and Mick appeared up on the track and came down as Bru, fought the current, dragged himself out of the river and set off after my bird. Which was very much alive – head up and running, boy did he screech when Bru’ ran him down and grabbed him!

We stopped for a breather then Craig had to leave us to go and get his place ready for some guests. We decided to push on past the big pond, with the dogs putting up a couple of birds in the heavy native – out of range for the guns. Then we crested a small swamp gully with a single tea tree and tiny patch of cover. 3 hen birds ran out as we came over the rise and as we started to talk there was a fair explosion of activity as 2 cocks and 2 hens made their move. Tim and Mitch each dropped a cock – Mick chiming in on Mitch’s bird. We moved back up to the boundary and began to get spanked by the birds again. Heidi locked up hard out of sight on a bird which eventually broke and escaped Mick’s fleeting shot; then birds jumped here and there, always out of sight or range. We circled back around by now all of us were feeling the pinch so made a call to get to the car. Mitch and I worked the river edge and again Bru’ pulled a classic point. We had this bird cold and each of us tip-toed up beside the dog –only for a hen to erupt away and across the river. A fitting final moment for the hunt. Back to the car then the Shanks homestead for a cuppa and to clean the birds. We hit the road at 3 and had a relaxing drive back – Spring is getting closer with the days lengthening, the grass growing thicker and the warmth of the sun improving. A great day for sure on the Little Ruawai preserve.