Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The 5 minute run down

... as in 5 minutes to type and 32 seconds to read. Sunday's sea hunt was notable for:
  • You leave far too early. While its good to be keen, its not so good when the river entry beacon light isn't working, you run aground (at 5 knots maybe, I'm not that dumb...)
  • You prove that you really ARE that dumb by clambering out, in the dark to "find the channel"
  • You find the channel and are left holding on to the side of the boat while your 70 something year old dad tries to pull you back in, mostly by the hair (nah not really but it sounds dramatic)
  • The ducks mostly avoiding us.
  • Dad pointing out that lowering the boat blind's profile would be a good idea - I agree.
  • Having a bloody good time not really shooting much

Today's goose hunt was notable for:
  • Getting out of bed at 03.30 for the umpteenth time this past couple of weeks
  • Trying to find Spot X in a newly grassed paddock that resembles walking on newly grassed custard. Every foot step sank at least 5 or 6 cm's
  • Leaving big foot print trails to the dekes... and back again
  • Being swamped by swans
  • Being out-smarted by geese, mostly, we did bag 10 birds but it seemed that the party felt that this was an under achievement
  • Seeing hundreds of geese quite close but just out of range
  • Getting into the office at 13.00, with peat stained hands and finger nails.... try explaining THAT to the boss!!!
  • It was all good!

Swan departing, geese arriving - well sort of

Saturday, May 26, 2012

New stuff to try

I've had a love-hate relationship with my Buck Gardner Kryptonite. It takes an awful lot of pressure to break the reed and the lungs of a marathon runner to keep it working. Personally I think that the barrel is under bored, and as a result I struggle to make duck sounding noises with it. I was speaking with the importer of Tim Grounds calls, and he pointed me at the Grounds Back Flapper. Off to the store I trundled and got myself one. Man, straight from the box I was able to peel out mean hails and come-backs. Even has a passable chuckle.

I think my big water call puzzle is solved. Kryptonite for sale. Any takers? Superman?


The weather forecast for the next week or so is promising. At last some northerly wind coinciding with a day off!

We may even stay dry tomorrow, as dad and I hunt more sea ducks. I'll prep the boat later - I'm looking forward to this hunt greatly.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Another excellent blog

"Dudewater". It seems to me that there is more potential to really bum around being a fly fisher in the US than anywhere else in the world. Mind you they have nice gear and expensive waders etc, so maybe its the impression that they are bums (facial hair etc) that I'm really Jealous of. Personally I can't grow a beard to save my life.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Sea ducks

Damn, today was fun. After the summer work on The Booger, getting her ready with blind and decoy strings, it was finally time to take her out. I met Tim at 04:00 after another episode of interrupted sleep (awake at 02:00) and we headed off for the Piako River mouth. Forecast was for south west 15kt breezes, but as we descended onto the Hauraki Plains it became evident that there was a near freeze on as the temperature gauge registered 3 degrees. This was a bit of a bad omen, frosty conditions are a precursor to a still day on the plains and we needed wind.We launched at about 05:30 and headed downstream with GPS showing the way. We motored out of the mouth, and rounded the marker buoy before heading back inshore to the mangroves. As we motored in as quietly as possible, ducks could be heard everywhere. The first decoy deployment was a bit of a handful, especially as I wrapped the main backbone of the decoy line around the prop. Not so bad on a calm sea, but not a mistake I'm keen to repeat... anyway our spread looked a bit lost in the tops of the mangroves sticking just above the high water mark. Ducks flew all around us, landing just out of range or moving just where we weren't.

Tim checks his gear

Then a big drake came by and I missed him twice before dumping him into the mangroves. We puttered over but couldn't find him. More ducks landed near by, but frustratingly out of range. They swam off rather than in... the tide began to move out. We probed the bottom with our long handled net and found that we were in only a couple of feet of water, so retrieved the dekes and moved out a hundred metres. We set the dekes and then a Mallard hen made a pass. I fired 4 times and she kept going.... we talked, drank coffee and waited. Ducks moved high overhead, some checking the spread bit not committing. It was still out there, not a ripple moved on the water.

Not duck conditions...

We needed waves and wind. Ducks kept moving. Finally a drake cupped his wings and came in. I hit him fatally and we were on the board. We dropped the pick on a buoy and motored over. Success! A beautiful bird and a grand maiden duck for the boat.

The tide relentlessly bored out, so we moved again. With sun burn a real threat, we scanned the sea. Ducks could be seen sitting out in the distance. We glassed them with Tim's binos, and could see maybe 80 birds around the place, but not thousands or anything like that. All too soon, the allotted leaving time arrived. We had to leave ourselves enough time to re-enter the river mouth safely. We motored our way back to the ramp, and as we pulled out, Piako Pete, the local flounder man pulled in. His sage observation that it was quiet, with not many ducks around was not quite what we had observed for ourselves, but its all relative and he's used to seeing thousands, not tens of birds out there.

That was the most fun I've had on the sea for quite some time.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Waikato Goose Mafia

Its taken an awful long time to reach the Inner Circle. Somehow I know it would take a lifetime to become a "made man" within the WGM, I really doubt its a status I'll ever achieve. As it is, I incessantly bugged whoever would listen about how much I really really really wanted an opportunity to visit that scene. Finally, Cock rang me and said theres a goose hunt going down. He couldn't go himself, but put me forward for a spot. Late last night saw me down at the local park mowing grass for my layout. Gear ready, truck packed, layout grassed (a mission in itself) then shower and bed. The alarm chirped at 03.40 and it was up and at 'em. With a 90 minute drive ahead there was no way I was rising late and missing out. I got to Rangiriri hotel first before anyone else but soon The Don and his Consigliere & Underboss arrived. I shuffled over and shook hands (kissing the Don's? nah, not quite). Soon the other Capos and soldiers arrived. Then in quite a big convoy, we were off. We didn't travel all that far, and soon we were setting up in a newly grassed paddock. Decoys were transported in and set up, then the layouts, and finally the vehicles were moved. We loaded up and before it was truly light we heard the first geese moving. 10 or so loomed out of the gloom on set wings, responding to the calling. In they came, The Don called it and shots boomed out. Nothing left. The Don had told us that flight would last 2 hours. 2 hours in and huge mobs of geese were either skirting our setup, or committing. We had 50 birds down after the first hour  and within the allotted 2 hours there were 80 on the ground. And it didn't finish there. After a lull in the wind it started again in earnest and huge mobs began to move. They just kept coming in the most gob-smacking way. The wind was perfect, drifting the noise of our shots away from the big lake. The Don was content. 4 hours in and he called the session - he had work to do and people were waiting for him. As we pulled the dekes and piled the geese, even more approached, honking and squarking. I may never see the like of this hunt again. the unofficial count was 120+.

The Underboss got a nice group photo, so when he sends it I'll post. In the meantime here are some of my shabby efforts.

I cant express enough thanks to the Mafiosos, for welcoming me in, making me feel right at home and letting me be a triggerman.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Full & Fuller

Hendrik owns a beautiful and uncommon (in NZ) gun, a Merkel sxs. He used it to cold cock a super high bird on Saturday and when questioned about what chokes he was running he replied "Full..... & Fuller!"

Photo courtesy of Hendrik V.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


So anyhow, with the usual impeccable timing (lack of planning) my hearing protectors have arrived. Some of that close quarter stuff last week (Thurs & Fri) definitely resonated around my head (being 6'3" and shooting with shorter companions, well its bound to happen that the occasional blast leaves ears ringing).

Here they are:

The green bits are the "impressions" i.e the 2 pot mix injected into ear canal by wife. You can see why it freaked me out a bit huh? The silver bits are the baffle valve thingies.

I cant claim that they are comfortable, so I hope at least, that they are practical.

Belated report.

A reader has requested that I report on the Opening of the duck & pheasant season – only too happy to oblige really as it gives me a lot of pleasure to reminisce.

Dad, John and I arrived at the landing early on Friday and ferried our gear to the hut. We set to work getting decoys out on the ponds and my immediate impression was that the clear blue skies were pretty much devoid of ducks. Not to panic, we’ve seen that before. This year leading up to the season there had been relatively good rainfall, although the April period ‘enjoyed’ a series of high pressure systems – the birds were probably spread thinly. (Alternatively, the dreaded botulism may have taken far more birds than could possibly be found and reported – I heard from several people who helped pick up the dead and dying on the Firth, that for every bird collected 10 or more may have been hidden in the mangrove thickets). Or, it may well have been the Super Moon, which had reached its closest point to earth on its elliptical path. A full moon allows the birds to fly very early and late so can minimise their day time movements. Anyhow, the skies were quiet.

As the day progressed, the crew arrived and assembled and we got everything set up and ship shape with the hut. Don’t under-estimate how much crap a guy, especially a duck hunting guy can bring along, and with 8 in the hut it’s pretty cozy at times!

Friday evening before the season opens is a difficult one for me, I rarely sleep well (make that never). I was awake well before the alarm went off at 04.30 and hit (stumbled to) the floor to cook breakfast. We ate with the normal mix of anxiety, humour and then prepared for the onslaught. The pond draw saw me shooting our closest (and largest) pond, known as “Bollocks”. I had set up my layout blind the day before as I wanted to do something a bit different. Over to my right, Dad and John were set up in The Park, behind me Tom had Puru and the rest of the lads were in Willow, McLennan’s and Watson’s ponds. That moon was freaky; while low in the western sky it cast a light that I could read an ammo packet by. Well before legal shooting time we were all in our spots and ducks were on the move, stirred up by hunters arriving at their posies across the swamp. I watched as birds stopped over dad and John and dropped in. 3 Teal dived into my dekes. Then… at 06.05 the first shot boomed out from up the river. That’s 25 minutes before legal time, so was not really bending the regulations so much as trampling all over them! Everyone down our way remained (dare I say) remarkably composed and didn’t kick off until legal time. I wanted to harvest drakes only so waited for more light before switching my dekes on, then rested back in the laydown to wait. The first 6 were all greenheads and I was feeling pleased. Then it all went to pack as dad and John clipped a bird as it went past so I killed it high overhead and picked up a fat young hen. After that I killed the next three birds relatively quickly and just like that my shooting was done for the day. I hung my birds in a tree, closed up the blind, switched off the electronic decoys and wandered down to Puru, where I was quite surprised to find Cock in residence with Tom. The Willow had shot appallingly, so he’d come down to get some action. I stayed with them most of the afternoon, calling and cajoling good shots and bad. It was fun. Birds had been dropping in to all the ponds all morning, but at midday it was like a switch had been thrown and all went quiet which is most unusual for the swamp on opening day. The afternoon moseyed on by, and I returned to the hut to pluck my birds. We finished the day with 54 birds in hand. Numbers-wise certainly not world beating, but I’m damned if I can remember a better opening ever. That night we feasted on roast lamb prepared by Tom & Cock, and then settled down to our AGM. Officers were re-elected, scope of Capital Works agreed etc, all official like, but as the whisky level dropped the slurs rose… :)

Sunday morning rolled around, and legal time found me shooting with Cock down at Watson’s. We had a pretty good morning despite the cloudless and windless sky, and nailed half a dozen birds by 10.30. Then we began to lift the decoys in preparation of the traditional big duck clean up. Given the lowish number of birds it didn’t take as long as it has in the past, so it was mid-afternoon when I dropped 4 guys, their gear and 2 dogs back at the landing as they had work the next day. At the landing I picked up Larry who came to join us for a few days. Sunday evening’s flight was spectacular after hours – the ducks taking advantage of the moon. John and I shot together on Monday morning and it was pretty quiet. We dropped 3 Mallards between us. Dad and John packed up in the afternoon, so Larry and I consolidated our efforts. Whilst we weren’t getting much duck action, it was great catching up after so long. That evening the cloud set in, thick enough to blot out the moon which at last was rising later and waning. Ducks buzzed us and right on the gong of legal time we blew half a dozen holes in the sky as a pair of ducks escaped our clutches. Tuesday morning came and found us again at the ponds. Again it was quiet, but at least the weather was threatening. I pulled the pin after a quiet morning where from memory we got a brace. We cleaned up the hut and then I packed the boat and headed home for some family time. That night we got 45mm of rain, a huge dump.

I returned to the swamp on Wednesday evening, having invited Mitch and his dog Brutus for a couple of days hunting. And man, what hunting it was! The rising water and low hunting pressure saw ducks on the move. A brisk southerly stayed with us all day and we all hunted the whole day (apart from a couple of hours where dad returned to the hut to make lunch) and finished with 23 in hand and several down that we intended to search for the following day. Fat Mallards, old and young Mallards, corn and willow weed fed Mallard. Flocks, singles, doubles. Chattering relaxed decoyable Mallards. We had a ball and Brutus had a big retrieving day. That evening we were fair worn out, at last the big flights had arrived. We talked and ate until about 9 before hitting the hay. Friday was to be my last swamp day and was a replica of Thursday, except if anything the action was more consistent. We had to pull the pin at 10.30am, but had 15 in the bag at that stage… walking away from a good hunt is hard and as we sat at the hut cleaning our bag ducks flew by teasing us.

Saturday I was up early to drive to Waitomo for a pheasant hunt. 6 of us (including Mitch and Brutus) had a spectacular day, taking our limits of pheasants against a backdrop of a calm blue sky day. The photos of the day speak best.

What a glorious week.

Watching them watching us

I'm a little behind the 8 ball here, but my excuse is that I've been busy humanely harvesting food for my family. (Life without the internet is radically simplified). This link is to SAFE's anti duck hunting campaign for 2012. It's all so factually light and the imagery of a breasted out paradise duck highlights their shock-horror approach. Weak.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Our glorious goose

How far the goose's stakes have fallen. From premiere game bird to "pest", we now find ourselves being asked to consult on Waikato Regional Council's Regional Pest Management Strategy, and how the "goose problem" should be dealt with. Despite not strictly being "our" (Fish & Game's) problem any more, it would be remiss to not at least make a submission on how to effectively control the goose numbers in the region, rather than allowing for wasteful and expensive culls paid for by rate payers.

Here is Dave Klee's email:

Dear Goose Hunters,
I hope the start of the season is treating you well despite the rather fine and sunny conditions on opening weekend.

I am writing to inform you that the Regional Pest Management Strategy is under review and Canada Geese are in the cross hairs. Below is what the discussion document currently states.

What needs to pointed out is that geese are currently a schedule 5 bird “Not Protected” this is different to being considered a “Pest”. If geese are put on the pest schedule by our Regional Council they will need to be managed. This will invariably involve techniques such as helicopter moult culls.

You have until Next Friday, May 16, to have your say on this proposal. Have your say by going to the following link and clicking on Have your say online http://www.waikatoregion.govt.nz/RPMSreview scroll down to question 9:

This is only a preliminary discussion document, however. it is important for hunters to have their say early on.

Points you may wish to raise may include;
- Geese in our region only affect a proportionately very small number of farms.
- Goose control (such as helicopter culls) are expensive and ratepayers or the farming community as a whole should not be expected to pay for something that affects so few individuals.

- We have a large number of dedicated goose hunters with the necessary knowledge and experience to control geese in areas they are causing problems and that their details are freely available.

- Many of these hunters have and continue to spend a lot of $ time and effort hunting geese and inclusion of geese in the RPMP would undermine their success and participation leading to greater problems in the future.

- Hunters are no longer constrained by season lengths and bag limits and can therefore have a much higher kill rate now that geese are on schedule 5 and can be available year round for control.
- One of the main issues hunters face is getting access to private lands and information from landowners. If there is greater cohesion between hunters and landowners this will benefit farmers in the long term.

- There are plenty of areas of public conservation and F&G lands where geese can happily reside, the focus should be on effects based control on farmland where they are causing problem. Hunters are the most cost effective way of doing so.

-  Many hunters regard geese to be world’s premier game bird both for hunting and eating qualities. To indiscriminately kill large numbers of these birds is wasteful.
- Techniques such as helicopter moult culls can be detrimental to other wildlife utilizing the same areas as the geese.

If you have any questions, comments of feedback do not hesitate to contact me.

David Klee
Southern Game Bird Manager
Auckland/Waikato Fish & Game Council
156 Brymer Rd
RD9, Hamilton

phn 07-8491666
mobile 021 300 183

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Week 1

.. of the new season has flown by. Rather than blow-by-blow, here are a few pictures of an awesome week.

Tim adds flash to the coal range

Izzy beside my layout

Field decoys


Thursday, May 3, 2012

Signing off

There's a pile of duck gear in my garage right now. Tomorrow it goes into the truck and boat and then I'm gone, 9 days of hunting.

See you when I get back.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


This time I'm in trouble.... late with my budget projections, late with my "enterprise planning" input, late home most nights. Somehow because of a whole bunch of circumstances, the leave I booked for next week to enjoy the first 9 days of the duck & upland game season is smack in the middle of the firm's planning... and all of the timeline setting was done without flagging the time frames to us middle managers until after the planning had started!

3 weeks ago I thought I'd set the perfect pace leading to the season.... but now I'm sprinting and I'm not built for speed. Lesson for next year is to allow for corporate dumbness leading up to my duck holiday.