Sunday, April 27, 2014

Doing stuff to stop from going crazy

I can't handle this week. I couldn't as a kid, a teen-ager, or a semi-wastrel long haired uni student. Opening day of the duck season is bigger than Texas. Wayyy bigger than Xmas. Greenheads with feet down dropping on cupped wings into the set.... greys swoop low over the trees... flocks of mallards circle, looking to commit.... swans pass on graceful wings. Will some clown open up at 06:00, 30 minutes before legal time? Will the first ducks in stay?

Enough already. Best thing to do is to stay busy, and try and block these thoughts out. And buy stuff. The newest toy will be a new GK Call Girl.

I say "will be" because whilst its in the country, I've yet to lay my hands on it. Can't wait!

Apart from buying stuff, (naturally this pursuit is limited by budget) I've emptied my freezer completely, and restacked it. My last ducks from previous season have been eaten, but I still have a few pheasants. Found some goose schnitzel (sliced breast) which I prepared for dinner last night (bloody good) by crumbing and frying in a butter and olive oil mix.

Even better though, I found the ribs (inc chops) from the boar I shot earlier in the year. Time for smoky ribs...

First thing when preparing ribs, is that there's a membrane on the inner side. Remove by lifting and running a table knife along the membrane. This is important, because you'll want the rub flavours to get into the meat.

Prepare your rub. I used:

Ted's (World Famous - bet you never heard of it!) Bone Dust
Brown Sugar
Garlic Powder
White sugar
Sweet paprika
Black pepper
White pepper
Cayenne pepper
Onion powder

Mix it all together, then pat onto the ribs, both sides. Make sure its all covered. Then into fridge for 24 hours.

Make a glaze.

I used:

Bradley's Maple cure
Piripiri sauce
Rufus Teague's arse flaming burning hot ring-sting barbecue sauce
Garlic salt
Lime juice

Mix it up, and coat onto chilled ribs with a brush.

I cranked up the Bradley smoker, then cranked it back down to 90 degrees C. On with smoke and in with ribs. Leave alone for at least 3 hours, swapping racks in smoker now and again.

Ohhhhhh yeahhhhhhh.

I let them cool and then vac packed. All ready to go hunting..... better have a few cold beers on hand!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Whatever floats your.... decoy

“Idle hands are the devil’s plaything” – or so goes the old saying. Fact is that (at this time of year in particular) I have a bit of trouble relaxing. I’m not great at doing nothing, so find it relaxing to just do stuff like tie flies, untangle decoy cords, drill holes in boat for latest fitting…. Well, you get the idea.
Of late I’ve been thinking of ways to float a spin-wing decoy at sea. “At sea” means in rough weather, when hunting’s at its best out there. There are lots of ideas on the internet. Some involve H shaped bars, where a decoy on each corner supports a central upright upon which the flapper sits. Not ideal for me, I don’t want to be lugging 4 more decoys in the little boat than I have to. Then there are similar arrangements with a + shape, with bits of foam on the arms again holding up a central post upon which electronica is perched. Looks a bit unstable to me.
Finally I tracked down a really good option. The original involved a life preserver, some board, stainless nuts & bolts and fittings. And a can of cement for an anchor.

I decided on a similar approach. First – let me tell you it’s not easy to source a cheap life preserver. (I guess that you can put a price on preserving life after all). Finally I tracked an old one down. As everyone knows, these things come in a range of colours – the range being from vibrant orange to eye-searing orange-vermillion.  I grabbed a spray can of grey primer and went to work. Then a nice piece of treated board was procured, along with stainless nuts and bolts. Unlike the version I’d seen on the ‘net, my life ring has holes that are ideal mounting points so I didn’t have to screw into the body of the ring. Drilled and countersunk (flash huh!) holes for the bolts and got the board mounted.

The old outdoors spray booth.

Sat around for a bit thinking about how to mount the pole then had one of those DOH! moments. I’d just use the Railblaza stuff I had left over.  Too easy.

Simply attach a Starport into which goes a Telepole onto which fits a Swivelport into which the decoy's mounting base is inserted.

With my anchor light attached, you get my drift... decoy goes where light is

Spray it all grey and whammo, there's the base and mount done. Now just a matter of anchoring it. I'll just get one of those little grapnel anchors and use that, I think I have a couple hanging around.

Now, just add decoy...

Sunday, April 20, 2014

In anticipation of the coming season's harvest...

At this time of year, I scour the freezer for any remnants of last year's ducks and pheasants. The past couple of weeks I've enjoyed pheasant salad for lunch at the office; not many people in the jungle of office buildings I work in get to do that I suspect.

Pheasant Salad

You guys can work out the greens, etc for yourself; but here's how I do my pheasant so that it remains moist.

For a start, I've been brining the birds prior to freezing, so that they take on a whole lot of liquid and freeze better. Place your de-frosted, rinsed and dried bird breast up on chopping board. Using cleaver or big F-off knife, split the bird along breast, peel open and cut down backbone so your bird's 'spatchcocked'. Do a couple of birds at one time.

Take wide flat pan, add olive oil, a bit of garlic salt, and fresh thyme which you've just plucked from your herb garden. Or dried stuff if cats have gotten into your herb garden and shat it to death. Heat the pan to medium high heat, and place your bird into it, skin down. Cook until nicely browned and then turn bird over. Same on other side. Do second bird. Reserve yummy seasoned oil from pan.

Into good sized sauce pan, put a rough chopped onion, 3 cloves garlic, 3 juniper berries, some chopped up celery, a smackeral of paprika, the reserved oil, 3 bay leaves and heat until the onion is soft. By now yummy smells have filled the house - yeah boi!

Add pheasants skin side up, cover half of birds with apple juice, then top up with water and a chicken stock cube. Chop up an apple and stuff it in there. In fact you could chuck anything you like in at this stage as long as it goes with the theme. I biffed in a capsicum.

Now bring mixture to a boil, and then whack the heat down to low, so we have a simmer. I leave this on low heat all day, checking now and again. At least 4 hours on low does it, but I've gone longer. You'll know when it's done, because meat will fall off bone.

leave to cool, then drain. Flake meat into container with some of the stock. Put legs to one side for a snack, even with sinews removed they aren't great salad material.

Boom, now you've got a week's worth of pheasant salad materials.

a few hours of cooking to go

Duck Satay

I fluked this recipe when I was stuck for something to take to a pot luck dinner. It rocks. Take your duck (which freeze much better than pheasants) and rinse out the cavity and pat dry with paper towel. I stuff my birds with sage & onion stuffing. Put birds into oven bag (this is super important - if you've ever been served a dried up baked duck you'll know what I mean..), and get your orange 'splashing sauce' which you spent way too much for down at the fresh food market, and splash it on. If no sauce just get good old marmalade, and rub it one. Into oven bag with some liquid (again super important - orange juice is good) and into oven for a couple hours at 170 degrees.

In other words, cook your duck as you normally would. Near end of cooking, prepare your satay sauce as follows;

Go here for super easy really yummy sauce recipe

I'm not going to reinvent wheel with my own attempt at a sauce that's been made for a zillion years!

Take cooked duck from oven, and break into halves, or if you can be stuffed, break right down by taking meat from bone. Drown in satay sauce and BOOM! That's the shizzle right there.

Ducks in oven - sizzle shizzle!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Flying visit

Easter Saturday. Road traffic should be about as light as it can get, Stuff needs to be moved to the swamp so today's as good a time as any, and better than some.

A flying visit was in order, to finish up a few preps. At the back of my mind that wasp nest was bugging me, I knew that taking it out would get me stung a few times. At least.

I met dad at the landing at 9 and we trundled downriver in The Booger, heavily laden with all sorts of crap that we cart in to the ponds. Arriving at the hut we inspected the traps; good results with a ferret and a rat killed. Vermin is ever present and while we'll never really stay on top of it at least we can put a dent in the local pestilence population.

We got out to the ponds and put off a range of ducks, mallards, greys and grey teal. A few swan were in residence as well. The ponds looked great, spray work having taken care of the majority of weeds.

We got to the site of the wasp nest, and dad put me ashore with a container of petrol/diesel mix. I snuck in close to the nest without being stung! and poured a few litres into the nest. Then a quick retreat to the boat and back to light a wick - BOOOOOOMFAHHH! (This part is not necessary, the fuel mix on its own kills the vermin. I just like a good inferno).

Where there's smoke...

.. there's fire

Bye bye wasps

Quite satisfying to wipe out the black and yellow menace. And without copping a sting!

So with the duck season only 2 weeks away, we enter the sleepless zone. Anticipation overwhelms the need for sleep. Its going to be a long slow drag ....

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

How to make 100 ducks into 300 ducks, an experiment in bird rearing

I've not said much about our little project pond for a while now. The basic premise that we had at the outset was that if we created some habitat, used some existing habitat, and supplemented the duck population we might be able to create a pond from where a sustainable harvest is possible.

Ducklings were procured, (and by god are they a damn sight easier to raise than pheasants!) and released into the pond. Feed was purchased. The ducklings took to their new surrounds immediately; and predation losses were low. Matt's been a good dad, arranging daily meals for the birds and cover while he and Gina have been away. To be honest, I've not gone up to the pond since the birds arrived so have been enjoying their progress vicariously through reports from Matt & Tony.

We'd decided that if we put down 100 birds, that we'd harvest 10% less and by doing so leave a portion of the population to hopefully breed.

Here's a montage of shots over their growing up journey.

Over a period of time the brood has grown up, flown around, found mates and from the original 100 birds we're now feeding 3 times that number. Gregarious creatures that they are, they've told 2 mates each that foods available back at the green pond.

Tony took a short vid of some of the birds feeding and preening. A couple of free-loading parries in there, but they seem to be coexisting nicely.

This hasn't been an overly expensive exercise when split 4 ways; hopefully a few more guys will get encouraged enough to try something similar.

Breaking with tradition

At this time of the year our household traditionally has the first fire of the year to warm the house, but there are no signs of needing to do so in the next short while. The warm temperatures and lack of consistent rainfall have made this almost an indian summer (I know that every second year I repeat myself on the weather theme).

But anyway, a month later than usual I trundled down to get in a metre of Totara - beautiful dry wood and if I could store more I'd be tempted to buy another metre to get us through, because by the time winter's over only wet smoke causing wood is available normally. Most of our duck pond preps are done, I just need to transport some decoys and stuff in prior to the season, and to deal to a nasty German Wasp nest that'll trap some poor unsuspecting hunter or dog. It's in a sizable hole in the ground so unless water levels rise dramatically (unlikely) the vicious little buggers will play havoc.

The count down to the game bird season is on; tradition dictates last minute pond work but we're on top of everything mostly thanks to the old guys now being retired and able to put time in at their leisure. Hunting preps include getting the boat shaken down; she went in for her annual service on Friday and I picked her up Saturday - need to replace a wheel bearing (!!!) and one of the LED marker lights on the trailer is dead. No biggies, just a morning's work over Easter. Normally at this time of the year I don't have too much free time to chase finny creatures but having seen constant workups along the East Coast Bays as the kahawai, snapper and terns push anchovies into meat balls and having had the boat readied I thought I'd give it a nudge.

With high tide at 6am, moon down and no wind at all, Sunday morning was too good an opportunity to miss. Onboard with 4kg of pilchards, the 8 weight and a berley bomb. I'd opted to fish a reef that I'd been reseaching. If I could get setup pre-dawn with berley pumping there'd be every chance of good autumn snapper. So it proved. At the spot @ 05.30 and over with the chum. Some guys came screaming in with no nav lights switched on, so I fired up my anchor light (which by law I should've had on anyway - just didn't want to adverise my presence to the snaps) - they drifted around preparing their gear before buzzing off. Phew, I hate competition. As the sun rose over Rangitoto the first bite was received, a solid take that resulted in a nice 2kg fish hitting the deck. It was 30 minutes before the next take, the line had gone slack so i knew the fish had picked up the bait and run upcurrent. I got tension on and hit the fish which took off like a demented thing - great stuff on the 4kg outfit.

Perfect millpond conditions - urban fishing

The fish itself was just over 3.5kg when landed, into the slurry it went. By 9.30 I had 6 snapper in ice slurry (one a fat 4kg model) and was feeling pretty pleased. Then kahawai began breaking around the boat - they'd pushed anchovies into the reef. Out with the fly road. Fat pre-spawning kahawai on the fly rod are the ultimate light tackle workout. They just go faster than kingis of the same size, and burn out line like nothing else. For every fish landed, 2 smashed me. My final snapper took a clouser high in the water column and dragged me reefward. Having tuned and controlled him I was stunned and pleased to see another 2.5kg fish wallowing beside the boat. Given my need for fish to feed the hunting clan in a couple of weeks, he was another candidate for vacuum packing. 7 snapper of >30cm is the new SNA1 area limit (as at April 1), and given that I rarely catch a limit let alone keep one - well another tradition broken! What a neat day. Might have to break some more traditions soon.