Monday, July 28, 2014

Day 1: Tranquillity so close to home

The cock pheasant that only just avoided the roof of my truck had followed up a mallard drake that had tried to kamikaze me not 10 minutes earlier (the drake was following his hen mate into a roadside swamp; the cock pheasant was just doing what they do). The plan was to meet the boys at the appointed spot, and then travel in convoy to our destination, unload the trucks and quads, saddle up and head in to the hut that’d be our base for the weekend. We were there through the generosity of the hut’s guardian, and the land owner. Such generosity is becoming a rare commodity these days, and my god what generosity it was. We were even on time; setting off on Saturday morning certainly offers a more relaxed start to the weekend than a Friday night dash. The day was stunning, passing showers and full on sunshine, it felt more like spring than winter. We arrived at the drop off, got the quads sorted and decided to take 3 trucks in also. The vista that unfolded as we wended our way towards the hut was stunning, this was a very special place to be, a second generation of family hut in an idyllic setting.

We took some time to absorb the surrounds, have a coffee and settle in before Matt and Richard headed off to collect another quad. This gave Chewie, Tony and I the opportunity to hunt a bush face dropping down to a rush filled paddock while the guys were away. I want up the bank to hunt the top and we’d gone 5 minutes when a cock bird flushed and the boys fired simultaneously; bird down!

Soon I bumped a hen bird and at the end of the paddock a couple of birds broke. This was insane; wild birds were everywhere. We pushed on and moved into a bush gully. While Chewie and Tony walked over the top I moved around a t tree covered hill and almost filled my pants when 2 deer broke 20m in front of me. I was a tad rattled as I reached the summit onto a grassy face; so much so that when 2 cock birds broke I was caught off guard and only managed a hurried and futile shot through the tree tops. We wandered back to the hut; if that was the potential of the property I was amped to see more of it! We arrived back to find Matt and Richard had returned, so made plans for the rest of the day. We’d take quads to cover the ground between bird holding territory quickly and we’d thoroughly quarter every inch of the ground with the dogs. We neared a gully leading into a swamp area; while Matt and I entered the bottom of the gully, the other boys would work down. We set off and almost immediately Teal hit a scent; I was closest and when the bird exploded out I had to let him clear some trees before dropping him. We never found that bird; despite all 5 dogs working the dense crap he’d fallen into he eluded us all. I suppose with the wet conditions underfoot and the thick scrub and raupo, he’d managed to get low and run as only a pheasant can.

I was a bit disappointed, as I really hate losing any bird – let alone a pheasant. We carried on, hunting wide valleys, deep gullys and sunny faces that screamed pheasant. As Tony, Chewie and I climbed one massive face, a bird broke out high and wide and dropped at Matt’s shot.

From our perspective it was a lovely shot; Matt’s really enjoying his recently acquired Beretta 687 and shoots brilliantly with it. The day was passing quite fast and as we had a deer hunt planned in the afternoon so decided to hunt another long valley back towards the swamp area. As we walked a fence line I saw a rooster running 400m down in the valley; there were birds everywhere. Tony and I headed to the head of the valley to push it while the other worked the rim. The other guys were at least 100m above us when we set off, but gradually the incline brought us all together as the valley tapered down to a pond area. Soon Chewie was within range and we pushed the bottom of a gully while Matt worked the top. He sprang a bird and took it with ease… and we continued. Around every corner was more beautiful bird territory; and when Tony and I came to a sunny damp basin I wasn’t too surprised when Nera lit up. The birds jumped at 40m and I managed a snap shot to no avail. Soon Matt called from the top of the bank that Teal was getting birdy; and with Chewie, Tony and I covering the escape routes we thought he was covered. The cock sprang and cleared the trees above me like a beautiful driven bird and I swung through and fired. He dropped through the trees and ran down the bank before expiring. Nera picked him and soon I had that comfortable weight in the vest, and all was right with the world.

We rounded a corner and arrived back at the quads, with 4 birds in the bag we all felt it had been a superb day on the birds. I decided to have another look for my lost bird and on the way Tony took a short cut with hilarious results...

Bogged :)

On the way back to the hut I noticed that between the trucks and quads we’d chopped up the track quite a bit, so in the back of my mind I wondered about getting out the next day but parked the thought.

Chewie hangs a bird... Matt photo-bombs

 Back at base we prepared for our evening deer hunt, donning warm clothes (temp of sub 5 degrees was forecast). Showers were falling so it was on with fleece and a raincoat, headlamp, knife packed and rifle strapped on. Richard took a quad, Tony and Chewie manned another and Matt and I were on the third. We headed off in convoy and soon were being setup in strategic locations to scan for deer coming out to eat grass. Matt and were set up overlooking a wide basin and with wind in our faces it seemed a good location. Tony and Richard were to our south and Chewie to our north. We lay on our coats glassing the basin and after 20 minutes a rabbit appeared. It got cold and soon we were being rained on also. My hands began to ice up so I tucked them into my sleeves. After a period of rabbit watching, a rifle boomed out. I thought it was Tony and Richard shooting so said to Matt that I’d like to take a shot at a rabbit … I missed. With that we packed up and flashed our lights to Chewie and he soon joined us and we made our way back towards Richard and Tony who’d seen nothing. Nor had they fired; obviously another hunter nearby had seen and shot at an animal. We got back to base and soon Chewie had dinner on the go, pheasant cassoulet and garlic bread. God it was good. Dessert then a few beers… and then crash, we hit the hay. What a brilliant day.


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