Sunday, August 31, 2014

Casualty of the cold

The goose stars came into alignment yesterday, although they took their time to get lined up. The moon was but a sliver, and wind would be constant, if not howling. As I got half an hour out from home it began drizzling. When Matt & Tony rolled in we moved to the drop off point and began to unload gear - layout blinds, bags of decoys, blind bags and guns (of course). The boys had scouted around 100 geese using the paddock, but with the soft underfoot conditions we knew that lugging any more gear would just lead to a massive slog out later. Even so by the time we'd dumped our gear in a pile in the middle of our paddock we had a sweat on. I'd put on my merino top but under my waterproof trousers only had cotton and later I'd regret that. We had less than 30 decoys out and our blinds set prior to sun-up. The wind rattled periodic drizzle against the backs of our heads as we lay in our blinds and as dawn broke the first birds began to move - mostly swan and ducks off the harbour. It was a couple of hours before the first geese appeared from our left, skimming straight down and across our front they were mowed down. At our shots, a large flock of geese took to the air from 500m away.... not great, but at least we were seeing birds. With geese on the board the cold was forgotten for a while but the drizzle continued... to the point where my binos were useless. It was a while before the next birds, 4 geese which skirted the decoys just out of range before flaring on something and heading away. A quick review and we concluded that our muddy tracks were an issue, nothing we could do there. Soon after we took another pair and then a single, then it was a long cold wait. Geese began to lift off the harbour but the majority headed into a paddock a km NW of us.. so often our hopes would be raised and then dashed. It was after 10 before we scored again, and by now I was really feeling the cold; I wish I'd worn my insulated bibs. Just a reminder that it's not quite summer yet.
Not summer yet

Matt went for a wander to see if he could put the competitor birds in the NW paddock up, and while he was away a flock of 6 beat towards us into the wind. They skirted us, swept behind and then headed away downwind - but when they were at least a km away they turned and began to return and as they neared they began to hit the wiffle button, skidding half barrel rolls as they came in. We hit them and peeled birds out and as they swung out and away on the wind Matt popped up and dropped another. He soon returned.
Mud bath
Between 10.30 and 11.30 things took a turn - a large swathe of heavy rain rolled in and the geese began to lift off the paddock to the NW and head our way. Our bag doubled and then tripled rapidly as waves of birds approached and decoyed. It was classic goosing action... but the cold was unrelenting and then we witnessed one of the saddest things I've seen in the field. Matts dog Zulu began to noticeably tick and act like he'd been whipped. The tick became more pronounced so Matt took him into his blind to warm him up. We decided to pack up soon after as nothing was flying and as Matt led Zulu away we heard him cry "No NO!! No!" and turned to see Zulu in full seizure on the ground. We cleared his tongue as he fought for breath, and wrapped a coat around him...foam covered his lips. Finally he seemed to recover enough and Matt got him to the car. As we cleared the paddock Matt called Gina and she drove to meet us. Calls were put to the vet; all the while Zulu was behaving strangely. Finally we were able to head back to Matt's to put the dog to bed and clean up. I can only guess that the cold had made him slightly hypothermic, but that's just a guess....

We got the birds cleaned and meat on ice, had a quiet beer and then I headed for home. I felt whacked from the cold and the early start, so was surprised to still be awake after 10pm, thinking of poor old Zulu.

getting the gear out

Got a text this morning that Matt's old mate was acting like his old self. Good to hear - it had been a worrying end to a neat hunt.

The old back of the ute shot!

No comments:

Post a Comment