Monday, March 30, 2015

Not too far to go

Richard called Tony, Tony called Travis & me; geese were on the menu in the Clevedon district just east of Auckland and the farmer was at his wits end. A full paddock of whatever the geese had been feeding had been destroyed, mowed down to the point where the farmer had sprayed it off…
Richard had eyeballed the geese and pushed them off their preferred paddock the previous day and reported that we’d need a bit of a carry to get the gear in… I had visions of the 600m+ bog ridden treks of the past but it was actually a bit of a doddle to get the gear over a fence and drain and across a nice hard paddock. The boys left to move their cars while I got the decoys together and began to lay the spread. They got back and soon we had the blinds sorted, and were pretty much ready.
The location was spectacular, we were tucked in a paddock with a high hill behind us, an estuary in front of us and a peninsula stretched away to our left. To our right the coastal road stretched away and early fishermen trundled past with their boats. Out from the estuary, the gulf islands loomed as the sun began to rise and the darkness lifted. We waited in anticipation of hunting unpressured geese…
… a week earlier Matt, the manager of the farm we were on and I lay in our blinds on a still morning. In front of us the giant Kaipara Harbour stretched to the distance, even so, the harbour’s South Head seemed to be in touching distance such was the calm. We’d found the “x” where geese had been by grid searching the chicory paddock we were in until the farm manager located fresh goose kak. We saw geese alright, the massed overhead, but with no wind to set the birds we were in a losing position and pulled the pin with 9 birds down and the threat of sunburn looming… a meal of fresh snapper and cold beer finished off what had been a tough hunt on wise birds.

Back to the here and now. The sun had risen and birds were beginning to move. In the estuary in front of us geese called, but these guys wouldn’t be our targets – they’d seen our headlamps as we set up so wouldn’t come near us. Finally the first flight of geese rounded the peninsular to our left. Despite the flagging and calling effort they were set on a location elsewhere and carried on…. Straight away a shadow of doubt crept over me, but that was quickly dispelled as the next flight rounded the corner and saw and heard us, turned, and came in on set wings. As pretty a sight as any in water fowling, their necks stretched forward as landing gear went down and Richard called the shot.

The next 20 minutes was a flurry of action as birds arrived in workable groups but with fickle wind [Again! Alas!] , they often didn’t quite setup straight. Travis at this point said that his gun wasn’t cycling more than a shot or 2, so decided to strip the mag extension – ZWIINNGGG – the mag spring went flying… as did the stopper. We spent the next hours or so under a cloud darkened sky, searching for the missing parts. Finally Travis found the stopper and after an eternity Tony stumbled over the spring… by now the rain had started and southerly squalls [forecast was north westerly] came in.

Luckily geese are waterproof :)


The temperature dropped and rain fell steadily. No birds flew. After a soggy hour the clouds cleared and the sun burned through with fierce intensity, and that signalled the end to our hunt. With gear retrieved and packed into the vehicles we made our way to Richard’s house for a barbecue of venison patties and veni sausages. I could get used to these post hunt cook-ups…

The idiot anti-hero shot

when 4 guys go hunting...

Monday, March 9, 2015

Change of season

It’s still very warm at night, but the rains are beginning to become more regular…. Autumn is upon us. The ponds were looking great when we arrived on Saturday, although regrowth of pest weeds was evident here and there. Of our ponds, McLennan’s is the newest reformed [some 25 years ago], reclaimed from an old pond that had overgrown. It is kidney shaped and on the NW side has over-hanging willows that ducks love to loaf under – a great pond with a ton of duck appeal and very much a top producer.We were there to build a new maimai to replace the one that had been built over the top of the pre-existing [probably 1950’s era] structure. Rick, Jason, Andy and I would do the construction part, working from a pre-fab’d kitset and plan that Larry had put together. 

We got stuck in and got the posts and bearers up, everything relatively square and then began construction of the structure. With a good day’s work we were pretty much set with a roof and dog ramp up to the elevated hide. Next task is painting and camo’ing up. 

On the drive home Tony and I got on the blower, with weather brewing, so was a goose hunt… a stiff westerly would be just what the doctor ordered to get birds up off the harbour and carry away the sound of our shots. This would be the weather we were waiting for if all played out… Tony and Chewie were out setting dekes when we spoke. I’d have no chance to cut grass for the blind when I got home [family duties], so my only option would be to cut grass, grass the blind, and set my dekes in the morning.

The alarm went at 04.00 and I switched it off with the thought that I’d lay there and gather my thoughts before rising. When my eyes next opened – near disaster! I’d slept for another 20 minutes. Boom, into action. Dressed, fed, half a coffee and out the door. I drove a bit faster than I ought to have, especially as it had rained. At the farm gate I jumped out with a rubbish bag and long handled sheers and mowed down a pile of grass. Then into the holding paddock while I waited for the farmer to bring the cows up to the shed for milking. I waited, cursing Tony and Chewie for being able to set up the evening before, bstds!!! The cows passed and I set off to the paddock, stopping in the darkness with headlamp on to scan for the right paddock. I drove over to the spread – it was windy, awesome - and moved my gear out. Layout, bag of grass, ammo, gun, dekes. I got the layout set up and began to grass up as another vehicle approached. Adam jumped out and pulled 2 blinds out of the back of his truck. I got my dekes sorted and in the appeared and then headed back to park. Tony, Chewie and Travis were waiting as I arrived and we had a quick catch-up. Adam’s matt Azar turned up and then we were off to the setup. A quick safety briefing and we were almost ready when out of nowhere 2 geese cruised past in the near darkness. The following bird came in from behind with the stiff wind, curled, set and dropped into the dekes to be dropped by 2 loads of #2 lead.

The next period was frustrating as birds lifted off the harbour and screamed over the mangroves to land in paddocks other than where we were set! In normal goose fashion this immediately attracted following birds in. Adam took to rubbish bags and fence standards and pegged the bags out in distant paddocks, pushing out the competition as he did so. That proved to work just fine as we began to be visited more or less regularly until mid-morning. Then, chaos ensued. Azar had to leave and began to pack up when a bunch of geese zoomed into view. He got back under cover and we dealt to them. As we cleared up the geese, Azar got ready to leave again – but the geese were having none of it, banking up in waves. This is pretty typical of birds I’d hunted in the Waikato, but the first time I’d seen them behave like this on the Kaipara. The wind and tide must have combined enough to push groups of birds air-ward. The action slowed again at midday, so we were able to move dead birds out of the spread and get the empty shells tidied away. Azar got away at last, late home to his lady who had expected him home at 9am….

Then came the wait. 90 minutes of inactivity and sky watching.

The next group that came were memorable. They circled warily, using the wind to hover tantalisingly just out of range before sidling away, circling several hundred metres away and then coming back sliding across the wind before committing. At the call every bird dropped. It was just beautiful.

The afternoon wore away and we pulled the pin at 3, after the farmer had taken the herd back for milking. With cars in the paddock, the inevitable happened, wave after wave of geese lifted off the harbour …. with geese flying as a backdrop to a great day we cleared the gear and got packed up. A quick beer and the lads got on the road. 

Another awesome hunt, and hopefully a happier farmer with the equivalent of 18 stock units removed from the equation.