Sunday, August 23, 2015

Central Plateau honks

For some time now, Richard had regaled us with tales of his central plateau goose hunting days. We always noted that it would be good to get away after them and so it was that Tony and Richard managed to work out a plan. It was looking a tough schedule; with my recent away time I wasn't going to be granted a full weekend, and to make the trip a little more challenging, we'd not be able to approach the hunt zone on our vehicles due to the farmer's sheep lambing. Richard had organised access to a boat through his old mate. Soon the crew were confirmed, Richard, Tony, Travis, moi and old mate Tim from the Wairarapa.

I had a bit of a scramble ahead of me; the previous weekend I'd left Craig's after a whistle stop visit and had forgotten my gumboots - so I'd do a bit of a backwards forwards run to meet with Richard. We'd arranged to hook up in Te Kuiti and so I pulled in after he had at the greasy spoon. Coffee and then off we went, still a ways to go to our host's place near Tuamuranui. We pulled in and met hosts Nadine and Charlie; through a process of elimination we worked out that we'd been in the tackle trade together 20+ years ago and he'd only missed becoming my client by a matter of days when he shifted jobs and I shifted territories. Anyhow, Charlie had generously agreed to lend us his boat, a 7mm hulled monster propelled by a 40hp outboard with a jet unit attached... given that Richard and I were the only ones on deck we set to inflating the tyres, checking that everything was shipshape [she fired up smoothly] and getting our dekes aboard. The farmer's ewes were lambing so while he would allow us to shoot the property our approach would be via water. As we drove down the road abutting the lake, we began to spot geese - and in big numbers. The weather was crappy, a good stiff northerly and persistent rain. I don't care what any manufacturer claims - when you're working in weather like that,, no jacket is waterproof. We were wearing waders, so at least the bottom half was dry. By the time we'd crossed the lake and ferried in our decoys to our hunting zone, grassed our blinds and set off to meet Tony and Travis, I was well stuffed. And wet.

our borrowed waka

The boys pulled in and we got their gear across the lake as well; by the time we returned it was dark and I was feeling a bit cold. Snow littered the road as we drove out, so that explained the cold part. Back at the hut we caught up with Tim. Feeling shattered I just got on with cooking dinner as I was aiming for an early-ish night... it was not to be however, as a few beers went south and it was after midnite before heads hit pillows... with a 4am start I DID NOT need to be lying in the darkness listening to the other guys snoring. But yup, that's what I got. :)

The alarm went at 4 and I was on less than 4 hour's sleep with a big day ahead that for me involved getting home... so I was counting on getting some zzz's in the blind. We ate and got ready, before stopping close by to collect grass for the boys' layouts. By the time we got the boat launched, gear across, dekes setup and layouts set, it was after daylight. The weather was calm with a slight SW breeze - completely the opposite of the evening before. Not much was happening... until the geese began to move. Suddenly, we had a shoot on our hands.

Over the course of the hunt and in response to the conditions and bird behaviour, we set dekes, reset dekes and moved blinds around until we felt the birds were committing into the right zones and we all had a ball of a shoot. There were many highlights and I snapped more pictures than I ever had on a hunt.

By late afternoon we were pretty tired, and by the time we called it there were ~70 birds down. Some of the shooting was spectacular and not too many got away.

A brief bird line up and then it was time to move; we needed to move both Tim's and my gear out [he'd decided not to hunt on day II] and get 5 guys and a dog across. We reached base by 7 and that was signal to pack and get going - home commitments mean that sometimes you have to push. I said goodbye to the lads, drank 2 V's and got going.

Home safe by 10.30pm, I hit the hay and was gone....

Reflecting now on those honks, there is scope for some careful management of the population, and certainly future hunts.

The lads shot 40 more birds the next morning - all in all a great road trip to the Central Plateau.

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