Wednesday, May 10, 2017

3 awesome days: Duck hunting 2017

In the weeks leading up to the opener there'd been 2 flood events; one having been the largest flood event ever, as Cyclone Cook dropped unprecedented rainfall on the Hauraki Plains. 2 weeks ago, dad and I had gone to the duck hut to tidy up the mess and it was substantial, with plenty of gear washed away and a bunch of stuff overturned.

Flood waters on farmland with the swamp in the foreground

There was still water running under the hut at that stage so we knew we'd be guaranteed a good old mud-fest for the shooting season. Our maimais are built up so while they were affected by the flooding, it was only minor - we'd be able to hunt. In the days leading up the chatter amongst the boys grew as it does and excitement levels began to peak. I'd be hunting with Matt who'd be having his first opening in the party and we'd be going into our furthest pond, which is pretty much the most competitive as far as that goes, with several very large bodies of water nearby which get stacked with decoys. With the weather looking fine (again!) and still, and lots of water around the place still, I wasn't too sure if the birds would be dispersed, but what I had seen when dad and I inspected the flooding was the huge number of birds pitching into flooded areas they'd never otherwise use.

Our ponds
I arrived at the hut on Thursday evening before the Saturday opener, mostly to avoid a crowded Friday afternoon boat ramp but also because a power of work needed doing. Dad, Greg and Daryl were already in residence. Our first Friday task was to put the decoys out on the ponds which we got done before lunch, after which I went and picked up Matt while Daryl began to repair one of our landings which had sustained flood damage. With Matt sorted only Tom, Paul and Andy were to arrive and they got in later in the afternoon. Adding to the human element we had a healthy pack of hounds with my Layla, Matt's Zulu (2), Dad's Zulu (1), Andy's Keira and Larry's Tonga on loan. It would sure be cozy in the hut! Ducks aplenty moved overhead as hunters began to setup for the morning and disturbed birds from their haunts. Unusually, I slept really well that night, which isn't normal for me, but I was happy to escape the season's eve insomnia that normally grips me.

After a sold sleep and large breakfast, we were on our way. Matt and I were still getting our gear into the maimai when the neighbours in the Corner Pond fired their first shot, 15 minutes before legal shooting time. After that it was a bit quiet in our area so I told Matt I'd get out and switch on the electronic decoys. Long hard experience has taught me to take my gun when going on small expeditions, as anything can happen and this time it did - after I'd waded ashore Matt called out and as I looked up a large bird folded above me - geese! I upped and fired and brought a bird down as Matt dragged down another. Holy cow! We'd taken our first ever canadas and Matt had killed the first with his first ever shot as an official member of the party. Interestingly, I'd shot mine with #4 steel which is decidedly on the small side. My day was made.

Matt with the bag

Swamp geese!
We giggled (or at least I did) and fist-bumped. The morning was fine and clear and soon the shooting was happening with hundreds of shots booming out across the wetland. We chipped away at birds as they came into range and they soon piled up. Matt shot really well and I felt ok  considering it had been a while between excursions with the gun. At midday, Paul appeared with our lunch, comprising B&E pie and cold drinks. He reported that most of the party had limited out and that on the whole things had gone swimmingly. We ate our lunch in the sun then resumed our watch for birds, finally finishing with our 20th bird around 2pm under sunny skies. We spent the afternoon kicking back before going out to watch birds flying into the ponds for their evening roost. Andy had gone for greenheads only so was the last to finish up and it was a healthy 90 ducks and 2 geese that hung under the hut that night. We had our annual AGM that evening after a meal of goose and venison nachos, a few drinks and then kicked back.

Sunday, saw a shuffle of hunting pairs and ponds. I was odd man out so hunted alone for the morning and had a ball, limiting out early. Layla worked her butt off and I was stoked with her work. Later on Matt and Daryl came to join me, as they were a little quiet on their pond, so I would call for them. Andy who'd gone back to the hut flew his drone out and was able to capture some really neat footage of some incoming ducks, including the retrieve. The boys shot well and at lunchtime came in to help with cleaning the birds which we did in record time. Matt was keen to get out and finish his limit which was achieved late in the afternoon.

Paul, Tom and Andy left in the afternoon leaving Matt, Greg, dad, Matt, Bill and I still in residence. That evening Daryl excelled himself starting with sauteed goose breast and following with an excellent duck ragout on mash - simply outstanding nosh. After the others retired, Greg, Daryl and I sat up talking, drinking and maybe even singing :D before hitting the hay after 1am.... and I had breakfast duty.

Caption required?

Layla - knackered

I really didn't think I'd be in shape to hunt on Monday morning so when the alarm went off I shook my head a bit, fed the dog, got up (or was that the other way around?), made breakfast and we set off. Bill was injured so stayed back, leaving me to hunt Puru,dad and Matt on McLennan's and Greg was with Daryl on Watsons. I wasn't expecting much yet birds began working immediately and I quickly accumulated half a dozen mallards, all drakes, and a drake shoveler. If groups of more than 3 birds appeared I just didn't call at them at all, given the other guys had collectively a dozen shots between them against my 3. Mid morning I decided to walk through the drowned willows and soon Layla brought me back a wounded mallard drake - her work was really solid with a few minor faults to iron out. As I stood against a backdrop of willows, a pair of mallard dropped straight in on me and I took them both. I wandered further and then decided I'd had enough and walked back to my pond with 3 birds on my belt, and one to get for a limit. That bird came soon after when I dropped a mallard drake. Matt and dad came by and reported 17 birds down, they'd had a fine hunt also and the Greg/Daryl combo were doing well also.

Monday's bag
Matt and I decided that in light of having finished our limits we'd head back to town earlier than planned. I have to say that we'd concluded one of the most enjoyable 3 days of opening that I could remember.

Traffic was light on the motorway and all too soon we were home. Roll on next weekend and the pheasants.


  1. Stumbled upon this by mistake, fantastic reads...made me a little homesick....cheers and keep up the great work

  2. Come home, its better than anywhere else in the world