Monday, May 29, 2017


I don't remember my first duck hunt. I have some vivid memories of walking for pheasants on our old run-off, of dad coming home with quail and ducks, an evening hunt after which I ended up getting sick enough for a stint in hospital, spending time with granddad at the ponds during school holidays... and the first duck I ever shot, a big mallard drake, will stay with me forever. The memories fit together vaguely in a semblance of chronological cadence... but I just can't put my finger on that first hunt.

As happens in our family it is the birthright of our children to become members of our hunting party at the age of ten. Rilee had been to the hut a couple of times and had over-nighted once with Tony's little girl. She'd expressed an interest in coming along but not to "kill anything". So, pre-season we'd gone to our local Hunting & Fishing NZ store to purchase one of their excellent kid's packs containing a bush shirt, jacket, beanie hat, pants, a back pack and finally a pair of binoculars for a ridiculously low price of $100. SWMBO and I agreed that it needed to be a low key introduction to hunting, rather than the full-on experience that goes with the opening and so we decided that the 4th weekend of the season would be perfect. We'd go for one night, hunt a morning and then come home.

Rilee and I did our food shopping and began our preps on Thursday evening, she selected her clothes, got her sleeping bag ready and I made sure that she had warm clothes - the forecast was for rain and quite a bit of it. After a final shake-down it was bye bye to mum and we got going. At the ramp we ran into the Hayward lads, Morgan and Ash and they helped us launch and made sure we got away ok. The tides were again large so the water was well up towards the hut again - and rain was coming. Dad had the hut nice and warm and we were soon settled in. As we prepared for bed the rain started, light at first but gaining in intensity. As usual after a drive I was pretty alert so didn't get to sleep until quite late and my lab seemed equally restless as she wriggled around at my feet. The morning came and the rug rat lay in bed until I'd almost finished cooking breakfast, then she got herself ready for the day ahead. I was feeling pretty excited - hopefully we'd see some birds and that it wouldn't be a morning of staring at the sky.

Hut breakfasts - the best there are!

War paint
Game face - on!

Grand dad and grand daughter in the hut

Boredom is the killer of children's minds, patience is not inbuilt to youngsters. At the maimai we explained firearms safety, got Rilee ready with earmuffs then loaded and were hunting. This late in the season its not light until close to 7am so the first half hour was spent listening to the occasional bird whistle past. Drizzle fell in patches and the occasional breath of wind moved the leaves in the trees. It wasn't until 7 or so that a hen mallard arrived, answered the call and the wake of the jerk string decoys and circled. I took her as she swung behind us and soon Layla delivered the bird, which carried a band on her right leg. The next duck came sometime later, a grey that sprung a sneak approach on us and that required a reflex shot to take. As the morning passed we shot the occasional pair that came by and our bag grew to 6 birds. Rilee served her apprenticeship in the role of "Chief String Puller", operating the jerk string which kept her in the game. By 11 o'clock we were ready to pack up and headed back to the hut for lunch.

Chief String Puller

We'd had a ball, 3 generations of us in the maimai. Good times ahead I think.

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