Thursday, May 18, 2017


It was good to be getting out of town. Paul and I were in the truck, listening to his beloved Blues actually (cough cough) winning a match and traffic was light. We moved through the early evening at good speed in ideal conditions. Right on full time we pulled into Waitomo, where the radio signal pretty much ended and we set off up the twisty road to Craig's. The boys were in good form when we arrived, this year both Jethro and Hendrik would be absent due to other commitments so the hunting party would be Craig, Mick, Mitch, Paul, Andy and me. Craig's brother Mike would tag along also, and on the hound front we were well represented. After a leisurely breakfast over which the morning's hunt was planned we got our gear together and headed off. The plan was for the party to comb the cover crop with dogs on leads to avoid pushing the birds too hard. We arrived in convoy and as quietly as possible exited the vehicles, and moved off. Layla was pretty excited and pulled against the lead - she's still young and ever eager to get into it. At the edge of the paddock and before we'd spread out, birds began to break, most hitting the air - I sort of felt that we'd been properly busted. I ended up at the top 3rd of the paddock with Craig and Mike on my left and a cock burst out in front of me. I dropped it and released Layla but she missed it on the first and second passes and in fact we never tracked that bird cleanly - Mike later said he saw it pick itself up and run. I got Layla back on the leash and we continued the walk. By the far end of the paddock we had a few birds down, but knew that we hadn't really covered the territory all that well so turned to sweep back through with dogs off the leash. Layla made me proud by working to hand command and pushing out several birds that tried to sneak through the cordon. Mick took one beautifully and we doubled on another that wouldn't have ended up a particularly nice eater. Back at the cars we had a quick count up and had 9 birds in hand, and one that needed following up on the far side of the river.

We'd move back around the farm and circle back on the opposite side of the river running through the farm, pinching back so as to cover the river edge and pressure the wounded bird. We split and Mitch soon shot a hare that ran our way and that Layla retrieved, after which we neared the river. Craig's dog Max soon pinned the missing bird which cackled as the dog approached and was quickly caught up and retrieved and then we moved through to the bird release point. I missed a cock bird that put a tree between us and only a shot or 2 rang out - we were definitely doing it hard for birds.

Back home for lunch after which a siesta was declared. Andy, Paul and I weren't really tired so we set out earlier than the others (Mike had limited out already) to hunt towards the southerly breeze. Layla pushed a bird early which I got but from there on it was all a bit dreary - we were hunting in cool shadowed gullys  in a cool breeze - not ideal for sun loving pheasants. It was an hour before my little lab got hot on a scent and snookered a bird into a patch of low scrub from where his choices were limited to sit and get caught or JUMP! which he did. An easy shot, that was my limit bird. We decided to head back into warmer climes and from the top of a ridge spied the other guys' car. Moving down through a swamp area that always hold birds proved fruitless again - I heard a bird jump but saw nothing in my circumnavigation of the bog. We heard only one shot from the others. We back tracked through some territory that holds a few birds and again the cupboard was bare - this was more like late season! I took Layla to cover some bush edge ans saw Craig coming my way so we'd managed to converge. Either Andy or Paul fired a couple of shots so maybe at last we were onto the birds? All I know was that with the distance and territory covered we were certainly not hunting where the birds were hanging out.

Afternoon bag

We drove home to hang the game in the chiller and the bag consisted of 15 pheasants, 2 pukekos and 2 hares. Craig mentioned that there was a mob of pigs uprooting one of his paddocks that his dad wanted rid of. While we had a cup of tea, Andy flew his drone up the ridge-line towards the top of the farm and after a few minutes reported that the pigs were emerging from the bush.

I didn't have any appropriate ammo but Mitch did - a packet of 20g buckshot. I grabbed 4 shells and pocketed them. Andy had an iron sighted .30-06, Paul a scoped .243 and Craig his 12g with buckshot. I truly didn't think that I'd fire a shot. We drove in Andy's ute up the steep track to near the airstrip and then climbed out. The wind favoured us and after a quick walk we spotted not just a few, but maybe 15 pigs in the paddock ahead. Craig quickly led us down into the bush where we covered ground before climbing up through the fence line on the edge of the paddock the pigs were in. Light was falling and the animals were spread out ahead of us. The largest pig, a grey boar was active and at the extreme edge of the group of animals. Paul was given the task of shooting him, and on his shot we'd need to be ready to shoot animals running towards cover - the bush behind us. When Paul fired the big pig squealed, and his cast turned and ran. Straight at us. I moved past Andy on my right to cover the edge and focused as two 50-60 lb pigs ran at me. I dropped the first one head on, and the second turned sideways before collecting a load. They both dropped on the spot. I opened the gun, fumbled in my pocket for the other shells and then realised that the empties were both hung - neither had ejected due to malformation or some other reason. As I fumbled to extract the empties the big pig - Paul's boar - ran to my right and hit the fence line to freedom. Finally I got a shell in the top barrel and with no time to load the bottom barrel took aim at a black boar running off to my right. At the shot he squealed and then tumbled as Craig took him down. We estimated that the action had taken no more than 15 seconds from first to last shot being fired. We had 4 pigs down immediately in front of us, Andy dragged another back from up to our left and Paul and I grabbed the furthest pig off to our right.

Craig went to see if he could track Paul's pig while Andy went to where the pig had been standing to look for blood. Soon he returned - we'd need to bring one of the dogs back in the morning. With the pigs hung in the chiller we got back to the house for a dinner of goose burgers - the best type of burger there is!

It would be fair to say that we packed a bit of revelry into the evening!

Sunday morning dawned fine and cool with a slight frost. Paul dawned foggy and unable to speak. With the dogs fed and watered we got around to making breakfast. With Axel the GWP aboard we convoyed up to the pigalanche site where Mick and Craig took the dog down into the bush. Mitch, Andy, Paul and I worked the area over looking for blood, I couldn't find any evidence that the big pig was hit, yet Crag who's experience is vast was firm in his view that it had been. So they continued down a steep bush gully while the rest of us drove back down to meet them at the bottom. Mitch and i were in my truck with Andy and Paul behind us when a big black boar - not the pig we were tracking - cut across the track in front of us. It was in no hurry and we had no guns aboard. Rookie error. So he ambled up and over the ridge to our left while we lamented our lack of foresight.

We met the boys with the dog at the bottom of the steep hills and they reported that Axel had bailed a pig - probably the big blackie.

The morning's pheasant hunt was a walk back through the cover crops with moderate success, after which we headed back to base. With plenty of game to process we had a good session ahead of us.

The freezer is restocked.

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