Monday, July 31, 2017

Blue skies and freezing days

Last weekend it rained. And rained and rained. The Tongariro River got up to a peak of 370 cumecs – it averages mid 30’s in normal flow, so this would signal major runs of spawning trout. My mate Mike was making his first serious visit to the river on what would be falling but nicely coloured water. And his results were great, photo after photo arrived on my cell phone. I’d almost made up my mind to join what would be a weekend crowd and do some combat fishing but then I got a message from Craig – a working bee had been called to get some pretty major work on the hut done. We needed to insulate and Gib the interior walls, get holes for the plumbing done and a few other bits and pieces. My job was to cut the roof tiles back as the overhang was too much. The tiles are Decromastic – tin with grit embedded in the paint. I had to cut them by hand with snips… and severely underestimated what was needed to get this done. A couple hours later I was done; in the meantime the other lads had lined 60% of the interior. It’s starting to look like a habitable hut. Earlier in the day Layla had taken a major shock from an electric fence and ran back to the truck and cowered there. I brought her back and she spent the morning shivering under the hut. After a while I got her out and kept her in the sunshine, played some fetching games and she brightened up, but I’d hoped that we’d be able to get a walk in for a pheasant, and that looked to play out. 

Mud. Putting the diff locks to good use

This has been one of the hardest seasons for us as the wet cool summer had led to the birds being smaller than usual at release time and they’d quite simply disappeared into the bush rather than stay in the farm proper, so I wasn’t expecting too much other than Layla having a decent run. We said farewell to the other guys (they’d be staying on at Craig’s) and set off. Layla perked up and got back to her vibrant self. We worked along the river towards an old bridge – Craig’s dad had given me the lowdown on where he’d seen some bird hanging out so we were heading in that direction. When Layla hit the scent she stopped and her nose hit the ground. I closed up on her as she pushed into a blackberry patch immediately above the river. A bird flushed and as it appeared I saw it was a cock flushing directly away from me and across the river. The 1 oz load of #5 caught him flush and he dropped into the paddock across the river. Layla swam across, struggled up the steep bank, located and picked the bird and then breasted the strong current back across to me. She delivered the bird to hand. I was really pleased for her, it was solid work and she’s really come on nicely in her second season. The rooster himself was interesting; with pale, almost white wing shoulders he was quite a trophy and carried one of last year’s wing tags making him a special bird. 

White wings

Ahead of us the resident pukekos made a dash for the bush line at the base of the hills running along the northern edge of the farm. Pig rooting told the story of wild porkers coming out of the bush at night. Layla was working hard and covering territory searching for pheasant scent and I felt that at any second a rooster may boost. The sun was dropping towards the brow of the hills as we moved on. I’d decided to take a circuitous route that would see me coming back towards the old bridge with enough daylight to get back to the truck before night and the temperature fell. We worked through blackberry thickets but I was now hunting in the shade and it didn’t feel like a place where a rooster would tuck up so we moved down towards the river where the evening sun still provided warmth. Immediately we began to find more game, first a hare broke cover and I took him with my second barrel. We worked further when Layla hit a big scent and broke away from me – the rooster hit the air 30 m out from me with trees in the way and over the river so shooting would have been futile. I knew that would be the last chance so we picked up the pace. As the sun began to set the light was incredible with a pink tinge. We are so blessed to be able to hunt on Craig’s farm that sometimes I just pinch myself. Back at the vehicle I dried Layla down, fed her, ate some sandwiches, and drank an energy drink. We drove into the dusk.

Dusk. Layla with her prize.

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