Monday, July 3, 2017

Hills and sneaky birds

We'd have a decent crew and a large pack of dogs for our annual pheasant chasing sojourn to the beach. 6 hunters, 7 dogs and 4 quad bikes meant that we would be able to cover plenty of territory and because we're now pretty familiar with the lay of the land we'd be able to do a thorough job of hunting it.

Dog Squad

Matt and I arrived the morning after the rest of the guys and were soon met by Richard and Tony on quads. We got our gear loaded on a trailer and covered it with a tarp, a fresh southerly brought with it cold rains - as the Met Service guy said "the door to the Antarctic fridge is open". Cold winter days can be the most beautiful when sunny and glorious, but the grey skies and showers heralded anything but glory. The ride down to the hut was a little hairy as the track was mire. Quads were the only means of getting in there and without them we'd be stuck in no time flat. Soon we were unpacked and got ready to hunt the first field. Layla and I took the high side of a bank, and moved in line with Tony & Matt towards Chewy, Richard and Travis. We soon bumped a hen which shot skywards on the updraft created by the bank, then doubled back over Matt & Tony. It would have been a truly sporting bird if she had been a he.... the first shot came soon after as a cock bird boosted out of a rushy area, and Matt was on the board.

The area we hunt is simply stunning, tall green grassed hills, bushy valleys and an outlook over a broad harbour. The air is clean, the views magical and we are so very privileged to be able to access the farm. The fact that its a pheasant haven is simply a wonderful bonus, albeit the central reason that we go there. We hunted hard into the afternoon and as sometimes happens, the birds flew towards one hunter. Matt soon had his limit and then acted as dog controller for the rest of us.

We pushed an area of swamp, high rushes, general shit and spikey stuff where Layla got hot and pushed a large peacock, my shot took him down and Layla got in and scragged him back to me. Pheasants and peafowl are not the best flatmates but as Chewy and I did the hard yards in the thick stuff we still managed to bump hen after hen pheasant. The only cock bird I saw from my constricted zone flew low back and escaped. At least the weather had cleared, which would be more conducive for the dogs to scent pheasants.

Late in the afternoon the boys called it, but Chewy and I wanted to work an area that had given us chances in the past so we hopped on a quad and moved on. I soon had a call on the radio that he'd bumped birds from an open face, and they'd flown wild across an open marsh into a pine tee belt 300m away. I moved across a causeway and got into the trees. Layla quickly sparked up and bumped a hen and then my chance of the day came when a cock jumped and flew directly at me before veering uphill between tall pine trunks. I shoulda had him. 9 times out of 10 I woulda had him. This was that 10th time and I blew it, snap shooting instead of waiting for him to clear the trees into an easy shooting area. Layla gave me that look. We all know it - "boss, you blew it..."

4 birds hung from the hut's veranda when we got back and darkness soon fell, and stars filled the sky, truly a sight to behold. We ate our meal in front of the "TV", an iPhone which Matt had hooked to his Sky TV account so we could watch the All Blacks play the Lions. The match was a fantastic display of power and precision, and the northern hemisphere team were comprehensively outclassed.

Sunday and we were up at sparrow's to watch the America's Cup matches and then after a solid breakfast we were up and out. A beautiful clear day beckoned and we made the most of it, hunting out some gullys that we'd left alone the prior day. Tony managed a bird early and then I picked one up a bit later, but again the pheasants seemed to be a step ahead of us. Every bird I got close to that day put shrubbery between me and him.

Richard and I decided to do the final walk of the day, involving a steep uphill climb then following the farm boundary. We passed a small copse of trees that looked too good to ignore, so I made my way over. Layla got birdy but I couldn't put her in as the copse was deer fenced off, so I gave one of the posts a kick - a rooster launched and I missed him twice..... doh.

My legs told me about those hills for the next few days.....


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