Category Archives: hunting dogs

Sky Rats and Shriek-Ducks

Caleb and Isaac arrived on time and we started the pilgrimage to the neighbour’s property we had been given permission to shoot for closing weekend. The morning was still and warm and the shrieks and honks of paradise ducks echoed off the landscape. I had nick-named them shriek-ducks recently as large mobs flew over the house while I was sleeping off night shifts – so I was pretty keen to reduce the numbers! We set up in two hides against a stand of tall poplars, surrounded by a flock of decoys, and absolutely in awe as dawn revealed the numbers of ducks coming in. Teeva the dog was looking skyward and whining, and things looked promising. My job today was to train and handle her and quickly dispatch any wounded birds.

“I’m kind of amazed that Cathy let us shoot in her paddock of bulls, actually.” I commented, as Friesian bulls milled around us. We were positioned in a harvested maize crop and the fallen grain had been attracting large flocks of birds. It was amazing to finally work Teeva on a substrate where she actually was an appropriate colour to blend in!

“Into it boys!” The shotguns came up and the first pari ducks hit the deck. Most of the ducks flew high over head on the clear morning and didn’t afford a shot. James and I kept giggling as Caleb used the mallard call to attract parries. Many flew over but settled in the paddock further away, so Caleb and Isaac decided to take a walk to stir them up a bit. As they disappeared behind some distant pines we heard a series of shots and some cheering. James and I were surprised when they returned with hares, not ducks, but they were the biggest hares I had ever seen!

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Our initial set-up – in the wrong person’s paddock!

After a few of hours of intermittent shooting, the other neighbours pulled up over the fence to shift their dry cows.

“Don’t shoot! She called, and we reassured her. “Sorry to interrupt your morning!”

We went over to speak with them, as over 100 paradise ducks suddenly came in low and swirled around the hides. We cursed inwardly, unable to shoot with the farmers nearby, but soon became more focused on the conversation…. as it dawned on us that we were in completely the wrong area. We were actually on THEIR property, in the middle of THEIR bulls, with a dog and three shotguns. It was a pretty awkward situation, and they gave us directions to the maize crop we were supposed to be in – as well as telling us we were welcome to stay where we were. We were very lucky they didn’t mind as they were well within their rights to tell us to piss off, and worse! We offered profuse apologies and it sounds like it will be made up for over some pints at the local tavern.

We decided that perhaps we should move to where we had actually planned to be, so packed up and set up against a stand of swampy willow saplings. It was a great spot with good traffic, and the hides were much better camouflaged. Only the dog wasn’t! Fortunately though, she was calm. Last year was her first opening morning and she whined continuously, remained hyper alert and was actually rather exhausting. She did perform very well though, and had very little practice since then. This time she curled up or lay down until the shotguns were lifted – a drastic improvement. The only thing she messed up on was when James took a walk to stir things up down the paddock, and she watched intently as he disappeared behind the pine trees. Some parries decoyed in and one was brought down – but as I let her go she took off after James instead of retrieving the duck! She was not letting that shotgun out of her sight! Not a major issue though as she found James and lead him safely back to the hides to shoot more ducks for her.

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James and Teeva have reached an understanding

Through out the afternoon we had small groups of parries coming in – some escaped and some did not. At times we even had pigeons coming in to join our decoy flock! I had the .22 on hand so any birds that were still alive when Teeva delivered them to me were quickly and humanely dispatched with a bullet to the head at point blank. I honestly think this should be a mandatory part of duck shooting. Teeva did an outstanding job, retrieving all day with enthusiasm – bringing in parries, pigeons and even the 3 unlucky pukekos the guys hunted. On breasting them out only three breasts had damage from the dog.

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The homemade backpack came in very handy as we gave Teeva a few kg of ammo to carry

The end of the day brought a surprise – very few parries coming in but plenty of mallards. We were not sited near a body of water for them to land on, so the likelihood of getting one was slim. Right on dark however, a duck flew in low and a very well delivered shot brought it cleanly down. The guys felt it was the icing on the cake after a really good day, also netting 26 pari ducks, 3 pukeko, 3 hares, and 8 pigeons.

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The team with some of their birds

From Pound to Pond

Opening weekend started with a boom – literally – and at the same time my dog let out a blood-curdling shriek and raced to the water. The problem was that I was holding her leash, and the crash of my face hitting the tin maimai floor earned questioning glances from the shooters.  A morning devoid of rain or wind left the hunters – Paul,  Jimmy,  Jacko and Isaac – disappointed,  but it was beautiful.  The river in front of us was flat,  and the silhouettes of the birds are black against the early sunrise. It was a pleasure and a privilege to join Jimmy and his family for opening day, and I was excited to see what it was all about.  P1000653

Teeva had been adopted from the pound a year before, and had proven a talented dog in dryland sledding,  as well as a keen retriever.  Before today she had retrieved a rabbit,  a rock pigeon and a pukeko, as well as several lessons with a dummy duck in the river and swimming pool.  Impressive for an Asian Ridgeback, and impressive enough to be invited along to a normally very exclusive event,  organised by my partner’s dad. It never would have occurred to me to even try this dog as a retriever until Jimmy saw the potential in her and suggested it. To be honest I would have expected her to just savagely eat small animals, but she has really surprised us with a gentle mouth and powerful swimming ability. One thing that was rather amusing is that she would try to retrieve ME when I was swimming in the river with her over the summer, gently taking my hand and towing me to shore.

Powerful swimming is needed for the main river current

The first bird to hit the water was a black swan and Teeva bolted towards it with no hesitation, bringing it to the shore and earning a fair bit of praise. However she also guarded it jealously from the other dog Pip, a chocolate lab, which meant she had to be put on a leash for a bit. Pip was very clued-on, and often beat Teeva to the birds. To our amusement, Teeva developed a short-cut through the front of the maimai to try to circumvent this injustice. It also provided her with a handy peep hole to whine at potential birds through, providing irritation of the rest of the maimai occupants.   Throughout the morning, with every set of shots fired she strained to be released,  whining and lunging. Later in the morning she was released for a few retrieves and did wonderfully, even in the strong current.



She didn’t show any possessiveness when Pip had a duck, but if Teeva retrieved it and Pip came too close there was a fair bit of snarling etc. Hopefully in future events she will settle down.

The middle of the day was quiet and we relaxed, entertaining ourselves by snoozing, trout fishing, and drawing eyebrows on the dog.  She was the only one constantly on high alert, watching the sky and water intently and whining at the sound of mallards or distant shots. Several times she ran to the water in response to shotguns at a nearby maimai. I was fairly envious of Paul’s nice quiet dog, who took the opportunity to rest in the sun. Mine was still shaking with excitement and maintaining vigilance several hours later!  At one stage a flock of pigeons flew in and the shooters brought two down.  With Pip tied up,  Teeva was taken down-wind of the stricken bird.  She found its scent easily and retrieved it,  still alive,  from beneath the driftwood. Paul commended her efforts.

Watching through the front of the maimai

With nothing happening for a couple of hours,  I took the kayak upstream to take a look at the river scenery and have a bit of a stretch. Beneath the brown water trails of bubbles rose, betraying the fish swimming below me.  I was not shooting,  but happily committed the day to training and working my dog.  The sound of shotguns from our maimai made me paddle back,  and i hoped my dog was behaving without me there. Coming close to the maimai I was greeted by an enthusiastic dog who ignored the calls from the guys as she bounded through the mud to the kayak.  It transpired that Paul had gone for a walk with Pip so Teeva had been able to do a very good retrieve a good 30m into the main flow of the river to retrieve a paradise duck. They sounded impressed and I was sad to have missed it.

As evening rolled in,  anticipation grew high once more. We were very spoiled to have such a nice maimai to sit in – and even more lucky to have found a wooden table that had washed down the river. It was the perfect housing for the mini-barbecue and we enjoyed some venison butties and sausages.  Because of Teeva’s possessiveness over her retrieves and the predicted chaos of the evening shoot,  we discussed sitting her out for the evening, but i decided to give her a chance. I was glad I did. Flocks of swans came in almost suddenly,  and shots pounded the air. Skilled aiming and strategic shooting cleanly killed the birds as they passed, and I released Teeva as they plunged into the water. The two dogs were retrieving full-time until dark and I had to work pretty hard to keep up with them! Teeva worked her hardest, retrieving again and again, a total of 11 swans and 5 parries for the day which was a phenomenal effort for a first time duck dingo! Even better, I am starting to decide that duck shooting looks pretty fun, and am tempted to have a go one day… watch this space!

Teeva’s retrieves for the two days, an incredible effort.




New Season – New Adventures

With the arrival of the first of March came an instant drop in temperature, and an instant rise in excitement. Exactly a year ago today I was feeling very sorry for myself in a bright green cast from my wrist to my shoulder, and as a consequence I missed out on the roar.

There have been many changes in my life over the past few months, with the end of my relationship, the loss of my hunting buddy due to a misunderstanding, and the acquisition of a new partner in crime, this time one who is firmly embedded in the hunting world. My initial partner had been very supportive of my hunting hobbies, however pretty disinterested in participating, and our separate lives became part of our undoing. A week or so after the breakup, my number one hunting buddy announced some longstanding feelings that I had been oblivious to, wrote a bunch of soppy stuff on Facebook and then deleted me. The new man in my life is a very keen hunter and fisherman, and slotted into my life perfectly.  We have a lot to teach each other, and I can now look forward to trout fishing, duck shooting and of course, my first roar.

With a longstanding family tradition of duck shooting, the new man put the idea in my head of training up one of my dogs as a duck retriever. After all, I have a pitbull who is an awesome deer hound, why not have an unconventional duck dog too?

We started off with a freshly dead road-kill pheasant and a rope on her collar to teach her to bring it in when she got carried away. She retrieved it about 40 times before it fell apart, and although we didn’t have a 100% retrieve rate, she showed good enthusiasm and a gentle mouth. Her second attempt was in a swimming pool with a rubber training duck. She had the idea this time, and brought it back much more consistently. She was so good that she and I were invited to come to opening morning, which in this family is a huge honor. We’ve since been practicing at the river with a training duck, and she has performed very well indeed, and no rope is necessary on her collar now. She is an extremely strong swimmer and very enthusiastic; the only weird thing about this dog is that she is an Asian Ridgeback breed, so my “dingo” will look quite distinct amongst the labradors in the water on open day! Soon we will introduce the shotgun before throwing the duck, and she should almost be ready!

We’ve got two four day hunts planned for the roar, so needless to say I am staying away from any “wheeled recreation devices” this year! The aim is to get a nice red stag as a starting point, and possibly to move onto fallow or sika if successful there. There should be many more interesting stories to come – watch this space!




The pitbull that points

In April of 2014 I got myself a dog – a 7 month old pitbull mix that was rescued from a shelter that had shut down. I didn’t intend for him to be a hunting dog, but I was heading out and I thought I should bring him along.


It was the afternoon on a private block, and Eli the dog caught some exciting scents from the hut. We headed out along the ridge, spotting some fallow grazing on a clearing a over 500m away. My friend’s son was bowhunting in that area and we wondered if he had seen the deer. My mate ducked over the ridge to take a look, leaving Eli and myself to examine the trees on the other side. After only a few minutes, a dark shape moved beneath a whiteywood. I hadn’t yet shot a deer, but this one was about to be my first. I had time before the animal moved so that I could take a good shot, so I tied Eli to my leg. Taking a rest on a very convenient horizontal branch, I aimed as the spiker moved into view, and took a shot between the shoulder blades. As I rechecked the view through the scope, I saw a leg flash past as the animal rolled down the hill and into the cover of trees. Looking next to me, I saw that the rope attached to the dog was slack and lying at my side. I thought I lost him with the shot until I realised he had switched sides and was keenly sniffing the wind.

First fallowMy mate soon showed up and I said that I thought I had just shot my first deer. A moment of doubt – but I had seen it tumble. We let Eli lead the way. There was a valley to cross, through bush with a steep-sided creek at the bottom. It was quite a challenge to navigate. Eli lead us to a point where we could see the deer, and then we let him go to it. That was the point when we discovered that he has a horrible high-pitched yodel when he gets excited…..

He was a real nuisance on the carry, yodelling and shrieking with excitement, as well as chomping his jaws, but we got there unscathed.

My first red deer, taken from the Ruahines

Two weeks later we went into the Ruahines and he proved very useful. The weirdest thing was that he was able to point! Another peculiar trait he exhibited was putting his hackles up when the unmistakable smell of a rutting stag wafted past us, followed by a low rumble. He tracked well, and leading us to areas with fresh sign and negotiating obstacles well. We came across a mob of deer in an open part of the bush, and a young hind was taken. This was my first red deer and much more of an achievement than taking the fallow.

The one problem we have encountered is that once he knew what we were there for, he decided to try to get a deer for himself. A young animal was spotted on the bush edge just on dark, and he took off after it. He was never going to catch it, just follow the scent around and around in the bush, but it was the one time he would not come back. After that I had to take him on a string in the bush which was a complete pain in the arse.

Faithful companion making sure he is not forgotten!

Recently I got a remote controlled shock collar to curb this habit, and it seems we have made progress. I’ve only had to shock him once when he took off after a hare, thank goodness it wasn’t a deer.

Training a hunting dog is not something I actually know how to do. The point of this story is to say that you don’t have to get yourself a Visla or a pointer, because sometimes a rescued mutt with poor conformation will be perfect for the job. He has been on many hunts now and has tamed down the yodelling. I wouldn’t say that he does all the work, but he is helpful, as well as being a great little buddy.

Making use of the doggy backpack. It was too noisy to be used on the hunt