Time flies in the duck blind

It now seems as long ago as my own childhood.  I started taking my sons hunting when they were practically babies.  Exposing them to hunting and camp life at an early enough age, I hoped, would moderate later distractions that seem inevitable in this technologically-addled and virtually-enabled world. 

There’s no wirelessly connecting youth to nature. They have to get their waders muddy in a swamp, get their hands bloody at a skinning rack, get their stomachs full around a camp dinner table.
Not just hunting but an entire experience:  mud wrestling while building duck blinds, catching snakes while spreading Japanese millet, netting crawdads while pulling boards from water control structures.  And always duck hunting.


New Zealand duck hunt was far from home, yet close

New Zealand 17 hours into the future from New Orleans.  It's takes 14 hours in the air from San Francisco. That's plenty of time to get a full night's sleep and watch a half-dozen in-flight movies.

New Zealand is the size of California.  Comprised of two islands, the population is about 4 million people.  North Island is predominately pasture, to include livestock-beneficial and clover-chicory crops.  Sheep and gates that confine them are countless.   Forests cover remaining areas and are either lush stands of native species or highly-productive plantations of radiata pine, that are native to California's central coast.

New Zealand red stag huntingHunting in New Zealand is widely accepted, because of the country's mostly rural, farm-connected lifestyle.  The carefully cultivated habitat teems with trophy game animals originating elsewhere in the world: red deer, fallow deer, rusa deer, sambar, elk, white-tail deer; tahr and chamois.  As in the US, big game are the rock-stars of New Zealand hunting.

New Zealand duck hunting opportunities are plentiful, too.  There are native paradise shelducks ("parries"), Pacific black ducks ("gray ducks"), Australian shovelers ("spoonies") and self-introduced black swans.  Introduced mallards are proliferate in the absence of natural predators, to the increasing derision of native black ducks.  Canada geese are too.  Upland bird hunting species consists of native pukekkos ("blue pheasants"), introduced ring-necked pheasants, Gamble's quail, Merriam's wild turkeys and peafowl.

Without fox or coyote predation, turkeys are as likely to roost on a fence post, or in quail-like covies on the ground, as in a tree.  Paradise shelducks are keen to spend the entire night on the farmer's crops.  A remote, geographically-isolated island nation, there aren't waterfowl migrations in New Zealand; there isn't a push of new, dumb ducks and local ducks quickly learn the tricks of the trade.  Duck hunting customs reflect these differences.  There are the usual duck hunting accoutrements - decoys, calls, and oftentimes elaborate duck blinds ("maimais"), but there's also legalized baiting, unplugged firearms and shooting hours well past black dark. 

New Zealand duck hunting
While duck hunting in New Zealand is popular, many only hunt the opening day or weekend.  Then there are the true duck hunters, that like us, are in it until the end. Like that afternoon in a light, steady, bone-soaking rain.  We started off hunting the paradise shelducks. It was something to do until the main event that evening.  Capitalizing on the few parries that presented themselves over the decoys, we took no prisoners. Karl swore the borrowed 870 fit him poorly but then quintupled in an impressive feat that I witnessed from across the field.

Our farmer-host arrived at 5:15 pm.  We shooters then strung ourselves loosely down a sliver of spring-fed habitat he'd recently constructed.  With our backs against a high, wet-rock bank and a wind hitting our faces, we watched the landforms melt into blackness. The quickly-fading sky that continued to empty.  Abruptly from behind, a quartet of mallard arrived low, on whistling wings and chattering feverishly.  Fire blazed from gun barrel and the water's surface flashed like lightning, then rippled where fallen mallards had splashed.  In came another pair, then another. More: faint shadows against a nearly dark sky, more shooting.  It was over by 5:45.

New Zealand duck hunting
Afterwards, a young yellow lab, Willow, ferreted fallen ducks from the water.  Soaked from rain, we hunters visited in the glow of rain-infused headlight beams. Hand-shakes and introductions followed quickly by laughs about the hits and misses, by discussions of places and ducks hunted and of politics here, there and abroad.  A cheerful banter of Queen's and Southern-English, like we'd known each other for longer than the moments we shared a quick duck hunt in New Zealand.  It's one of those universal truths in duck hunting - only duck hunters stand around in the rain talking about duck hunting.  New Zealand was far from home, yet close.
Learn more: New Zealand Duck Hunting

View photo gallery: New Zealand Duck Hunt (North Island)

Ready to pull the trigger?  Ramsey Russell ‘s GetDucks.com is a full-time, full-service agency specializing in wing shooting with major emphasis on trophy duck species and duck hunting adventures. It's duck season somewhere. Your trip of a lifetime deserves – and receives – our full attention. 


Argentina duck hunting these days - laughs are just seconds away

The other day, the outside thermometer could be seen plainly reading in the high-90s.  The heat index was 103.  Good old Mississippi summertime: growing tomatoes, mowing lawns, planning outside to-dos for mornings and late-afternoons.   Mid-day walks to the mailbox cause for breaking a sweat if you piddle.  So I was thankful to be working in the air condition with plenty to keep me busy.  Then the phone chirped with an incoming message from clients duck hunting in Argentina.