Readers may recall that my column last Friday was about a recent hunting trip I took to New Zealand. It had an abrupt end because I failed to note that it was just the start of a two week story. I apologize for that.
The first two days of the hunt had been really slow and far below my expectations. We had seen and bagged very few ducks or geese, and were hoping the last day of the hunt would be more productive. After a great dinner, we watched some DVDs of some past trips I had filmed and then went to bed with high hopes of the next dawning.
The morning of the third day we were rained out. We had set up near a nice sized pond in a steady light downpour, and nothing flew so we picked up
and headed home. The mood in the vehicle was somber. I was still somewhat depressed because I had only got a little good video the first morning, including the swans.
I decided to lighten the mood so I jokingly said to our driver: “James, I have filmed in a lot of places including Canada, Alaska, Mexico, Minnesota, Maine, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Argentina, and Iceland. And at this moment this hunt rates on a scale of zero to 10, at the very bottom of the list. I sure hope you have something planned for this afternoon so you can get out of that spot."
The SUV erupted with laughter, including James. He said he had
a great spot planned for Paradise ducks and just hoped it worked out. I know he was feeling as bad as we were and wanted us to have at least one great shoot.
I guess he knew someone in the right place because late that afternoon we drove through two locked gates on the Christchurch Prison Farm that covered hundreds of acres, and set up on a very small pond in the middle of a pasture. The guys had a terrific brush blind against a fence, and it wasn't long until the ducks started coming. Mostly Paradise with a few Mallard and Grey ducks. No big bunches, but singles and pairs. The biggest flock was five. But everything was right in our face.
I got some great footage on camera and I don't think the guys missed one bird. They ended up with 30-something, including about 20 Paradise ducks, Teal, Grey ducks and Mallards.
On the way back to town I told James he had made it off the bottom of the list at a No. 1 now.
And, because it was mostly Paradise ducks and I managed to get some great video I would move him up a few more notches and give him another 1 1/2 points for that. He was now ahead of a bad shoot we once had in Arkansas. He laughed and said he appreciated that and how sorry he was for us not getting more birds earlier.
Then Brad Peters said something that changed my whole perception of the trip. He said, "I once went to Africa on a big game hunt and never fired one shot during a week there, but had a great time."
It was like a punch to my gut. Killing a lot of birds is not what the trip was about. That was only a bonus. We got to fly to a new country and meet some great friendly people who spoke with an interesting brogue. We saw some beautiful landscape.
We managed to harvest a couple of new duck species we had never seen before. We had great food and living quarters. And best of all, I spent time with close friends and loved ones. I would trade that for nothing else. Being around Brad, Randy Long, and my son Mark was something special. You could not ask for a better group of guys to hunt with.
Later, I apologized to James and thanked him for letting me to come along just to film. He said no problem and was really sorry about no birds.
Would I go back if I had a chance? For sure. It could only get better.
One thing though. I might take an extra suitcase with two or three dozen stake-out silhouette Canada goose decoys!