Opening weekend -where memories are made

Opening duck shooting weekend means family and duck casserole.

Ever since I can remember, my entire extended family has converged on our family farm in Hawke’s Bay on the Friday evening, a few yarns told and ports enjoyed beside the fire before retiring to bed, dreaming of ducks raining down from the sky when Saturday morning dawns.

In reality, we don’t seem to do too well on the duck count (well, not in recent years) but it’s the coming together, sitting in the maimai on a freezing morning, someone attempting to call them in. Always hoping for low cloud cover to encourage our feathered foe to fly lower.

We don’t sit on one dam all day. After the morning shoot, we all troop home to compare numbers and inhale a cooked breakfast. Then we all do what is known as ‘the long walk’. This involves stalking the creek and majority of dams on the farm and, as the name would indicate, a fair bit of walking.

I much prefer the stalk to sitting on a dam all day. I’m not the most patient person and I enjoy the element of surprise – will there be ducks when someone gives the nod and we climb over the dam wall?

Dogs have always been a big part of opening morning, a succession of excellent Jack Russells fetching the birds. On the odd occasion we’ve been without a dog my brother, aka the golden labrador, has been known to strip off, with the cry, ‘no duck left behind’. In desperate times we have also employed the services of the wooden ‘dog’ – a piece of wood tied to a rope and thrown out to pull the unlucky birds in.

When I got sick of being the dog handler and watching everyone else have all the fun, I decided to get my gun license and my father kindly purchased me a lovely 20 gauge shotgun. I don’t shoot a lot, and I’m unsure how many ducks I could seriously claim, but opening weekend is one I usually don’t miss. I also have a fairly handy labrador, Greta, who is very enthusiastic about duck retrieval.

To top it all off, my aunties and any non-shooting cousins come out at lunch time. Mum always keeps ducks from the previous year in the freezer for opening, as it’s tradition to have duck casserole (grandma’s recipe) for lunch. You generally couldn’t pay me to eat casserole, but this is the best.

The day finishes with a bit more stalking, a lot more banter, and a night shoot in the maimais.

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