Was it because it was the last weekend of the Duck Season, or was it just too close to the coming 200th anniversary of Waterloo, a calendar clash with the Motocross Rally in Queensland perhaps, or just the unfavourable weather forecast for the long weekend? Our Winter Quarters camp over the Queen’s Birthday holiday weekend was well down on attendance but right up there with the very best of social fun times.
Murray Convey was first to arrive and set up camp, then Charlie Timma, Peter Convey, Jim Walker, Bob Ellis, Ian Convey and Chook Fowler. Only seven Hivernants braved the start of the snow season to camp in the coldest beginning to winter in over sixty years. Forget all that Global warming bunkum, it was bloody cold? The seven stalwarts were joined by Paul Sly with sons Nathaniel and Nickolas for a one day visit and romp as young boys like to do.
The cold breezes didn’t hamper the black powder burning. Ian had made a new shooting “bench-rest” so that everyone could test fire their rifles with a greater degree of surety. Made to suit both right handers and lefties this new bench got a thorough work-out and big approval from all present.
Ian had also supplied a real painting with added bull’s eye rings for a one shot open competition. It looked like a good win to Paul until Ian took the final shot to just pip Paul’s mark to win his own painted target back. It was hung in our open-faced shelter for the remainder of the weekend. No doubt it’s now hanging proudly in Ian’s den.
Much more shooting was to be done – numerous gongs of various sizes and differing ranges kept everyone trying, cheering or crying, but generally enjoying that pungent black powder aroma preferred by voyagers and coureurs de bois over Chanel No 5 eau de toilette (more French for Murray’s vocab – alouette, ambiance, champagne, etc). The long and short of it – if you weren’t there – you missed a truly great time!
Bagging Out – The Old Way
The Victorian duck season was well underway when I decided the time was past due to put some more meat on the table. Jeff Clarke and I had experienced a tremendous opening day earlier, harvesting 14 birds using our breechloaders. For this mid season hunt I would be using Old Reliable – my double barrelled caplock muzzleloader.
A swamp I knew of had some water flow into it, making it ideal to wade in and to set up some decoys. After a late arrival the night before I set up camp and crawled into bed and drifted off to sleep in the peace and quiet of the bush. I woke just before dawn and as I lay there looking at the slight frost on the ground, aware that other hunters camped nearby seemed in no particular hurry to get up either. After about half an hour I braved the chill morning air, arose and got dressed, put the billy on the fire to make a warm cup of coffee and prepared Old Reliable for the morning hunt.
Soon after, more hunters arrived and took up their places on the swamp, waiting for the legal time to start shooting. Seeing so many hunters heading into the swamp I thought I might hunt on the nearby creek instead. I knew that any ducks disturbed on the swamp would follow this water course seeking a quieter and safer environment.
Shooting started soon after the declared legal time and after the first few shots several large mobs of birds could be seen flying high over the swamp. One mob went north, some birds headed East and a few decided to follow the creek. Good, so far my plan was working. Then, as they drew nearer they banked off to their left slightly, so as to cut off the bend of the creek, which then put them well out of range for me. Well, you know what they say about the best laid plans.
I watched them for a minute or so and saw them drop down with wings cupped so as to land on the creek a few bends downstream from where I stood. It was time to put my “walking boots” on and stalk up onto this small mob of six birds. After about ten minutes I drew level with the spot where I had seen them land. With the wind in my favour I approached quietly to where a slight embankment helped give some extra cover to hide my profile.
Approaching closer I could hear the whistles and chatter of the grey teal. Excellent I thought, I had stalked right up onto them. I cautiously peered over the top of the embankment and could see two birds on the other side. I brought Old Reliable up to the shoulder and raised myself a little higher so as to get a clearer shot. As I did so that pair of ducks launched themselves into the air. Quickly I gave a slight lead on the right hand bird and sent the charge of number 4’s on its way. With a satisfying splash I had one bird down. Immediately after that shot the whole area before me erupted in ducks taking flight.
This large mob estimated at 100-150 birds had all been on the inside edge of the bank of the creek and hidden from my view. I hurriedly picked out a close bird and squeezed off the charge in the left barrel. Through the billowing smoke I saw that lone teal come tumbling down. Two birds for two shots, a good start to the day.
I re-charged both barrels with powder, wads and shot and fitted new caps to the nipples. I then saw a lone teal that had landed on the water some 40 metres away. I proceeded to sneak my way along the edge of the creek, out of site of the duck, until I was close enough to take the shot. As it lifted from the water, wings beating furiously, I followed through with the barrels and as soon as they passed the Teal’s bill the right barrel belched out smoke and shot. Once again Old Reliable had lived up to its name, and floating downstream was duck number three of the morning.
A very gentle breeze had sprung up and had managed to push one of the Teal over to my side of the creek. Making an easy retrieval, it was safely stowed away in the game bag. The other two ducks had drifted across to the other side of the creek so a bridge across the creek needed to be found so I could pick them up without wading in.
Seeking a convenient crossing, I had gone about 300 metres back upstream when out of some reeds launched a solitary Black duck. Instinctively I brought Old Reliable up to the shoulder and loosed off the left barrel. After a slight cart wheel into the water duck number four was down and was drifting towards the opposite bank.
I finally found a make-shift bridge and crossed over to pick up the other two Teal, which was easily enough done. The only problem was that the Black duck had drifted back over to the side that I had just come from, so it was back across the makeshift bridge to make an easy retrieve on the Blackie.
As there were no more birds to be seen nearby, I packed the birds and gun into my ute and drove off further upstream to another favourite location. I reloaded both barrels of Old Reliable and commenced a new stalk along the banks of the creek. It seemed only a short ten minutes when a lone Wood duck took flight from the bank of the creek barely ten metres in front of me. Once again Old Reliable came naturally to the shoulder and that lone Wood duck disappeared in a cloud of black powder smoke. When it cleared, there was the Woodie motionless on the ground. Excellent, no wet feet or skinny dipping in the cold water to get you, I thought with much pleasure.
With that I tucked the Woodie in my game bag and headed back to the ute for the drive home. A rewarding morning’s effort toward the larder and even better to me was the satisfaction that I had fired five shots for five nice birds. Not too bad a way to “Bag Out” using the old ways just as my great grandparents would have done.
Alouette (The canoe song)
According to Wikipedia, “Alouette” is a popular French Canadian children’s song about plucking the feathers from a lark, in retribution for being woken up by its song. Although it is in French, it is well-known among speakers of other languages; in this respect it is similar to “Frère Jacques“.
Canadian theory is based on the French fur trade that was active for over 300 years in North America. Canoes were used to transport trade goods in exchange for furs through established expansive trade routes consisting of interconnecting lakes, and rivers, and portages in the hinterland of present day Canada and United States. The songs of the French fur trade were adapted to accompany the motion of paddles dipped in unison. Singing helped to pass the time and made the work seem lighter.
In fact, it is likely that the Montreal Agents and Wintering Partners sought out and preferred to hire voyageurs who liked to sing and were good at it. They believed that singing helped the voyageurs to paddle faster and longer. French colonists ate horned larks, which they considered a game bird. “Alouette” informs the lark that the singer will pluck its head, nose, eyes, wings and tail.
The song has become a symbol of French Canada for the world, an unofficial national song. Today, the song is used to teach French and English speaking children in Canada and other English speakers learning French around the world the names of body parts. Singers will point to or touch the part of their body that corresponds to the word being sung in the song.
Spring Rendezvous – Fri 18th – Mon 21st Sept.
“Don’t ya go to Rondyvoo no more?” We plan an extra special Rondyvoo with trade blankets, blue beads, mirrors and such, a blanket shoot with prizes for everyone, plus a Saturday evening shared feast with festivities celebrating the original Beaver Club grand functions. The Trapper’s toast…“To the fur trade in all its branches.” Can you paddle a canoe? Well, it doesn’t really matter; there will be tuition available and fortification to steady the nerves! It’s gonna be one incredible lark! O-o-o-oh! Alouette, gentile alouette…. Alouette, Je te plumerai…..
Toying with a Ban is Madness.
By Rita Panahi, Herald Sun Opinion, Fri. June 12, 2015
Here we go again with the predictable knee-jerk reaction to what is essentially a harmless bit of fun.
A child is photographed holding a toy AK-47 and quicker than you can say “chk chk boom”, the fun police spring to action demanding that toy guns be banned.
Frankly, the appetite to ban things we find distasteful is a far greater worry than a little boy holding a plastic gun.
What happened to exercising personal choice and simply opting not to purchase an item we find offensive?
If parents decide they don’t want little Finn or Fiona to play with guns, then they have every right to enforce that rule in their household.
But for a state or nationwide ban to be considered borders on authoritarian madness.
In NSW the normally sensible Baird Government is considering new laws to regulate the sale of toy guns that may look realistic.
Naturally, the Greens, the political party of choice for self-appointed moral guardians, are in favour of any measure that limits personal choice and responsibility.
Who can forget Greens senator Larissa Waters’ “No Gender December” campaign during which she urged shoppers to boycott “gender-stereotyped toys” such as toy trucks and Barbie dolls.
“Outdated stereotypes about girls and boys and men and women perpetuate gender inequality, which feeds into very serious problems such as domestic violence and the gender pay gap,” Senator Waters said.
“While such serious problems seem so far removed from choosing children’s toys, it’s important that we think about this issue, especially when so many children’s toys are being bought.”
If that lot had their way, our kids would have nothing to play with other than building blocks in neutral, non-heteronormative colours.
Already schools across Victoria have banned everything from British bulldog to tiggy to the swapping of footy cards lest our overprotected young ’uns are traumatised by a bad swap or a prolonged losing streak.
We are wrapping our children so tightly in cotton wool that they are denied the chance to freely express themselves and to develop vital coping skills that come with experiencing the occasional failure and setback.
And, as any mother knows, banning toy guns has little effect – little boys will simply use toy drills, sticks or their fingers to point and shoot at each other.
It is harmless fun that generations before them have indulged in, but suddenly any representation of firearms is met with frenzied response from the easily agitated, eager to draw all sorts of conclusions.
Is playing “cowboys and Indians” not only culturally insensitive, but also a precursor to a life of crime and mayhem? Of course not! One can understand the visceral reaction to the picture that sparked this somewhat shrill debate; the casual way the boy holds the gun is reminiscent of images we’ve seen on terrorist propaganda and the fact that he was pictured mere metres from the Lindt café in Martin Place, the location of the Sydney siege, adds to the distasteful nature of the image.
But the child wasn’t pretending to be Man Haron Monis, the cowardly murderer and Islamic extremist who died in a hail of bullets.
He was just a child holding a plastic gun, one that perhaps looks a little more realistic than most other toy guns on the market.
Scott Weber, Police Association of NSW president, told the Herald Sun that toy firearms were used in crimes across NSW and that police were obliged to respond in the same manner whether the “weapon” is genuine or not.
But is that any reason to amend the law? Do we ban syringes, knives and baseball bats because they’re also used in the commission of crimes?
As it stands, the law prohibits the sale of imitation weapons; that is, items that are substantially similar in appearance to a firearm. But it is not too difficult to find a toy gun and remove the colourful parts that mark them as a toy.
Does that mean we ban the sale of all toy guns for fear that criminals could alter them to look real? Hell no.
Anyway, surely it’s preferable to have crims brandishing a plastic gun they’ve picked up at Toys “R” Us than turning to a real gun, a knife or machete. I can’t recall the last time an innocent bystander was murdered or maimed by someone armed with a toy gun.
My son’s generation seem to love Nerf guns that shoot colourful foam bullets, in my day it was the cowboy cap guns that produced a puff of smoke that were the “weapon” of choice.
I still recall the intoxicating smell of the cap gun smoke.
Incredibly to some, my friends and I haven’t gone on to become degenerate criminals, despite our toy gun habits. My playtimes certainly didn’t leave me desensitised to violent imagery.
Our children are exposed to all manner of real-life horrors online. They can watch people burnt alive or beheaded by Islamic State terrorists so you have to wonder why some among us are preoccupied with banning toys.
The idiocy is simply breathtaking.
Rita Panahi is a Melbourne Herald Sun columnist
(Note: We lifted this article direct from the Melbourne Herald-Sun newspaper, considering it worthy of sharing with our reader members knowing many may have missed it on the day. The more we share such voices of reason, the more we protect the rights of reasonable people. I feel sure that many re-enactor / black powder enthusiasts can echo Rita Panahi’s comment – “I still recall the intoxicating smell of the cap gun smoke” reliving childhood days of outdoor fun playing, running, jumping, riding wooden horses and make-believe shooting siblings and best friends and any grumpy old buzzards who objected unreasonably to kids just having fun.)