It should have been our 12th anniversary Winter Quarters camp and the serious hivernants were all set to brave the chills of the central Highlands once again. Then came a last minute Post Rider with news of floods and wet and muddy conditions. Our farmer host avowed the tracks were unsuitable for diesel donkeys and mules alike. After all, the event is a rondyvoo, not a 4WD mud bash – that is for our scouting friends over yonder on the next door property.
Incredibly, for the past nine years the weather on our Winter Quarters camps had been delightfully mild. Oh, but the expected chilly nights while frosty mornings slowly melting into superb mild winter days of sunshine. Year after year it was simply great, but I guess it had to change eventually.
Tom’s fire pit, affectionately known as Tom’s Hole, was now newly surveyed as Lake Jefferies. I daren’t even think about any other deep pits on the Painted Pony Plains. Yet I’m confident that next year it will all be salubrious once again.
Trapper’s Plan B
The weekend before the winter Camp I had loaded up the “wagon” with the necessary gear to survive the rigours of a winter in the hills for a few nights. Tents were packed, bedding, wood stove and food stuff stowed neatly away. Then word arrived on the Thursday night that disaster had struck! Due to the abnormal excessive amount of rain the trail had been “washed out” with no chance of getting through.
What to do? What to do? A wagon full of gear and suddenly nowhere to go. As the hours passed I started to think about where I could set up camp for at least an overnight stay. A few places came to mind but once again the trails were too wet for use, until I thought of that one place on the Pyramid Creek that just might have a usable access track.
So it was that Plan B was brought into action. Friday morning arrived, it was overcast but no rain. Excellent! So I fired up the “wagon” and headed north to the flat-lander plains country. I arrived at the creek and started to look for a good place to set up. The best spot seemed nice and level with high bushes to break the wind, enough wood lying about to make the camp fire to cook on and fuel the stove to keep the tent nice and cosy.
About an hour and a half later the camp was set up; made all the easier by being able to just push in the tent pegs by hand because the ground was that soft. Usually you need a sledge hammer to knock in the pegs because the clay soil is that hard. There certainly had been a lot of rain. All I needed to do was to get a bucket of water to have handy beside the tent. No worries I will just get some from the creek. Problem was the creek had dropped and I would have to slide down the bank to get to the water.
Getting down wasn’t the problem, getting back up was. After four attempts and some colourful language I managed to get back up the bank but I lost half a bucket of water doing so. Never mind, a half bucketful will have to do!
I built a small fire and soon had a kettle of boiling water for a nice cup of tea. I grabbed my .32 rifle and went through the necessary tasks to get it ready for a little walk along the creek to see if any rabbits were about. With the wind in my face I headed of upstream to see what game might come into my sights.
After about half an hour and seeing only one rabbit, which didn’t sit still long enough to get a shot off, it was time to head back to camp as the sun was getting low in the sky. The rabbits had the smarter idea of staying in their warm burrows instead of being outside in the cold wind waiting for a Longhunter to come along.
I stirred up the coals of the fire and prepared some vegetables so I could make a nice soup, (it was meant to be rabbit stew) and put it over the fire. After a warm meal and a cup of chocolate I settled down to do a bit reading by candle light. Later I crawled under my blanket for a good sleep so I could be ready in the morning to go hunting after some ducks, just to finish off the duck hunting season.
With a chilly start but a beautiful clear sky “Precious” was prepared for the mornings hunt while the kettle boiled water for breakfast porridge and hot chocolate. With the gear on and the “fixings” for “Precious” slung over the shoulder I headed off along the creek to see what ducks I could find. I didn’t have to wait too long for in the distance I could hear the “meow’ of some woodies and the chatter of grey teal.
Keeping the wind in my favour, I plotted a safe course using the available cover in front of me, towards the mob of birds ahead of me. After a bit of slipping and sliding on the wet ground I finally came to a dirt embankment on the creek bank which gave me the best concealment as I neared towards the ducks.
Slowly I raised myself up and peered over the top of the embankment to get a better look at where the birds were along the other side bank. But as usual the wood ducks were sitting on the other side bank acting as “sentries”. As soon my head came into their view the woodies took flight and the teal lifted off with them.
With two teal directly in front of me “Precious came up to the shoulder and swung past the first teal. With a Klatch – Boom and billowing smoke the load of number four shot connected with the grey teal which came tumbling down with a splash.
The bonus was that the other bird was close by on the edge of the shot pattern and it came down in the water a short distance away. Two for one! That’s the way to save on powder and shot! With the breeze blowing the birds across to my side of the creek it was an easy retrieve for me and I happily placed the birds into the game bag.
I placed a fresh charge down the barrel of “Precious” and started to make my way back along the creek to the camp site when a few teal were flying in my direction. I crouched down near a tree and as the birds flew past I picked out one bird and touched off the shot. As the smoke cleared the birds kept going, perhaps just a little faster than before, but not even a single feather down to the water.
A little bit slow on the swing-through technique, I fear. But at least I didn’t have to pull the load out of “Precious” now. As I began walking back to the camp site, ahead of me I could see half a dozen shapes in the water. With some available cover for me I reloaded “Precious” and stalked the 150 yards up to where the little gathering of ducks were.
Barely had I raised my head above the embankment when a mob of wood duck, which I had not seen, on the other side bank took off, catching me off guard, but only for a moment. As the black ducks decided to do the same as their wood duck brethren, ”Precious” came up to the shoulder as I began to lead the first black duck but I fired too soon. Which was fortunate for the leading bird, not so for its friend behind, and with somewhat of surprise for me, it fell from the sky landing with a thud on the other side bank.
All I had to do was cross over on a make shift log bridge and I had number three in the bag. Ten minutes later I was back at camp having a well-earned hot chocolate in front of the fire under a wintery sun. After that I found a nice spot out of the wind to clean up the birds and have them ready for transportation home.
I could see on the horizon that some dark clouds beginning to form, so it was time I packed all the gear back into the wagon, folded up some slightly damp canvas, from the morning’s dew. Then “whip the horses” into action and head home before the forecasted showers arrived. What a grand way to finish off the duck season and all thanks to having a Plan B!
Round Ball / Round Bull
Well, rabbits aren’t round, neither are foxes, ‘n beaver’s the same; matter of fact I don’t know of any game or feral animal that is round. That is – round like a rubber ball or that black spot in the centre of a paper target. Ain’t nuthin’ like that in the American woods or in the Aussie bush. So why do we get so fired up on paper targets?
Personally, my favourite targets are pet food cans, baked bean cans and similar. Yes they’re round end on, but without scoring rings they are about the size of a rabbit head. Body wise they are somewhat smaller than a rabbit’s torso and a similar challenge.
For personal plinking practice. I like to set up a can laying on its side, end on facing me at about 15 yards. That’s a target similar in size to the head of a rabbit. Rabbits don’t always pop up right on 25 yards. Usually I hold dead centre as is natural but when hunting I like to aim for the eye which may not be central to the head profile.
When my shot sends the can scuttling I sometimes get a second “head shot” but often the can comes to rest side on. One can simply aim now for the centre area but that is akin to gut-shooting our imaginary rabbit and may simply penetrate the can without sending it further afield. I prefer to practice this shot as a chest shot with the ball striking the side of the closed head-end of the can sending it spinning yet further away.
I also enjoy shooting a “can push” event as a team competition. It is great fun and brings contestants together in the spirit of challenge and sharing the smoke laden air. It’s best if club organisers can manipulate towards teams of reasonably even skill levels. Mixing small bores with the larger cannons within each team also adds something special to the event. Sounds like fun? I love it! Afterwards, crush the cans and take home the rubbish. Don’t ya wanna have fun no more?
September Rendezvous – Saturday 17th / Sunday 18th at Bernard’s Cache, Caveat. Members please note: – Our Annual General Meeting will be held during this weekend event.