Day One: The Battle of Owhata Ridge –Turkeys put to rout!

asaxon

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The Admiral’s Hammer – Death to Invasive Species in New Zealand.






The Admiral & I had travelled back to New Zealand so she could take care of some “family matters.” We planned to get in a little hunting and fishing around her home town of Rotorua with Dave R., a friend who does guiding there as well. We mapped out several days of fun “local” stuff to do; turkey hunting, trout fishing with a twist (you’ll have to read about Day Two to see what that was), bushy tailed possum spotting/shooting at night (The Admiral’s favorite) and hare hunting. We originally planned to hunt peacocks over Dave’s famous pointers just to see the dogs work but the peacock population had been decimated the previous spring (Oct/Nov in NZ). Therefore, Dave figured to do take us hunting European Hare with the dogs instead. Dave decided to have a go at the invasive enemy in the form of the turkeys first. (I put the pictures at the end as it was difficult to put them through out the story.)


Day One: The Battle of Owhata Ridge –Turkeys put to rout.





We started off our afternoon of New Zealand style spot and stalk turkey hunt by fortifying ourselves with pastry and a “flat white”, coffee with whipped milk at a Swiss bakery. Now that is what the Admiral calls “hunting with class.” Then we headed up country to look for turkeys. Turkeys are an invasive species in New Zealand though not often hunted by locals or by those coming to hunt the famous exotic big game of red stag etc.

Arriving at some pastureland alternating with stands of large pine trees, we scouted the hillsides looking for turkeys and the occasional peacock that’s known to hang around. PICTURE 1. Sure enough, about ¼ of a mile away on a series of ridges of rough open pasture, Dave spotted the enemy, a small mob (Kiwi for group) of turkeys. After working our way through to the end of the bush track, we came to open ground; the evil turkeys could be anywhere among the hillocks in front of us. However, our advance was immediately “thwarted” by some of New Zealand’s own. Damn sheep were contentedly grazing right in front of us – if we frighten them, they’ll run off “bleating”; that will warn all the turkeys nearby. PICTURE 2. So Dave makes increasingly loud noises to get the critters attention without startling them until he is just about doing a Haka (Maori war dance) and they placidly just keep eating. We are tempted to shoot but think better of it. It would piss off the farmer.

Finally
the dumb wooly buggers look up, doh, and amble off. So we then proceed up the first hillock, lie down and creep over the top to surprise any turkeys. No turkeys but low and behold, off on the hillside to our right are a couple of peafowl. A young peacock (male) with a not fully formed tail and a peahen. While the farmer had given us permission to shoot a peacock, we decide to “pass” as the male was a sub-adult. However, that doesn’t’ stop him from spotting us and letting out warning calls. Crap – now I want to shoot the darn noisy bird. However, cooler heads prevail. We stay hunkered down until he and his lady disappear up over the hill. PICTURE 3.

Just as plan to move, we spot a group of seven turkeys – five mature hens and two nice cock birds (they are not called Toms in New Zealand) on the hillside to our left. So it is hunker down some more and wait. Whether they saw us or just want to more higher, they go up and over the hill to our left. But they seemed to be headed in our general direction. So we make a dash up the ridge to intercept them. When we get just below the crest, Dave gives us the signal to ‘charge over the top.’ Hearts pounding, the Admiral and I rush over, shotguns at the ready. Sure enough, we are right on top of turkeys. Wahoo. We quickly size up the startled birds and realize – no cock birds, it is only the hens. PICTURE 4. We hold fire as the hens then fly down to land in some trees just below. Then who do we spot looking right at us from the next ridgeline, the two damn cock birds. Can turkeys stick out their tongues? I’m pretty sure those two did. For whatever reason the cock birds had decided to desert their hen and that move saved their lives for sure. We spent the next 30 minutes trying hard to get onto those wily fellows. We saw their heads in front of us a couple of times in the grass but never with a “firing solution” and they ultimately gave us the slip.

As we sat down to “regroup”, we spotted another small mob of turkeys across the valley (where the peafowl were) –nice hens and again a couple of cock birds. Dave decided to send me after them while he directs via hand signals. So I climbed down the one hill, tumble VERY carefully (remembering the Admiral’s shocking experience a year before) over the electric fence at the bottom and started scrambling up a very steep hill while staying to the right and out of sight of where the turkeys should be. Every time I’d look back, Dave is signally “UP”. After about 20 min. of climbing, he is still pointing “Up”. I start to figure he and the Admiral are just having fun at my expense by seeing how far “Up” I’d go before I collapse. Finally they seemed to signal to “get low” and move left. I crouch down, creep to the rise on my left, rise up and over I go again. And just like the last time, I found myself right among a mob of hen turkeys (the damn cock birds were higher up but I didn’t fully understand Dave’s signal). But this time I’m thinking, after that climb, SOMEBODY IS GOING TO DIE! So I pick out a large bird and BAM (Winchester O/U with improved cylinder using 2 3/4’ cartridge with #4 shot); down goes a hen flapping. The hill was so steep that she slid all the down to the electric fence. Damn. Down I go and Bird #1, a nice big hen, is in the bag. PICTURE 5. Remarkably, the rest of the hens have simply flown to a small outcropping nearby so Dave stations the Admiral ½ way up and he and I circle behind to flush them hoping she can have a “wing shot” at one as it flies over her head. We manage to flush them but they flew off to diagonally so the Admiral didn’t have a decent shot.

We collect the truck to drive to another area and as we crest the top of the ridge which I had partially climbed earlier, we see two nice hens right by the track. The Admiral bails out, slips a 2 ¾ shell with #5 shot into in her 20 gauge Browning O/U and sprints up the track. BAM, Bird #2 down. PICTURE 6. Of course, her hen is even bigger than mine. By now, the afternoon is getting on but we really want to try for a couple of cock birds so on we go.


We get to the next valley and see all sorts of turkey sign as we walk up onto a flattish (if anything is flat in NZ) plateau. Several dozen rosella parrots start flying right around us – they are gorgeous and as an invasive species ok to shoot. However, they are simply too pretty to shoot plus we are after larger better eating quarry. As we crest the hill, we see seven or eight turkey just 30 yards in front of us. We drop down, wait for them to get out of sight and when they do, Dave tells us to “charge over the hill top and get them”. By now, the Admiral’s Maori “blood is up”. Taking a page out of the history of the 28[SUP]th[/SUP] Maori Battalion and their famous charge at Crete in WWII, I fit the bayonet on my firearm as the Admiral yells out a formal Maori war challenge. I break into a full run “over the top” to find myself among a mob of gobblers. It’s going to either them or me! I fire one barrel and down goes my nearest opponent who I finish off with my bayonet. PICTURE 7 The others, being chicken (or a close relative) panic and flee in complete disarray as I pursue them while hurling curses. I triumphantly march back up the hill to The Admiral and Dave with Bird #3 but I notice they have their backs to me and are focused on something. Sup?

Then I see. Fifty yards away across a small cut was another group of dangerous enemy gobblers (eleven in all) that had snuck up behind us. The birds appear to be feeding but we knew they were just waiting to attack us when we had our guard down. So we lay down in the grass and Dave made a plan. There would be no mad charge this time. The Admiral and he would work their way back down and around to the other side of those birds. Then at exactly 18:00 hours, I would stand up and walk right at them. We synchronize watches and they depart. At the appointed time, I stand up and walk right at the blighters. To my amazement, they look at me and appear confused as to what to do. I get within 25 yards when they finally decide to retreat over the hill. Little do they know they are in a ambush and heading right into the waiting arms of the Admiral. Moments later I hear “BAM” and then birds come running right back toward me. I could/should have held fire. But just in case the Admiral missed; right, am I dreaming?, I fire at one of the gobblers and down he goes. I pick him up and walk over the hill to find a beaming Admiral and Dave with her gobbler down as well. And of course it is the biggest one of the day. So that is Bird # 4 and Bird #5. PICTURE 8 and 9. Enough, time to call it a day.

We dress out the birds in the bush and head home with a gorgeous sunset (PICTURE 10) to end a remarkable day of turkey spot and stalk hunting. We couldn’t imagine it getting any better than that but we didn’t realize then that next day was going to be just as amazing. We had fried turkey dinner the next night and fantastic turkey sandwiches for several days as well.

*NO ANIMALS WERE HARMED UNNECESSARILY IN THE TELLING OF THIS TALE BUT THE TRUTH TOOK A BEATING.


Picture 1, Glassing for the enemyView attachment 84684
Picture 2 Blocked by the SheepView attachment 84685
Picture 3,The Admiral hunkered down ready to attack at a moments notice
View attachment 84686
Picture 4, Where did those darn cock birds go?
View attachment 84687
Picture 5, Bird #1 is down
View attachment 84688
Picture 6, Bird #2 is down
View attachment 84689
Picturee 7, Bird #3, a cock bird is finally downView attachment 84690
Picture 8, Birds # 4 &5 are in the bagView attachment 84691
Picture 9, ENOUGHView attachment 84692
Picture 10, Sunset on the way home - could have never guess that tomorrow would be just as special.
View attachment 84693

 
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solus

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Those are some nice birds Andy
 

NorCalBowhunter

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I always enjoy reading your posts. Sounds like you're having a lot of fun, those are great looking birds.


Sent via pony express
 

asaxon

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Glad you folks enjoyed the story. I forgot to add that the genetics of these turkeys is mainly Merriam. They were originally introduced as farm animals beginning in the 1860s and since them many have gone ferral. They are like our regular wild turkeys as this was way before the modern white turkey was bred for farmers.They are now found in rough farmland with scattered trees throughout much of lowland North Island, the Marlborough Sounds, and at scattered eastern locations in the South Island. They get little hunting pressure, at least where we were, so spot and stalk works.

Scott: You know the first Marine Division was sent to New Zealand to train before shipping out to Guadalcanal, right. Too bad they later got based at Pavuvu in the Russell Islands Islands as they would have been much better off in Kiwi Land.

Two more hunting stories and one fishing tale to come from this trip to New Zealand.
 

cjack

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They looked like large birds, being Merriam's answered my question. Job well done Andy!
 

THE ROMAN ARCHER

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Thanks for sharing your overseas adventure and congrats nice birds.......tra
 


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