Back at the beginning of my hunting career, some 20-odd years ago, I remember spending many a weekend at my good friend Joseph’s farm in North Canterbury helping out at lambing and shearing time and being there as much as I could doing all sorts of activities on the farm. However, the activities I looked forward to the most were the many hunting expeditions we found ourselves getting involved in.
The ones I enjoyed most were the bird hunts. Joe had a large number of willow-choked creeks running through his farm – as did some of the neighbouring farms – that we could hunt on. More often than not, these had good numbers of waterfowl in residence. Many a time I remember going for a walk along the kilometres of creek system and flushing birds from deep in the willows as they tried to escape through the scrub; it was an exciting form of hunting, as at times, you just never knew what was going to come out at you – sometimes there were a heap of ducks that kept flying well after the first ones had left, providing more opportunities for those of us behind a gun.
Nowadays, I don’t spend as much time jump-shooting as I used to, as I now try to decoy hunt most water. But once or twice a year, I always go and check out some areas where I can jump-shoot some birds. It’s also a great way to get the dog working and putting up birds in thick cover at times – much like you would pheasant or quail.
In the North Canterbury Region, we’re generally spoilt for choice with areas suitable for jump-shooting birds. These areas vary from farm ponds to small running water creeks, riverbed side streams – often thick with vegetation – or even man-made irrigation waterways where hunting is sometimes permitted.
Involving the Family
Most of my jump-shooting these days is local on small farm ponds or along riverbed margins. I’m fortunate to be able to hunt on the farm I work on; it has some tiny ponds that have a few ducks on them from time to time, and I make sure I go for a quick shoot every now and then during the year.
While this is most enjoyable, it’s also an opportunity to take the younger members of my family along with me; they can get a taste of hunting and are able to help with the processing of any birds shot. I find it’s a great way to introduce them to the things I’m passionate about, and because the hunts are generally quick and mostly on days when it’s fine and warm, they enjoy the experience more. The best part is they know exactly where their food comes from, and they love helping to hold the birds while we make our way from spot to spot.
As I mentioned earlier, jump-shooting is an exciting form of hunting. You can literally have just one duck come at you as it breaks from cover or, at times, the sky can seem like it’s filled with birds; sometimes, wave after wave of ducks can break from certain waterways – which provides great shooting … especially if there are multiple guns strategically placed to target the breaking birds.
There are a few things that need to be taken into consideration when hunting in this way, particularly if there are multiple shooters. Safety is a vitally important issue and one that should be discussed prior to each spot hunted. Everyone needs to know the plan as to where birds may be expected to escape from and where all hunters will be situated so no incidents of shooting across each other can occur.
Something else to consider is if there are dogs running around potentially flushing birds, all shots should be above head height – perhaps even tree height, depending on how tall the trees are – to keep everyone safe, making sure everyone fires upwards instead of horizontally.
Identify Your Target
Another thing to consider is potential targets. Quite often, protected species will be living with huntable birds, so identifying targets as they fly is paramount so as to not accidentally shoot the wrong species.
I remember one hunt in particular a few years ago where pukeko, mallards and grey teal came from one spot where I sent my dog in to flush birds. About a dozen flew, but I only shot one duck because of the mixture of species coming out at me; sometimes that’s just how it goes with this style of hunting.
While out and about, please also remember about landowners; areas you plan to hunt may sometimes boundary or be close to another person’s property. The last thing you want as a hunter is to have an angry landowner coming out wondering why you’re shooting at birds that are over his property or shooting over his land, which may become dangerous for anyone nearby – particularly if you’re not fully aware whether someone else may or may not be around.
While on this topic, it’s up to the hunter to be aware of their surroundings, making sure there’s no one else nearby, making sure you’re legally hunting waterways that can be hunted and being mindful of any stock that may be in the surrounding area. Jump-shooting often means your potential shooting area will be quite large, so having a clear line of fire in all directions is important to reduce the risk to stock and people.
Getting back to the hunting side of things, I remember hunting a farmer’s land years ago that we had access to; from memory, he had about six or seven ponds we could hunt. They were perfect ponds to stalk ducks from – all about 30 metres in size and with walls that were ideal to climb over to sneak up on ducks out of sight.
We ended up hunting each pond twice, as often we found ducks would simply move from one pond to the next once we’d shot. It was a great day of sporting shooting, and we ended up with 30-odd ducks over a three-hour period once we’d done the loop a couple of times; not bad for a couple of young fellas getting amongst it – or so we thought at the time.
Look After Your Dog
Mostly, these days, I hunt over my Labrador, Beau. He knows it’s game time when the gun is brought out of the gun cabinet, and he’s eager to work; when we hunt small side streams or rivers, he works the margins like a trooper.
If the weather’s hot, make sure you give your dogs regular breaks; they’ll go better for longer if they get the chance to rest up every now and then, which will make the day more enjoyable for everyone. I quite often carry a small bag of food to give my dog during the day to help keep his energy levels up.
Always Be Ready
There were even times when the odd quail was added to the bag instead of ducks, because they jump from riverbed cover while you’re on the hunt for bigger feathered targets. They’re always a welcome and tasty edition to the bag – just be mindful of regional regulations if shooting other birds while targeting ducks.
Riverbed streams offer fantastic hunting. Sometimes you can walk for kilometres and get plenty of shooting along the way as birds break from cover at regular intervals; often you’ll be walking and birds will jump out that you didn’t know were there, as they’ve been in tight cover and have only broken due to the dog working the edges. This all adds to the excitement of this form of hunting – as you never know when a bird will rise, you have to be ready at all times.
My closing statement is to encourage you to get out and find those areas that are suitable for this style of hunting. Perhaps take a mate or two, or even someone you’d like to introduce to hunting, but remember to be safe while doing it. Know your boundaries and shooting areas so you’re not posing a nuisance to anyone or hunting illegally, and enjoy what your region may offer with this fun style of hunting.