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Decoys and Duck Calls of New Zealand – A Guide for Collectors

Gary Girvan is no stranger to readers of NZRod&Rifle. For around 30 years, he’s been writing outstanding test reports and articles on shotguns and accessories. The terms ‘knowledgeable’, ‘thorough’, ‘accurate’ and ‘highly readable’ all come to mind when perusing his contributions over the years. Whether he’s writing a full testfire of a new gun on the market or comparing brands of ammunition, readers can be assured that no stone has been left unturned and all claims made have veracity.

Girvan has steeped himself in the history and culture of waterfowling in this country. Indeed, his stand-out book Duck Hunting in New Zealand, published by Bateman in 2007, should be on every waterfowler’s bookshelf.

This latest effort is a lavish hardback combination of two books, Duck Calls (2016) and Decoys (2017). As every collector knows, new ‘finds’ inevitably see the light of day, so considerable new material has been included in this combined edition – both decoys and calls.

It’s particularly pleasing to note that the author has included chapters that set the scene in a historical sense for potential collectors. The history of waterfowling and the evolution of both decoys and calls is described in detail and is accompanied by wonderfully evocative black and white photos from bygone eras. But it’s the modern colour photos, taken by the author, that really lift this publication to the greatest of heights. The photos display so aptly the craftmanship of many of this country’s most avid and skilful decoy carvers and call makers.

Girvan describes publisher Tim Birdsall’s huge collection as “… New Zealand’s unofficial national waterfowling museum …” And rightly so. If it were not for the likes of people like Birdsall, Jack Luttrell and many others, much of this country’s waterfowling memorabilia would probably have ended up as landfill. By valuing and treasuring these items, an important slice of our hunting heritage has been preserved.

The aforementioned photographs depict the painstaking work of some very clever people. The attention to detail in the works of Brad Parkes, Neil Brown, Allan Grayburn and Gary Girvan himself, for example, is simply astonishing and an inspiration for others to follow.

Readers with any interest in the history of our sport will marvel at the early decoys – often simple but ingenious and highly effective.

Duck calls came on the scene relatively recently as the somewhat naïve native grey duck was often fooled by decoys alone, but with the arrival of the wily mallard came a need to entice these much cagier birds into range. Goose calls are a relatively recent addition to the hunter’s equipment and have now become an essential accessory in many parts of the country.

Alan Hammond is one who has turned his passion for duck and goose hunting into a livelihood, and he heads the list of commercial manufacturers; the wonderful tone and volume of his calls make them perfect for our conditions. But the book celebrates the hobby call maker too – people like the ingenious Graham McIntyre, Allan Grayburn and Huia Prince, all of whom use many different materials in their calls.

Aspiring decoy and call makers will find much to enthuse over in the pages of this remarkable publication – so too will collectors, hunters and armchair hunters. This book is the culmination of a lifelong passion for guns, dogs, decoys, calls and everything pertaining to waterfowling.

By Gary Girvan

Available from Tim Birdsall, birdsall@callplus.net.nz

RRP $85 + P&P

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