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Bill's Blog

Bill McLeod is our branch Patron with years of hunting and shooting experience, including representing some of the biggest firearms manufacturers in the business.  During his career he has come across almost every kind of problem a shooter can have.  In the series of posts below he offers some insights, comments and advice to shooters and hunters.

Thanks Bill.

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  • 08/08/2022 9:58 AM | Bob McMillan (Administrator)

    While still in my teen years, I used to compete against a cobber called Murray Potter. He was a nationally ranked smallbore shooter and was a first class shot. He had an Anschutz 22 magnum which he used on some farms on Waiheke Island. His tales of the effectiveness of the magnum on rabbits really caught my interest. Best thing since sliced bread, he reckoned.

    My first chance to use the magnum was when I was working for Forest Service in Hokitika. Part of the possum control operation involved night shooting on the current years pine plantings. The possums would devour the fresh planted seedlings. The night shooting had a couple of objectives. First was the immediate relief from possum damage while the second was to establish possum densities to justify further work. When all the protection forestry workers were in the hills I would be the third man on the spotlighting team. The rifle of choice was an Anschutz 22 magnum. We sometimes used a 222, the cost of ammo was an insignificant part  of the whole operation. While doing the shooting myself and watching others, I was seriously impressed with the performance of the Anschutz.

    The next time I used the magnum was again on the West Coast , this time in Westport. The two pest board staff would get me to accompany them on night shooting possum control operations. Again, the rifle of choice was an Anschutz 22 magnum. The rifle was excellent for night shooting possums. As Mickey and Dalk had a side hustle going involving skinning the possums, everything had to be head shot. No misses were acceptable. Interestingly, whenever they had spotted a deer during their regular work, Mickey would ensure that I went with them the next night and I was to bring my 270 as well. We got a lot of possums and quite a few deer.

    The magnum was both accurate and effective.

    Working in the King country on goats showed me one of the shortcomings of the magnum. A young bloke turned up to work with us, a “good keen man”. He was useless as tits on a bull and his rifle was worse. It was an inexpensive Philipino 22 mag which was hopelessly inaccurate. The bore was heavily rust pitted and the rifle couldn’t reliably hit a cardboard box at fifty yards. The 22 magnum has a jacketed bullet which does not coat the bore with wax as a regular 22 does. The magnum needs cleaning every time you use it. A lot of the magnums I examined while in the gun shop had rust pitted bores. We lent the bloke a regular 22. He didn’t last long on the job. 

    Eventually, I got my own 22 magnum, a Sako Quad. It turned out to be a very accurate and useful rifle. Living in Auckland limited my range of target species. I used it mainly on rabbits, hares, turkeys and peacocks. The peacocks were a bit different to hunt. On a couple of occasions I had made a good hit only to have the bird fly off. About a hundred yards from where they took off from they died in mid air and crashed to the ground. The Quad had a 17HMR barrel with it but I came to favour the 22 magnum over the 17 for the bigger critters I was chasing. It may have been just an impression but I gained a lot of confidence using the 22 magnum barrel. I didn’t use the magnum on bigger animals, goats and pigs, but a couple of professional hunting mates used it and were very impressed. I hold the 22 magnum in very high regard. Murray was right.

  • 24/07/2022 6:57 AM | Bob McMillan (Administrator)

    We knew that we would have to learn to hunt somehow. Barry Crump’s Good Keen Man gave me the inspiration but it was a long way from sparrows in the back yard to climbing mountains after deer. I was so lucky that my Uncle and Auntie had a hundred acre dairy farm at Woodhill, just around the corner from the Woodhill Store. I would wait in anticipation when the school holidays were approaching for the invitation to stay on the farm. Dad’s sister would invite me. You beaut.  And there were rabbits. We got possums up the Macrocarpa shelter belts but that wasn’t the biggest challenge.

    Rabbits were a more difficult proposition. Get it wrong and they would run away. After milking I would make for some areas where I had seen rabbits or burrows. A careful plan had to be made to keep out of sight of where they were likely to be, then a cautious  peek out from behind cover. The open sights on the 22 were not considered a drawback, there were almost no telescopic sights then. So there was the aspiring deer hunter, sneaking up on rabbits, trying his best to keep the rifle steady to take home a rabbit for the farm cats.

    I was to have a lot of fun with rabbits in later years. Working for the Hauraki Gulf Maritime Park Board based on Motutapu Island I was tasked with supplying two Kleensacks full of rabbits on a Friday when the park boat took the workers back to Devonport. The rabbits were distributed to pensioners by the then assistant chief ranger. I would go over to Browns Island where the rabbits were truly out of control. It would take me about an hour to fill the sacks with rabbits, all head shots. The little Brno with a scope did great work. Then there was a resident population on Motutapu. They were on the list.  Came home for lunch one day and noticed my rifle leaning in the corner of the room where Jeanette did the ironing. She said go and have a look in the vege garden I had put in. In among the carrots, one dead rabbit. Well done, Nette.

    Some years later while working on te Paki I had an opportunity to do more rabbit work. While the rabbits were no imminent threat to the viability of the farm it was worthwhile having a look occasionally while surveying for possums. Some of my cobbers in the pistol club were very happy with the results they were getting with their semi auto 22s and they weren’t shy about telling me.  No one should have to put up with too much bullshit so I’d invite them to shoot with me. Jeanette would drive  my Landrover and the victim and I would take turns shooting and spotlighting. The rules were you were to get ten shots, if you missed you were on the light  till either I missed or had ten hits out of ten. We soon had to reduce the hit count to five because no one, even with their super dooper semis, even got five without a miss. With the Brno most of the sets of ten were completed.

    Then we had some real rabbit adventure. The Great Easter Bunny hunt in Alexandra. Got to the venue and met some of the awesome folk who lived there. Daylight hunting at first sneaking along in an extended line chasing the rabbits round the Matagauri bushes with shotguns. Then the real work of the weekend. The locals provided our team of four with a Hilux and turned us loose on a big farm. I soon figured out that no one on our team had any experience driving a four wheel vehicle off road, let alone at night. There was no other choice, I had to do the driving. Put the best of my troops on the spotlight with clear instructions on what I wanted him to do. Just use the light like a paintbrush to sweep over all the ground then jump back onto a set of eyes that were within range. He got onto that concept pretty quick but then another problem arose. The shooters couldn’t hit anything. The two shooters were very experienced hunters but they could not shoot under these circumstances. I tried swapping the bloke on the light for a shooter but this wasn’t any more successful. This didn’t stop everyone enjoying themselves. Finally it started to snow, so thankfully we packed it in for the night and went back to the woodshed about midnight. We’d just got in when someone asked if we had left a gate open down on the main road. A mob of sheep had got onto the highway and a local had crashed into the mob with numerous casualties. As we were from Auckland,  we were immediately suspect but we managed to convince them we were nowhere near the massacre site. About three in the morning a local team headed out and I asked if I could join them. They were a very efficient team, their driver could drive , their spot lighter knew his job and their shooters could hit the rabbits. My job was gate opener.  All this work was with shotguns.

    The next year our team did about the same but knocked off even earlier. One real top local said him and I should go out together in his cut down Nissan. We used 22s. It was a pleasure to accompany a skilled bloke. We shot mainly hares on this farm, just the way it went. His unsilenced high velocity combination was noticeably more effective than my silenced subsonic combination. Took turns with the light and the gun, the driver doing the spotlighting. Night shooting has its own challenges.

  • 13/06/2022 9:14 AM | Bob McMillan (Administrator)

    Things have changed. As kids heading off into the bush we knew we had to take a torch as part of our gear. We thought they had to be  powerful so we chose 2 cell D size eveready. They worked fine. The most absurd incident I recall of this era was when a would-be hunter turned up at Ngahirimai with a 6D maglite intending to hunt at night along the Whakatane flats therefore eliminating all the hard work of hunting through the bush. His scheme was dismally ineffective so he didn’t last long. Then we found that 2 C plastic torches worked just as well.

    While guiding people through the remote Nile River caves for the department over the Christmas period I found that the 2 C torches were all I needed. We got along fine with these torches for camp use  and the occasional trip back to camp after waiting for a deer to come out onto a remote clearing.  Then came the major advance. We were very familiar with the rabbit board 6 volt head mounted spotlights which we used for possum and rabbit jobs but they were not used in the deep bush. I recall my first headlight, a Petzal, which a cobber gave me at a shooting competition, he said all the mountain climbers used them for night ascents. It was brilliant.

    Then came a succession of single AA or double AAA headlamps which worked in all the scenarios we put them in. Very easy to travel along tracks at night and useful when cooking at night. This sort of light was a key in one of the finest examples of bushcraft that I’ve seen. Ian, Simon , Jim and I were hunting in the Mangaturutu. Ian and Simon had headed down to the Mohaka to try for a fish. Jim headed upstream then cut South. I decided to try a long leading ridge heading back south of where Ian and Simon were, it was a dismal hard day of crashing through thick Manuka but I finally arrived at the Mohaka with a bit of light to spare. It started to pour with rain and I was a sorry hunter who got back to the camp well after dark. I was the first one back so got the fire going and got out of my wet clothes. Maybe an hour later saw the two headlamps of Ian and Simon bobbing back to camp, they were soaked. They stood in front of the fire for a moment. No Jim. Then we heard a shot. We all got the direction of the shot. He must be up in the saddle of the Mangaturutu and the Mangatainoka. I don’t know the exact distance to where we knew the shot had come from but the trip involved heading upriver to where there was a change in vegetation from Manuka to beech then a climb up through the beech to the saddle area. Ian and Simon said to me as you are changed and dry I should stay in camp and keep a good fire going. With that they headed out into untracked bush in the pitch black in the pouring rain with their headlamps lighting their way to see if they could locate Jim. I just don’t know how long it was till I saw their lights appear. They had Jim in tow. He said he’d dropped into the Mangatainoka by mistake then made his way up into the saddle where he ran out of light. He crouched under a leaning tree to get some shelter from the rain and eventually fired a shot to let us know where he was.I was so thankful. We got everyone changed and got the big feed I’d prepared into them. We were picked up the next day in the chopper. About a week later Jim had a major heart attack coming out of the bush in the Hunuas. So pleased he recovered but even more pleased it hadn’t happened while we were in the Mangaturutu. 

    The headlamp is now one of the essential items both for hunting and tramping. The huts along the Heaphy Track were alive with headlamps at dinner preparation time. My daughter showed me a new to me trick with the headlamps the other day when we were taking her Labrador for an early morning walk. She had a light shining at waist level which gave good illumination of the track we were on. I wondered how she clipped it on. She showed me that by extending the band of her headlamp she could put it round her waist thus giving good light. I tried it, it works. A headlamp is an essential piece of kit and the ones we have now are excellent.

  • 13/06/2022 9:13 AM | Bob McMillan (Administrator)

    Beware of the man with one gun, he may know how to use it.

    I was sitting in the maimai on duckshooting day when this old aphorism sprang to mind. I thought I would look pretty silly sitting there with my old 222 trying to hit ducks. So in the maimai I really needed a shotgun and the skill to use it. What shotgun? As a youngster I was shooting a lot of clay targets with some degree of success using a Miroku 800W trap gun. Took it into the maimai and had a dismal result. Too long, too heavy and too heavily choked. The next year used a skeet gun with great results. Where I was sitting on this duckshooting morning a skeet gun would have been of limited value as the shots were full range and the full choke was more appropriate. Clearly one gun would not cut it. 

    The same applies to rifles. The most versatile rifle I have, my 222 would be totally inappropriate when I was shooting rabbits and possums in the paddocks adjacent the Auckland International Airport or when I was shooting wild bulls in the Puketi. So where does the advice Beware of the man with one gun fit in. I think the second part of the advice is where the gold lies. He may know how to use it. It’s pretty simple. The more shooting you do, the better you will become. Shooting is a learned activity. Shooting skills are transferable. Skeet shooting is great practice for duckshooting, trap shooting is great practice for pheasant hunting. Air rifles, 22s and competitive shooting are all valid practice for hunting marksmanship. The concept that a person can be familiar with only one gun is wrong. The other problem with the advice is that some of us would be bored spitless with only one gun. 

  • 29/04/2022 1:29 PM | Bob McMillan (Administrator)

    Bill’s given me the OK to post this article on his blog site.

      Magazine Capacity

    These days “wading into a mob of deer” happens only in stock yards or in your dreams.

    Hunting rifles don’t need large magazine capacity.  Whenever I meet another hunter sporting a 10-round box magazine on their rifle I wonder if they are either a piss-poor shot, dreaming, hunting possums, or all three.

    Deerstalking is an aesthetic and ethical sport these days, requiring due consideration for the environment, the animal, and other hunters.  Excess magazine capacity “might” promote poor ethics, poor shooting and a lack of self-discipline.  Remember, I said “might”.

    If missed or wounded, deer generally run away.  Shooting at a running deer is frowned upon, unless you are an expert shot or a culler, the latter being both (or they get sacked).  Missing with 10 rounds is the same as missing with 3 rounds, only more expensive.

    Back to magazine capacity.  Three or four round magazines are common today on hunting rifles.  That’s enough!  If you need more, take up pistol shooting.

  • 19/04/2022 8:06 AM | Bob McMillan (Administrator)

    How far is too far?. Your hunting ground often determines the number of opportunities you have at varying distances to take a shot at your animal. It’s fair to say that the bush clad Urewera will offer more close range shots than the tussocklands of the Kaimanawas or Kawekas. However I’ve had very close shots in the tussock and very long shots in the Urewera. If a high proportion of your opportunities are at long range it makes sense to have a rifle capable of handling these chances. 

    I can think of a number of factors which could limit your ability to make a vital hit on an animal at long range. Correct zero of your rifle is an important basic. I’ve found that a 200 metre zero works best for me. Trajectory of the bullet needs proper calculation. Fortunately, pocket rangefinders have greatly simplified sorting out this problem. Knowing the correct range you can apply corrections to compensate for bullet drop. Adjusting your scope, using a range graduated reticle, or calculating the required drop compensation then holding over the right amount are all valid techniques. Then there is the big stumbling block -  wind drift. Experienced NRA shooters are magicians at evaluating wind drift out to very long ranges but they have factors which help them. Generally, their terrain is flat and level and they place wind flags along the range to help them sort out wind speed and direction. They will use tables to calculate wind drift. The hunter doesn’t have these aids. 

    In conversation with an American soldier one day it turned out he was an instructor assisting NZ forces on long range shooting. I said that as a working hunter I tried not to shoot from too far away. If I was in a situation where it was appropriate and there was no other sensible option, I would select a rock face or a clay bank at the same distance as the animals and take shots until I could see how far the bullets were falling and wind was drifting them. I would then apply these compensations when trying for my targets. He said why did I think there were so many bullet holes in the walls of buildings in Afghanistan. Funny how riflemen with completely different purposes would come up with the same answers.

    Stability of the firing platform is important. It is no wonder that the military shooters use a bipod for most of their shooting. I find it much more convenient to use my backpack as a rest for long attempts. I like to cover a lot of country while hunting so I don’t enjoy carrying excess weight so the bipod is out for me. This eliminates the under recognised problem of inconsistent zeros when shooting off a bipod.

    In fairness to the animal it is sensible to wait till you can see a significant amount of vital area before you attempt a shot. If you can’t see the whole shoulder, heart and lung area from the side on position you should seriously ask yourself is it worth it.

    Bullet performance at the target is often under considered.  Conventional wisdom is that when bullets don’t expand they become useless. The first time I encountered this was when shooting at a clay bank a long way away in the Kaimais. My 308 was hand loaded with killer-diller bullets. Checked the target zone and found the bullet strikes. Being curious I excavated the bullets from the hard clay bank. They were completely undeformed, just the rifling marks on them. I have examined the bullet recovered from a fallow shot at normal range. The bullet struck the front end and was located in the hind leg. The 243 100 grain bullet was un deformed. The deer still died. I have used solid projectiles , 250 grain 35 Whelens, on wild sheep and cattle on the Chathams. They worked fine. I note that some of the old African hunters would use nothing but solids for all their game so I take the tales of failure to expand with a grain of salt.

    All this long-winded discussion done with, what is long range? I think that most animals within 100 metres of most hunters are in real trouble. Good numbers of riflemen are capable of hitting animals at 200 metres. 300 is getting to be a really long shot and few marksmen have the skills to hit them consistently and vitally much further than that. At about 500 metres, bullets from most hunting rifles are marginal in expansion (and energy – ed). I know that there will be plenty of tales about the long shots the story teller has made. These stories often don’t reflect humane consideration for the animal. While it is a real buzz to be successful in a long attempt, the chance of wounding rather than killing goes up as the range increases. The north island deer guides I have hunted with used tracking dogs to recover deer wounded at long range. I would prefer to make every effort to avoid wounding animals.

  • 04/04/2022 6:53 PM | Bob McMillan (Administrator)

    I still remember getting my first rifle.

    I was eight years old. It was in my Christmas stocking. Poked out quite a long way. The rifle came with a full set of instructions from my Dad who had been an instructor in the army, when I could use it, where I could use it, who could be there when I used it, all the safe handling rules and the requirement that no one steps in front of the gun. Dad set me the task of keeping the local population of introduced birds under control, he felt that they competed with native birds for food and nesting space. I was never to shoot a native bird. The rifle was a BSA Cadet Major in 177. I still have it and it will go to one of my grandsons. I learned marksmanship with that rifle. My dad saw that while I was left handed I was right eyed so I was taught to shoot right handed. I was taught the proper shooting positions, prone unsupported, sitting, kneeling and standing. I seriously enjoyed getting better at shooting and testing my ability against sparrows and mynah birds. Our home section of one and a half acres in Northcote was large enough that I did not have to look elsewhere for places to shoot. We used to shoot possums which had trapped themselves in the chookfeed bins, head shots worked fine. 

    High school was the time for the 22 at my uncle's farm at Woodhill. Then onto high powers and competition shooting. I used a Webley Senior 177 air pistol to dispatch possums caught in the live capture wallaby traps but was unimpressed with the results.  I hadn’t used a slug gun for literally years when I had to evaluate an air rifle the company had sold for possible faults. The rifle was purported to be a thousand feet per second power but as it was a 22 it didn’t go that fast. Alan and I took two of these rifles to a vineyard next to Auckland International Airport where we did bird control shooting. We engaged a number of possums one night with a number of escapees and one confirmed casualty. The last possum I tried was up the top of a big gum tree. Easily seen in the spotlight. Numerous shots at the head produced no result. I thought I must be missing so shot at leaves close to the possums head. I could see the holes in the leaves so that wasn’t the problem. Eventually the possum got sick of this and made his way down the tree with me still taking shots. He got to the lower trunk and kept coming down. Alan yelled out “Watch out , he’s charging.” The possum hit the base of the tree then bolted between us up the race and disappeared under the calf feeders with me still taking shots. Never did find him. Totally unimpressed with air rifles on possums. 

    I bought a nice Diana 34 and used it a little bit at work to evaluate pellets which the company considered stocking. Got a call from a scientist who l used to work with asking me if an air rifle would be effective in mopping up mynah birds following a poison operation. He was costing a proposal to eliminate a flock of mynahs in the main port of Kiribati for the UN and would I do the shooting. I thought I had better upskill my self so I joined the North Harbour Air Rifle Club shooting at Wainoni Park. Talk about an education. These guys were experts with air rifles. Some were well ranked in world competitions. My interest was in learning what could be done with a conventional spring powered air rifle as this was the simplest type which would be appropriate for use on the island. I finished up with a further three Weihrauch rifles, a 95 , a 50 and a 30 all properly scoped. They represented different power levels. By actual test the power of the 95 was about 14 pounds, the 50 was about 12, and the 30 was about 7. I learned about artillery hold, using mil dots to accommodate different ranges and  variability of pellets. I learned to hit the metal silhouettes at ranges up to fifty yards. I found that the air rifles were very sensitive to mistakes in your technique, what could be an OK shot with a 22 would be a dismal miss with the air rifle. I found that the advice frequently given that you should test your rifle with different pellets was only partially true, the aces consistently chose JSB pellets and set about winning. Some used others but mostly JSBs. The  blokes I shot with were super helpful, knowledgeable and skilled and I thoroughly enjoyed their company. Some didn’t even mind me calling them slug guns instead of air rifles.  Never heard back from Dave about Kiribati, guess the project didn’t make the cut.

  • 01/03/2022 10:43 AM | Bob McMillan (Administrator)

    It's on the deck. You’ve been successful. After congratulating yourself and unloading your rifle, take a good spell to enjoy the moment. The next priority is to decide how much of the carcass you will retrieve. This may vary between the whole animal or nothing depending on circumstances. If it’s a reasonable distance to your car or quad, you may decide on taking the whole carcass. Normally I would start by “ringing the deer”. Use your knife to cut around the anus and rectum as far into the pelvic girdle as possible without puncturing anything messy. Then  start your gutting cut at the sternum taking a cut through the skin first,  then carefully slice the abdominal wall till the inner cavity is reached. At this stage face the cutting edge of the knife outwards , place the edge between two fingers and gently slide the blade cutting the wall using your fingers to prevent the blade piercing the gut bag. Work your cut from the sternum to the anus.

    Then I will position the carcass so gravity helps dropping the gut bag out. I will remove all the insides, reach down to grab the rectum as close to the anus as you can to minimise droppings contaminating the cavity. I then like to cut around the diaphragm to give access to the heart and lungs. Make a cut from the brisket to the throat to free the windpipe. Cut this free then remove the heart and lungs. Cut through the neck at the atlas axis joint to remove the head.

    At this stage I like to prop the gutted carcass open for a while to help with heat dissipation. Pop it on your mates back and struggle back to the vehicle. Cooling the meat as quickly as you can is vital.

    I never carried out this procedure while I was working. I only carried back to camp the amount of venison we needed as camp meat. There was no point in carrying skin or bone anywhere. While I was working in the Kaimais my cobber Steve said let’s go to Stewart Island and try meat hunting. I looked at his robust build, looked at my skinny frame, and said “ I’m a racehorse, not a packhorse, you go for it. “ When we next caught up we compared how much we’d earned. I had earned the same as he had; and I just had to carry tails. 

    For camp supply meat I would position the deer on its side then lift up a hind leg. Make your cut in the groin area working toward the hip joint. A bit of careful cutting will free up this joint then slice along the pelvis to the tail. This will free up a whole back leg. Poke a hole through the hamstring then hang the leg in a tree. Do the same to the other leg. Now with the carcass belly down, slice through the skin right up the backbone and peel the skin away from the back steaks. Slice the steak along the spine then slice the muscle away from the spine and ribs. I would normally take both steaks. Depending on the location of the kill and the likelihood of being able to return to the site which wasn’t very often I would either hang the steaks on a tree or string them from my belt and continue hunting. This enabled the meat to cool. The plan was if we ran out of backsteak at camp we would return to the last leg for meat. I don’t recall ever having to go back for leg meat.

    I’ve used variations on this theme depending on circumstances. I don’t like carrying bones and skin, you can’t eat them. A reasonable way to carry both hind legs out is to cut each leg through the hip joints but leave a band of skin from across the back to keep them in one package. You can drape them over your shoulders to carry them out. I would normally prefer to skin out the legs, separate the bone out and carry them in a day pack. In this circumstance I like to place the butchered legs and steaks into the coolest spot I can find for as long as I can before carrying them out. The modern fly proof meatbags are invaluable for keeping flies off the meat. We used pepper liberally sprinkled on the cut surfaces but even then the flies could blow the meat making it inedible. A lock blade pocket knife can make all the cuts you need in the bush , I used an 80mm long EKA most of the time. Just keep it sharp, don’t cut bone and cut skin from the inside out. 

    Venison was our main protein supply while we were working so I’ve eaten a lot of it. About two out of ten deer tasted really good and I wondered why I disliked venison so much. About two out of the ten were edible but the remainder were awful. I politely decline now when someone offers me venison. I found that fat young stags were the best eating, the best venny I’ve ever had was from a couple of fat spikers I shot in Blackbridge Road , Silverdale. They were better than some beef.

  • 01/03/2022 10:40 AM | Bob McMillan (Administrator)

    I joined the North Auckland branch of NZDeerstalkers Association as a youngster. Enjoyed the range shooting at Coatsville, the meetings in the Riverhead hall, and the party hunts. Then the breakthrough. The club was invited to do wallaby control work on Kawau island. A group of about eight shooters would travel by charter boat from Sandspit to Bon Accord harbour for the weekend. The wallabies, mainly parma or dama, would be found in sparse undergrowth under the high manuka and kanuka canopy. Hunting them was by sneaking quietly through the bush or sometimes along bulldozed tracks. Shotguns only were permitted, we found shot size 2 or 3 was most effective. Most shots were around 25 to 30 yards, 40 yards was becoming really marginal. I found it was worthwhile carrying a fly camp over to the east coast where there were more open clearings among the tea tree. We only hunted in daylight hours.

    I got a job as foreman for the Hauraki Gulf Maritime Board on Motutapu Island. Did some live trapping of wallabies for an exporter of live wallabies. He wasn’t allowed on the island so the board asked me to do the live capture.  Then he would pick them up on his boat. Also had to shoot them on Motutapu, mainly used my 222. Then had to do some covert “lawnmower” control shooting on Mansion house lawn. Spotlight and 22. Had a real lesson on safe backgrounds one night. Got thoroughly familiar with the grounds during my normal day job so had fields of fire sorted for night shooting. Shot one toward the end of a significant hedge. Then thought I wonder. Went around the other side of the hedge to where the islands phone building was located. Searched the wall facing the hedge and found the 22 bullet lodged in one of the weather boards at about ankle height. It had gone through the wallaby, through the hedge and buried flush with the surface of the board. It’s probably still there.

    Saw a heap of dama wallabies at Lake Okataina while staying there for Department training courses but, while it was permissible, I had no great desire to shoot any. 

    Arnold, Terry, Max and I formed a team and entered the Great Easter Bunny hunt at Alexandra. Had a great time, met some really nice locals, and shot a lot of rabbits. Terry’s nephew arranged permission to hunt on a property at Hakataramea for wallabies on the way home. What a blast. We lined up in the approved wallaby drive line and started walking through the tussock. Most of the drivers had rifles which I thought a bit odd but the locals didn’t bat an eye. A few wallabies fled in front of the line followed by a few bullets. No casualties. One came bouncing out in front of me and headed directly away from me. There was no one in front of me so I took a shot. Bowled it in mid bounce. Talk about delighted. The 223 bolt gun worked fine. There were not too many more in that particular drive so the local organizer assigned a couple of us to snipe a long gully. Got some then the real fun started. Found a patch of matagouri with a heap of wallabies in it. A driver or two worked their way down one ridge which forced some animals to bolt out near the bottom. I stationed myself to cover the escape route but not endanger the drivers. It was running shooting at its best. Not every shot connected of course but a good number did and the results were spectacular. A brilliant afternoon.

    The next try was on our way back from thar hunting near Mount Cook. Andy, Ian and I had been very successful on the thar so we drove to Burkes Pass, then over the Hakataramea Pass to an area of DoC land near the top of the Hakataramea. Crossed the river then hunted near the boundary of the station. Saw a number of wallabies bouncing around in front of us. I was lagging well behind when l got my first chance. Standing in thick matagouri with no chance of a rest with the wallaby crouching under the scrub near a little watercourse about 150 yards away. All you can do is try your best. The shot looked good so I went for a look. Delighted to find the wallaby. The next chance I got was at a wallaby bouncing down a spur. Didn’t even look like hitting it. The 270 magnum wasn’t as user friendly as the 223 for this kind of work. I separated from Andy and Ian and got several more chances. The animals were all at long ranges but standing still. Because of the thick scrub I had to take most shots from the standing position so full concentration was necessary to get hits but Bennetts are a pretty large wallaby.  Each hit was a real achievement. Re-joined Andy and Ian. We were making our way out when a wallaby bounced out in front of us. We watched it as it scooted across the next gully face. We saw it stop in the little track it was using. Ian said he would give it a go. At a significant distance and from the standing unsupported position with his 708. At the shot the wallaby disappeared. Ian said he thought he’d got it. He was so convinced he went to check. It was a long way for him to scramble over to it. We could see the happiness on his face when he held it up. Mission accomplished.

  • 29/01/2022 5:08 PM | Bob McMillan (Administrator)

    As kids we were taught to carry our hunting rifles in a state of semi readiness. All photos of hunters showed them carrying their rifle in two hands, at waist level and pointing firmly forward. We were exhorted never to rely on our safety catch, use a half open bolt. I followed these dictates for the most part until I started doing a lot of hunting.

    I found that carrying a rifle in two hands at waist level was feasible only for relatively short periods of time. Muscles need changes of position for comfort. Hanging a heavy rifle from both your arms was very uncomfortable after a while. I decided that the most comfortable place to carry a rifle for long periods was slung over your shoulder. I guiltily carried my rifle for some time until it became the natural place for the rifle and then I stopped feeling guilty. The next problem was using the half open bolt. Close the bolt on a cartridge but leave the handle in what’s now called the half bolt position, most of the way up. I left a trail of live ammo around the Urewera country. Bushes would leap out and snag the bolt handle and yank it open. Got so sick of that nonsense. What to do? I reasoned that when I was pheasant hunting I would carry my SKB Royal Light with the safety catch engaged waiting for my English Setter to find me a rooster. If it was fine in that situation, why not when deer hunting. I guiltily carried my rifle like that until  it felt so natural that I gave up feeling guilty.

    So for most of my hunting I now carry my rifle slung on my right shoulder with a cartridge in the chamber and the safety catch engaged. Muzzle pointed straight up. I use my right hand to trap the sling or the stock against my body. I can always feel where the rifle is pointing. When I see a deer,  I slowly move my left hand across the front of my body to grasp the forend, ease the sling off my shoulder and grasp the pistol grip in my right hand as I raise the rifle to my shoulder. I will release the safety as the butt nears my shoulder. All this is accomplished without excessive movement,  especially movement not shielded by your body. As this movement is now so natural, I almost never hold my rifle out in front of me while searching for a deer.  

    There are circumstances where I will change this carry method. I like to keep full control of my rifle at all times. If I have to use two hands to overcome some obstacle, a steep cliff, a river crossing, a slippery face, I will stop, remove the cartridge from the chamber, push it into the magazine, close the bolt and sling the rifle across my back. I can then use both hands to accomplish the task. I keep the sling tensioned to where the rifle is firmly jammed when slung across my back so it doesn’t flop around and then it is the correct distance from my shoulder when hunting carrying from my right shoulder.

    I must state that I use this method because I almost invariably hunt by myself. If I am with another hunter, I am never going to shoot a deer. He can have the deer. There is always only one hunter. It’s like game fishing, it’s your turn in the chair. Anyone following the hunter should never have a cartridge in the chamber. It’s fine to have them in the magazine. If, as the hunter you hear the cycling of a bolt behind you, never hunt with that person again. For some hunting I even prefer not to carry a rifle. Particularly when tahr hunting, I’ve found that one rifle between two hunters is plenty, anything to lighten the load. When hunting with my nephews, they carry the rifles. Sometimes they have insisted that I shoot one so I have used their rifles. Works fine.

    I won’t quibble if a hunter wants to use his half bolt system, if he’s happy with it, more power to him. Or even the bloke who won’t put a cartridge in the chamber till the deer is right in front of him. I’m happy as long as he understands the cardinal rule. Never point any gun, loaded or otherwise at me or anyone else.

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