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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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  • 14/05/2023 4:00 PM | Bob McMillan (Administrator)

    Had a conversation with a senior member of the club the other day, he mentioned the challenges of hunting by yourself. I have long preferred to hunt by myself. I had to think about why that was. 

    As a youngster with my first air rifle, I was tasked by my father with shooting introduced birds on our property. He felt that the introduced birds competed with native birds for food and nesting space. After school I would take my rifle and hunt these birds. My brothers were not interested in hunting so I was always by myself. I guess that,  having six kids, my mother thought it good that one at least could occupy themselves happily. When I went to stay with my uncle and aunt I was hard out keen to go hunting. My cousin Diane came hunting with me once or twice, cousin Robert was totally disinterested in hunting. After milking I would take the farm dog and spend the day hunting rabbits and possums. By myself.

    On my first deer hunting trip into the Urewera on a club party hunt, I hunted with two other “experienced” hunters who were just a bit older than me. On the second day I climbed to the summit of Mount Tarawera by myself, saw two deer in the carpark and missed both of them. Then my first hunt into the Galatea faces,  staying on a farm. My mate didn’t want to leave the pasture. Acting on the farmers advice, I hunted up the Te Kopua stream intending to climb onto the ridge on the south side of the stream and return that night. I didn’t get that far because I shot my first deer up above the big falls toward the head of the stream. Happily carried out the hindquarters. The next day my older “experienced” mate came with me as we hunted the next stream north.

    On subsequent party hunts I was lucky in that some proper experienced hunters took me under their wing and taught me a lot about finding deer. Up on the Kaimanawa faces with Ray Ridgeway, into the Waipari with Sam Lowes, into the Waituhi with Gordon Ford, into the Ruakituri with Eddie Anderton, Clements Mill with Andre van Dreil. Sometimes hunting with my teacher but frequently by myself. Having someone competent in camp was important, giving me the confidence to explore new areas by myself. I found that,  because I was getting deer, new members wanted to accompany me on some of these hunts. That was fine, I enjoyed the company. Found that, after some time, I was taking some of the same teachers into country which was new to them, Ray into the Kakapotahi in South Westland, Sam into the Tauranga Taupo. 

     After some years of private hunting I got a job as a hunter for the Forest Service. This was a different sort of hunting. There was certainly a competitive spirit among the hunters. I think some of us wanted to be the top tally hunter, some,  I wondered what they were doing there. Virtually all our hunting was by yourself. It simply wasn’t efficient to hunt together. Later on , after my stints as a paid hunter, I enjoyed the company of very experienced hunters who I shared a lot of great adventures with. 

    How do you go about gaining the confidence and knowledge to hunt by yourself. I think it’s just like any other endeavour, start with baby steps and build up. Understand the basic skills necessary. Firelighting is an absolute must. Even if you use a cooker for all your meals and smokos,  the skill of lighting a fire gives you a confident mindset when in the bush. Map reading and navigation are, again,  vital skills. You will get lost, it’s not a big deal. Having a mental picture of the country you are going into helps immensely. By all means have a mate along with you when taking these baby steps but keep in mind that you may be the one that everyone depends on if things go wrong. Know how to bind up a bad cut or a broken bone. I find that, although I much prefer to hunt by myself, I like to have the company of another hunter when I get back to camp. Other hunters I know don’t mind protracted solo hunting expeditions, I think that the company of an experienced competent hunter gives an added measure of safety in your hunting. 

    Heed all the advice about checking weather conditions, letting people know of your intentions, being properly clothed and equipped for the conditions, it is important. 

    Then just do it. Challenge yourself. Give it a go, ya mug.

  • 15/04/2023 3:48 PM | Bob McMillan (Administrator)

    Search and rescue

    There was a mention in the paper the other day about two kids lost in the Raukumaras while hunting. They were found the next morning. This brief report did not detail the skills and contributions of the volunteer teams. It brought an earlier incident to mind.

    We got a call late one night that there was a kid missing up on the Denniston Plateau. He and his cousin  had gone for a walk along the edge of the escarpment intending to go as far as a coaling incline at the southern edge of the plateau. The younger cousin turned back while the older kid kept going. The older kid had got back to their accommodation with no sign of the youngster. To complicate matters the younger kid was deaf. There were quite a number of Search and Rescue volunteers at the appointed start point at first light the next morning.

    Jimmy Lawton, the supervisor at the railway workshops,  was the search controller for Westport. He was locally famous for having won a national arm wrestling competition. The final was held at the Glue Pot pub in Auckland. At the meeting point Jimmy selected team leaders, of which I was one, then assigned people to each team. I started to get concerned about the quality of staff assigned to my team. I got only the best, two outdoor education teachers from Buller High School who were outstandingly capable, a seriously skilled climber, and another of equal ability. I jokingly said to Jimmy how come I’m getting all the best staff. He said wait till you see your assignment. He dispatched teams to the various start points leaving just us. I looked around at  the possibilities he had covered then looked up from where we were. I have to say my heart sank when I looked up from our location. No, surely not. He said “yep, straight up”. A series of waterfalls came off the plateau descending what looked like vertically to where we were. The vertical height was about 400 metres. Jimmy said the kid was last seen near the top of the falls and there was a chance he had fallen. Our job was to check any places he could have fallen into. No wonder Jimmy had given me the best troops. The five of us set off to climb the face. The climbing was very demanding but we made progress. We had reached a spot not far away from the base of a waterfall but the ground between us and the base was very difficult. Geoff said he and Pete, the two teachers,  would make the climb across to check. They had just got back to report no sign when we got a radio message to say that one of the parties had found the kid walking out the way he had gone in. The absolute relief when you locate the missing party and they are well. We thankfully retraced our path back down the escarpment where we eventually met up with the other search parties. Without further ado we all went home to go about our regular work.

    Jimmy took pity on me on our next SAREX, he assigned me to the control room to learn a new set of skills.

  • 07/04/2023 7:53 PM | Bob McMillan (Administrator)

    Got a rifle in a trade the other day and couldn’t wait to try it. Dropped a cartridge onto the follower and tried to feed it into the chamber. Didn’t go. Not unusual. The nose of the bullet hit the rear face of the barrel.  Pushed the cartridge into the mag and it fed perfectly. Continued shooting using that method of feeding rounds. No issues then a click instead of a bang. Opened the bolt, no round in the chamber, the round was still in the mag. Racked the bolt. Found that you had to bump the bolt stop quite hard on the ejection stroke to get the bolt face to engage the round in the mag. No drama, there weren't hordes of  enemies assaulting my position. It led me to think of other instances where feeding or jams had been noticed. 

    When I went into the army to do national service I was issued a SLR. Great battle rifle, never jams was the official line. Our first instruction was on how to clear jams. I can’t think of  all the acronyms, just remembered Cock, Hook, and Look. They did jam. I’ve heard the claims that the  good old Lee Enfield never jams. Mine did. Mainly my loading errors but the rifle was still jammed. At a recent military rifle shoot at our range there were a number of jams and miss feeds, it happened. 

    My working rifles were very reliable, I don’t recall any particular instances when they caused me grief. Some of my other rifles have. Feed from the mag in some of my bolt action 22s was an issue. In the early days semi auto 22s were very prone to jamming. When we got the 10/22 it was a revelation on how reliable a semi could be. Even they could have jams. A carboned up magazine was normally the issue. Gary McColl showed me how to clean them. When my cousin said his trusty Ruger needed replacing I cleaned his magazines. 

    My superbly accurate Remington 223 which I used for competition used to jam. I mentioned it to Gary, he said you don’t know what you are talking about. He took the mag spring out of the rifle, held it behind his back, did something, then reinstalled it into the rifle. Told me to show him how it jammed. It didn’t. Gary said he had processed a heap of Remington police rifles to correct feeding issues. Was there a particular fix? He said he had to check each rifle to determine what the particular issue was then repair it. He was kind enough to show me a lot of the fixes. 

    Another of our gunsmiths told me 700 bucks to re-barrel a rifle, 7,000 bucks to make it feed. My lovely Sako 300 WSM fed beautifully. I loaded up some 220 grain rounds for it, no way they would feed. The big round nosed bullet would pivot the rear of the case down and the bolt would ride over the cartridge every time. Fixed it by seating the bullets deep enough to stop the problem.

    Rifles will jam. It is frequently an operator issue but it can be a rifle issue. Some rifles are more prone to jamming than others. A careful examination of how the miss-feed or jam occurred will normally indicate a possible fix. Correct loading of the magazine helps. Pulling the bolt completely to the rear on the ejection stroke helps. Short stroking is not unheard of. Sort it out before your big hunting trip. If all else fails, a competent gunsmith can sort out a lot of problems. 

  • 20/03/2023 10:13 AM | Bob McMillan (Administrator)

    You’ve sneaked around stealthily like a ninja warrior and finally found a deer. Made the shot. Now what? Difficult as it may seem, take a moment to check some things. If you can, take a mental photo of what your sight picture was when you released the shot. On your first few deer you may well ask yourself, what shot? The intensity of the moment may be overwhelming. I find that having that clear mental picture of what the shot looks like helps in determining subsequent actions. One particular time springs to mind. A shot at the head of a wild bull didn’t look right. The bull disappeared but my mental picture was wrong. I was too scared to go straight to the bull. Just as well. As it turned out the bull was only stunned. This mental picture should include the part of the animals body where the crossfire was when the shot was released. This determines the likely distance the animal may travel after being hit.

    Have a think, did I hear the whack of a bullet striking the animal. Sometimes the strike is clearly audible, a good indication of a hit. I’ve found that a number of factors can prevent you hearing the strike. The blast reflected off a nearby tree may be the dominant audible result. I think my advancing industrial deafness may be relevant.

    Have a think about what you heard after your shot which may give an indication of the deer's direction of travel. Any crashing, hoof sounds?

    No big deal if you don’t have that image or sound in your mind, you still have to go through the checklist to locate your deer. Check exactly where you are when you fired the shot. Next to that whiteywood, near that big rimu. If there’s nothing that distinctive in the vicinity I will scrape the heel of my boot on the ground, just to leave a start point for any search in case you have difficulty locating the deer. Then carefully note the location of the animal when you fired at it. It is important to start the search in the right place.

    If my shot was placed in an area which is immediately fatal, I will then go to the place I’ve marked as the deer's location when I fired at it fully expecting to find it. A clean headshot or a properly centered neck shot will drop the animal on the spot, no mucking around. If the animal is not there with either of those bullet placement there is a high likelihood you missed. They don’t run off with either of those hits. A body shot is a different kettle of fish. The animal may drop like a stone or it may run some considerable distance. I’ve found that the caliber of rifle, weight of bullet, velocity of bullet or brand name of bullet makes very little difference in this respect. If my sight picture is of a thoracic cavity strike I will go to the deer's location and look for indications of the deer's direction of travel. These are primarily hoof marks.

    Two things you are looking for, actually seeking the dead deer or direction of its travel. If you don’t see the dead deer immediately make a mark for a start point for your search. I’ve been surprised when I haven’t found a dead deer that on restarting my search I’ve started in the wrong location. Shooting across a big gully on the Ohutu, dropped a Rusa stag. Went down to the river, made my way upstream, climbed the spur, absolutely no sign. Climbed to where I could see where I fired from, no difference. Climbed down the spur, back down the river, up to my firing point. Looked across to where the deer had been standing and it was immediately clear that the deer was on a spur twice as far as the one I had climbed. Back down to the river, up the river twice as far and climbed that spur. There was my stag.

    A well hit deer may leave good indicators of the hit. Deep hoof marks and a blood trail. When you find a blood mark you know that the deer has run there. You can often get an impression of which direction it’s traveling by looking back to the start point. Follow the blood trail. If necessary, break a fern frond to mark your trail. If you lose the blood trail you can circle back to pick it up again. Don’t be surprised if the animal has travelled a considerable distance, it happens. The cause of death from a thoracic hit is the deer running out of blood. Also, don’t be surprised if there is little or no blood. The bleeding may be mainly internal.

    The mistake you can make is racing up to where you think you hit the deer followed by a blind search which has little chance of success. Take your time, think things through and be prepared to be vigilant. A favoured technique of mine when hunting redskins in crown fern country was to clomp along, not trying too hard to ninja, then spook a deer. You had to really ninja then, sneaking along in the direction you’d seen them take, to where you could see them. A shot to the lungs with the 222 left almost no blood so your tracking skills were important.

    It’s a real buzz when you locate a deer after a protracted search. Sighting the downed animal is the result of using your observation and skills.

  • 24/01/2023 1:34 PM | Bob McMillan (Administrator)

    Danny Brister and I choppered into the Maungatutara, landing at a shack referred to as the green hut. To call it a hut was vastly overstating its condition but it was late spring with no rain forecast so it would do fine. Danny brought his pig dogs, he was wanting to catch some pork with new dogs, while I was more interested in looking through the catchment for any potential spots for a roar hunt. On the first evening I had a stroll up the valley, not too far, just looking for marks. There was plenty of sign along the river flats both pork and venison. First thing in the morning I was up and away leaving Danny to have a sleep in and then  a pig hunt. Sure enough not a K from the hut there was a spiker wandering through the scrub along the river. It went down to the shot. I was back at the hut with the deer before Danny got away. He put in a solid days pig hunting while I went trout fishing. Lazing around in the late afternoon, nothing much to do except have a swim in the river, I commented how does your rifle shoot. He had a Winchester 44 Magnum lever gun. He said he’d never fired it. That was most unacceptable to me so I found a grocery box and set it up about 25 yards away. The first shot barely clipped the very top of the box. Miles high. Danny said that’s right he got the gun with no sights and he’d just bashed some on. I put the rear sight slide as far up as possible and tapped the front sight over a bit. Shifted the box to 50 yards. The next shot was still well high, actually off the box, but much better and correct for windage. Should hit a pig at bail up range. 

    Next day I went for a big hikoi right to the head of the valley. Stopped in at the Maungatutara hut and made a cup of tea. I’d been to the hut once before but had walked over the top of the range from the Mangaokura. I started to stagger as I made my way down the river still many kilometers from home. Only one thing to do. Ten minutes rest, ten minutes travel, ten minutes rest 20 minutes travel and repeat till I got to the shack. Bit buggered. 

    Next day, our last, I decided to keep Danny company on his pig hunt down valley. I didn’t take a rifle as we were pig hunting. Got well down the valley without finding any pigs. I saw a nice stag standing on a river terrace. Said to Danny Shoot it. He said No you shoot  it. I said No You shoot it. He took his rifle off his shoulder, levered a cartridge into it and thrust it into my hand. Any more of this bullshit and the stag would run away. I made some calculations based on where the rifle had hit the box, held well low of my intended strike area and made the shot. The stag dropped on the spot. Danny is a big unit so he carried the stag back to camp. 

    The rifle I was carrying on this trip was my Sako 300 WSM, a rifle I had carried a lot and shot a lot of game with. Some at long range , some at short range. I had carefully reloaded my ammo with high class bullets and verified that it shot accurately. This was in total contrast to Danny’s rifle which was of unknown accuracy, dubious sighting and a mixture of ammo. There was a huge difference in power between the two rifles. The deer did not notice any difference, they both went down. Sometimes I think we can get a bit carried away with our rifles, some of the most unlikely candidates can do well, just give them a fair go. 

  • 03/01/2023 7:40 AM | Bob McMillan (Administrator)

    My father was an instructing officer during World War Two attached to the Fiji Infantry Regiment. He had been trained in bush and mountain warfare at the school run by Major Yerex, the bloke who supervised deer culling operations for the government. When my dad introduced me to shooting, he saw that while I was left handed, I was right eye dominant. He taught me to shoot from my right shoulder thus taking advantage of my eye dominance. I didn’t realize the significance of this till years later when I read an article by an Olympic coach discussing eye dominance issues. He discussed several options but advised that, if possible, get the student to sight with the dominant eye. My dad had been spot on right from the beginning. 

    Another lesson he gave me was how to cycle a bolt action rifle correctly. He passed on the oft repeated tale of how the British army got so proficient with the Lee Enfield rifle that the opposing forces all thought that they were armed with machine guns. I recalled this early instruction last weekend when my cousin, a very experienced shooter, said his rifle would occasionally jam when he cycled the bolt. He demonstrated and sure enough he could get the bolt to stick. I noticed that he used the palm of his hand to operate the bolt.  Recalled my fathers teaching. Fold your index finger right over. You will notice that the three joints of your finger will form a pocket in the middle. Put the knob of the bolt in this pocket then trap the knob with the ball of your thumb. Keep the bolt knob trapped while completing the operating cycle. My cousin was using the same rifle as I was, a Remington Model 7. Mine didn’t jam. Didn’t affect the performance on deer though . My two nephews, my cousin and I had four deer for four shots. I realize that some shooters will have different styles of operating bolts, I’m happy with the method promoted by a large army.

  • 01/12/2022 10:48 AM | Bob McMillan (Administrator)

    There is no doubt, shooting elephant guns is a real blast. I found I was really apprehensive when I was about to turn one loose. You didn’t quite know how fierce the recoil would be. The first time I recall being shocked at recoil was my first shot with a 44 magnum S & W revolver. The muzzle shot up and clonked the rolled up roller door. I didn’t see what I hit. When I got my own 44 revolvers and learned how to shoot them, I found them easily manageable.

    My first run with a true elephant rifle was with Maurice’s 416 Rigby Ruger. Ruger had gone all out to produce a first class rifle for heavy game. Shooting from the standing position rocked me back considerably but I was able to focus on the sights and achieve good hits. We were shooting at a rabbit hole on the opposite bank. The impact of the bullets was very impressive, great fountains of dirt.

    My next run was with a Ruger 458. This was a plain grade rifle, an altogether different one from Maurice’s and of much lower quality. Again shooting offhand I managed to fire six well aimed shots until the seventh when I was a good foot away from the target when I turned it loose. It double fed on my next attempt to reload it so I called it quits.

     The next horrible recoiling rifle I recall shooting was a break action single shot 45-70. It had a number of small ring bulges up the barrel no doubt caused by oil. The recoil was brutal in the light weight rifle. It hurt. It didn’t shoot well either. 

    I fired a single barrel 12 gauge shotgun with a 45-70 insert barrel. Once. Awful.

    I recall shooting another single barrel shotgun that some enthusiast had sawn the barrel and stock off to make it into a Mafia type “lupara” gun. That thing tried to flip completely out of my hands and finished up pointing backwards. 

    Many  years ago I was hunting bulls and felt the need of a 458. Chris said he had just sold one. I recently got the chance to shoot that rifle. It was a rebarreled rig with a roll over Parker Hale stock. Horrible to shoot. I’m pleased it was unavailable when I needed one. 

    Then I had to evaluate a rebarreled Mauser in 416 Taylor. A friend had made it up as a whale killing rig and the district manager wanted to know if the department should use it on whales. The rifle shot well and was manageable by an experienced shooter but presented too many issues for my liking. I recommended the department not buy it. 

    Then I had a go with a real big boomer. Normie and his mate had built up a 50 BMG single shot bolt gun for whale shooting. We were taking turns at firing it. My turn, I fired it just as Woody came up beside me. It was like Mount Ruapehu erupting. Just this huge event. But it didn’t hurt. The muzzle brake worked well. So well it literally blew Woody back off the mound. 

    I was with Simon when he was demonstrating Federal ammunition to an assembly of gun shop people. He asked if I would shoot the 416 at the gel block so that at least we would get a hit. Duly impressed everyone with the power of the rifle. I then supervised anyone who wanted a go with the rifle. Most accepted advice on how to handle the big gun. One bloke was showing off to his mates so I left him to it. The recoil made him drop the gun, lucky I caught it because Simon had borrowed the gun. Sixteen of the seventeen shots fired were in a palm sized group at 25 metres.

    My own heavy game rifles are much milder. A couple of 375 H&H Sakos which I find awesome, a 9.3x62 Sako which I’ve used on deer and a 35 Whelen Remington which I’ve used on a variety of game. I haven’t fired my 416 Rigby Sako yet, don’t intend to. I’ve found out a few things when shooting these big guns. They recoil, no doubt about it, it’s going to happen. Don’t try to prevent it. Give your body a chance to give with the kick but maintain control of the rifle. I like to roll my shoulder back and forward while preparing for a shot and check my foot position to allow some weight to come back. Then concentrate on the sight picture and practice good trigger control. If you are worried about recoil in any of your rifles go and get a 458. You will soon be begging to have your own rifle back. With a good technique you can get pretty good with a big boomer.

  • 10/10/2022 10:48 AM | Bob McMillan (Administrator)

    We broke out of the Chatham Island bush onto the “clears”. The dense fog and rain prevented us from seeing too far. The bush we had come through was unlike any I  had seen before. Dracophyllum and tree fern dominated forest. Not a full sized tree in sight. The bush was soggy wet. There was a rudimentary track which we had followed from the shelter at the Tuku reserve. We’d come past the taiko nesting area which was the main reason we were here. They are the critically endangered magenta petrel, only breeding on the Chathams. We’d been doing predator control work in the reserve. Now we were hunting. 

    Breaking out of this vegetation revealed a pakihi type low vegetation cover on essentially flat peat land. It was very boggy underfoot. Ian and I headed south along the edge of the clear. The first animal that showed up was a big ram. The owner of the stock, Bruce, was happy that we hunted his animals that wandered into the reserve. The cattle particularly were having an effect in the reserve. The effort of mustering and the cost of transport meant that the cattle and sheep were worthless to him. I found that the islanders I met were very protective of the island's natural values. We hunted carefully south along the eastern boundary of the dracophyllum forest. There were plenty of cattle marks. Really unexpectedly we saw the big ram, a full wool which probably had never been shorn. It  was just too far from any handling shed to have had any attention. Lined up the ram with my 35 Whelen and let strip with a soft point bullet. No result. The next bullet in the mag was a full metal jacket, designed to penetrate heavy animals. The ram had barely moved before I fired the solid. It collapsed at the shot. We went to the ram to check it out. The fleece was amazingly dense. The horns were very impressive so I recovered them. I had intended to autopsy the carcass but the dense mat  of unshorn wool was a bit daunting. I still don’t know why the first shot did not appear to have any result but the solid bullet did the job.

    We continued on south. The misty rain was intermittent. During one of the clearer spells we saw a couple of small mobs of cattle at widely spaced intervals across the clear. Wind direction didn’t appear to be a problem so we approached the first group from behind what cover we could find. They saw us and off. They were the spookiest animals I have ever hunted. Clattered off for miles. We’d have to really sleuth up to the next mob. Finally located another mob, four animals, two cows with a couple of younger bulls. There was a finger of bush which we could use for cover. We stalked ever closer and this time it was successful. We spread out a bit so that each of us could shoot without endangering the other and opened fire. The young bull staggered at the shot, lurched a few metres and went down. Next one on my side was a cow. She made off after the shot so I fired again. She went down. All the shots were centre chest shots. The other two animals were still on their feet so hit them as well. Eventually all four were down. It was not possible to assess the relative effectiveness of either Ian’s seven mil or my 35 Whelen as the animals were hit several times. They did not, however, travel very far after getting hit the first time. I was happy with the effect of the solid bullets on these animals. Sufficiently so that when I hunted in Botswana for buffalo I had Trophy Bonded Solids in the mag of my 375.

    Ian butchered the younger animals, cutting off the backsteaks. This amount of meat was all we could carry and it was a long way back to the quad. We had some of the steak at a staff barbecue a bit later. The party was a roaring success. The islanders were the nicest people.

  • 05/09/2022 5:13 PM | Bob McMillan (Administrator)

    We were hunting up the top end of Lake Rotoroa . Simon, Claire , Ian and I had climbed to the bush line only to be met with thick cloud cover, white out conditions.  There was no point in going any further. All the gut busting effort had been in vain. We couldn’t see more than five metres in front of us and once we were out of the shelter of the bush there was no way of being sure that we were on the right ridge to the hut that was only a kilometre away. We sat on our heavy packs for some time right on the place where the track emerged from the bush waiting for the cloud to lift. To be fair, we’d been climbing in cloud for some time but the track was through bush so we could not get lost. Finally the decision had to be made. Back down we went. Talk about dejected. Bummer. 

    We returned to the research hut on the lake edge between the mouths of the Sabine and the Durville. Ian had arranged for us to use it in return for us doing some monitoring work on a control plot for the Nelson Lakes Mainland Island program. The work did not take us long. We hunted the lower country around the top of Rotoroa for a few days, saw a few marks.  Ian did a solo hunt up to the bush line and tussock from the Sabine. I was impressed that he got so far. Finally a bit of clear weather. Ian and I climbed Mount Miz, up to the bush line where we had had to turn round , and on to the hut. The day was fine so we carried on. Ian saw a chamois buck down off the main ridge but I just caught a glimpse of it. No chance for a shot. Back to the hut  for the night. 

    The next day was a shocker with more bad weather forecast so we groped our way back through the cloud and rain to the start of the track down through the bush. It was a huge relief for me to see the place where we turned round days ago. Made it back to the hut at the top of the lake , no worries.

    Ian and Simon hunted the Glenroy while I hunted the Durville. I got a hind which Simon carried back for me. I had to go back to the hut to get him. He was grizzling about his crook back, having to carry a deer. I told him I didn’t want to eat it so if he wanted to eat it, he would have to carry it. It wasn’t that far back to camp, specially for me. 

    Ian had to be back for work so, on the night before the day of his departure to catch the plane at Picton, we figured that there was no way he could climb over the Mount Robert Spur from Rotoroa and make it to the plane on time. The only other way we could get to the bottom end of the lake in time to get Ian to the plane was for him to take one of the sea kayaks we had with us down to the jetty at the end of the lake. We had no place to store the kayak at the jetty at the bottom of the lake.  We hatched a plan. Simon's back was so crook that he couldn’t make the paddle. Claire said she would paddle the length of the lake in her kayak with Ian, then tow Ian’s one back to our hut. I thought this was a huge ask for her so I said I would walk down the east side of the  lake as far as I could to meet her and paddle the other kayak back. Beauty. First thing in the morning Claire and Ian set off in the kayaks and I was away. Was a bit fit in those days so I ran most of the way over to the Sabine then down the track on the eastern side of the lake. I was getting a bit concerned that I had missed Claire as I was getting very close to the bottom end of the lake. It was with great relief that I finally spotted Claire paddling along with the other kayak in tow heading up the lake toward me.

    Jumped out onto a boulder and signalled to her. She saw me. She brought the kayaks to shore and I hopped into mine. She gave me some rudimentary instructions on how to operate the kayak and we set off up the lake. It was the first time that I had been in a kayak. I got a bit of a clue as to how to balance the kayak. Made a bit of progress up the lake. Things were getting a bit better. We met a couple of blokes in an outboard heading back down the lake. Claire handled her kayak like a pro while she talked to them, I was  trying hard just to stay balanced and not tip out. The blokes in the outboard were clearly impressed by this sheila handling the situation with aplomb, with me being a complete novice and Claire having to help me. There was a fair bit of chop on by this stage.  We continued on up the lake. Then it started to really blow. From a nice paddle to what seemed like an eight foot surf. Claire said we were not making any headway because the wind was so bad against us on the east side of the lake so we would have to cross the lake and make our way up the lee west side. It was terrifying. My arsehole was clamped to the seat of the kayak.The waves would try to swamp me all the time. I was fully expecting to can out at any moment. Finally we got to the other side of the lake. We made our way in comparative calm up the lee side of the lake till we got to the hut. Simon was at the jetty and hugely relieved that we had made it. He said that he was looking down the lake for us to appear. He happened to glance out into the middle of the lake and couldn’t believe what he was seeing. Us in a welter of foam in the middle of the lake. What on earth were you doing in the middle of the lake? No other choice. We made it though.

    Got to the hut , changed and had a brew. I was shattered. Claire cooked us a beaut feed that night. After paddling both ways down the lake. Talk about her impressive stamina.

  • 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.

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