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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.

  • 29/03/2021 8:56 PM | Bob McMillan (Administrator)

    Wayne and I were working out of the Upper Waikare Hut and doing well. One evening Sonny Biddle, the National Parks ranger, turned up and spent the night with us. He was heading upriver eventually going to Maungapohatu. I had never been to Makomako hut so he said we could make a plan. He would take our packs with him on his packhorse which meant we could split up, do a day's hunting and he would leave our packs at the first bridge along the Makomako track then continue along his trip. Good plan but it didn’t work . Wayne and I met up at our designated spot and we made our way along to where Sonny was to have left our gear. It wasn’t there. Looked all over the place. Nup, no gear. It was dark by now so we found a spot where there was a big downed tree meaning there was no shortage of firewood. Got the fire going and by the firelight got enough scrub to make a mattress each. No tucker, no cup of tea but she was right. The fire was toasty warm so we were quite comfortable. As the fire burned down we would gather more wood. Sometime during the night the wood supply was getting a bit thin so I went to the limit of the glow of the fire to get some more. Bent a big branch to break it when it broke where I didn’t expect it to. A piece came past my face and whipped my glasses off. They went flying into the night. I could have waited to find them in the morning but I felt very vulnerable without them. Down on my hands and knees, feeling all around, heading in the direction they probably went. Searched and searched. There was just a little glimmer of light off something on the ground in the bush. I felt where the glimmer was. It was my glasses. Very relieved I took my wood back to the fire where we waited till dawn. It got chilly in the later part of the night but we were fine. Next morning we went along the track toward Makomako and there were our packs by a bridge. The blue we made was in the interpretation of what constituted a bridge. Still it didn’t do us any harm and we continued our work.

  • 04/03/2021 5:11 PM | Bob McMillan (Administrator)

    A map is a vital tool for a hunter. Not quite as important as your rifle but not that far behind it. The map gives you a mental picture of the area which you are hunting in. Rivers and mountains do not change position. This information lets you plan a hunt or investigate a potential route.

    Here is a real example to illustrate this.

    Have a look at map NZ Topo50-BF40 right down by the bottom left-hand corner of the map. Two lines up from the bottom and five and a half lines in from the left is a spot marked Otanatea Hut.  This was one of the huts I lived in while working in the Urewera. Trace the course of the Waikare river north about five kilometres and you will see a swing bridge marked. Just downstream of the swing bridge is the start of the Waikarewhenua flats. We had another hut at the start of the flats. It’s gone now.

    Charlie had dropped me off at the end of Mataatua road and I was to make my way to where three other hunters were working in the Waikare. Checking my map, which was an old inch to the mile, I saw that I could turn up the Mangatawhero stream and pick up an old Venetian blind track over into the Takarua and on to Waikarewhenua. All going well, cruised down a long leading ridge, and hit the Motumuka stream at Takarua hut.

    Filthy Phil was sitting on the front steps of the hut peeling possums. He was throwing the peeled bodies just as far as he could throw them from a sitting position. The place was alive with blowflies and stank like a polecat.  He asked me if I wanted a brew and a feed. I looked in his camp oven and saw possum femurs poking out of a congealed mess. I said no thanks, I said I’d just had a brew and needed to be in Whenua by dark. I think that is the only time I’ve turned down a brew while in the bush.  Knowing how far it was by reading the map I could see I had a fair chance of making it.

    When you find Otanatea hut at BF 40 535319 have a look downstream about two and a half kilometres for the mouth of the Ohauera Stream. Take the true left branch where it forks from the Opamakau Stream and have a look for the second creek marked on the true left. You can see that you have just passed Pukeroa.  Head south up the creek and you will see you can cross a saddle and drop into the Maukuroa Stream. Once you are heading south down the stream you will find awesome easy stalking through big timber. From memory most of the tails I got in this area were from the Ohauera or the upper reaches of the Maukuroa.

    When you get to the junction of the creek marked as coming down from elevation point (spot height) 771, don’t keep going down the creek. It drops into an awful waterfall system, you may never come out. Instead climb out onto a little easy saddle onto the ridge marked as a bend in the Waikare River. From there it’s an easy trot down the river with just a couple of river crossings to the hut and a brew. The pool in front of the hut was the source of plenty of trout dinners.

    The information you can get from your map is invaluable for planning your hunt and equally for knowing where drainages go if you get it wrong. Another vital benefit is being able to give a correct grid reference if you are ever in need of Search and Rescue. Vital time can be saved in organising a search party if the correct coordinates can be given. My map is not as crucial as my rifle but it’s not that far behind.

  • 21/12/2020 9:10 PM | Bob McMillan (Administrator)


    It is true. Most Forest Service hunters of my era, who I know, wore Buller gumboots for work. There are a few caveats here. I worked mainly in the North Island. Some hunters would not wear them. They were definitely unsuitable for some jobs.

    The area where their use was almost exclusive was the Urewera. A prime reason for choosing them was that the main access routes involved significant numbers of river crossings. A pair of good leather boots would last half as long as a pair of Bullers. They were much cheaper than leather boots. We became quite inventive in finding ways to put nails into the soles. A favourite method of mine was to put a steel plate designed for a leather boot around the heel of the gummie. This would be secured using horseshoe nails which left the head of the nail proud of the plate. I tried attaching  triconis to the forward part of the sole but found they tore out very quickly. While they lasted a fully nailed gum boot gave awesome grip on slippery river boulders. The Buller would give good service for quite some time considering the daily soakings they got. We found it necessary to burn holes through the rubber reinforce in the instep area. The appropriate method to do this was to heat up a piece of number eight wire in the fire and then burn a hole into the boot. These holes then acted as drain holes letting water out and air back in as you walked. If you didn’t have any river crossings late on your boots could be reasonably dry at the end of the day. 

    There were two other common  modifications dependent on your foot shape. Most hunters found that the rubber connecting the side of the tongue to the boot proper cut into their ankles so a v shaped cut was made to eliminate this problem area. Some blokes also cut the upper heel area to stop pressure on the Achilles’ tendon. The best modification jobs of this type I saw ended in a burned hole which reduced further splitting.

    We found that putties or horse bandages were necessary to prevent stones and sticks jumping into your boot. We had all sorts of modifications for lacing the boots, bent over two inch nails forming clips was a favourite. I used the old standby, chainsaw starter cord.

    Eventually the boots would get so soft and slick on the sole that they became dangerous. At that stage they would be aptly called “gliders”. After a few good crashes you would reluctantly decide that it was time for a new pair. Found out the hard way when I foolishly tried to use a pair of gliders in a rough South Island river. Nearly crippled myself.  I found that even a pair of gummies had to be broken in, eventually they would mould to your feet. 

    Ashley gum boots were also used, the higher tops meant that you didn’t need putties, but they would wear a hairless scar around your leg that was painful to acquire. 

    Redbands were more commonly used by possum hunters. The only reason I can think of is that they are super easy to slip on in the morning and the noise that they make was less off putting to a possumer. The redband was a favourite for camp slippers. Gummies of any type were a disaster in hot weather, open pasture situations, the stink was unbearable.

    So if you see an old coozer wandering around in the north island bush wearing some Bullers,  as some of my cobbers still do, you may well assume that he has done a mile or two in the back country. 

  • 21/12/2020 9:08 PM | Bob McMillan (Administrator)

    I wouldn’t trust a 243 on a big red stag in the bush. I can still recall these words of wisdom offered by a club member, a national champion rifle shooter and a self confessed experienced deer hunter. This was the prevailing attitude toward this cartridge within the club. I don’t recall anyone I knew as a kid using one apart from Murray. I avoided using the cartridge on deer although I had good results with it in competition shooting. 

    Being a little bit curious, I decided to try the 243 on deer while I was working in the Waikare, a tributary of the Whakatane. The first opportunity came when I saw a hind some 70 metres away up a small slip. At the shot the deer walked away as if nothing had happened. I was dumbfounded. Maybe Bob was right. I climbed to the slip and scrambled to where I’d seen the deer disappear. Not five metres from where I’d hit her I found the deer, behind a bush, dead as. Huge relief. The next victim, a seriously big boar,  was just around the next bend in the creek. It fell to the shot. We were not credited with pigs as part of our tally but sometimes the temptation is too much. We did shoot the odd handy one for a bit of pork. The next animal was a hind spotted as I was crossing the main watershed to return home down a different creek. She fell to the shot. As I had used a conventional shoulder shot, I decided to autopsy the carcass to see what the bullet had done. The bullet had penetrated meat and bone to reach the thoracic cavity and the damage to the lung area was impressive. I used the rifle, a Sako Forester, for the rest of my stay on that block.

    Eventually I found that the lighter weight of my 308 was more to my liking for this type of hunting so went back to using that. Used the rifle on fallow and japs with excellent results. I try to relate only first hand experiences but I should mention the results Murray Potter got with his 243s. He hunted the Urewera for years eventually becoming a field officer. He used and liked the 243. I personally don’t know how he carried that heavy Browning semiautomatic around, it would have killed me. Discussing his choice some years later he said that he handloaded his ammo with very light varmint bullets and was careful to place his shots. It worked for him. I was happy with the bullets I had available, they were Sako 90 grain. Just as happy with other 100 grain bullets.

    I sold the rifle many years later, mainly because I felt that the accuracy was, while acceptable, not of the best quality. It was not for some years that I discovered the probable cause. I bought an ammunition alignment gauge. When I checked the ammunition I had loaded for that rifle I found that the cartridges were as crooked as a dogs hind leg. Traced that back to a reloading die that produced crooked rounds. I’d sold what was probably a good accurate rifle because of lack of knowledge on my part. I did not wear the barrel out on that particular rifle.

    On a recent trip I borrowed my nephews Remington 700 243 to shoot my deer, he’d already got two. Three shots, three deer, no dramas.

    I reflect on Bob's advice and would say that I’ve shot heaps of big red stags in the bush with my 243

  • 23/11/2020 7:41 PM | Bob McMillan (Administrator)

    We were taught as kids that the 30-30 was a hopeless hunting rifle suited only to very limited range bush hunting and pig hunting. The cartridge was considered very low powered, barely up to the task. When some unfortunate person turned up at the range with a Winchester you could sense the disdain for this type of rifle by the cognoscenti who had flash bolt guns with scopes, a far superior hunting rifle. Burt Howlet had a Marlin 30-30 which everyone was informed had the rifling worn out in a hundred rounds and had to be rebarreled. He shot it at the rare novelty event. 

    As a result of this teaching I had no experience with this rifle and cartridge for years. That lasted till I started in a new block, the Waikare. On my first night at the Otanatea hut where I met the three other hunters on the block for the first time, we’d just finished tea when Wayne said have you seen my 30-30. With that he climbed up into the high locked cupboard and produced a Winchester which we all admired. Glen said have you seen my 30-30. He disappeared into the same cupboard and produced his 30-30. We admired that one as well. The other bloke said he’d left his 30-30 at home. These hunters used the rifle as a spare in case anything went wrong with their main work rifle but I never saw any of their main rifles have any issues. I felt very left out.

    This was rectified when I competed in the Winchester shoot at our local range in Westport. In due course I reported to the airport freight office to pick up my new Winchester. Next morning I had a job up the Buller Gorge so I put the rifle behind the seat of the ute. Just into the gorge and one shot across the road in front of me. Too good an opportunity to miss. Hunted it down and got it. Hadn’t even sighted the rifle in yet. Off to a good start. I used that rifle regularly while working in Westport. Most of the time I carried it as a convenient, light, unobtrusive rifle which was no burden when I was doing my proper work. I found that up to a hundred yards it was very effective. At a pinch it would go a bit further. Took off one morning to climb above Hawks Crag then drop down into the Ohikanui. In a narrow gutter just as I hit the river saw a roaring stag on a little beach at about what I thought was the limit of its effective range, about 150 more or less. Got the stag. Then a horrible carry down the river. Barely made it to the bridge before collapsing in exhaustion. Staggered onto the road. The first car to come past was our rifle team coming back from Blenheim. They took me to my Ute. Word got around the village, I was stopped on the street on a number of occasions with the comment “I hear you got a roaring stag up the Ohika. Well done”

    On another occasion I was looking at the old mining track between Lyell and Mokihinui. There were two on a tiny clearing. Made the shot and couldn’t see the other one. There were two lying there. I hadn’t seen the second one move behind the first. Two for one. 

    I carried that rifle enough to get a good impression of its capabilities. Up to a hundred or even a hundred and fifty it was excellent. If it was further than that I used to ignore them. Put an aperture sight on it which made sighting in a lot easier. My one seems to put different bullet weights to different places but I found that with care fifty mil groups were very achievable at one hundred.  I certainly didn’t find the cartridge lacked power, the range was limited by the ability to get good, certain hits.

    As you can probably tell, I hold this rifle in very high regard.

  • 13/11/2020 3:41 PM | Bob McMillan (Administrator)

    When I was first issued a canvas pouch containing first aid gear I was threatened that if I was ever caught carrying ammunition in the pouch I would be dismissed instantly, no ifs, no buts. I dutifully carried nothing but first aid gear in that pouch for the whole time I hunted the Kaimais. Carried my ammo in a separate, inferior pouch on my knife belt. Didn’t want to risk getting sacked.

    The next pouch I was issued came with a similar instruction, this pouch is for first aid gear,  but without the dismissal threat. Much better field officer. Soon figured out Who is going to catch me deep in the Urewera? so I carried my ammo in that pouch. I made room in it for a survival sheet as well. Used both the ammo and the survival blanket but didn’t actually need the first aid gear.

    I did eventually do myself a mischief requiring some first aid. Dumbly didn’t concentrate, got the technique wrong and stuck my knife into my leg while cutting the head off a stag. My own silly fault. Dug the kit out, found the big wound dressing, covered the wound with the dressing and used the bandage to apply pressure to stem the bleeding. Was fully mobile so no real worries. The wound healed. 

    The next time I got hurt was while chasing my dogs on a bail up in Waipoua Forest. Crashed into a broken Mahoe and felt a sharp stick penetrate behind my shin bone in the front of my calf muscle. Nothing I could do in the bush so made my way back to the Mahindra to wait for Kit. When he turned up he couldn’t shift the stick so we made our way to the Forest headquarters. The OC said he’d get it out but had to give up so Kit took me to the doc in Dargaville. He anesthetised the area and cut it out. He said take two aspirins for the pain. Being a smart arse I said What pain. That night I knew what he was talking about.

    These experiences plus some sage advice from our Search and Rescue doctor in Westport have given me a few clues as to what I carry for first aid. I don’t bother with plasters or antiseptic cream. In today’s world you can be at the doctors before infection should be an issue and if you get blisters, harden up. I do have some chaffing cream back at camp, chaffing can be really debilitating and wading the Urewera rivers in shorts can be painful . I don’t mind being a sissy then. 

    Uncontrolled bleeding is, to me, the biggest threat. I have had to patch my mate up on a couple of occasions. I like the big wound bandages which we were issued in the army. They can cover a fair sized wound and the attached bandage can be used for pressure. Definitely in the belt pack. I like to carry a big bandage as well, more pressure if required. I think there is nothing practical you can carry for breaks apart from the big bandage. Who would carry splints when there are pieces of wood which can be pressed into service. Fortunately haven’t broken any bones while in the bush so can’t speak from experience there. 

    The best thing for first aid for me was a decision by the Lands and Survey hierarchy to send some of us on an army medics first aid course at Burnham Military Camp.

    The instructors were brilliant, the army sure can teach, and we wanted to learn.

    So, armed with a little knowledge, a bit of gear and a bit of experience I feel comfortable with my choice of emergency kit. I fully respect the information and advice given in training schemes, they are the result of many people’s experience. I make sure I’ve got my kit in my backpack when I go into the mountains now.

  • 13/11/2020 3:36 PM | Bob McMillan (Administrator)

    The barrel on my 308 rifle finally wore out. My father gave me the rifle when I was 16. It was a Sako Forester, to a kid it was the most awesome rifle I’d ever seen and even now, 56 years later is still a special rifle. I used the rifle for several years with the iron sights. The competitions at the club included an iron sight section which really appealed to me.

    I got my first deer up the Te Kopua creek in the Galatea faces with that rifle. Got a 3x Lyman scope for it then used it for all my deer hunting till I moved to the South Island. I recall looking at my packet of hunting ammo and seeing only three cartridges left. Tallied up the deer I’d got so far with that packet, 17.

    My hunting grounds were mainly Urewera, Kaimanawa and King Country. Had some competitive success with the combination. Most of the ammo I used was CAC soft nose. Started reloading for the rifle and thought it was pretty cool to be able to tweak my loads. Convinced myself I could make pretty good ammo. Moved to Hokitika where I used a 270.

    The 308 was my go-to rifle for all my hunting trips in the North Island till I started hunting for Forest Service. The next time I used the rifle extensively was while working in the Urewera. The close bush hunting in the Manganuiohou had been suited to the 222 but the Whakatane and Waikare meant a higher proportion of longer distance shots. Deer were seen on big  slips and river clearings which were really beyond the effective range of the 222. Every tail was hard earned so if you had a better tool you would use it. I found the 308 very effective and made some long shots when it was impractical to get closer.

    Different bullets didn’t seem to make any difference in results, hit them in the thoracic cavity and the tail was on your belt. The next major use for my 308 was on wild bulls in the North. Our boss at the time was not a very sophisticated rifleman. He found us some ammo which had been loaded for shooting goats out of a helicopter using FNs. It featured a 110 grain M1 carbine bullet. He said his brother had shot a deer with it so it would be good on bulls. Needless to say I didn’t use it on bulls, bought my own good strongly constructed bullets. It was dangerous enough without using grossly unsuitable bullets.

    Got all smart one time when going to shoot big stags in the Raukumara. Loaded up some wizzbang 180s, just the ticket. Worked well on the big stags but just as well on the smaller Urewera deer. Some years later put some over a chronograph and found them to be going about the same speed as a 30-30. Devastated me. Used the rifle in the far North as a saddle rifle while hunting bulls. The aperture sight was more convenient for scabbard use. Even shot some whales with it. Eventually the accuracy declined so Arthur Golding put a new barrel on it.

    Used a Tikka Battue for a while in Fiordland and Stewart Island and found it very effective and easy to carry around. I didn’t use it myself on thar but I had to help one of my cobbers who was having a very hard time connecting with his Ruger full wood carbine. He’d shot one with my 270 but couldn’t do it with his rifle. We tried it on a cardboard box, dead on at 100. Found a good bull the next day. Held one hand as high as I could and the other at my stomach. Said hold that high and half that into the wind. He bowled the thar. 

    I’ve been really pleased with the results I’ve had with the 308. In a reasonably weighted rifle it’s not too abusive on the shoulder and cheek. Some of the very lightweight carbines demanded a lot of concentration to shoot well but if you could stand the pain they were accurate. Most of my NRA shooting was with 308s but that’s a different facet of shooting.

    I hold the 308 in very high regard as a hunting cartridge.

  • 26/10/2020 8:33 AM | Bob McMillan (Administrator)

    The barrel on my 270 finally wore out. I had bought the rifle, a Sako Finnbear with a 4x scope, when I got my first job on the West Coast. I was to do research work for Forest Service in Hokitika. It was obvious to me that my 308 would be inadequate for shooting deer and chamois on the tops and that only a 270 would do. The Forest Service internal memorandum had said that most of the experienced field officers had chosen 270 rifles to replace their 303s. The 270 proved an excellent rifle, chamois on the Hohonu Range, reds in the bush in the Kakapotahi, goats on Blue Spur. The blokes I worked with either had 222s or 308s, not a 270 amongst them. They got plenty of animals. I didn’t use that rifle much after that till I hunted out of Gisborne. It was a heavy pig of a gun which I didn’t feel like carrying in the bush. The 222 was much better. My hunting mate had a 270, he took a lot of heading off when it came to tally time. This was bush hunting reds. We moved up the coast to hunt big stations for goats, the intention was to clear the areas adjacent to the Urewera of goats to prevent infestation into the park. Big country, open shooting, very high tallies. Made for the 270. I’d sometimes put 200 rounds into my belt pouches and have to come back for more at lunchtime. The rifle was excellent for this work due to its weight and reach. Sighting in for 300 at the airstrip worked well, sometimes you would hold three feet over their heads and bowl them, one after the other. It didn’t seem to matter what weight of bullet you used, they were all effective. Eventually the noise, pre earmuff days, and the recoil started to count and my accuracy declined. Swapped to the 222 and was soon back on form.

     Next place I used the rifle was when I was based in Westport. Mickey, the Pest Board ranger would phone me to ask if I would go with them the next night. They would see a deer while night shooting possums and did not want to be the shooter who stuffed up the shot. We would go back the next night and sure enough there would be a deer in the light. You had to remember to hold just under the eyes. There was a lot of pressure on the shooter in these circumstances but I was confident in the rifle. And the Landrover carried the rifle.

    I carried that rifle in my saddle scabbard for a little while in the Far North but don’t recall shooting any bulls with it. It was too long and heavy to be a good saddle gun. It was very effective on horses. 

    Used a Remington ADL for a while mainly on Thar up the Dobson, it worked fine.

    My present 270 is a Sako 85 in WSM. It’s a brilliant rifle. Thar up the Dobson, Thar on Ferantosh , wallabies in the Hakataramea, Rusa in the Right Branch Manuohau, reds in the Whakatane and japs in the bush in the Mangapapa saddle. It is a favoured rifle of mine. Heard a comment about the noise and recoil of the caliber which put one of my cobbers right off the cartridge. Then he told me which rifle he’d used it in. I wouldn’t pull the trigger on any cartridge in one of those rifles no matter what size it was. Narrow low combs on that model would try to cut my face off. Some blokes love them so who can knock someone else’s favourite. 

    So I’m very happy with my 270s. Thursday I’m away to the Ruakituri to accompany my cousin and two of his boys. They may persuade me to shoot a deer. I’m taking my WSM.

  • 23/10/2020 3:15 PM | Bob McMillan (Administrator)

    Ian and I were making our way our way along the Karamea river after stopping for a billy of tea at the Crow hut. As we finished our brew and lunch it started to rain, not the west coast frog drowning downpour , just a steady rain. About a half hour downstream we stopped to have a cast in a nice looking pool. Rewarded with a good  trout. I noticed Ian fiddling with his rifle. He asked how much water in a rifle barrel does it take to cause a ring bulge. I had to say I don’t know. Looking through the bore on his rifle I could see obvious drops of water most of the way down. I had to say if it were my rifle I would not fire it until we could wipe it out. There was no prospect of doing that till we got to Karamea bend hut. We continued on our way and sure enough there were two deer clattering up our side of the river. We could only watch them as they wandered off. I didn’t take my rifle that day. 

    Owen, a long time friend, brought his rifle in for me to have a look at because he said it wasn’t shooting well. Did all the normal checks, nothing obviously wrong. Had a careful look down the barrel. Immediately back from the muzzle there was a bulge, difficult to see at first but the more you looked the more obvious it was. Our smith docked a couple of inches off the barrel and his trusty rifle shot fine again. Another barrel I examined had an obstruction bulge near the muzzle at the rear of the unfluted section. The barrel had then split neatly down one of the flutes the full length of the barrel till the split stopped at the unfluted part. Tear along the dotted line.

    The 22 rimfire rifles with ring bulges I’ve fired did not appear to be adversely affected, if the rifle didn’t shoot well there were other problems. In  my observation the bulges in rifle barrels I’ve seen were almost always caused by trapped liquid. Shotgun barrels were a different story, lots of things can cause them to bulge. 

    I wonder if my cobber, the gunsmith, could offer any enlightenment on how much liquid it takes to cause a ring bulge.

  • 01/10/2020 7:20 PM | Bob McMillan (Administrator)

    During my time doing Search and Rescue I noticed that people would risk crossing flooded rivers rather than stop until the water levels had fallen. I have done exactly the same thing myself. I think one of the factors which influence the decision to cross is the perception that the wet bush is a hostile environment so the risk to get to a “safer” place clouds judgement. I was boogying down the Tauranga Taupo one afternoon starting to get concerned about getting out of the bush before nightfall. I recognised that my thinking was irrational as I was in no danger where I was. Taking a grip on myself I decided that to demonstrate to myself that I was capable of overcoming my concern, I would light a fire in the middle of the river. Found a clump of boulders in midstream  with some driftwood lodged in between them. Rearranged the driftwood slightly then found some dryish kindling under an overhanging bank. Perched the kindling on the driftwood and soon had a fire going. Warmed my hands, tipped the fire into the river and went about finding my way back with a completely different attitude.

    The single best example of bushcraft I’ve seen was up in one of the rivers east of the main Raukumara Range. It was clear that the weather was going to break big time. We’d made our way three hours down river to our lower campsite where we had stashed polythene and tucker on our way in on the chopper. Before it started to rain I gathered in a good supply of dry kindling and tucked it under the shelter. My turn to cook the next day, no worries, got the fire going,  cooked all the meals that day. Bucketed down all day. We got out in our raincoats and collected all the driftwood we could find on our side of the river. As we were collecting the wood saw the carcass of the bull I’d shot upriver floating past in the floodwaters. The next morning it was Keith’s turn to cook. Still pouring down.  I thought the old b…….. would never get out of bed. Eventually he did , put his raincoat on, picked up the axe and disappeared outside. He was gone for ages. Eventually he came back dragging a log which he’d pulled out of a swamp. What is he up to? He hacked into the still dripping log building up a pile of progressively smaller pieces of wood. Got a bit of candle and got his fire going. The wet wood burned as though it were dry with an intense heat. He cooked breakfast. I had to tell him how impressed I was. He said that the log was broadleaf, it would burn wet. He’d learned this trick when hunting Stewart Island.

    The other trick I learned was in the Waikare. Got into camp where I met another hunter on the block who I I hadn’t met before. As was the custom, I set about gathering some kindling to get a brew fire going. He said “You’re new to this country, aren’t you. I’ll show you how we do this.” He proceeded to gather up armfuls of teatree brush and filled the fireplace completely with it. He placed the billy full of water well up in the chimney and set fire to the brush. There was a roar like a jet engine as the fire raced up the chimney and in nothing flat the water was boiling. I didn’t use this technique very often.

    Being able to get a fire going in the bush is an essential skill and worth practicing. I find carrying a billy and making a brew fire at lunchtime is very worthwhile.

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