Join­ing the club

The Teal Club is the old­est duck club­house in Cal­i­for­nia with a hunt­ing her­itage go­ing back to the 1870s, but its pres­i­dent, An­drew Bo­gan, has dis­cov­ered a new par­adise on the other side of the world.

Field and Game - - JOINING THE CLUB -

An­drew Bo­gan ad­mits his dis­cov­ery started with a Google search to find out if duck hunt­ing still ex­isted in Aus­tralia.

He was pleas­antly sur­prised that his fam­ily hol­i­day would fall in Duck Sea­son but his next prob­lem was work­ing out how to make it hap­pen.

At home, he can rely on 140 years of his­tory and tra­di­tion to in­dulge his wing shooting pas­sion.

The Teal Club is like Field & Game Aus­tralia in some re­spects.

The pri­vate club op­er­ates on more than 200 ha of the Suisun Marsh, the largest con­tigu­ous brack­ish marsh re­main­ing on the west coast of North Amer­ica and a crit­i­cal part of the San Fran­cisco Bay-delta es­tu­ary ecosys­tem.

The Teal Club mem­ber­ship fees con­trib­ute to the on­go­ing man­age­ment of the wet­land and mem­bers in turn en­joy wa­ter­fowl hunt­ing, fine din­ing and fine wine.

Con­ser­va­tion has al­ways been at the fore­front of hunter ac­tiv­ity.

As an in­di­ca­tion of the eco­nomic scale, the en­tire orig­i­nal club­house, built of solid red­wood tim­ber, has just been raised above the flood level and re­stored at a cost of more than US$1 mil­lion.

“We spend a tremen­dous amount of time and money, in­clud­ing a full-time game­keeper,” An­drew said.

An­drew’s ini­tial in­quires re­vealed bar­ri­ers to hunt­ing in South Aus­tralia but he chanced upon an old list­ing for FGA’S Wa­ter­fowl Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion Test event in Adelaide. He didn’t know at the time, but the per­son he de­cided to take a chance on email­ing was an equally pas­sion­ate and well-con­nected duck hunter, FGA de­vel­op­ment man­ager, Daryl Snow­don.

“It was re­ally just some good luck and some thought­ful folks,” An­drew said. “He called in all sorts of favours and got me set up here at Love­day with Barmera Moorook Field & Game.”

Barmera Moorook is an FGA branch with­out a shooting ground, it is con­ser­va­tion based and man­ages the Love­day wet­land; a Teal Club of sorts but with­out the club­house, just a com­mit­tee camp­fire where all are wel­come.

With some­where to hunt and Jim God­den from Barmera Moorook as a host and guide, An­drew had to get past the WIT test.

Hunters in the United States do 10 hours of train­ing, six hours on­line and four hours in a class­room set­ting, but it is gen­er­al­ist rather than wa­ter­fowl spe­cific. An­drew stud­ied on­line and achieved AA. “I thought it was a ton of fun; here I was spend­ing a morn­ing iden­ti­fy­ing wa­ter­fowl I’d never seen be­fore,” he said.

“I was just try­ing to make sure I didn’t get any more wrong than I was al­lowed. Teal re­ally do look, fly and even pluck very sim­i­lar to our own green-winged teal, but the pinkies are very dif­fer­ent from any­thing I’ve ever seen so it was easy to recog­nise those guys.

“The way the test was set up was very fair, it was well thought out.”

At Love­day, An­drew no­ticed some more sim­i­lar­i­ties: Suisun, Marsh also has eu­ca­lypts dot­ting its brack­ish wa­ter and the hos­pi­tal­ity and com­radery of a camp­fire is uni­ver­sal.

How­ever, that was about where the sim­i­lar­i­ties ended and An­drew was about to ex­pe­ri­ence world-class duck hunt­ing.

“It was re­mark­able when we got out there to set the de­coys, we prob­a­bly put 100 ducks in the air,” he said.

“When we got out in the morn­ing there were hun­dreds of ducks but the real sur­prise was how the bird’s de­coy, from my ex­pe­ri­ence, the abil­ity to just stand and not be cov­ered in a pit blind and to have birds land in the de­coys was amaz­ing.”

An­drew got seven ducks but ad­mits he let a few pass he wasn’t fa­mil­iar enough with but he was most im­pressed with the style of hunt­ing.

“We cer­tainly get shots like that at home but some sea­sons I could count them on a hand or two. It is a dif­fer­ent style of hunt­ing and it is great to see them wings cupped and look­ing down at me.

“I’m cer­tainly go­ing to say if any­body is com­ing down here that the qual­ity of the re­source is phe­nom­e­nal; today’s shoot would be con­sid­ered first class, any­where in the United States it would be a pri­vate club charg­ing $250 000 a year.”

The ex­pe­ri­ence also re­solved a de­bate that had been rag­ing at the Teal Club over what to do with dead eu­ca­lypts pulled out af­ter a re­cent record flood.

“We took trees out that were dead, all eu­ca­lypts, but the sug­ges­tion to take dead stumps and set them out on the marsh as preen­ing is­lands di­vided opin­ion,” An­drew said.

“The way the wet­land here has a whole stand of dead eu­ca­lypts with dead­fall around it and how much the ducks were us­ing it — look­ing at that cer­tainly made up my mind.”

An­drew Bo­gan re­turned to Amer­ica soon af­ter the hunt, thank­ful for the as­sis­tance af­forded by FGA and with a re­mark­able tale to tell over a tra­di­tional cock­tail in the Red­wood Room at the Teal Club.

An­drew Bo­gan in the fa­mil­iar sur­rounds of Cal­i­for­nia

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.