“Send me a few birds”
Westernport Field & Game life member Geoff Lee headed to Macleod Morass in Gippsland for his first hunt of the 2018 season and with a little help from the locals he filled his bag — but he was without a great mate, John Paterson.
Macleod Morass near Bairnsdale is one of our State Game Reserves, but this was the first time I had spent Opening Weekend on this great wetland. I am fortunate enough to have mates who have spent most of their lives there and are loyal members of Bairnsdale Field & Game. They are passionate about the Morass and its wellbeing, carrying out nest box works and liaising with the relevant government authorities on water controls and other issues.
They were the ones who pointed me toward a place to hunt where I wouldn’t interfere with other hunters’ positions and blinds. Some of these blinds have been hunted for 50-plus years.
Three weeks before the opening there were reports of large mobs of teal out on the lakes but I said they wouldn’t be there long with the flooding occurring in the channel country in Queensland. They up and left. Just before the season, Westernport branch lost a dedicated life member, John ‘Patto’ Paterson: he spent the best part of 40 years on the committee and seven years as treasurer. The original clubrooms were destroyed by fire and Patto took control of its reconstruction, organising all the clean-up and building contractors at ‘mates rates’.
Patto was a devoted family man, hunter and fisherman (his biggest passion) and he was good at it.
I enjoyed numerous trips away with Patto, all over Victoria and New South Wales at opening weekend and up on the rice, and many trips stalking sambar deer in the High Country, and fox hunting.
Patto died suddenly at Robe on South Australia while on a fishing holiday with his wife Pat. He was just 68 years old and had a lot more to offer in life. RIP Patto.
Opening morning arrived and I waded out at about 8.15 am and put the decoys out. I pushed myself into a clump of cumbungi to wait. I looked up and said: “Patto, old mate, send a few birds my way for old times’ sake.” I think he heard me.
The first shot fired was 9.02 am, fantastic. Then, a slow build-up of shots that had birds coming from all directions — this can really test you.
As they say, I was in the groove and had five birds in pretty quick time, all clean kills with six shots fired. The peak only lasted 15 minutes so you had to make the most of the opportunities that came your way.
An incoming blackie — I reminded myself to swing through him, just blot him out, pull the trigger, blackie down.
Soon enough, the same again, an incomer but this time higher, swing harder, missed, keep swinging hard, “yes, another dead blackie”.
From my left-hand side I heard the familiar ‘chirup, chirup’ of Pink-eared ducks, they dipped over the decoys then lifted. I threw the gun up as they crossed past each other. “Oh yeah,” I said as I saved a shell by bagging two with the one shot. One more for a bag. By now, the shooting around me had all but stopped so I waded over to an old hide to check it out. I climbed up into the hide and out of the corner of my eye spotted a lone blackie rocketing across the decoys left to right. A reflex shot, a left-hander’s dream, shouldn’t miss — I didn’t. I had my blackie and my bag. Wading out, I looked up and said, “thanks Patto”. I arrived back at the car along with another hunter and we were both greeted by Parks Victoria, Police and Fisheries officers.
They checked game licences, birds, firearms licences and cartridges. I was asked by one what type of cartridges I had. I replied: “Winchester Black Rangers” (laugh out loud). “Not the answer I wanted,” he responded.
Laughing I clarified, “steel of course” and he shared a laugh as he checked to make sure.
The average bag on Sunday morning was four birds. I got two but the first shot was at 8.05 am. Well done again to all the hunters in the Bairnsdale district.