“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.

Field and Game - - FOND FAREWELL -

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.

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