Hey hey, mai-mai: Big Kids’ Christ­mas

Kapi-Mana News - - WHAT’S ON - RACHAEL KELLY

It’s the only time of the year when wear­ing camo po­lar fleece is ac­cept­able.

This week thou­sands of peo­ple all over the coun­try are cast­ing an eye sky­ward, throw­ing grain on ponds and hop­ing for crap weather.

The First Saturday In May, or Big Kid’s Christ­mas as it’s called in my neck of the woods, is the open­ing of the duck-hunt­ing sea­son and it’s prob­a­bly the only day of the year where most of the town leaves their nice warm bed to go out to a pond, sit in the cold and shoot birds. It’s not as glam­orous as it sounds.

While many hunters put a lot of ef­fort into prepar­ing their maimai, my farm­ing friend and I take a more ca­sual ap­proach. I’ve only been to the pond once since last open­ing day, so it’s highly likely that wildlife of some de­scrip­tion has moved into the mai-mai and started liv­ing on the couch.

There’s cer­tainly no feed­ing of the pond go­ing on.

An­other farm­ing friend has an au­to­matic feeder that flings grain on the wa­ter to at­tract birds, and one group of lads up the val­ley tipped a tonne of pota­toes into their pond a few sea­sons ago.

It’s a won­der the poor birds feed­ing there could even fly. pre-

Af­ter a cooked break­fast, it’s tra­di­tion to stalk the pond and take aim at any ducks that fly off when they re­alise you’ve ar­rived.

Ex­cept at our pond. With Neil Young war­bling Hey Hey, Mai Mai on the wire­less, farmer friend usu­ally rocks up with lights on full beam, so we can watch them all fly away, never to re­turn.

Af­ter climb­ing through gorse we vowed to cut last year, he checks the mai-mai for rats and pos­sums while I hang out out­side like a girl. Then we sit, and wait. I’ve of­ten won­dered what other peo­ple talk about in their maimais while they’re wait­ing for ducks to come in to land. A yarn with some friends at the lo­cal pub re­veals that it’s not unusual for the ban­ter to take a smutty tone.

It’s true girls talk about all man­ner of things, but duck shoot­ing seems to be the one time blokes bond - and gos­sip.

We talk about great duck mas­sacres of old, plough­ing and trac­tors, and ar­gue about whether ba­con and egg pies should have peas in them. (They should not.)

Oc­ca­sion­ally we’ll spot a duck, usu­ally fly­ing in the op­po­site di­rec­tion, or land­ing on a pond in the pad­dock next door, safe in the knowl­edge that our arsenal doesn’t reach that far.

Farmer friend is a man of many tal­ents, but duck call­ing is not one of them, so our feath­ery friends re­main safe for an­other day from us, at least.

That night at the pub the yarns about shoot­ing are em­bel­lished about as much as yarns about fish­ing are, as hunters stand around, still re­splen­dent in their face paint and camo gear, com­par­ing notes. Alas, we’ve never been top of the leader­board.

One par­tic­u­larly frosty morn­ing we shot one duck in four hours be­fore giv­ing up and go­ing home for a cup of tea to warm the hands up. Our record is 10 - but I bet we’ll top that this year. I say that every year though.

JOHN BISSET

Some duck hunters go to ex­treme lengths to dis­guise their true in­ten­tions.

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