Hey hey, mai-mai: Big Kids’ Christmas
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.
Some duck hunters go to extreme lengths to disguise their true intentions.