2019 Himalayan Snowcock Hunt

Preparation

Prep for this year’s trip was easy. I used the same outfitter and packed from the same packing list as last year’s hunt. I’m out for revenge!

The flights from Austin, TX to Elko, NV we easy and predictable. I learned from last year’s extra luggage charges to pack differently and it worked! My single large bag weighed 57# and I had a little backpack inside it to pack the overage. They didn’t charge me for the extra bag to unload the heavy bag. Remember that!

I unloaded and repacked my gear into 2 smaller bags of 30# each to load onto the mules the next day.

I spent a few hours walking around Elko, NV to kill time. It was a booming place at one point but most of the old casinos and motor hotels are losing their luster.

Day 0 – 9/3/19 – Packing Up and In

The trip from the park entrance at Lamoille Canyon back to Furlong Canyon takes about 3 hours and crosses over 2 passes.

We had 7 horses and 1 mule. We rode 3 and used 5 for packing equipment.

Mules are special beasts…

A large range fire blocked our exit last year and this is the result.

Every step they take is one I don’t have to take myself!

There was quite a bit of snow left on the ground. Mitch, the outfitter, said it had only cleared in the passes in the past few weeks. This is the first mountain pass to cross.

The second mountain pass we crossed.

Furlong Canyon and home for the next 5 days.

Fresh water whenever you need it. It was delicious!

A brief 12 minute video tour of Furlong and Mahogany Canyons where we camped.

Day 1 – 9/4/19 – The First Big Loop

A big loop checking for snow cocks from the top rims of the canyons.

Looking down from Wines Peak on Furlong Lake near camp.

Me, high AF.

There was a lot of snow on the peaks. Nasty old dirty crusty snow.

Incoming rain storms are always equal measures of mesmerizing and anxiety inducing.

Day 2 – 9/5/19 – The Chase!

The Chicken Chasing Loop

We heard a Snowcock above our camp right after breakfast. He’s there but you can’t see him. Neither could I for about 15 minutes!

Garrett stayed in camp to watch the snowcock through a spotting scope while Mitch and I went after him.

We’d sneak up the cliff trying to get near him when he was eating. Garrett would tell us via radio when he was watching us and we’d stop until he went back to eat.

He’s up there and you still can’t see him. Neither could I.

The last 100 yards were uphill at 60 degrees.

We got right underneath him and he took off. I fired a long shot but didn’t connect. He flew a couple hundred yards and landed. This is what it looked like as I was resting for the next leg.

He’s over there on that bald knob. You can’t see him and neither could I.

On that knob.

Just as we were leaving a small rain shower blessed us with a rainbow for luck. Didn’t work.

We went up this rock slide in pursuit of the snowcock.

Size perspective on that rock slide. They are better going down than up, but not much.

He’s on that knob.

And he busted us and took off for the next canyon. Too far to pursue.

Furlong Lake again. We’ve circled the upper rim of Furlong Canyon above camp.

These are the ridges where he lives and we chase him.

They’re here for sure – that’s snowcock poop.

Fresh Snowcock poop in detail.

We need to hustle back to camp before this storm. More anxiety than mesmer this time!

That doesn’t look hard but those rocks are the size of footballs and larger.

We beat the rain back to camp and were rewarded with some very cool clouds rolling over the canyon rim.

Looking back on the cliffs I just climbed.

Drone pic with ski map style trail marked.

Day 3 – 9/6/2019 – Another Big Loop

Another big loop checking the rims.

This cold brand was on the mustang. I have no idea and neither did Mitch or Garrett.

Scoping the canyon rims and faces for Snowcocks. The constant amazing scenery never loses it’s beauty.

No, that’s right. We even hiked over and looked in there!

And there too.

Clouds played around the mountain tops and ridges all morning long.

Sunshine breaks through and now we can really get to where we can see!

Rainstorm and clear skis roll over us.

Blue grouse poop. We saw several but I shot one last year. This mass must be from a winter nest. The snow cleared from the passes only within the past few weeks.

Our riding and packhorse herd (and mule) resting in the waning evening light.

Our camp and tent with my favorite rockslide in the background. I went up that thing!

Long evening light in Furlong Canyon.

Day 4 – 9/7/19 – Going the Distance

We tried to cover as much ground as possible on this last day. You can tell!

It was an early start into a pick dawn.

A quick look around on top as the sun rises through the clouds to warm us up.

The backside of Furlong Canyon. That snowbank is over 40′ deep at the top!

The sun trying it’s hardest to warm us.

Mountain Goats! I’m above the damn Mountain Goats!

Scouting the rims and faces while waiting for the sun to hit.

A precarious footpath we shared with the Mountain Goats.

More Mountain Goat trails!

Mountain Goat “nests” where they spend the night.

Every step he takes is one I don’t have to. God Bless him!

Feathers and poop. That’s what I got.

Day 5 – 9/8/19 Up & Out

A new way for the clouds to play with the mountains!

Over the first pass.

Bluebonnets! A reminder of home for a Texas Boy! They call them Lupines.

Indian Paintbrushes! They call them properly up here.

And that’s it. It was disappointing to fail again – especially seeing one and missing because of a bad strategy. My fault and lesson learned. Overall though, what a magnificent adventure and I’m pleased that I gave it another try. I hope these notes will help the next guy or girl go get their’s! The Himalayan Snowcock is a very worthy pursuit!

2018 Himalayan Snowcock Hunt

I’d been thinking about and “researching” Himalayan Snowcocks for about 10 yrs. I’ll admit it, I was intimidated. I’m 55+year-old flatlander from Texas and hiking/hunting between 9,000 and 11,000 feet altitude wasn’t something I took lightly.

This is my story and I hope it helps you get your Himalayan Snowcock.

It just so happened that I shot a Chachalaca in February.

Then, reveling in my success at shooting one of North America’s rarest game birds, I found this article about hunting both rare game birds. I decided I wasn’t helping myself by waiting and that I should just go ahead and see if I could get both the Chachalaca and Himalayan Snowcock (I’ll abbreviate to HSC – also meaning High Sky Chicken because everyone – and I mean everyone – chuckles when I say Himalayan Snowcock) in the same year.

Himalayan Snowcocks were imported, nurtured and liberated by the NV Fish & Game Dept, along with several other species, to improve sport hunting opportunities in Nevada. If you go after a HSC, you’ll owe them a debt of gratitude for their foresight and investment.

This HSC hunter’s story was rich in detail and helped me set my expectations early on.

The Chase is ON

I started my research and learned quickly that I had two choices – go on my own or hire an outfitter. Internet research for real info on the HSC is thin. There are quite a few opinions and second/third-hand stories but few genuine personal accounts of what it took, how it went and what they learned.

I knew quickly that a DIY hunt into a completely unknown and hostile environment (high mountains for a flatlander) wasn’t going to give me the favorable odds I wanted. I’ve done quite a few DIY hunts but always into big western upland hunting where I could get back to the truck if something went sideways. I couldn’t see myself being able to do that with a trip into the Ruby Mountains.

So, I decided an outfitter/guide would be my best choice. There are only really two outfitters/guides that hunt the HSC in the Ruby Mountains.

I chose Mitch Buzetti from Nevada High Desert Outfitters. Mitch and his guide Garret were fantastic and I couldn’t have asked for more from them.

I talked with Mitch and learned that the “season” is from early September until late November but weather and snow frequently close access to the highest areas of the Rubys and that late Sept is really about as late as I could expect to hunt successfully. I’m also an avid dove hunter and early September is dove season in Texas – can’t miss that!

Mitch also had the advantage of more scouting because he runs horse-packing and outfitting trips into the same area during July and August. If the birds were there, he’d probably see or hear them. Since there are only a couple thousand HSC and the Ruby Mountains cover about 800 square miles, scouting can make or break a challenging trip.

After talking more with Mitch, I selected the last week in September with an eye towards to quality of the HSC’s feathers. Seems as though they don’t shed their pin feathers until later in the season. I wanted to mount mine so the plumage was important and I elected to go later instead of earlier.

Mitch provided a simple but effective gear list. All I needed to do was send a deposit, begin accumulating gear and start training.

Mitch explained that the adventure would be with himself and another guide (one to watch the bird after it is spotted while the other guide and I stalked it) starting in Lamoille, NV basecamp via horseback up to about 9,000 feet elevation. We would hunt that area for 4 days or until we got a HSC. We would then break camp and horsepack back out of the Rubys into basecamp near Elko, NV.

Mitch also patiently answered all of my questions as they came up in the months leading up to my hunt. I had a lot of questions and Mitch, while being very busy, managed to patiently answer every one of them.  Thanks, Mitch!

I had a goal and a plan – time to get to work.

The first step was getting licensed – non-resident – and an upland game stamp. Turns out you also have to have a HSC Permit/Survey and NV Fish & Game were equally helpful. Call the Elko NV Fish & Game Office for help with this.

Since I’ve been building these annual trips for the past 8 or so years, I’ve learned to dedicate a little time each week to researching and preparing for my trips. This approach was very helpful leading up to this trip as I discovered new information almost every week.

Here, I discovered old TV-to-Digital copies of Mitch leading an outdoor writer on a HSC hunt. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

This is a birder’s video of the real thing – very hard to find! Looks easy but if you’ll notice, the video was taken in March rather than in hunting season.

There are more videos out there and this one is from Asia – much closer to their real home.

Accumulating The Gear

I had most of the gear on Mitch’s list. He made a couple of recommendations when I asked for specifics and here’s what I learned.

Hiking boots.  I had flatlander upland game hunting boots and was pretty sure they weren’t what I needed for mountain climbing. Mitch recommended Kenetrek Mountain Extreme boots. I chose non-insulated and I also purchased the Kenetrek Boot Wax and applied monthly for the 6 months leading up to my hunt. I broke them in and you should too! These boots felt like mountain goat hooves on my feet. I literally could not feel the ground under my feet and I was used to feeling where I walked when upland hunting. In hindsight, these boots were perfect and performed flawlessly in some extremely harsh conditions. They’re expensive but if your feet don’t work, you can’t hunt – especially in the Rubys.

Binoculars & Bino Strap System. Again, I’m a flatland bird hunter and we don’t typically need binoculars. Mitch recommended 10x and I got the Steiner Predator 10×26. He also recommended the Crooked Horn Bino Sling and it worked flawlessly as well. I was impressed with their ability to highlight animal colors against natural vegetation colors.

Gun Sling. Meh, I’m mostly an upland bird hunter with some heavy waterfowl hunting in Dec & Jan. I’ve never used a sling and didn’t want one. Nevertheless, I got one and was very grateful for it during the trip.

100 ounces of water! Mitch told me I’d need 100 ounces (3 liters) of water to carry and drink during the day while hiking.  I’m not sure if you’ve weighed 3 liters of water but it weighs 6.6 pounds.  It doesn’t sound like much but if you have a poor-fitting or frameless backpack, it’s miserable. I tried 3 different light to medium duty backpacks with various frame constructions until I found one that fit me well and had a container and sleeve for the 100 ounces of water.

0 Degree Rate Sleeping Bag. I live in TX and it just doesn’t get cold enough to justify a cold-rated sleeping bag. It didn’t get real cold while I was there but the warm sleeping bag kept me toasty.

Altitude Sickness Meds. We camped and hunted from 9,500 up to 10,800 and the air was exceedingly thin for this flatlander. Mitch recommended chocolate bars as an antidote/preventative. I actually got a prescription for an old high blood pressure medicine that worked like a champ. I never had any altitude sickness of any sort. Ask your doctor.

Bonus Items that Paid Off

Crocs. Yeah, those things. My feet really appreciated something other than my hiking boots/hooves at the end of a long day.

Camp Pillow. It doesn’t look like much but I was surprised at how effective it was and it sure beats a rolled up jacket!

The Ruby Mountains Visitor’s Guide – Larry’s book has everything you need to fully understand and appreciate everything you’ll experience.

Layers, layers, layers. The temperatures were in the 30s at night and up in the 60s during the day. But, at that altitude, sun, shade and wind have a big impact on the “felt” temperature.  Multiple layers of outerwear, backed by my regular thermal underwear, made the temperature & weather variations easy to adjust to.

Prep & Training for the Trip

I’ve been planning and running these types of “big hunts” for 8 years and have developed a little rhythm that helps me get prepared. Each week, I reserve about 30 minutes to work specifically on the hunt. I start in January so I have plenty of time to get everything completed well ahead of the time to hunt.

This trip needed gear accumulation and break in, hiking practice uphill and long distances and gunshot practice.

In April, I began hiking 2 miles every morning before work. I used this daily routine to get fit, break in my boots and test/break in my backpack with 100 ounces of water. I also got a Deutsch Drahthaar puppy in June so she joined me every morning and added some levity to a boring walk. We still continue those daily walks today! And no, she didn’t join me on this trip – no dogs needed for the HSC.

I tried a hiking stick and while it was useful, I didn’t take it with me on the trip. It was just another thing to handle when I needed to paying attention to my balance, the next step and finding a bird. I used the butt of my shotgun instead.

I’ve learned to practice shooting the types of shots that I expect to see on my hunts. When I went on big Western state upland hunts, I took a lot of trap practice. Setting up a practice course for shooting birds off cliffs was going to take some creativity.

I figured I’d mostly be shooting downward at 50 to 60 yards and Mitch confirmed this. I have a small mountain on our ranch near Blanco that provides about the only decent elevation (about 400 feet) for a long way in Central TX.

I started by using balloons as targets but they were too fragile and got popped overnight between when I set them and then needed to shoot them. Then, I printed a picture of a chicken and stapled it to a small board and set them up as targets at 40, 50 and 60 yards downhill. This worked well and allowed me to understand how my patterns were impacting the target.

3.5″ shells are just Punishers and patterning them is really painful. Shotguns aren’t made to shoot from a rest.

This is really good coverage from my Old Favorite choke and evidence of why I like it so much.

This lead to actually patterning my Briley EXR choke (my favorite) against a Mueller UFO choke (the contender). Turns out that the UFO worked better for 3.5″ #4 lead at 50 and 60 yards. I highly recommend patterning your shotgun if you go on this trip. You may not get more than one shot!

I did this weekly from July through August and it helped me build a lot of confidence. It also helped me learn that my shotgun performs slightly differently on a downhill shot than it does on level or uphill shots. This was very helpful to know.

I started my weekly target practice with a brisk 3-mile hike prior to climbing the “mountain” and shooting. This let me get my heart and breath rate up prior to shooting. Shooting right after a stiff climb is not something we do frequently in Texas and this helped me better understand how to shoot well when under pressure and panting.

One last note on preparation and training. I did more work and trained harder for this hunt than any previous hunt. It paid off in many different ways. The most surprising way was that it allowed me to “participate” in the hunt every week as I imagined what it would be like as I accumulated gear and trained. Essentially, I got almost a whole years worth of hunting because I was materially involved in the hunt every week leading up to the actual hunt. I’ll definitely do this again!

The Launch

My gear required 2 large bags and I also had a shotgun. This was a mistake that cost me an extra $150. I would have been better off with 1 very heavy bag and my shotgun.

My flights were easy and I arrived in Elko, NV in the early afternoon and checked into a hotel. We flew in over the Humboldt Range but I was on the Humboldt side rather than the Ruby side. The look rugged! Little did I know….

I repacked my hunting gear into 2 smaller bags that weighed no more than 30# each. This made it much easier to pack and balance my gear on the pack horses.

I had some extra time so I visited a local museum and was rewarded with a phenomenal taxidermy display. The only disappointment was that the display did not have a HSC!

Elko is located at approximately 5,000 feet. We’ll be going up!

Garret (the second guide) picked me up early the next morning and we went to Mitch’s house to finish packing and then to the barns to collect horses and gear for the trip.

We traveled via truck and trailer up Lamoille Canyon to the trailhead. There we unloaded the horses and gear, loaded the horses and gear and were on the trail to camp by 1030.

We crossed 3 passes on the way to camp.

We traveled via horseback through Liberty Pass by Liberty Lake and arrived at the campsite by 130 to set up camp at 9580 ft.

Camp was located just beneath Wine’s Peak near a small lake and consisted of a large wall tent and a portable electric fence corral for the horses. It was dry and very dusty the whole time.

Ah, the horses. There wasn’t a day go by that we didn’t have some sort of horse “issue”. But in the end, they were worth every bit of nonsense they created because every step my horse took was a step I didn’t have to. Bless those ponies!

It was interesting to note that there was almost no wildlife evident – even songbirds – during our trip from the trailhead to camp.

The Firebox, Cooler boxes, and my bed.

Setting up camp was interesting and I could tell they’d done it many times before. I was able to help but mostly, just stayed out of the way of a well-oiled guiding/outfitting team.

Mitch had a couple of pieces of equipment that were slightly heavy but worth their weight.

Battery powered drill for the tent pole connections. You really don’t want your tent poles coming loose and falling down – anytime.

Air mattress pump because blowing up an air mattress with your own breath at 9,500′ is probably not possible.

Potty convenience!

Mitch built us a water spigot from a nearby stream so we’d have water.

After camp was set up, Mitch and Garret spent an hour or so spotting the nearby cliffs for HSC and teaching me what to look for. We didn’t see anything other than a lot of rocks.

The ground was very dry and dusty and the portable electric fence didn’t work well because the “offending” animal wasn’t electrically connected well enough to the ground to generate a shock from the electric fence. Most of the horses honored the “fence” but there was constantly a rogue or two that challenged it and attempted to wander off. Whoever noticed a wandering horse was responsible for speaking up and collecting said horse.

The horses were kept on a high line during the night. It looks like it should work but there were little rodeos every night that needed to be sorted out.

When the sun set, the temperature dropped very rapidly. Multiple layers of warm clothing will be your friend. The sunsets (and sunrises) at 9,500′ were spectacular!

I could easily see the Milky Way – something we seldom see in Texas. Mars, shining brightly early in the evening, was particularly spectacular and something I’ll remember my entire life.

Supper was pork chops and apple sauce and we were in bed by 8 PM. Mitch kept a jug of Tang ready and available all the time – man, it was great!

Mitch & Garrett are the hardest working guide/outfitters I’ve ever had the pleasure to hunt with. They’re up at 5 and asleep after me and either cooking, cleaning, wrangling horses, chopping wood, getting water, or spotting. All. The. Time! And, never a grump or angry word – always fun to laugh & joke with. Thanks, guys!

GPS Tracks

The Hunt

Friday, Day 1

5 AM wake-up. The moon is still out and I can easily see features on the moon that we can’t usually see from Texas. It’s cold but it’s not freezing.

Waiting for the sun and her warming photons seems to take forever.

A quick breakfast and lunch to go and we saddle up.

We horse-backed and then climbed to a nearby ridge and began scouting. This is approximately 10,890′ and above and behind our camp. Not much oxygen up there…..

I scouted too but didn’t have nearly the equipment that Mitch & Garrett had. I look pretty good though!

These are the cliffs where the HSC live. They didn’t live here though. We did regularly see Mountain Goats though. In fact, Mitch knew one of the females quite well – she had a crooked horn. It was interesting to note that all of our Mountain Goat sightings were below us.

After a morning of scouting several ridges, Mitch sent me and Garrett around another long ridge that curled back into camp. Mitch took the horses and met us at camp. Garrett took me on a brisk 2-mile jaunt along the top of the ridge over these magnificent rock slides. It was brutal and treacherous. The rocks varied in size from fist-sized to Volkswagen Beetle-sized. And, I could hear them sliding and moving as I moved across them. Hard to imagine what it might look like if they decided to slide – again.

We didn’t see any HSC but once we came down off the ridge, we found a Blue Grouse in the forested area and I got on the board. I was really hoping it was a Spruce Grouse but no luck – she’s a Blue. At least I won’t get skunked!

I was soaked with sweat by the time I got back to camp and was grateful for a variety of clothing layers. I started with 7 layers (including duck hunting long johns) and worked back and forth as the temps and my effort changed during the day.

The altitude meds worked fine and I didn’t have any altitude sickness. I did fail to eat and drink well this first day and suffered for it during the evening and night with horrendous leg cramps. Bad enough to give me head spins! This isn’t unusual for me but I didn’t have any pickle juice to counter it. I did have Magnesium tablets and that helped a bit but the best remedy was to eat and drink properly and frequently during the day and then use as much salt on my food in the evening as I could stand.

Oh, and those crocs were pretty darn wonderful by the time I got back to camp.

The lake next to our camp provided abundant opportunities for reflection photos – this is one of my favs.

The menu and food were fantastic. Most meals were pre-prepared by Mitch’s wife, Rachel. Thanks, Rachel!!

GPS Tracks – you can tell where we rode and where we walked/stumbled.

Saturday, Day 2

4 AM wake up and I still have leg cramps – first time that’s happened. I’ll eat and drink better today.

We’re horseback by 5 AM with breakfast and lunch in our saddle bags. Our goal is to be in place scouting at the top of the ridge by daylight to see if we can hear or see some HSC. Horsebacking at the top of the mountains in the dark is an interesting experience. I’m sure glad Mitch has been here before!

We’re in place and scouting by 6 AM.

We heard one down there and stalked down to poke around but didn’t find anything. This trip was mainly a bunch of side hikes that covered about 1,000′ of altitude change. It doesn’t sound like much until you realize that that thousand feet is between 9,500′ and 10,500′. There’s not much oxygen up there to help. I’m OK going downhill but have to stop every 50 or so steps going uphill just to catch my breath. My legs are fine but lungs want more oxygen.

I’m a Frito fan from waaay back and finding these in my saddle bag, just about mid-morning absolutely made my day! And yeah, it was dirty and dusty up there the whole time.

Scouting is hard work. I sometimes took a little nap.

I was infinitely grateful for our horses. They took a lot of steps I didn’t have to – even on some steep terrain!

Someone built a little bivvy up here – probably to hunt the mountain goats that hang around in this area. I can’t imagine spending the night there – yikes!

Our camp is in the trees to the left of the lake. This is taken from the top of Wines Peak – and I even had cell phone connection up here!

Once again, Mitch took the horses back to camp while Garrett and I took the “short cut” straight down the rock slide back into camp so we could get a closer look at the cliffs behind camp for HSC. Mitch beat us.

Looking back up the rockslide we just came down. Pictures don’t do it justice.

Our tent appeared to be level. But, it was just unlevel enough that I didn’t notice until I put my socks on while standing up. Felt like I was drunk until I realized what was going on!

GPS Tracks. Too bad it doesn’t show altitude change from our trip down the rock slide!

Sunday, Day 3

We sleep in until 530 AM because we’re going to hunt the near ridge today. I didn’t have any leg cramps last night so I think my eating/drinking adjustment may be working. Today is Day 3 and I hope it’s like Day 3 in NZ.

We’re going to work that ridge today.

We finished the first ridge and Mitch wants me & Garrett to work the top of that ridge.  I said “Sure, I can get there but probably can’t get back. You ready for a rescue?”  He sent us anyway but lower – through the rock slides – again….

We moved 100 yards at a time across the rock slides and then scouted above. Mitch took the horses and will meet us at the bottom after we’ve made the loop and looked closely.

Woof! Rock slides for perspective. Dirty hunter too!

I didn’t bring a walking stick but found a suitable short term replacement.

Garrett observing what appears to be a forest fire over the far ridge.

Turns out it was a big range fire near Lamoille Canyon – the Range 2 Fire. It blocked our exit!

GPS Tracks

Monday, Day 4

With 3 hunting days in the bag and a severe shortage of HSC, Mitch elects to exit a day early and I agree. Our exit is blocked. We have a choice of a 12 hour ride out on a trail or a 4 hour ride out if we bushwhack out. Mitch says “Bushwhack!”

Morning sunlight shining on the Ruby Dome. Mitch has summited several times.

Gear packed and arranged to load on horseback.

Campers were trapped inside like we were – but no horses!

We being the long slow bush whack out a back canyon.

Steepish! Thanks for sure footed ponies!

A stunning view of our exit canyon.

GPS Tracks

The old trail head where we exited.

A look back on our exit – what an amazing trip!

Returning to Mitch’s house near Lamoille Canyon and you can still see the range fire.

So, I didn’t get a HSC this year – made me sad. I have already reserved next year opening week.  I’ll Be Back!

Until Next Time…..

NZ Peacocks & Waterfowl 2016

Planning & Prior to Trip

I saw this peacock hunting video on youtube about 5 yrs ago and I have wanted to hunt peacocks ever since.

In hindsight, I was glad that I didn’t watch that exact video right before going over to NZ because our hunt was in the same place but a very different type of hunting- possibly depending on season as he was in their Spring/Summer and we hunted in Winter. He was able to point and flush them and mentioned they were nesting which led me to believe they were Spring hunting. Our peacocks were very wary and required some serious spot and stalk to get within range. I’d like to try his hunting approach sometime but I definitely appreciated the spot and stalk challenge. I’ve never hunted a bird that way before.

I was introduced to James Cagney by Daniel Rapley who is an NZ native and member of my CEO Group. Dan hunted chamois & tahr with James which is really James’ specialty.

I contacted James and although he had not hunted peacocks before, he was willing to figure it out. He recommended that since I was coming to NZ I might as well stay a week and hunt the rest of their birds.

Like any bird hunter, I asked, “Well, what kinda birds ya got?”

He responded
>>
– 8 days hunting, consisting of:

– 3 days peacock hunting in Northland, including travel time.
– 1 day Black Swan Hunting – Locally from my home in Canterbury
– 1 day California Quail hunting – Locally from my home in Canterbury
– 1 day Grey Duck hunting – Locally from my home in Canterbury
– 1 day Pukeko hunting – From my West Coast base – Hokitika
– 1 day Paradise Duck hunting – From my West Coast Base – Hokitika

There is plenty of room in this plan to also combine in a Mallard hunt and to overlap some species. The travel to Northland to hunt Peacocks will involve a 2-hour flight each way and a couple of nights in a motel. Travel to the West Coast will involve a very scenic 3-hour drive. The other hunting will all be locally from my home in Canterbury.

As you would probably be flying into Auckland from the U.S. before flying to Christchurch, I suggest we would meet in Auckland upon your arrival, travel to Northland (an approximate 30 – 40 minute flight from Auckland) for the peacock hunt, then fly together to Christchurch to my home in Canterbury for the remainder of the hunt.

Accommodation and meals will be in my home in Canterbury and our West Coast home. Our home in Canterbury is 30 minutes drive from Christchurch International Airport.

Hunt Rates: (US$, includes all taxes)

Standard daily rate – $500/day (Includes local meals and accommodation and road transport)
Additional charges for air travel – rental vehicle – accommodation and meals in Northland for 3-day peacock hunt – $1700.00 total.
Shotgun Hire – Complementary
Game Bird Hunting Licence Fee $91.00 (Complementary)
Ammunition – Steel shot -$20.00/25 shells. Lead shot – $13.00/25 shells (Complementary)

Total US$5700.00
>>

Original Agenda – we actually spent more time on Swans, Pukekos & Paradise Shelducks.
M 5/23 – Leave
W 5/25 – Arrive Auckland 340P, Meet James, Fly to Northland
Th 5/26 – Peacock Hunting in Northland
F 5/27 – Peacock Hunting in Northland
Sa 5/28 – Peacock Hunting in Northland, Fly to Christchurch, Canterbury
Su 5/29 – Black Swan Hunting in Canterbury
M 5/30 – Calif Quail Hunting in Canterbury
T 5/31 – Grey Duck Hunting in Canterbury, Fly to Hokitika
W 6/1 – Pukeko Hunting in Hokitika
Th 6/2 – Paradise Duck Hunting in Hokitika, Fly Hokitika to Auckland
Fr 6/3 – Depart Auckland early AM

My buddy, Larry decided he was game for this hunt as well and happily joined me. Larry likes pulling a shotgun trigger as much as I do.

Species details.
Pukeko
Black Swans
Paradise shelduck
Peacock
Grey duck
California quail

Monday 5/23/16
Depart AUS 730P and Arrive Auckland 6AM 5/25 – skipped a day in travel – will recover it on return. Easy start with a slow airport. I got a nice massage to kill time. Cranberry and lime drink in first class like the old days!


One last laugh for my girls before I depart! Ya gotta figure it was going to be one of these types of trips!


James Cagney, our guide, sent this pic so I could recognize him when he met us at the airport in Auckland to travel to Whangarei. Included are his wife Deb and son Dylan. The Cagney’s were outstandingly wonderful hosts and all around great people.

Wednesday 5/25/16
Arrive Auckland 0615 local time – dark.
Met James @ domestic terminal for flight to Whangarei on North Island for Peacock Hunting.
Pretty much ZERO TSA stuff in NZ – very nice.


Arrived at Whangarei airport and it looked just like the little Wisconsin airport going to Marshfield.


Hmmmm. Wrong side driving. I never got used to this the entire time I was there.


Pois – all kinds of pois! Yeah, they’re actually PIES but by the time the Kiwis say it, it comes out “POIS”. We eventually taught James to say “PAAAAI” like we do in Texas.


Rudi & Barbara Hoetjes BnB Margowa
Rudi is Regional Mgr of Northland Game & Fish. He set up all of our North Island peacock hunting locations and secured permission and made sure there were birds there. Rudy visited with me in Texas during opening weekend of dove season in 2017.


NZ hunters like their mallards & Canadas. Pronounced in Kiwi as MallARDs. We were there for NZ birds so we avoided shooting any mallards or Canada’s while there.

PM Hunt @ Geoff’s.



I wondered why all the farmers cut those little terraces in their hillsides. Note the cow on the lower right of the steep hill. Geoff said cows did it. I didn’t believe him. He said didn’t matter, I’d be walking them in a few minutes and find out for myself. Turns out to be true! The ground is almost perpetually wet/moist/leaky and the small paddocks used for hi-intensity/ low-frequency grazing forces the cattle and sheep to graze up the hill. Since the hills are too steep to climb, the cattle/sheep graze sideways and the ground is soft enough to give under their feet, the little terraces get built automatically!


3 stalks on peacocks out at 400+ yds. They saw us each time and ghosted into the woods (bush in Kiwi-speak). It was mostly groups of hens and one single cock. There are 3 peahens in the photo just right on the light green trees at the bottom of the pine trees on the left side of the pic. Damn hard to see!


There were TONS of Merriam turkeys – mostly unafraid and not hunted at all. Literally everywhere on the North Island. I don’t remember seeing ANY on the South Island.


Peacock stalking involved stealthy hill climbing to get within shooting range before being seen by very wary peacocks with great eyesight. Lots of climbing. The little tussocks of grass are an indication of how wet the soil is and stays. The North Island literally LEAKS everywhere ALL THE TIME. My boots were damp coming over and remained damp/wet throughout the entire North Island hunt and most of the South Island hunt after visiting the West (Wet) Coast.


One of my first and most lasting impressions of New Zealand was that of a Dr. Seuss book. Things look mostly normal and familiar at first glance. But, when you look in detail you see the most amazing and fantastical stuff. This is a Fern Tree and an indicator of the sub-tropic climate of the North end of the North Island

Thursday 5/26/16


I saw that white-tailed turkey from yesterday in the yard this morning! It was actually a peahen that thinks she’s a turkey. She’s one of Barbara’s pets.


Swan plant for Monarch butterflies.


Quince fruit. I tried some quince jam at supper with Barbara and Rudy. It has a unique taste that I had not tasted before. I wouldn’t specifically order it but would try it again if it was on the table.


Macadamia nut. Grown in Rudy’s yard.


Red hot poker plant. Also known as Torch Lily. Imported and ornamental.


Red hot poker plant AKA Torch Lillies


One big loop at Jeff’s place.
Jumped a peacock from tree in the quarry.
Stalked him but he stayed ahead of us.


Kauri Museum was very cool.
Meat pie lunch at Digger Cafe. More pies……


Kauri trees get VERY big


Kauri Gum – felt lighter than I expected.

Hunt PM
Cameron Stokes place near Paparoa.
One loop down thru creek to try to find where Cameron regularly sees peacocks. No luck.
Paradise shelduck female keeps busting us and squawking.
Saw 2 pairs of peacocks. They ghosted uphill at 200 yds.
Tried pushing them back down. No luck.
Sat for 45 mins until I said quit. This isn’t what I want.
Walked over railroad tracks and saw a peacock on the track!
I snuck back around from other direction and Larry and James pushed on.
I shot at big blue peacock too soon and too far. Missed!
Larry shot up 4 hens. Missed.
Two crossed me but I only had 2 shells and didn’t get in front enough.
Thrilling!
Cameron met us and said we missed some peacocks in the house paddock. They heard us shooting and didn’t even move.
We’re going back early AM again.
Plenty of birds there. Gonna get one!
Lost my Costas today. Sigh.


Big Peacock Prints!

Friday 5/27/16


Early daylight loop at Cameron’s Place.
Snuck into the creek paddock from Sporting Clays clubhouse. No luck.


Chased 5 to top of this hill. They flew but no shot. Too far.
I’m getting tired of all the damn turkeys. Literally kicked a hen and chick out of the way as I was scrambling up the hill after the 5 ghosts.
Made a loop by railroad tracks. No luck.
Head back to BnB for Breakfast.
Wet sweaty and chilled – several times.
North New Zealand leaks everywhere!


PM hunt Des Lowe place


See lots of birds but very steep!
This would actually work in our favor as the steep hills had little ravines and gullies so that we could actually sneak up on birds before they busted us and ghosted back into the bush.


We could see a cock and 3 hens on the hill above us.
James & I leave Larry here and work around and uphill back to him
See 7 one ridge over but stay the course on the first group.
They are always one ridge over!


I was sneaking the first group when I crested a little ridge.
Lo and behold a hen was neck-up in the next gully and I don’t know who was more surprised – her or me.
I was faster but dumber.
I shot and she went out of sight down the hill. I wasn’t confident I’d hit her without being able to see more than just her head.
Then a group of 4 hens and 1 cock busted out from below where the hen was.
I couldn’t resist and kept shooting. No luck – too damn excited to have the bird on the ground already.


They flew across the little canyon WAY OVER THERE!


There she is – One nice hen!


And a very happy hunter!



Check out those cool top knot feathers!


James, being the excellent guide he is, was not distracted at all by my accomplishment. He was tracking the ones that got away.


The Peacock flushed into a tree – see that little bitty blue smudge in the left side of the tree in the center? Yeah, that’s a big old Peacock sitting there laughing at me.

I suggested James & Larry stalk and shoot it. I would guard…..


I guarded the lower ground – tired of stalking vertically – while Larry and James pursued the fleeing flock.
While they were stalking, tramping and Bush-bashing, I waited quietly and can hear the rest of the fleeing flock calling back – just like quail!
Larry shot at treed rooster but missed.
I stalked out the callers but no luck.


Peacock = “pavo real” in Spanish = King’s Turkey
And they eat just about what turkeys eat – lots o grubs.


Break for a snack and bird cleaning.
Interesting that the breast meat is so light colored – probably only fly twice daily briefly as they roost.


While we’re snacking and wondering how we’re going to get Larry a bird, we see 4 birds come in uphill and left. Steep uphill and I’ve already stalked that thing once. Nevertheless, Larry’s my buddy and we’re going to get him a peacock too!


Did massive uphill hike to get above and behind
During the stalk, just as we peak over a ridge, a Holstein crow (raven) comes flying over the hill and busts us Big Time. “Squawk! Squawk!” This is a story Larry will tell forever.
We stalked them out and were uphill about 40 yds. Larry took a shot and they busted.


They didn’t go all the way to the bush – just most of the way – but we could see one in a tree. The stalk continues and I find this mushroom. Mother Nature’s warning signs indicate this would NOT be a good one to eat – very colorful though.


James & Larry chased out a treed hen and Larry got her.
Most excellent!
It’s always the last walk when you get a great bird.
Supper with Rudy and Barbara was great.
Quince is ok.
Late night of stories and laughter. Rudi and Barbara were magnificent hosts. They plan to visit TX in the future and I’ve invited them to stay with us when they visit. It would be really cool to return the favor for them. Rudi is the F&G Regional Manager and lined up all our North Island hunts – including landowner scouting and permission! Rudi is a crafty guy and told a magnificent story about how he acquired a new piece of land by getting numerous parties to chip in 60% of the price!

Saturday 5/28/16
Travel & Rest Day – mainly needed a day to DRY OUT. The North Island leaks everywhere all the time. Turns out, so does the We(s)t Coast of the South Island!
Rest and travel to Canterbury via Auckland.
Talked w Jen on phone.
Lots of rain and floods at home.
Weird to call on Sat AM and talk to her on Friday afternoon.


More Dr. Seuss plants at Margowa by the little pond – a fitting parting memory.


NZ is both smaller and larger than it seems. This is the North Island and we were hunting near Whangarei.
Whangarei wh pronounced f so Fon-ga-rey is 90 miles south of North Island tip.
Auckland is 90m south of Whangarei.
Wellington is 300 m south of Auckland and south tip of North Island.
Air distances only – driving takes much longer due to narrower roads and speed limits.


3 hr ferry between North and South Island.
Christchurch on the east coast of the South Island is 200 m south of Wellington.
Hokitika is 90 m northwest of Christchurch but parallel on opposite west cost.
NZ alps run down the left center to the west coast of South Island.
Similar to Argentina I think.
BTW, they graze sheep on the outskirts of the airport – damn sure better than mowing but weird to see as you’re landing!
We arrived in Christchurch early afternoon for travel to Garfield where James, Deb, and Dylan live. We will base out of their home for a few days as we hunt Canterbury area for California quail and black swans.


I wonder which one is James truck?
It’s a new ride for James and he’s understandably proud of it – it’s one hell of a machine!


Shotgun Shell collection from James’ Dad – some really cool NZ specific shells! “BOARD” shell is actually labeled “NZ Rabbit Board” and was used as a freebie to give to rabbit (here/hare) hunters to get them to kill more heres (hares).

Sunday 5/29/16


Quail hunting near Darfield – full of blooming gorse.



Selwyn River basin hunting for California quail.
Hard walking in either big river gravel or thick gorse.
Jumped one covey of 8. I shot but it was too long.


Several hares (heres) though – glad I paid attention during all the Sporting Clay practice for rabbit targets – finally useful. Big Damn hares!

Lunch at the house. Excellent stag venison bulgogi – I never would have thought it – but Deb is a magician in the kitchen and James forks a mean grill!

PM hunt for California Quail


Waimakariri River basin.
One of their Braided Rivers.
Easier walking too.
Jumped 3 small coveys but no shots.


Steep sides covered with blackberry vines and briars. They actually only have 2 blackberry vines in all of NZ.  One of the left side of the road and one on the right side.  This is the left side one!


They actually drive in the river basins quite often.


And James’ son Dylan leading the way back until he makes a slight misjudgment……
Sheesh, you’d think…..
But then I remember what it was like to be 17 and have your own off road vehicle and scads of ground to roam and hunt.


Dad lends a hand – nope, need more pois….


But James gave him a quick tug and then we all found a better place to cross.


More and lots of blooming gorse.


And more hares – there were many large piles of rabbit shit.


Beautiful day end.
Lenticular clouds!!!


Peacock breast wrapped in prosciutto with orange peel and spices.
Great flavor and Deb did a wonderful job figuring it out.
The meat was like a light dry turkey and a little tough.
Deb’s sauce made it enjoyable.


Pavlova traditional Kiwi dessert for a finisher did the trick!

Monday 5/30/16
Rakaia River Gorge
Hunting Black Swans and then Grey Ducks



Rakaia River gorge hunting for Black Swans


Dirk the game warden is guiding us.
Trout hatchery with monster brown trout broodmares. Some are 16 yrs old.
Lots of strategy discussion about how to hunt swans across a couple ponds where they tend to be sticky. Dirk indicates that he thinks they will need Flight Encouragement – a NZF&G technical term for Dirk & James pressuring them from a rowboat to get them to lift and fly. If you were as large as a black swan and on a cozy pond like this one with no hunting pressure and plenty of weekend people visiting, you’d need some flight encouragement as well.


Fish Hatchery House


Fish Hatchery Details


Commandant Rusty Speaks!  Important instructions for all – either Good Bastards or Bad Bastards.


And this battery – I was very curious. Dirk explained that they were all solar electricity at the hatchery and sometimes need to charge some batteries at home when the sun doesn’t shine enough. They kept charging this one but it never took so they labeled it appropriately. Makes sense to me.


We had to have a cuppa before starting. More things should start with a cuppa I think. Lot’s more things.


Salmon eggs in black buckets and hatching trays in silver behind them.


Salmon eggs – the white ones are dead and if not removed quickly will host a fungus and begin killing other eggs.


Hatching trays – the baby fish fall through the cracks away from other eggs so they can’t eat them.


Laser Egg sorter – who’d a thunk it?


Dirk’s son and compadre both work at the hatchery.


Hand sorting out dead eggs.


So the hunt begins after much strategizing.
I snuck into a Mai Mai (Kiwi for Duck Blind) on the little pond. There were a couple there and I was to shoot them and then wait for Larry’s shooting at the other big pond to push them to me. Then, we’d hop them back and forth for a while.
I shot at swans lifting off the pond and missed.
I then got set for return bounce from the other pond.
It took only a few minutes….


And when they bounced back I shot 1
But they only bounced from big pond one time – it was boring while Larry was shooting a ton!


– White Heron – NZ Natl Bird

Finally, I get called over to Big Pond to share in the fun.
Turns out Larry had 4 on the ground already!
WTF?


Even while waiting, the scenery never failed to be spectacular. Lots of cool mirror image scenic pics today.
Larry has 4 down and is already asking about the limit and if he can shoot some of mine.
“5 and Nope!”


I’m hiding behind some gorse bushes waiting for the “flight encouragers” to do their work. The swans are way over there.


James & Dirk in the orange boat on the far left center of pic “herding” swans toward us. Flight Encouragement.


Autofocus through the gorse blind. Informative.


Birds are closer and now I’m watching them through a hole in the gorse.
Several swans lift and curl across in front of me.
Shoot 2 more.
Big damn birds and you have to hit them hard to bring them down.
I was shooting 3” #2 lead and failing on head shots at 40 yds with UFO choke. Shooting at the breast/neck junction works better than headshots.


Dirk and James – our Personal Pond Pirates – doing flight encouragement and retrieval.


A good morning’s harvest and a ton of excellent shooting!


Go back to pick up original swan in the small pond.
I stalked and jump shot another 2 birds.
9 total for the day.


Black Swans are enormous!


And plentiful on this particular pond!


One last picture of the fish hatchery swan pond.


Onward and upward the Rakaia valley for pond shooting Grey ducks
The Rakaia river is one of NZ’s Braided Rivers – you can see why here.

PM Hunt


Looking to jump shoot grey ducks from high altitude small ponds and streams.


Upper (to me) and Middle (to James) Rakaia River Valley.


Yup, snow on the ground in May.


One loop to a small pond that James had seen from a heli.
Jumped 3 mallards but no shot.
Sat & waited for about 30 minutes – took tons of scenic shots – one turned out nicely.
Notice the mirror effect and then that the clouds are diff from the ice on the pond. Pretty cool I think!


Loop along Glen Aragh. No birds.
Very nice stroll through cold, clear afternoon with cool scenery and many lively little streams.


Can’t help but appreciate the Scottish influence in the area.
Never saw stiles anywhere else but sure could have used them.
Figures the short Scots would have on of these!
Very handy!

Tuesday 5/31/16

AM
Pack and travel to Hokitika on the west coast for pukekos and paradise shelducks


Over Arthur Pass


Braided River from Arthur’s Pass


Saw signs for Moas ahead and James wanted us to stop. Some pub owner did it several years back as advertising gimmick – and then became sorta famous
Life size replica of a Moa – wiped out by Maoris


A utility truck hit a hawk on the road and it got stuck in the grill – Harrier Hawk!


Kea – large parrot-type birds that live above the tree line all over NZ.
Cool scarlet colors under their wings


And pesky!


But approachable.


Arr Hokitika @ noon – West (Wet) Coast
Staying @ Maureen’s – James’ Mom


Scouted for Paradise Shelducks (Parrys) hunt next morning
Also walked out some Pukekos to begin understanding how to hunt them


Walked big marshy loop for pukekos.


Many many small streams on these dairy farms. Pukekos tend to be either feeding in the grass close to the bush or in the trees along the stream.
Most flush at 40+ yes and require long shots going away.


The West Coast had received record-setting 3 meters of rain in the past 4 weeks. It was soaking wet everywhere.


James collects these skinny trees to make walking sticks for his big game hunters. Strange little tree but easy to see how it makes a great walking stick.


And this orange fungus – it was everywhere on rocks but almost impossible to scrape off with your fingernail.


Shot 1 pukeko into a pond but too far to get.
Shot mallard hen who ran to the bush.
Shot 6 more pukes all into the bush.
Todd will never believe me unless I have one in hand for a pic.
Shot parry hen in hand!


Bluff Oysters – a specialty from the town of Bluff.


Maureen’s Chili Jam – gotta get that recipe!


From these chilis – ?

Wednesday 6/1/16
AM



Hunting Paradise Shelducks from a layout blind in maize paddock.
Parrys decoyed great while we were in shadows until the sun came over the mountains then sparse.


Late sunrise in mountains and low latitude.
Sun is only 45 deg hi in north at noon!


23 parrys. Nice steady 1-4 bird groups decoy nicely.
Some eaten by bush.
Dylan can flat out sing some Parry Love Songs.


Female is white head, male is black head.
Females sound like Zeek Zeek Zeek.
Males sound like Zonk Zonk Zonk.


West Coast was full of these little creeks and streams – perfectly stunningly clear.


Possum bait station to poison “possums” which are sort of marsupial raccoons – trapped for fur sometimes.
NZ Possum – http://www.doc.govt.nz/nature/pests-and-threats/animal-pests/animal-pests-a-z/possums/




Walked up pukes (pukekos) while James & Dylan picked up – that was cool
Shot 13 pukes on a creek.
Finally recovered 2 and got pics – Todd would never believe me otherwise.


The Do Duck Inn – camp kitchen & cots inside – popular place! Rough conditions though!


Fantail bird – loves to hover and flit around people as our movement stirs up bugs they eat. Very curious and unafraid.


Slogging through some very muddy areas became common.
They use High intensity, low-frequency grazing for dairy cattle and they have been in here recently and made/improved the mud and tussocks.
We got really good at tussock hopping.
If you step or fall off – it’s at least 6” into that mud.


Sometimes LOTS of tussock hopping – only to find a dead end and have to rehop them back out.


Lots of 1 lane bridges – need to learn to understand the signs about who has right of way – in this one – you do


Pukeko Alley – always plenty of birds to chase in this little walk along the river (down below on left)


And the scenery just wouldn’t stop – a little fun with late day light and shadows.



Whitebait fish delicacy. Sort of latkes.
Caught during spawn.


Maureen’s Ketchup – delicious! Get that recipe too!


NZ landers have a funny relationship with Pukekos – love/hate?

Maureen & James introduced us to Deer Devils Movie – fantastic!
This local documentary delves into the extraordinary practice of live deer capture from helicopters in New Zealand in the late 70s and 80s.
https://www.primetv.co.nz/videos/-/asset_publisher/eviSPDsbDSfP/content/deer-devils


James can help with a variety of things – including helicopter deer harvest!


Prices in NZ are nuts! These are $20 at Tractor Supply!

Leaving The House Haka – “Testicles, spectacles, wallet and watch”

PM hunt




Rimu Tree
http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/conifers/page-3


Maureen’s Dining suite made from old rimu fletches that she & Robin had harvested on their farm – fulfillment of one of their dreams!

Pukes same as yesterday.
Small loop covering yesterday’s ground. Shot 2 singles.


Shot another hare. All instinct and was over before I realized.
Big loop thru Dylan’s honey hole – Puke Alley.
Shot 4 for 4 in honey hole. Then missed next 4.



Got puke feathers and carried in hat. Larry too.
Walked out river track. Shot 7 singles.
Such excellent sport! Tough shots!
Sundown and turned back to Landy.
Worried about ending on 13.
Saw 2 and stalked them like a boss.
Shot one. Whew!
Larry shot 7 pukes and 1 parry

Thursday 6/2/16
AM
Parrys from layout same as yesterday.
They decoyed very well.
18 count.


Walk up on pukes along the creek – flushed mallards and swan – didn’t shoot them.
Great vids
+1 parry
Final puke hallelujah.
Scotch double on crosser at 40 yds.
19 final count.

PM
Some shopping & Kiwi museum!
Saw the Kiwi!



Sucking down a big cock – was so good that everyone in the car had to get one.
Big Cock Jokes – lots of them…….

Saw 3 pigs cross the road in Authur Pass coming over to the East side.
Dylan & James stop to “stick” them.
I was getting out to watch….


Look before you leap! That’s a 10’ drop right there!

Evening grilling.
James finally finds and points out Orion low on the horizon.
Tim Hicks stronger beer song.


Stag pic and venison! – A plate of perfectly grilled venison backstrap from a red stag that James had the picture of on his iPad.
Very good.
JC house almost packed – They move on Friday swan hunt.


James & Dib pronounces my name funny. Jeff = Jif.

Friday 6/3/16
Friday. Last day. Hunt swans AM then depart.
Ravens=Holstein crows.


Conservation permit for hatchery hunt from Dirk.


Hatchery swan hunt.



4 on big pond w vids.
Larry got 4 too.


Frozen Gorse


Frozen pond too.

Jump shot little pond.


5 more swans. No vids.


Trigger ice pond retrieves – too cold!

Robert about Hokitika cowboy action shooters. “They’re mad buggers over there.”


L&P and a Sheffield poi


James gun bench wall stickers. He’s going to miss those after he moves.


Ginger beer, NZ Classic!


Great friends – I’m sad to leave.

I’m still walking on the wrong side and bumping into people.
Fly Christchurch to Auckland.
Since Christchurch to Auckland ticket not connected to Aukland to Austin we have to checkin and recheck luggage. Larry wanted to avoid bag feed w/ his train of 6 bags!
Arrive LAX mid afternoon. About same time JC dropped us in Christchurch.
Some gun confusion thru customs and rebooking. Settled out OK. Glad I had 4457 with me and completed.
Home at mid nite. Cool to think we were shootings swans in NZ this am.