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?”
– 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)
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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).
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
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.
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.
Rakaia River Gorge
Hunting Black Swans and then Grey Ducks
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.
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.
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….
Finally, I get called over to Big Pond to share in the fun.
Turns out Larry had 4 on the ground already!
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!”
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.
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!
Pack and travel to Hokitika on the west coast for pukekos and paradise shelducks
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.
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!
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/
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.
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.
Leaving The House Haka – “Testicles, spectacles, wallet and watch”
Pukes same as yesterday.
Small loop covering yesterday’s ground. Shot 2 singles.
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
Parrys from layout same as yesterday.
They decoyed very well.
Some shopping & Kiwi museum!
Saw the Kiwi!
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….
James finally finds and points out Orion low on the horizon.
Tim Hicks stronger beer song.
Friday. Last day. Hunt swans AM then depart.
Jump shot little pond.
Robert about Hokitika cowboy action shooters. “They’re mad buggers over there.”
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.