The prosaically profligate may scorn and mock, some may even pen a poem. But those who suffer cannot knock a cause which is unknown.
“Having a hard day of it, Brett?” I hear some ask.
Why yes. How did you guess? It could be the weather. My ducks are in a row but really they should be airborne. Perhaps some lead shot is needed. Indeed it is the season for it.
Duck shooting is a pursuit that puzzles me. To a large extent it’s a ritualised fancy-dress exercise where a chap and his mates take some 12-gauges, a dog, a quacker and a bottle of rum and sit alongside a body of water for hours at a stretch and watch the world go by. Occasionally a low-flying duck may zoom past, to be confronted by a wall of shot. If it is unlucky enough to be in range, it may become overcome with death, plummeting earthwards. If it falls into the adjacent body of water, this is where the dog comes in. Or not, particularly if it’s gun-shy and has only ever played catch with a tennis ball.
At the end of the session, the vegetatively-clad gun wielders head home to impress their women-folk with tales of derring-do and perhaps a clutch of dead ducks. After the requisite plucking, de-beaking and gutting, Daisy and Donald are trust into a hot oven to reappear thereafter in a starring turn at a Duck Dinner. Lead shot is a bit harder to munch than are duck bones but it is the conviviality that is more memorable than a bit of chewy bird meat and a broken molar.
To add further interest are those opposed to what they believe is a barbaric and inhumane pastime. They’re right. Sitting in a mai mai on a frosty morning with wet feet and a drip on one’s nose is indeed inhumane. This is where the previously mentioned bottle of rum comes to good effect.
“I think you’ll find those opposed are worried about the ducks, Brett.”
If thousands of ducks and other sundry waterfowl were slaughtered in the annual season, and some were endangered native species, I may agree with the critics. But the odds of a duck meeting an untimely demise from lead poisoning during the annual season are quite low. Ducks are quite canny creatures. They seem to have some sort of inherited knowledge about the range of a 12-gauge and where protected areas of water lie.
Central Taranaki, where I grew up, is not famous for having bodies of flat water. Apart from cow troughs. However not far from home was the Waingongoro River, one of many fast-running stony concourses that connects Egmont National Park with the Tasman Sea. A couple of farms down the road a quarrying business extracted stones from the river and crushed these for use as roading metal. The extraction process meant that there were some largish ponds that attracted ducks.
A local farmer had constructed a mai mai adjacent to these ponds, affording excellent shooting opportunities. On this particular day he was sitting in his mai mai, 12-gauge loaded, decoys on the water, dog curled up keeping his feet warm. Life was good. Suddenly, directly overhead, was the massive blast from both barrels of a shotgun being fired, and in front a massive shower of spray as Decoy Duck met an untimely end. Words were subsequently exchanged about the etiquette of duck hunting.