After months of yes/no yes/no we finally decided to rock on down to the Southern Field days in Gore. After loading up the ute with a heap of gear we realized we had underestimated the available space....bugger..out came the dogs and in went more gear. A quick call to the father son team of Brendan and Caleb Matthews (the new owners of Hooked on Boars magazine) solved the issue - we would be hunting behind a team of South Island bailers!
So as always the work side of things rolled past at lightning speed as we talked hunting and made the odd sale and before we knew it we were heading out to Waimate....yep the wallaby capital of NZ has a good population of pork as well. The terrain was a bit rough..."yeah right"....tussock as far as the eye could see and big rolly hills- choosing the right valley would be essential cause you ain't coming back out in a hurry.
Day one was a mission to the back and beyond in the quads with Caleb and his mate Damo. In the lead up we had ensured dehydration wouldn't be too much of an issue by consuming as much liquid as we could and these two young fellas looked far to energetic in the early hours of day one. In the mayhem of loading up dogs, guns and gear Jase and I quickly parked ourselves in the relative comfort of the Polaris bench seat and we were off.
The initial mayhem continued with dogs chasing pigs almost as soon as we arrived out the back of the block. Caleb left us at one stage to stay close to his main dog as it split from the others and made a beeline for a huge open valley. This was the last we were to see of him for almost 3 hours! Our chase ended in a few barks and a solid hold on a nice fat little boar. Jase followed the fellas in for his first Southern boar.
Meanwhile Caleb was in a rolling battle with one tiring dog and a huge ginger boar that refused to bail long enough for him to get close, further and further across an open face it went occasionally pulling up to catch its breath and give his main dog a flick or two. Rather than toying with a miniature our dogs would have been more value clonking this big fella.He has probably used this escape a few times before, with the smaller pigs sacrificed for his escape.
Due to the joys of summer hunting our day was rapidly ending with temperatures rising fast so back to Waimate and into the local we went to meet a few of the characters that frequent the pub there.
We cooked up a plan to split up on day 2 - the old bastards being me,Jase and Brendan would run a couple of dogs and sneak out real early before Caleb and Damo recovered from the evenings re hydration exercises. We got the jump on them and were on the hill well before day light.
Wallabys everywhere and yep as the light lifted pigs out in the tussock - fresh rooting on a far face had us loading up and down we went. Little did we know that the bike was not to be seen again for 8 hours, the gradual slope was deceiving and before long we were well down chasing a good pig.
Brendan's old dog made the most of the open country and in no time was off the charts at 1.8 km and still going - don't worry he said in a fairly relaxed fashion, he bails when he is on his own. After hearing nothing for 30 minutes or so his relaxed attitude changed and we were racing to close the distance and try and get the dog back on the tracking gear. Fastest way is down through the native and back over the other side we heard Brendan mumble as he lead us down into one hell of a gully.
The words used as we stumbled out of death gully to find the old dog trotting back to us with what looked to be a cheesy grin on his face were unrepeatable and as we looked back we could just make out bike perched on the furthermost hill visible.
With the temperature now at 25 degrees and rising and fresh pig sign becoming more and more evident it wasn't easy to turn and begin the grueling 4 hour slog up to the top ridge and our discarded water bottles, food and bike. Was the right call as the dogs were trailing along tongues hanging out - I wasn't looking much better mind you and when we hit the bike the tepid raro drink that had sat simmering in the sun tasted unbelievable!
Well after striking out and with the weather a balmy 25 degrees and blue sky everywhere we decided to rest the legs and head to Geraldine. Brendan runs a pretty slick Hunting guiding operation up there and the offer to ride a horse around 1200 deer infested acres wasn't one to miss.
Brendan joked that he had the perfect horse for me...... he set me up a beauty and left me to catch Dutchy a little painted mare. Well fair to say she caught me instead and after a few hours riding this awesome little horse there was no way I was leaving without taking her with me back to the North Island.
So all in all a trip that yielded far more than just pigs - we hit the North Island with 2 fellas that only a week ago I hadn't even known and now classed as friends - a little horse that was exactly what I had been looking for and was a perfect fit for hunting and a family of growing kids and plenty of new Southern Converts for Game Gear.