article by Greg Morton
Gray has amassed a huge network of farmer contacts, which provides him with exclusive access to numerous hunting areas. Bird species available to the hunter are giant canada goose, paradise shelduck, mallard, grey, and shoveller duck, pukeko, black swan, california quail, feral white goose, rock pigeon, and turkey. His daily hunting fee, which covers guiding, transport, accommodation, and food, is $US450 a day for one hunter. For a party of two hunters the fee drops to $US350 a day each. A hunt must be for a minimum of five days. Ammunition and licence is not included.
In the world of New Zealand game bird hunting, access is everything, and the fact Gray has such a wide range of properties to hunt upon is the key to his success. From arrival to departure, the client can daily hunt new areas, and new populations of birds. This approach means a lot of the hunting is jump-shooting of stock ponds, creeks, swamps, and riverbeds for a mixed population of geese, shelduck, duck, and pukeko. Where large populations of paradise ducks are present on a farm, the technique used is to hide in a blind. The blind is located in a grass or grain paddock and surrounded by decoys. Returning ducks and geese will often glide straight in.
Quail hunting involves the use of flushing dogs, while turkey and pigeon are stalked. Gray has one area that has a large population of black swan. These immigrants from Australia are in excellent numbers, although essentially bonus birds to the main bag of paradise ducks and mallard ducks. Small game such as rabbits and hare are plentiful, and are also available. The only limits placed by Gray on the hunter are what is dictated by the region's hunting licence. A full season licence costs about $US30, but weekly or daily licences are also available. The main waterfowl season runs from May to the end of July, the upland season May to late August, with an additional season being available in January to March for the hunting of Canada Geese and Paradise Duck.
Gray's daily rate applies to both bird shooting and trophy hunting, so a client could hunt and shoot on the same expedition. Gray is also a fishing guide so trout fishing may also be undertaken on the same trip. Accommodation ranges from farm stay to motels to ranch cabins depending on the game species they are hunting.
I joined Gray on a recent daily adventure. The property we accessed was a large ranch that ran alongside one of the major rivers in the Canterbury region. This property had extensive grass paddocks adjacent to the river, and feeding on these was a huge flock of more than 500 paradise shelducks.
These birds are this country's major grass feeding duck, and are the size of a small goose. The males are glossy black all over, and the females a chestnut brown, with a white head. Gray set out decoys and flushed the birds away. On their return the client shot a limit bag of 20. The region Gray takes clients to is largely untouched by other hunters, so paradise ducks in particular are in large numbers. They are a relatively unsophisticated game bird and if the decoy spread looks real will decoy easily. This fearless approach makes for fast and furious shooting. More ducks were pouring in as the decoys and dead birds were being collected. Most clients have a pair of these birds mounted for the trophy room. This area also has a large resident population of 200 Canada geese.
In the afternoon we visited another property where stalks of several small ponds saw the client add five mallard ducks to his bag. At this point he had to stop shooting. In this area, the mixed bag limit is 25 birds a day. As mentioned earlier Gray has already earned a deserved reputation with Hunting Report clients. Subscriber Kenn Wormack has written two highly commendable hunter reports on him, and a recent hunt he and friend Aaron Armstrong took six trophies without paying one trophy fee. He quoted Gray as a quality hunter and outfitter, as well as an absolute pleasure to hunt with. This same type of quality deal is available to bird shooters as well.