The ducks may have gone absent without leave but good friends from near and far caught up at one Waimumu mai mai.
Former Gore man Jonathan Ogg and his son Zac, of Auckland and Mike McMeeken, of Christchurch, were three guests shooting at a pond on Jason and Debbie Smith’s farm.
The highlight of the weekend was seeing Zac, shoot his first duck, Mr Ogg said.
When possible he tried to spend time duck-shooting in Southland.
‘‘It’s basically Christmas for big kids.
‘‘It’s an opportunity to catch up with friends and family.
‘‘It’s always great to be down this part of the world and follow a time-long tradition where businesses shut down, rugby’s cancelled.’’

On Saturday morning the group shot about 17 ducks that appeared smaller in size to other years.
‘‘That might be as there is not as much grain around as there would traditionally be.’’
Gore plumber Blair Sheddan was on cooking duties.
‘‘We’ve had a cooked full English breakfast,’’ Mr Ogg said.
‘‘We roll with a philosophy in this mai mai of great hosts but demanding guests.’’
He was a little uncertain whether he would take some of the ducks home as one year there was an unfortunate incident on the aeroplane.
‘‘We do it with a little bit of trepidation ’cause there was blood leaking out of the overhead [locker].’’

His favourite way of cooking the ducks came from The New Zealand Wildfoods Cookbook by Daryl Crimp.

‘‘It’s called Daryl’s duck and it’s a casserole.’’

Mr Ogg left Gore in 1995 but was still a member of the Pioneer Rugby Club.

Zac said he was enjoying his first opening day. His favourite part was being able to ‘‘shoot a gun’’.

He missed the first few ducks he took a shot at. ‘‘Two and a half hours later there’s a duck in the waters and I bowled it as it took off,’’ Zac said.

Mr Sheddan said when there was a lull in shooting the men had some good discussions.
‘‘We solve a lot of problems of the world over this weekend.’’
The weekend’s activities started Friday night with a gathering of friends in the Smith’s woolshed.
The Smith’s recently bought the farm where the mai mai is sited.

Mr Smith said there was a good breeding season on the farm.
‘‘A lot of young ducks lived on our summer crops and were quite happy through to about mid to late February.

‘‘There were hundreds of ducks here.

‘‘Then they disappeared and pretty much haven’t come back.’’

He was not sure whether the dry conditions later in the summer affected the numbers.

He made a deal with his sons; if they built him a new mai mai on the pond they could shoot in his old one about 1km away with their friends.

Far and few between. . . A group of shooters on Debbie and Jason Smith’s former duck pond did not see many ducks in the first three hours of shooting on opening day. PHOTO: SANDY EGGLESTON

At that pond the group of young men had not shot as many ducks.

Mitchell Tweedie said the group had shot three ducks in the warm sunny conditions.
‘‘It would better if it was a bit cloudier the ducks would be on the pond.’’