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High Flying Pheasants
– Hunting Experiences

The countdown is on!

The first Saturday in May is the traditional start of the gamebird season in New Zealand.  For many it is preceded by a countdown of sleeps much like children waiting for Christmas – it is that important!  At Poronui it is marked by a new season of driven pheasant.  While not yet a tradition it is fast getting that way.  Three years since the inaugural shoot and it just gets better and better.  It is easy to see why it attracts such a loyal following.  The shooting is phenomenal and everything about the two-day experience at Poronui is just as I would have expected from a top sporting lodge anywhere in the world.

Happy hunter with pheasants assembly if hunters in poronui

I was lucky enough to be a photographer for a shooting party in 2023.  Five individual drives occurred on my day and each involved a site where the emphasis was on providing high flying birds which offered challenging shooting. Each drive included new terrain – it never got boring and was the perfect way to tour Poronui! Over the day the shooters either spread out across a valley floor or stood at the base of a forested plateau or cliff or waited below isolated stands of trees. Unseen birds were flushed high up on the hill faces and the shooters intercepted them as they rocketed over their heads.  The format for each drive was identical as the protocols are all important. On arrival at the drive location the shooters moved to their assigned peg. Each shooter used a double barrel shotgun and had been briefed to fire only at birds flying above his or her position. No low or sideward shots were permitted. I was impressed that this rule was never broken. The gamekeeper signalled the start of each drive and some ten to fifteen minutes later the beaters put the first birds into the air. Over the day I witnessed some excellent wing-shooting. The gamekeeper ends the drive and the dog handlers move in to pick up the shot birds. A day in the field generates an appetite and in that regards the shooters are well looked after with elevenses, lunch, and a final get together for all involved at the stables, and later a celebratory dinner in the lodge.

pheasant hunters hunting

High Flying Birds

Pheasants are a gamebird that would rather scurry away than fly, but when they are flushed under pressure by beaters, they seek safety in volatile manner. They explode into the air, pick up speed quickly with rapid beating of their wings, then once they have elevation they alternate between flying and gliding across the valley to reach distant cover. The main thing I noticed between the expert and average high bird shooters was that the experts knew when to fire. Too soon made for a tricky front on narrow target; too late made for a poor stance shot, but just right was when the target rose to go over the shooter. This was the sweet spot and invariably the shot birds landed not far behind the shooter.

Flying Pheasants

Dogs and Pheasants

Upland gundogs love hunting pheasants. A wide range of breeds are used hunting pheasants in New Zealand.  The spaniel teams used on Poronui had me mesmerised. When told to go and collect the fallen birds they left no bird left behind. They hoovered the ground like vacuum cleaners with very little escaping them.  They lived for hunting.

Dogs ready to hunt birds

Greg Morton: A New Zealand correspondent for the USA based publications The Hunting Report; The Bird Hunting Report and The Angling Report for many years. He presently writes a monthly article named Fair Chase for the New Zealand Fishing News and a hunting blog for Poronui Hunting.
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