This letter is about my hobbies. All my life I have been keen on hunting, in fact I was allowed out with a .22 rifle (Single shot) when I was only 7 years of age. This was strictly a solo operation, but at the time it was a necessary one to feed the extended families, two dogs as there was one else to carry out this task. I know that today the police and everyone else would say that this action was irresponsible, but in this case the family said it was OK as it was filling a real need. I know too that today there are many people around who really never grow up. So in my mind, age had little to do with responsibility. These people just look old.


At this time I was staying with my Grandparents in a remote area. Grandfather was old and could no longer tramp the hills. I could have trapped my main prey, rabbits, with the steel Gin traps, but even then, I regarded them as a cruel device. There were other alternatives, set snares, or just wait on a stoat to bail up a rabbit, (The signal for this was a terrible squealing of the of the rodent). At this point, the rabbit was paralysed from it’s mid point, and unable to flee. I had no problem in taking the rabbit, instead of leaving it to be eaten alive. All of these various ways of hunting were a poor second to shooting. The local farmer was very happy to have me roaming free on his property. I was an extra pair of eyes, caring for his sheep that could be caught up in bush lawyer, or cast. Another plus, for every four rabbits I shot, he could now carry one extra stock unit.


I was also keen on fishing which was a natural adjunct to hunting, there was very little I didn’t keep for the table. With plenty of species around, many people became very fussy in what they took. Crayfish was Ho Hum, smelt out the kitchen while cooking, skate wings avoided too, didn’t look right, octopus, not on your Nellie. However I wasn’t keen on kowhai, I found for me it’s taste was too strong. I have since been told that’s it’s OK if it’s bled immediately after capture. I’m sure too that a lot of these particular fish have found their way into fish fingers, they too seem to have the same strong taste. Flounders were my favourite, I hunted these in the estuaries at wading on foot on an incoming tide with a light at night. In daylight in deeper water a different technic, to give you clearer vision, you required a light box, and a boat. Red cod were plentiful, but too many seemed to be infested with a red worm parasite in their flesh.


As mentioned earlier at eighteen years of age, along came the Army, immediately I was issued with a .303 rife a couple of ammunition bandoliers a No 1 uniform, fatigues, two pair of woollen underpants which I never worn as they scratched and itched the hell out of me. Woollen singlets and shirts, also made from course wool. A greatcoat, ground sheet, and a glengarry cap.


As soon as I was able, I transferred across to the Air Force and was accepted for Air Crew training. The Air Force treat an Air Craft as a Gun or an Ordinance Platform. Sure it’s a wonderful machine to gaze on, but it’s prime function is a weapon. There too, I was introduced to the 12 Gauge Shotgun. The principal is much the same as shooting from an Air Craft, as you are now shooting at a moving target, whether you are shooting clay pigeons at a gun club, or piloting an Aircraft. It’s all the matter of the correct lead. Or how far in front of a target you have to aim to hit it. I have been active in Gun Clubs ever since, and even went as far as studying ballistics and loading my own ammunition.


I found shooting was a selfish sport, and it didn’t involve my family. However I had plans for another activity lurking in the background, ‘Sailing’ and this sport would involve the family. They could take part if they wished. A huge increase in fuel costs, had suddenly made this sport very popular, as well as fibre glass construction methods made the purchase of a hull affordable and superior to wood. So we sold our caravan, and became the proud owners of an Aquarius 22 foot ‘Trailer Sailer’, which we named ‘Mademoiselle’. Experience ‘Nil’, but the Libraries were full of sailing books, as were the book shops. So we joined the local Yacht Club, and set out on a steep learning curve. With the wife and daughter, all full of book knowledge, we were going to win races. Or at least learn how to control this beast of a Sail Boat. Initially we were just plain awful, as we endeavoured to translate what was written in the books, into practical application. After a few years of tailing the field we learnt enough to be a contender.


I was also a member of the Dunedin Photography Society for many years, and after learning the basics of composition they taught me how to take a good photograph. From there it was only a hop step and jump to buy canvases brushes and oil paints. I was never much good at producing original works, but neither are a lot of contemporary painters. Their work being produced today, and lauded by the Art World, to me is a complete enigma and a puzzle.


Other hobbies have come and gone, but I have listed the ones that made the biggest impact on my life and my family.


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