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The Autobiography of a Maori

Slaughter of Wild Pigeons

Slaughter of Wild Pigeons

Pigeon-snaring and piercing was an art in the old days, but in these days of guns, shots and powder, pigeon-shooting is downright business. I always went with my father on his shooting expeditions. At Takapuwahia we found hundreds of pigeons feeding on the berries of the ti (kouka). As'the berries cluster amongst the long leaves, the birds, with wings spread out, just flopped on the leaves. The noise they made with their wings was great, but it was nothing compared to the thunderous noise made by hundreds of birds on the wing after a shot had been fired, and the sky became darkened with them. Often a shot was fired into the flock of birds on the wing. The birds would only lift for a few minutes, then once more they would flop down to feed, and again a few of their number would be brought down. The destruction would be greater when half-a-dozen guns were at work. A shrewd native could fill a bag with pigeons without firing a shot by simply picking up dead or wounded birds at the edge of the bush. The sight of hundreds of pigeons feeding on the ti and then lifting in the sky was, to me, most exciting and, the little savage that I was, I never had the least compunction in regard to the shameless destruction of the beautiful wild pigeons, but that came in later years.

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Friday afternoon was the time for leaving home so as to be near the bush. The camping ground was a small cave about eight miles up the Awatere river. The sportsmen, if they could be so designated, always allowed themselves sufficient time to secure a bird or two for the evening meal. The camp rule was one bird to every person, and even I had a whole bird allotted to me. Anyone who was unfortunate enough not to have secured a bird was given one. Only a hurried breakfast was had early on the Saturday morning, after which the party broke up into sections, each section going in a different direction. I always followed my father, my duty being to pick up and carry the birds. Late in the afternoon, all met again at the cave and together rode home satisfied with the day's shooting.