The Duckman: Learning how to deal with foxes not an easy feat


Greg Clarke, The Weekly Times, March 7 2017

PROTECTING plump birds requires skills we never dreamt we would need.

The good wife and I are forever learning, and often mesmerised by, the infinite skills farmers need to possess.

The first monumental challenge of this business, a few years after we moved from Melbourne, was to keep 30 infant ducks alive. Some eight years later, the need-to-learn-fast tests keep coming.

My latest is an attempt to grow grass in some of our weary duck paddocks. Do you think it might be frustrating I haven’t managed to slow the lawn growing around the house — which needs constant bloody mowing — yet struggle to keep lush grass in the paddocks?

Jodi is often desk-bound talking to chefs, compiling orders and organising the deliveries to the restaurants with GOD (Great Ocean Ducks) on their menus.

She gets the job done despite seeming to be forever on the phone, but one of her latest challenges was so confronting we sought a guru for help.

Jodi and I and our two girls, Madi and Milla, endured our first fox attack last year. The aftermath of the attack was horrific but we did what we had to do. After we’d recovered from the trauma, the good wife and I wondered how we might at least try to prevent another massacre.

First, we relocated the places where we tie the dogs up at night. A longer term plan involved buying a shotgun.

After navigating the application process, we eventually took possession of a beautiful second-hand gun. The knowledgeable fella we bought it from suggested the good wife and I, confessed novices, become familiar with it by shooting at off-cuts of corrugated iron in a paddock.

Jodi had never used a shovel before we set off on our duck adventure. No surprises then that she’d never been near a shotgun.

When the good wife took aim at her first target I screamed at her to stop (she was wearing ear protectors). Jodi was holding the gun a little like an indecisive octopus with eight left-hand tentacles.

I grabbed Madi and Milla, ran to the car and drove to Avoca. There, a relatively safe two hours from Port Campbell, I began to relax (sort of).

I didn’t know where to start with advice so took the only sensible option. I called the good wife and asked her to let us know when she’d locked the gun back in the safe and had thrown the keys in the dam. We’d think about returning to her and the ducks then.

A mate of Dad’s is a life-long shooter and has the patience of a fisherman. John is a man of such broad skills he is known by a circle of friends as the Guru.

Dad brought the Guru down and within two years, sorry, my mistake, that should read two hours, he’d not only recovered the damn keys but had Jodi hitting a target out in the paddock.

The Guru has been married for 50 years, brought up fine children, made some incredible shots, yet this is almost certainly his finest achievement.

Guns are rarely, if ever, funny. Yet The Melbourne Comedy Festival begins later this month and I have a strong urge for Jodi and I to enter a routine, one where we attempt to shoot a fox in a duck house.

I haven’t signed us up yet. Between turning off fat ducks, mowing the sodding lawns, and admiring the good wife, who takes on any challenge with a beautifully enviable nonchalance, there’s not enough time to polish our act.