By Mick Jensen
The opening day of the duck shooting season may be delayed because of coronavirus restrictions, but Dave Thomson is ready and will take aim from an irrigation pond at Lowcliffe.
Dave’s been shooting ducks for five decades and first picked up his father’s 1901 steel barrelled hammer gun as a teenager in Dunedin.
He still has the gun and, like the weapon of choice for many duck shooters, it’s a 12 gauge.
“It’s a single shot and the barrel is 7cm longer than my current gun and it weighs a lot more.
“It’s made by Harrington & Richardson and I used for a couple of years.
“These days it’s more of a family heirloom, has little value, but I keep it for sentimental reasons.”
Dave will be joined by former Lauriston School principal John Bockett on the first day of the new season.
The pair have enjoyed the annual catch up many times over the past 40 years and will head to a regular spot at Lowcliffe, a farm belonging to one of the pupils Dave taught during his time as the principal of Lowcliffe School.
Dave is also a keen rabbit and hare shooter and enjoys the social side of the hunt and getting outdoors with mates. He also enjoys cooking up the spoils of his hunting trips.
“I’ve got four mates I do various types of shooting of with, and I know when I go out with them I’m going to be safe.”
For a number of years in the 1980s there was a sizeable social gathering of duck shooters at the Lowcliffe Hall.
Town versus country duck dinners were held and when numbers dropped off, the venue moved to Murphy’s, the small hall at the Rangitata River mouth.
“They ground to a halt when there was only a few of the older shooters left,” said Dave.
Dave has used a selection of guns for bagging ducks over the years, including a double barrelled, side-by-side shotgun.
“I didn’t bag any more ducks with that gun, but I did use twice as much ammo.”
Later he used a double barrelled over-under shotgun, with the sight located on the top barrel, and both barrels pointing more directly at the target.
With a law change in 2004, shooters like Dave were forced to use non-toxic shot when hunting waterfowl within 200 metres of open water.
want to go down the road of modifying the choke on my gun, so opted to buy a pump action shotgun.
“I didn’t get on with it and it only lasted one season.”
His current gun is a semi automatic and he considers himself to be an “average shot”.
He still prefers the old lead shot, he says.
“I my experience the steel shots are faster than lead, but if you shoot at close range you go right through the duck, and if you shoot from long range there is now always enough killing power.”
Like most duck shooters Dave will enjoy the opening weekend of the new season, and then will shoot probably only shoot three or four more times more over the three month season.
game bird season will open on the second Saturday following the introduction of Alert Level 2, except if that date falls on May 30. Based on current Government projections, opening day will be mid-May or early June. Because of the late start, the season will also be extended.