Duck-shooters prepare for opening weekend

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The Harmers and Lewis families spent Opening Day 2022 hunting game birds on an irrigation pond near Ashburton. They are (from left) Flynn Harmer and Kurt Harmer,, Harry Lewis, Mack Lewis and Gareth Lewis. Photo Rhys Adams/Fish & Game.
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Duck-shooting season opening day is this Saturday.

Central South Island Fish & Game officer Rhys Adams said results of the most recent annual game bird population surveys suggested hunters could expect to encounter ‘‘moderate numbers’’ of game birds this season. The daily bag limits for the hunters’ most targeted species are 50 for mallard ducks and 25 for paradise shelduck.

“Our Canterbury Plains mallard duck survey observed moderate numbers.

“Paradise shelduck population surveys across the region, including Ashburton District, revealed moderate numbers, while relatively low numbers were observed in the Mackenzie Basin.”

Adams said opening weekend was ‘‘much anticipated’’ in Mid Canterbury and around New Zealand. It was famed for reconnecting friends and family ‘‘and providing a few free-range duck dinners’’.

He said early preparation was key.

He encouraged hunters to check their ponds and organise an alternative spot if required.

“The dry summer may have caused some hunting ponds to go dry,’’ Adams said.

“Hunters should have their location for opening sorted and mai mais scrubbed-up in advance, so they are poised and ready to go at dawn.

“It is important to preorganise ammunition and hearing protection, and inspect and oil shotguns, those are not tasks for the day before opening.

“If you hunt with a canine companion, it is worth conducting a few drills to make sure your furry mate is ready to fetch your ducks. Building their confidence and reinforcing commands will ensure smooth and successful retrieves,” Adams said.

Mid Canterbury hunters utilised habitats including natural wetlands, rivers, high country pastures and coastal lagoons but the area was famed for its irrigation pond hunting.

Irrigation pond hunting in Mid Canterbury offered excellent opportunities for a variety of game species, but many ponds were un-hunted on opening weekend.

“The more ponds that get hunted the better, as it helps to move the birds around and create opportunities for all hunters.”

Central South Island Fish & Game compliance coordinator Hamish Stevens said rangers would be active throughout the region.

“Our rangers were disappointed to encounter five hunters offending in South Canterbury last season,” Stevens said.

“Hunters are reminded to purchase their game bird licences and review the 2024 game season regulations.

“The consequences of being caught hunting without a game bird licence or breaching the game bird regulations are significant, hunters face seizure of their shot guns, ammunition and birds and an appearance in the district court.

“Any hunter seeking clarification of any regulation is urged to contact our Fish & Game office in Temuka to speak with one of our team of rangers, we are here to help.’’