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Rangers disappointed with duck-hunting rule-breakers

Rangers disappointed with duck-hunting rule-breakers

Tech-savvy Fish & Game rangers have expressed disappointment at the number of East Coast and Gisborne hunters breaking the rules after the opening weekend of the game bird season.

Eastern Fish & Game officers and honorary rangers checked nearly 300 hunters over the weekend, using Google Earth and other mapping technology in a coordinated, targeted ranging operation.

Four East Coast hunters were caught without licenses and had their shotguns seized, while another offender – who had spoken with officers the night before and been advised of the regulations - was caught using lead shot in his 12-gauge shotgun within 200m of open water.

“We’re pretty disappointed to see the level of non-compliance over the weekend, which was definitely higher than previous years,” Fish & Game Officer Anthony van Dorp, head of the operation, said. “Guys might think it’s worth taking the risk but they’ve got to weigh up whether they could give up their expensive shotgun, any ducks they’ve shot and other hunting gear just for the sake of a $90 hunting license.”

Mr van Dorp said the increased technology meant East Coast hunters are firmly on Fish & Game’s radar.

“You might think you’re in a remote area and away from prying eyes but we’ve been using Google Earth and other mapping systems and have identified a lot of ponds and waterways to check. We’re not just randomly driving around listening for gunshots these days – we’re targeting areas using technology, local knowledge and any available means.”

Those who don’t buy a license, Mr van Dorp explained, are just riding on the back of those conscientious hunters who contribute directly to Fish & Game’s management of game bird habitats and resources.

Fish & Game staff also teamed up with Police to ensure firearms regulations were being followed, and found a small number of hunters consuming alcohol against the ‘guns and alcohol don’t mix,’ advice and laws.

“Most hunters have got the message to leave the beers until hunting is over and the guns are secured away but we still need to get it through to a small minority,” Mr van Dorp said. “They’re putting themselves and anyone nearby at risk.”

Following the late-summer drought, the Eastern Region season for mallard and grey ducks has been shortened to four weeks, although upland game birds – including pheasant and quail, paradise shelduck and black swan - have a longer season extending into July and August depending on the species.

Results from the opening weekend supported indications mallard numbers were down across the region, although many hunters managed to collect their limit of paradise ducks, especially in the Eastern Bay and East Cape areas, while officers also reported excellent numbers of pheasants in some areas.

“We saw flocks of paradise ducks as thick as flies in parts of the Gisborne and East Coast area and there were large flocks in paddocks out the back of Whakatane,” Mr van Dorp said. “Even though overall bags were only average or below average, most hunters we spoke to were happy with the opening weekend and had thoroughly enjoyed themselves, especially once the weather front came through when the ducks were generally a bit more mobile and flying lower.”

A handful of banded birds were also seen by Fish & Game officers and they want to hear from any hunters who harvested more, by writing, phoning or emailing with details of the bird and its band number. They also want information on any birds shot which have a radio transmitter fitted, as part of an earlier tracking study.

Check Fish & Game’s website for details on bag limits and other rules: www.fishandgame.org.nz

ENDS

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