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Fish & Game tips ‘great start’ for game bird season

April 30, 2014

Fish & Game tips ‘great start’ for game bird season

Tens of thousands of hunters are expected to enjoy a great start to the new game bird hunting season which gets underway this Saturday (May 3, 2014) with ducks particularly plentiful in the South Island.

Although moderate to heavy rain has fallen in many areas, bringing favourable weather for hunting, hunters are urged to “be ready to quickly adapt” to changing conditions.

The seasons laid down vary in length from four weeks in select parts of the North Island, to double that in some South Island regions.

Fish & Game communications advisor for the South Island, Andrew Currie, says reports from around the regions show mallard and grey ducks in healthy numbers – especially North Canterbury, Central South Island, Otago and Southland.

“Pre-season survey counts indicate plenty of birds in North Canterbury – mallard numbers are looking good and paradise shelduck are up significantly. Aerial trend counts show more this year than any year in the last decade.”

Aerial counts carried out across the Canterbury Plains in mid-March showed the second highest total since the surveys began in 2006.

“In Otago, unseasonably wet early summer weather conditions set up a near perfect environment for growing and fledging ducklings. Since then, the weather has been rather benign, so many of these birds will have survived through late summer and should reach autumn – and hopefully the hunter’s bag – in good condition.”

Further south, recent aerial surveys across much of Southland indicate that they’re in for another solid season, with good numbers of mallards observed.

“Their distribution was relatively patchy, with some ponds close to harvested grain paddocks having huge numbers.”

Mr Currie says it’s worth remembering that as conditions change in the lead up to opening weekend ducks will often shift to where the food is.

“Recent wet means hunters might have to change where they’re hunting, as birds which had been on ponds could now be in paddocks enjoying the abundance of worms forced to the surface.”

Mr Currie says that in the South Island in particular, the start of the game bird season is steeped in history and tradition, “with family get-togethers and plenty of camaraderie as old mates meet up to hunt.”

New Zealand has at least historically been very much a frontier society, and hunting and putting some wild food on the table has had a special place in that. It is part of how many folk still identify themselves and relate to the outdoors, he adds.

In the North Island, Auckland-Waikato region and Eastern region – which includes the East Coast, Tauranga, Taupo, the Rangitaiki Plains, and Rotorua lakes district – have opted for a four week season in view of mallard numbers.

The season runs for longer in the Wellington region, to June 15, and extends to the end of June for Northland, Hawke’s Bay and Taranaki Fish & Game regions.

Eastern Fish & Game region says the hunters who’ll succeed in the face of another challenging season are the ones who’re “smart and adaptable”.

Senior Fish & Game officer Matthew McDougall says the start of the season could again be tough but perseverance should pay off.

“Smart and adaptable hunters will get the payoff.”

Hunters should be prepared with a ‘Plan B’ if their favourite spots are short on ducks at opening, which could involve, for example, checking out ‘big water’ spots such as lakes and large rivers.

“Go and find the big water areas where the birds are congregating,” advises Mr McDougal.

He says that being adaptable may also mean heading into some farm paddocks to target paradise shelduck, going on a pheasant or pukeko hunt, or targeting black swan on some of those big water areas, such as Tauranga Harbour.

Trend count results suggest the black swan (and Canada geese) populations are as high – if not higher – than they’ve been for many years in the Bay of Plenty (particularly on Tauranga Harbour and Lake Rotorua).

Prospects are good for the Taranaki region where game bird hunters have been assured of an eight week season and no shortage of birds to target.

Taranaki Fish & Game officer Allen Stancliff says the region’s daily bag limit also remains at 10 birds, with healthy-looking prospects for the season.

Upland game birds – pheasant and quail, and other game bird species such as paradise shelduck and black swan – have a longer season depending on the species and region.

Fish & Game rangers will be out across the country this weekend, checking regulations are being followed, making friendly checks to ensure hunters are carrying their licences and that they’re complying with the ban on using lead shot ammunition in 12-gauge shotguns over open water. Some ranger teams will be accompanied by Police officers.

Fish & Game communications advisor Andrew Currie says “by far the majority of hunters are responsible and do the right thing, as they enjoy a healthy outdoor pursuit with a long history. But history tells us that a small minority may try to avoid their responsibilities.”

Mr Currie says Police officers will check firearms licences and other lawful behaviour.

“Depending on the circumstances, offenders risk fines of up to $100,000 and loss of any firearms used and a review of their suitability to hold a firearms licence by Police.”

Mr Currie says that while game bird hunting incidents are rare, it’s again worth reminding hunters to take great care while hunting and handling firearms, particularly in enclosed spaces like maimais.

“The other reminder is, of course, to never mix firearms and alcohol. Wait until the end of the day when firearms are locked away before enjoying a drink with hunting mates.”

Hunters are also encouraged to report any banded birds harvested, along with band number, location and date recovered, and their personal details, to help Fish & Game monitor birds and ensure sustainable hunting in future.

Don't forget to check out for the tasty wild game dishes, including helpful hints on cooking and eating your harvest.

For more information on game bird hunting:

Getting started -
Where to hunt game birds -
Prepare and cook game birds -
Try the gourmet delights of game bird dishes -
Both Barrels newsletter sign up -

North Island Regions & Rules – mallard and grey duck

Fish & Game Region Season Length Daily Bag Limit
Northland 3 May – 29 June 15
Auckland/Waikato 3 May – 2 June 10
Eastern 3 May – 2 June 6
Hawke’s Bay 3 May – 29 June 10
Taranaki 3 May – 29 June 10
Wellington 3 May – 15 June 6

South Island

Fish & Game Region Season Length Daily Bag Limit Shooting hours
Nelson/Marlborough 3 May – 27 July 15 0630-1830 May & June
0615-1815 July
West Coast 3 May – 27 July 20 0630-1830
North Canterbury 3 May – 27 July Mallard 25/Grey 5 0645-1830
Central South Island 3 May – 27 July Mallard 50/Grey 5 0645-1830
Otago 3 May – 27 July 25 0700-0645Area A
0700-0630Area B
Southland 3 May – 27 July 15 May 3&4
10 May 5- July 27 0700-1830

(SOURCE: Fish & Game)

Basic Rules for Safe Firearm Handling

1. Treat every firearm as loaded
Check every firearm yourself and pass or accept only an open or unloaded firearm.

2. Always point firearms in a safe direction
Loaded or unloaded, always point the muzzle in a safe direction.

3. Load a firearm only when ready to fire
Load the magazine only after you reach your shooting area. Load the chamber only when ready to shoot. Completely unload before leaving the shooting area.

4. Identify your target beyond all doubt
Movement, colour, sound and shape can all deceive you. Assume colour, shape, sound, and shape to be human until proven otherwise

5. Check your firing zone
Think! What may happen if you miss your target? What might you hit between you and the target or beyond? Do not fire when you know others are in your firing zone

6. Store firearms and ammunition safely
When not in use, lock away the bolt, firearm and ammunition separately. And never leave firearms in a vehicle that is unattended

7. Avoid alcohol and drugs when handling firearms
Good judgement is the key to safe use

Source: New Zealand Mountain Safety Council
More information about firearms and outdoor safety can be found on the Council website:

Further Information on licences, bag limits, and other regulations:


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