Duck season starts this weekend

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THE 2018 game bird hunting season begins on Saturday and runs through to the end of August.

Fish and Game spokesman Grant Dyson said game bird hunting was hugely popular, with around 40,000 people buying licences every year.

“Money from hunting licence sales goes to creating and preserving threatened wetlands thanks to a special habitat stamp on every licence,” he said.

“Licence revenue also helps Fish and Game fight to protect the environment and improve water quality.”

The police will be out with Fish and Game rangers this year again.

Arms Act service delivery group Acting Superintendent Mike McIlraith said police wanted everyone to have a safe and successful game bird shooting season.

“To ensure that happens, we need hunters to be vigilant when hunting in such close proximity to each other to avoid serious injuries or worse,” he said.

“It is critical hunters treat every firearm as loaded, always point firearms in a safe direction and to check your firing zone.”

The joint approach is aimed at educating hunters, promoting hunting safety and compliance with Fish and Game hunting regulations, and firearms laws.

“They’ll be checking hunters are properly licensed, conducting themselves responsibly, and offering advice on how to stay safe,” Mr McIlraith said.

“Anyone who is planning to use a firearm is required to have a valid firearms licence and comply with the New Zealand Arms Code.”

Going hunting with mates could be good fun and having a drink with your mates could be fun as well, but these two activities should never be mixed.

“Operating a firearm safely requires vigilance and good judgement, so skip the alcohol until the firearms are locked away safely,” Mr McIlraith said.

“It’s important to us that you keep yourself and others safe this duck shooting season.”

The three-shot rule that was introduced last year in the region applies this year also.

Fish and Game senior officer Matthew McDougall said hunters were required to plug their shotgun magazines so that the gun held no more than two shots in the magazine and one in the breech, three shots in total.

Unless hunters changed the way they hunted, it was far easier to wound birds with the now-required steel shot than it was with lead shot in the old days.

Having fewer shots to expend, hunters were forced to think about their shooting.

“The duck population is quite low and we want clean kills,” Mr McDougall said.

The three-shot rule was another tool to help reduce pressure on game bird populations and provide more opportunity for other hunters.

Having just landed from a duck-counting flight on Wednesday afternoon, Mr McDougall said the duck numbers were looking strong in some places in the Eastern Bay.

“There are heaps of them in some spots,” he said.

“In other places it’s about the same as last year.”

That meant mallards and grey ducks were up a bit on last year in the Eastern Bay.

Global warming affects numbers

OPOTIKI hunting veteran Butch McKay says climate change is the reason duck numbers keep getting lower in the Eastern Bay.

In the same way that fruit trees get confused by a lack of frosts, so, too, does the duck breeding cycle.

Mr McKay said the absence of early frosts had resulted in some ducks breeding in autumn, with the energy reserves that the hens had saved up being used as they sat on their eggs.

“This means they have no energy left for winter,” he said.

“And the ones who survive don’t breed in spring, because they only breed during one period of the year.”

Chicks being hatched during the wrong season meant they, too, were less likely to survive.

The warmer climate thus led to fewer ducks in total, but also an imbalance between male and female numbers.

“Last year I watched about 40 ducks getting chased up from the river by a passing motorcycle,” Mr McKay said.

“There were five drakes for every hen.”

As a result, hens being chased to death by drakes was not uncommon.

Mr McKay said the absent or delayed frost problem was not happening in the lower part of the South Island.

“That’s why their duck numbers are still strong,” he said.

Safety comes first

Remember, safety comes first this season – No bird is better than no buddy.
Always remember the seven golden rules of firearms safety:

1. Treat every firearm as loaded

  • Check every firearm yourself.
  • 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 hunting area.
  • Load the chamber only when ready to shoot.
  • Completely unload before leaving the hunting 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 if 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.
  • 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 of firearms.