New Zealand was a hive of activity in the early hours of Saturday, 23 May as thousands of hunters headed out to start the 2020 game bird hunting season.
The three-week delay to the season because of COVID-19 lockdown had failed to dampen the enthusiasm, with Fish & Game rangers across the country reporting many happy hunters.
Hunters reported that the lead up to the season start had been exciting, with the best numbers of birds seen frequenting their ponds in many years. However, in regions affected by drought, hunting was made harder by lack of water.
Fish & Game NZ says reports from around the country on the opening day reinforced this sentiment with large numbers of ducks seen moving around.
“The government’s decision to delay the start of the game bird season till after New Zealand moved into Alert Level 2 has enabled the cultural fabric of what is opening day to be maintained. Hunters have been positive in their feedback with how Fish & Game NZ has handled the COVID-19 crisis and enabled them to have a game bird season,” said Fish & Game NZ chief executive Martin Taylor.
He added that the weekend was an “important chance for thousands of New Zealand families to harvest some organic free-range kai for the table.”
“New Zealand has many places for hunters to gather game birds and many regions benefit from Duck Tourism,” he said.
“Game bird seasons vary in length across the country so don’t be afraid to travel to a different region to increase your hunting opportunities and support the regional economy.”
Reports from regional Fish & Game poured in, with most reporting a good response from hunters across the country.
In Taranaki, an early cloud cover helped provide a good opening and while the day cleared, there was still plenty of hunter activity on the bigger lakes. Moderate bags of paradise and mallard duck for hunters were obtained.
Meanwhile, it was a beautiful day in the Manawatu, with light wind on the river. Good bag limits were reached early on for hunters despite it being a better day for the ducks.
Up north in Auckland/Waikato, it was fine but with some fog hanging around in the Waikato. Rangers accompanied by police reported 100% compliance.
The Eastern region had variable weather conditions, some of it which made the hunting challenging. Also, some parts of the region were lacking water, which also made the hunting trickier.
In Northland, it was a bit quiet all morning with hazy skies and cold. Some large irrigation ponds performed well for hunters.
Lots of happy kids and families were out enjoying themselves in Otago, where the conditions were sunny and little wind.
In Hawke’s Bay, the weather was clear and calm, which is not ideal for duck hunting, but most hunters contacted by Fish & Game had managed to bag a bird or two for the table. There were no issues with compliance.
It was pleasant weather for hunting in the Central South Island region with low cloud and a moderate breeze welcoming hunters in. Good numbers of birds were observed about. Most hunters were satisfied with bags of two to 10 mallards and paradise shelduck each by lunchtime.
Southland hunters saw plenty of ducks seen on opening day, but the mostly still weather across the region made for trickier hunting. Overall, hunters were satisfied by the sheer numbers of ducks seen.
Weather conditions in North Canterbury for opening day turned out pretty good and hunters were out in large numbers, with most reporting that huge numbers of birds were trading in their vicinity. Open water bodies such as Lake Ellesmere shot well for the first couple of hours, with many hunters commenting that large numbers of birds were seen.
Opening morning produced mixed bags on the West Coast: a foggy start made for challenging grey and mallard shooting but those who had done their scouting still typically found good success. A lot of visiting hunters made use of West Coast’s abundant paradise shelduck population with bag limits being reached, especially those hunting over recently harvested maize, who had a fantastic morning with no shortage of parries.
While Fish & Game reported that most hunters complied to the rules, a few were caught hunting without a licence by rangers in Southland, Timaru, and on the West Coast.
In Southland, Fish & Game rangers reported several instances of hunting without a licence, which resulted in confiscated shotguns.
“There’s always a degree of non-compliance. We’d prefer there was absolutely no non-compliance. But still, certainly disappointing to catch some people hunting without licences… it wrecks the staff’s day, dealing with them, and certainly wrecks their day as well. Their guns have been seized as evidence and they’ll proceed through the court system,” Southland Fish & Game manager Zane Moss was quoted as saying by Newshub.
Three hunters were found without gamebird licenses in the area south of Timaru to the Hunter Hills, Central South Island Fish & Game officer Rhys Adams was quoted as saying by Stuff.
Their firearms were seized, Adams said.
“They could quite possibly be prosecuted; it’s a matter of a sit down and look at all evidence before a decision is made.”
There were also four more instances of lead shots being used within 200 metres of a waterway.
“You have to use non-toxic ammunition within 200 metres of a waterway,” Adams said. “We ceased the lead shots, three hunters were involved, and there is another one where there is an ongoing investigation.”
In the West Coast, one hunter was found to be hunting without a licence.
Source: Fish & Game NZ