Both Barrels May 2023 - West Coast

  • West Coast
  • 15/05/2023

Both Barrels May 2023 - West Coast

Right: Hunter Heney having a great first opening morning behind his 410 shotgun.

The 2023 Game bird season is underway!

Near-perfect conditions greeted hardy game bird hunters for the opening morning of the 2023 season.

A wet week led up to a morning with low cloud which then cleared for some great hunting opportunities.

Rangers reported many hunters were visitors to the region with historical connections or completely new and utilising the superb hunting opportunities in the region.

Generally, with flooded pastures and high-water levels, birds are more evenly dispersed amongst the region's hunters and that was certainly the case opening weekend.

Rangers did not encounter hunters with full bags of birds but did see a diverse range of game bird species harvested amongst the hunters.

That was to be expected with a dispersed population of birds rather than being present in large flocks.

The latter is usually a product of hunting pressure and is mostly encountered later in the season.

Our game harvest survey and communication with hunters last week has confirmed that some great hunting was had over the opening weekend, especially by those targeting paradise shelduck.

The average West Coast hunter over the opening weekend shot 8.4 game birds.

Consisting of 3.7 grey/mallards, 4 paradise shelduck, 0.1 swans,  0.6 pukeko and 0.01 shoveler for 6.2 hours hunting.

Game bird monitoring over the last couple of months has confirmed that there is no shortage of game birds on the West Coast, it’s just a matter of doing some scouting and getting stuck in.

With the good numbers observed in flight over opening weekend, hunters can only expect the hunting to improve throughout the season.

Luckily for us Coasters, if opening didn’t go your way, we have a three-month winter season, so there is still plenty of time to get back out and chase some birds.

Josh Gardner and Blue from Christchurch hunting in the Hokitika catchment on opening day

Following a warm and relatively stable start to the season, it looks like we have some cold storms approaching, hopefully moving birds and getting them within shotgun range!

Wind can make all the difference, and using apps that have very localised weather information can help you know exactly where to go. 

Using Yr weather ( and Windy ( should see you set up in no time with a strong wind over your shoulder.

To find out what to look for, check out this great video from the Wellington Region by clicking here

Easterlies make for enjoyable hunting as they are often very strong winds with no rain, although caution should be taken on large water bodies with the potential dangerous winds/waves.

As daylight shortens and winter sets in, birds will be mobbing, so be sure to get back out and make the most of the great hunting on offer.

Organised Hunts/ Important Dates 

Organised hunt events have now been locked in so hunters can start planning to get along to them!

Any questions regarding organised hunts should be directed to .

As you’ll see below, we are promoting the Shortest Weekend Duck Hunt.

The 24th and 25th of June is the weekend Fish and Game are encouraging all hunters to get out hunting game birds again.

Each year, at hunters' request, Fish and Game promote a weekend to get hunters out in force and keep birds in circulation.

A second opening weekend in essence.

Birds will have settled well since the opening day in May, and it may be worth checking your regular spots for large concentrations of birds.

With day licences available, it might also be a great chance to introduce someone new to the sport.

So...spread the word and get out amongst it when the weekend rolls around!




Opening Weekend

6th & 7th May 2023


Pukeko Drive

28th May 2023

Birchfield, Westport

Pukeko Drive

4th June 2023


Shortest Weekend Duck Hunt

24th & 25th June 2023


Game Bird Hunting Trip

1st & 2nd July 2023


Closing Weekend

29th & 30st July 2023


Opening of Summer Pukeko Season

1st January 2024


Opening of Summer Paradise Shelduck & Swan Season

24th February 2024

Locations 200m or more from open water for Paradise Shelduck

Closing of Summer Seasons

17th March 2024



Hope to see you out there.

Warm Barrels

Baylee Kersten, West Coast Fish & Game Officer

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