Both Barrels May 2024 - Otago

  • Otago
  • 23/05/2024

Both Barrels May 2024 - Otago

Good times despite lower bags on Opening


Clutha District might have been the place to be for duck-hunting on Opening Weekend, notching up the highest harvest rate in Otago this year.

Above: Bella Murray (7), from Lawrence, duck hunting with her dad Paul Murray on opening day in South Otago. Photo: Jayde Couper, Otago Fish & Game

The next best by district, according to the Opening Weekend harvest survey, was Dunedin City, followed by Queenstown-Lakes.

Usually a solid performer, Central Otago had its poorest Opening Weekend harvest rate in at least eight years.

Following regional drought, harvest rates were below average in most parts of Otago, our Opening Weekend harvest survey showed.

Queenstown-Lakes District bucked this trend, recording an above-average Opening Weekend.

The survey has been running since 1993 and provides a long-term data set on individual effort and the harvest of each game bird species.

Thanks to all hunters taking part in the phone survey. Fish & Game will continue surveying harvest rates as the season progresses.

Anecdotally, many hunters we’ve spoken to praised their Opening Weekend experience with mates and family – even if they didn’t harvest as many birds this year.


Opening Weekend by numbers
  • Almost 9.5 – average hours hunters spent in their maimais over the weekend.
  • 5 – average number of game birds each hunter harvested.
  • Less than 1 per cent – hunters estimated to have reached the bag limit of 25 greylards (mallards, grey ducks, or hybrids of these species).
  • 80 per cent – the percentage of greylards in the opening weekend harvest.

Otago Opening Weekend greylard harvest rate from 2015 to 2024 broken down by district with their averages for 2015-2023 (dotted lines).  


Opening Weekend averages down

Otago Fish & Game Game Council chair and honorary ranger Colin Weatherall hunting on Opening Weekend at Lake Waihola with Charlee Eaton (14) and Thomas Weatherall (14). Photo: Scott Weatherall.

Harvest rates have slipped below the long-term average for four seasons in a row.

This year’s low harvest rate could be attributed to several factors. 

The most-likely reasons were dry conditions leading up to opening day, which left many ponds with little water. 

Despite breezy conditions in the many areas, rangers and hunters noted a relative lack of mallards flying around, a finding supported by the average results from the aerial mallard survey conducted in April.

Rangers found some hunters were let down by basic mistakes with decoys, camouflage, and maimais.

As always, the better-prepared hunters got the best harvests.

Opening Weekend average greylard and all waterfowl bag with the long-term averages (1992-2023 – dotted lines). 


But wait, there’s more!

Hunting on Opening Day on the Taieri River are (from left) Mikey Edh and Cameron Hall with Kirt Rusbatch, who was calling the birds, along with German short-haired pointer Murphy. Photo: Bruce Quirey.

Opening Weekend is only the start of the game bird season in Otago Region.

Why not make the most of it?

Getting outdoors among nature is great for wellbeing and harvesting wild, free-range food is hard to beat.

The mallard/grey season is open until July 28 (inclusive). Black swan (below Clyde Dam) and paradise shelduck may be hunted until August 25.


Rewild a buddy!

Day licences went on sale on May 13.

It’s a good opportunity to “rewild” a buddy for a day to help our hunting traditions continue.

Take them out hunting, and show them how much fun, and how great tasting, game birds can be. And remember to look out for them.

If your mate does not have a firearms licence, they must be under the immediate supervision of a licence holder. That means the licence holder is:

  • physically present and actively supervising the shooter
  • close enough to be able to take control of the firearm being used by the shooter if necessary, and
  • not using another firearm while providing supervision.

Click here for more info under the Arms Act 1983, Section 20.


Pond to Plate

On days off work, Otago Fish & Game officer Ben Sowry is probably out hunting and gathering, and then turning his harvests into tasty kai.

Follow his Pond to Plate game-bird cooking videos on the Otago Fish and Game Council Facebook page.

Swantons, anyone?

Ben reckons swan wontons are a perfect way to use those big birds. With the high population of black swan in Otago coastal areas, hunters have plenty of opportunity to make use of these tasty waterfowl.

Reminder: Black swan cannot be hunted in the Clutha River catchment upstream of Clyde Dam.


Good compliance

Otago Fish & Game honorary ranger Leon Watson (left) chats to Blair Cowan, with Labrador Cami, on Opening Weekend. Photo: Bruce Quirey.

Opening Weekend compliance of duck hunters in Otago was particularly good.

Five ranging teams were out with police officers in support of some crews operating around the Taieri Plain, South Otago, Strath Taieri, Maniototo, Ida Valley and Lake Dunstan.

Two offences are being processed for hunting without a game bird licence. But generally hunters were very well-behaved and pleased to see staff and rangers active.

In some areas, rangers noted several ponds not being hunted and encountered fewer hunters than expected.

Upland game bird season

The 2024 upland game bird season in Otago opens on Saturday, June 1, at the start of the King’s Birthday long weekend.

Quail are the most common upland game bird in Otago.

Every season Fish & Game receives inquiries from hunters seeking access to upland game locations.

Most upland game bird habitat is found on private land in Otago, so hunters need to put in the time and effort to contact landowners for access.


Dose your dog

Be sure your dog’s vaccinations and regular tapeworm dosages are up to date before asking farmers if you can hunt on private land.

This is essential to prevent the spread of sheep measles and protect rural livelihoods.

Dogs should be dosed with tapeworm drugs containing Praziquantel at least 48 hours or within a month before your hunting trip.

A monthly dosage will kill tapeworm in your pet’s gut.

Three-month all-wormer dosages do not prevent tapeworms for the entire period. Talk to your vet for advice.


The team at Otago Fish & Game

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