Both Barrels May 2024 - Southland

  • Southland
  • 23/05/2024

Both Barrels May 2024 - Southland

It arrived, we made the most of it, and it went

Opening Weekend 2024 has been and gone.  

A standout observation from this year is that Opening Weekend is really a pondcation, or a maimaication.  Southland hunters really make the most of the weekend by having a vacation at the wetland.  

In most cases, hunters spend Friday and Saturday nights camping out and ‘doing it rough.’ As you will appreciate, some aren’t that rough at all. 

It was great to see people getting together to catch up and relax, while enjoying the great outdoors and our valuable wetlands.  

This year, hunters in coastal areas enjoyed stronger winds than usual, which made a nice change and resulted in a few extra birds committing to the decoys. While those in the duck factory of the central plains had to fight harder for it this yearthose who usually bag out, managed to do so, however it took them longer to do it. Further inland, the conditions were calm in the morning and a slight breeze built up during the day. Consequently, hunting success typically mirrored those conditions.  

Groups that were organised and created movement on the water, had decoying birds in their sights and enjoyed the opportunities and success.  

Rangers observed several ponds that didn’t have any decoys out!  Yet, these hunters still complained that the birds weren’t dropping in and that numbers must be way down. The adage ‘Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance’ rings true. 

Our opening weekend harvest survey did reveal that opening weekend harvest was lower than usual this year. On average, each hunter took home 10 mallards for the weekendthe long-term average is 12.   

Pictured above: A happy young hunter with his first duck on opening day.




Over Opening Weekend, Fish & Game Rangers teamed up with Police Constables to check for compliance with both game bird hunting regulations and firearms licensing requirements, respectively.

Fish & Game Officer Cohen Stewart, Constable Dylan Burtenshaw and some happy hunters on opening day. 

This happened nationwide and both parties enjoyed the occasion to speak with hunters in such a positive environment.

Across Southland, we visited 50 sites on both public and private land and spoke with 150 hunters, plus those who were part of the festivities.

We experienced high levels of compliance which was very pleasing. No one likes having their day ruined, and we don’t particularly like ruining it.

We encountered:

  • 1 hunter without a gamebird licence.
  • 2 hunters using 12ga lead shot.
  • 2 firearms that had been left unattended.

These are currently being followed up on.

While most hunters had their game bird hunting licence on them, the Police would like to reiterate that hunters should carry their FAL while using firearms, i.e. while hunting. Most hunters permanently keep it in their wallets, which were safely left in their vehicle. Please have it on you while hunting.

We heard of a small fire in a maimai near Gore. The branches used to camouflage a maimai make great tinder, so please be extra careful when around fire and gas BBQs.


When Jack Frost visits

Go for a drive through the countryside and you’ll see ducks in or near puddles in paddocks. The water brings worms to the surface which provides ducks with a plentiful food source, all while enjoying the security of a 360˚  view and making themselves difficult to hunt.

The recent string of frosty mornings presents an opportunity.

Let’s run through last weekend. Saturday was wet and miserable and the ducks we observed were spread out in paddocks, gorging themselves in the ephemeral puddles. Whereas Sunday morning was fine and frosty. So, that new surface water and the ground was not available to them, more so they probably didn’t need much food intake, like the day after a meal at a buffet. So, the ducks would have been looking to loaf on larger ponds or on rivers. An observant and organised hunter can target suitable areas when such conditions emerge.


Dwight’s Smokey Pulled Duck Breast

With the 2024 Opening Weekend providing some nice fat mallards, here is a great way to make the most of them and create a meal that is well worth the effort. It balances introduced flavours with that of the bird.

  1. Pluck the breast area and singe the fine feathers.
  2. De breast the bird with the skin ON (the skin has the fat and flavour so keep it on).
  3. The breasts can be aged in the fridge for a day or two. Ensure they are airtight.
  1. Take the breasts from 3-4 ducks and coat them in liquid honey (or maple syrup/brown sugar)
  2. Place them in a hot smoker for 15-20 minutes – be careful not to cook them.
  3. Once smoked, place them in a slow cooker.
  4. For the sauce, mix the following in a bowl and then add to the slow cooker.
    ¼ cup BBQ sauce
    1 Tablespoon Soy Sauce
    1 Tablespoon Worchester sauce
    2 Tablespoon Apple Cider Vinegar
    2 heaped Tablespoons Whole Grain Mustard
    1 Tablespoon Brown Sugar
    1 Tablespoon liquid Honey

    Slow cook for 6 – 8 hours.
  5. Take the breasts out and place in a large bowl. Using 2 forks pull the meat and skin of the breasts apart, keep going until all the meat is separated into small strands.
  6. Pour the liquid from the slow cooker onto the pulled meat to create the desired consistency – not too wet and not too dry.

    The liquid can be reduced to enhance the flavour.

I personally love the pulled meat in tortillas but wraps or bread also work well.

The meat goes well with fresh vegetables like lettuce, tomatoes and carrot, the contrast of the meat and the fresh vegetables really works. I also add cheese and sauces of choice.

They are easy eating and kids LOVE them. Any leftovers can be utilised for quick lunches, ideal for your next hunting trip.


Be Adventurous

Let waterfowl provide the reason to go check out that new spot, sit on a pond or backwater, stalk a creek, or set up in a paddock. Roll the dice and give it a go.

Success aside, you’ll likely enjoy it and be glad you did.

From the team at Southland Fish & Game.


More Posts