Hunting for Adventure

  • 19/04/2024

Hunting for Adventure

Written by - Tim Allen

This season will be the fifteenth year of venturing outside my region in search of bird hunting adventures, and I can tell you I’ve had good times and I’ve had great times which I hope continue for years to come

While I’m writing to encourage utilising your Fish & Game licence to its fullest, I’ll set your expectation up front – I’m not going to tell you where or how, partly as I don’t want you turning up where I’m about to hunt but mostly because I believe the ‘learning’ is where the true adventure and reward is in our outdoor pursuit. One thing is for sure, some of us never stop thinking about duck hunting!

From my time on the road, I have more stories of stuff ups, muck ups and blow outs than significant hunting successes. I can tell you for free, year in year out those are the stories that get relived more often than the big bird days. Don’t get me wrong, I can think back fondly on the few hunts where it ‘happened’ and all came together. Honestly, I wouldn’t change a thing, except maybe I wish I had been a little more realistic with my expectations around what I’d considered ‘success’.

I’ve always had a love of wing shooting and a passion for waterfowl and the wild places they hang out, but looking back it was certainly the distortion offered by social media of the abundance of birds and ease of hunting that initially inspired me to want to head out of my region.

One of the truly useful aspects of social media in a hunting sense has been the ability to interact with people of similar interests all around the country. There’s no getting away from the fact that, if it wasn’t for the wonderful people I’ve met and hunted with, I wouldn’t have enjoyed my time on the road anywhere near as much.

My expectation when I hit the South Island was that I could drop out a decoy in any puddle and have it mobbed, shooting large volumes of birds like the ‘stack’ photos I’d seen on social media. To be fair, this is a lesson we can all take on board – it mostly isn’t like that wherever we hunt for most of us. This misrepresentation is infinitely worse on the modern photo-heavy, content-short social media platforms used today where editing and context isn’t well represented.

In short, set your expectations right and let the adventure lead the way. Choose those who inspire you carefully. With the right mindset you can’t really be unsuccessful.


There’s no getting around it, waterfowling tends to be gear heavy. Decoys, dogs, blinds, waders, camping kit etc, which lends to expensive travel and limited accommodation options.

I started off taking lots of gear, not really knowing what it was I was going to do, so I covered all my bases from field hunting geese to shooting larger water bodies. I’ve been able to become more concise with my gear requirements over the years due to pooled resources of friends and a much better understanding of how I want to hunt to the point I haven’t taken a gear trailer for a number of years now. The short explanation is experience. It’s gained over time. Enjoy accumulating it.

Getting Started

Being North Island based, the South Island not only boasted seemingly endless supplies of fowl but also a longer season which meant I could fully utilise my region’s season, then continue looking for other opportunities further afield.

Initially I bought a South Island road map, a highlighter, then spent a large volume of time tracking around the Canterbury region on Google Earth marking irrigation ponds. It was my initial intent to do a fair bit of door knocking. These are the types of places where if you’re lucky you can stumble on really good shooting. While there can be a lot of birds on some ponds their size can make for some humbling experiences and they often require a fair bit of gear, which is where some local connections helps.

I still spend hours searching, planning and thinking on various hunts and really enjoy doing so as this is where the anticipation and imagination of ‘what might be’ starts to build. It’s very much part of the hunting experience.

Public land offers numerous opportunities up and down the country and while those local connections can make life a bit easier, the experiences gained by finding or gaining access and learning how the birds can be hunted is often where it’s at for me.


I’ve set some personal goals which have very little to do with taking big numbers of birds (which are impractical to deal with when on the road anyway). For example, I want to successfully hunt all regions. I’m going okay and only have a couple left. I also want to successfully hunt all access points on a number of water bodies.

A successful hunt for me is satisfied by harvesting a bird. This could take years as certain places hold birds or only hunt well in certain conditions. You’d think in 14 years I’d have ticked all the boxes, but I think it’s in the interest of my continued enjoyment to never quite clear the list... Right?

I still have a number of water bodies I’d like to hunt, and I have a few more people I’d like to hunt with, which is part of my motivation for looking beyond my region, followed closely by enjoying the tranquillity offered by wild places. Then there’s the matter of more hunting for my dog. There are more reasons ‘to’ than excuses ‘not to’ maximise the opportunities our licence affords us, that’s for sure.

This past season I (finally) had a firm invitation for a hunt in a North Island swamp with some fine people I’ve known for some time. A long drive, a fascinating evening in an historic hut, followed by a morning hunt which yielded a single spoonie drake met my definition of success.

As I think about the effort for that spoonie I also think back fondly on my first South Island duck. That hunt provided a lone mallard drake. There was a fair bit of travel time for that bird too. I remember being a bit disappointed as the reality (one bird) hadn’t met my expectation (limit) at the time. There’s been some adventures between those two birds that’s for sure!

Our licence gives us legal opportunity to hunt game birds for less than a dollar a day which represents exceptional value. If I had one overarching piece of advice it’s to get out and live your own experiences. Try new places in new regions. Exploit your hunting licence, the true value of which shouldn’t be measured by ‘limits, it should perhaps be measured by places visited, people met, and time spent in quiet solitude with a shotgun, a dog and always the comfort of knowing just how lucky we are here in New Zealand... well that’s where it’s at for me anyway.

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