Chances of a duck dinner looking good as ‘best game bird season in years’ looms

  • 4/05/2017

The cold, wet, miserable summer much of the country endured has encouraged a bumper duck breeding effort, prompting Fish & Game to predict 2017 will be the best game bird hunting season in years.

The new season opens nationwide this weekend (Saturday 6 May) and thousands of hunters will be out on rivers, lakes and wetlands – hoping to bag enough birds to lay on a duck dinner for their families.

Two generations of Taranaki duck hunters.

Fish & Game carefully monitors duck populations before deciding how many can be harvested. This year, annual aerial surveys confirmed good duck populations in all South Island regions, and there are similar reports from the North Island.

Otago describes hunters’ 2017 prospects as “great”, and the renowned duck hunting region of Southland is also reported to have better duck populations than last year.

Further north, it’s also a “good news story” in the Auckland/Waikato Region, while in Taranaki, the wet summer is being labelled by Fish & Game officers there as “an eternal spring” with good survival of young ducks and a resulting sharp increase in the population.

It’s a similar trend on the other side of the North Island, with Fish & Game officers in the Bay of Plenty and Gisborne regions predicting “a better season than we’ve had for the last seven or so years.”

Despite increased duck numbers, hunters are being warned not to take a duck dinner for granted.

“Hunters will have to work hard to take home dinner for their families, with the weekend’s weather forecast looking like it will favour the ducks,” says Fish & Game’s communications manager Don Rood.

“Hunters pray for wind and rain on Opening Day in the hope that ducks will fly lower, but the Met Service is dashing these hopes with its weekend forecast.

“At this stage, it looks like many regions will be sunny with even frosts likely in some parts of both islands.”

Fish & Game is expecting tens of thousands of hunters to be out on wetlands, rivers and lakes around the country this weekend.

“Game bird hunting has a long tradition in New Zealand, and is a real opportunity for families and mates to get together and harvest birds for the family dinner table,” Don Rood says.

“Nearly 40 thousand game bird hunting licences are sold each year, but the number of hunters is higher as landowners don’t need a licence to hunt on their own property.

“We urge these landowners to make sure they are familiar with the local regulations and stick to the rules.

“This includes how many birds you can harvest and how many shots you load into your gun.  A number of regions have now introduced magazine size restrictions, so make sure you check the rules on for the region you are hunting,” he says.

Fish & Game rangers and police will be joining forces over Opening Weekend to inspect hunters to make sure they have their licences and are following the rules.

The game bird hunting season runs from this Saturday 6 May through to the last weekend in August and closes on Sunday 27 August.   

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