The North Canterbury region has lots of game bird hunting opportunities.

North Canterbury
Ballot Stands

Most of the public land is administered by the Canterbury Regional Council and the Department of Conservation. Either of these organisations or Fish & Game North Canterbury will be able to assist you with any access inquiries relating to public land. Fish & Game North Canterbury has a “Game bird Hunter Access” publication available to assist hunters with access issues and it is available from the Fish & Game office or from major game licence outlets. You can also click on the links below to download area-specific access pamphlets.

The North Canterbury Fish & Game Region stretches from the south bank of the Rakaia to the headwaters of the Waiau, from the Southern Alps to the sea. Habitats range from coastal dunes to shallow wetlands and wide riverbeds, high country lakes and mountain valleys.

Mallard ducks are the most abundant and popular game bird in the region. They have adapted well to the developed agricultural land which dominates the North Canterbury landscape. The paradise shelduck is the next most popular species among hunters in the region and like the mallard, also does well in developed land. 

Upland game birds are less prolific than in some other Fish & Game regions but reasonable California quail numbers are present in the middle reaches of the braided riverbeds. Small pheasant populations are also present but are not sufficiently abundant to withstand heavy hunting pressure. There is a short open season for cock pheasant hunting in the North Canterbury region, consult your regulations guide for more details.

A number of pheasant hunters appear to be confused about the exact location of the boundary between the North Canterbury and Central South Island Fish & Game Regions. This is a problem because there is a longer open season and higher daily limit bag for pheasant hunting in the Central South Island region. A number of hunters have been caught in breach of the North Canterbury rules, thinking they were hunting in the Central South Island region. To set the record straight the North Canterbury boundary to Central South Island Region is Acton Road which runs from Rakaia township east to the sea.

The Major Hunting Areas

Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere

Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere, a wetland of national and international importance, is the major game bird hunting area in the region. Mallard ducks are the most popular quarry during the traditional hunting months of May and June, but good numbers of Canada goose, Black swan and Shoveler ducks are also present. It is important to note that Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere is home to a large Grey teal population which are protected wildlife. It is important that hunters take time to properly identify their target, especially during periods of low light. The best time to hunt Ellesmere is during a strong southerly wind. Birds that usually roost in the middle of the lake are pushed off by the rough conditions and tend to fly to the downwind shore. The lake can also shoot well during strong northwest or northeast winds; once again the downwind shoreline is the best place to hunt. Lake Ellesmere has a good number of maimais located around the shoreline and most Ellesmere regulars have a maimai of their own. However, any hunter is free to use any maimai situated on public land which has not been occupied by 7:30 am in the morning. This is a great option for new or inexperienced hunters who want a taste of open water game bird hunting without having to commit the time and expense of having a maimai of their own. 

Please note that a permit is required to hunt on DOC managed land on the shores of Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere. These are available from the DOC phone (03) 379 4082 or email

Maimais on Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere

The construction of permanent maimais on public land at Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere is subject to a number of conditions. Hunters need to obtain a registration tag from Fish & Game prior to commencing work on a new maimai. Hunters with existing maimais that have yet to be tagged should contact the Fish & Game office. There is no charge for these services.

Click here for the maimai requirements and standards for Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere

Please select here to view tips and info on how to build a maimai.

The Braided Riverbeds

The Rakaia, Waimakariri, Hurunui and Waiau Rivers are also popular hunting locations. Many of these rivers have large tidal lagoons which provide good hunting opportunities. Further upriver ducks and geese can be targeted using traditional decoy setups in open water areas. Good duck shooting is also available in places by flush shooting small springs and ponds, which are often found on the margins of major riverbeds. Licensed game bird hunters are able to hunt in most of the North Canterbury braided riverbeds except parts where they lie close to population centres. In some places "No Shooting" signs are in place but the Canterbury Regional Council has assured Fish & Game staff that this relates to rabbit shooters only. Hunters need to be aware of the rabbit poisoning operations in Canterbury riverbeds. While poison operations are of little threat to humans or to the safe consumption of any game birds killed, it is of concern to hunters' dogs which are very susceptible to 1080 poison. Any area which has been subject to recent poison operations will be signposted at all public access points. Hunters are advised to keep their dogs away from such areas until the following spring.

High Country Lakes

Some of the region's high country lakes offer good game bird hunting opportunities. In some cases, hunting can be pursued without the owner's permission but it is highly recommended that you put in the effort and talk to the farmer concerned in advance. Please note that Lake Grasmere is a wildlife refuge and that all hunting is prohibited.

Special Paradise Shelduck Season

Once again this season there will be a Paradise shelduck season during February and March in Area B. This will provide additional opportunities for Goose and Duck hunters alike.

Private Land

Private land also offers good game bird hunting opportunities but the owner's permission needs to be sought in advance.

The paradise shelduck is a species for which most hunting opportunities lie on private land, particularly in the northern and western parts of the region. Most farmers will be happy for you to hunt Paradise Shelduck on their land so long as you ask first!

Another hunting area in the region worthy of mention is the Boggy Creek Game Bird Hunting Area. On the western shore of Lake Ellesmere, it is allocated by an annual ballot and is open to all licenced hunters, click here for more details.