Auckland / Waikato Both Barrels May 2016

Ducks seen but hard to harvest

Opening Weekend was a good time to have remembered the sun screen.

Ducks opening weekend 2016 017The fine skies and general lack of wind didn’t do too much to get birds moving, though most hunters managed to get a good feed of ducks as the numbers sighted were generally encouraging.

Right: Kaipara hunters enjoying the sun after bagging a few.

Some areas did markedly better than others, such as the Hauraki Plains, and anyone shooting on recently harvested maize – with the added bonus of pigeons to target as well as mallards and parries.

King tides may have helped some hunters although this encouraged lots of flotsam to snag with decoys. It must have extended shooting up some back creeks. There were certainly birds to be seen on harbours sitting on the mud as tides fell.

Fish & Game staff ranging in the north of the Waikato say the start to the season was “above average,” considering the warm sunny conditions.

Rangers saw groups who’d got close to their bag limit, and a father and son who’d bagged 19 birds between them and were heading home early.

As a ranger, it was enlightening to drive around the Kaipara area and see good parties of resting ducks tucked into corners where no one was bothering them.

Not to mention the big cock pheasant walking down the middle of the road next to parked-up duck-boat trailers opposite.

Having checked hunters on the river, in the harbour, private ponds, paddocks and even on distant hilltops deep into private farms, I had a shrewd idea where everyone was…and yet one empty field had 200 parries in on dusk, and binoculars revealed waves of mallards circling above.

Ranging results

Other rangers operating in the Coromandel and the Hauraki Plains came across all the usual offences, such as no licence, lead shot and un-pinned guns.

While most hunters play by the rules, (rules are only there to protect our sport after all!), the number who’d decided to flout them in these areas was disappointing.

Likewise we’ve had complaints from tagged-up hunters who found other shooters in their maimai before 7.30am that left only begrudgingly, as they’d already put their decoys out.

Be a tidy hunter, eh!

And while most of us like a drink after the shoot, we subscribe to the idea that if you bring it in, it’s not hard to take away the empties too.

Keep it tidy guys and keep the public onside. It’s they who ultimately have the say over hunting so let’s all be better ambassadors for our sport.

Someone was padlocking a farm gate just as rangers approached. “What’s all the security for?”

He replied, “The owner has been feeding his pond, but someone came in and shot it up before he could. Oh, should I have said that?”

An inspection of this pond, more than one kilometre back from the road showed lead empties but no sign of maize – just happy ducks that had probably eaten all the evidence.

Send in your band details

Remember that duck bands only fulfil their purpose if they’re reported. It’s a big team effort by your fellow hunters that falls at the last hurdle if the details aren't sent in.

0800 BIRD BAND is 0800-2473 2263. It’s a free-call and works 24/7. Did the guy who said he’d report them for you actually do so?

You may get a phone call from Fish & Game helpers doing game bird hunter phone surveys. These usually don’t take very long and are a chance to boast about your success or share a hard luck story. Remember they have lots of others to phone too.

If for any reason you’re not happy with this survey (perhaps they weren’t polite), we’re always keen to get feedback.

It’s been a great year for pheasants so keep this in mind when you’re stalking ponds and walking rivers.

Beware if you’re drifting on ducks that new homes are popping up everywhere, often beside river banks. Be sure of your background before you pull the trigger and never forget your lifejackets.

The weather is cutting up more now, so new opportunities are waiting. But you’ll only find out if you’re ‘out there doing it.’

- Fish & Game Officer John Dyer

Warm barrels from Team Fish & Game.