Central South Island Both Barrels April 2018
‘Bright prospects' for the season ahead
The prospects for a productive 2018 game bird hunting season are looking good.
Last winter and spring were wet as, which meant well-conditioned ducks leading into breeding season and plenty of habitat and food for ducklings.
Above Right: Good numbers of game bird in Wainono lagoon this autumn.
Driving around the region in spring you couldn’t help but see ducklings in the roadside ponds and paddocks.
Although no brood counts are undertaken in this region, it was obviously a successful breeding season.
A searing hot mid-summer was then broken by regular heavy rainfalls through to April.
The late summer conditions were great for ducks, with plenty of wetlands full of water and sodden pastures providing good worm-drowning conditions.
We anticipate that the birds will be in excellent condition come Opening Weekend.
What will the weather be like? Who knows...
For the last couple of years, it's been summer-like conditions so maybe we’ll get snow and hail for 2018...
At the end of the day the weather doesn’t matter, Opening Weekend is about enjoying the occasion with mates and family and coming home with a bird or two for the dinner table.
Remember to carry your licence with you as rangers will be out ensuring hunters are playing by the rules.
How are the bird populations looking?
As part of Fish & Game’s role, game bird populations are monitored annually from a Cessna aircraft during summer and autumn.
Dabbling ducks were counted in North Otago, the Canterbury Plains and lower reaches of the major river beds in March.
This included areas in the CSI and North Canterbury Fish & Game Regions.
The counts encompass the plains area streching from Amberley in the north to Herbert in the south.
Mallards make up the bulk of the birds counted, but due to difficulties identifying species from the plane, mallard are counted together with grey, shoveler duck, and grey teal and all classed as dabbling ducks.
For the survey area, overall, the dabbling duck numbers were a smidgeon below average for the 12 years we have been conducting the survey. However the dabbling duck population is stable long term, if not slightly increasing.
At a glance the area between the Rangitata River and Rakaia River held good numbers of birds, significantly more than last year.
Ponds held the biggest mobs of birds while river bed braids seemed unattractive in March.
This will all change on Opening Day as the hunting pressure will disperse birds into all available habitat.
After mallard duck, parries are the second most harvested waterfowl in the Central South Island Region, the other species like shoveler and swan rarely make the hunters bag on Opening Weekend.
Paradise shelduck are counted in February, and at this time of year paradise shelduck congregate to moult feathers at water bodies they return to annually.
The 2018 parrie counts were healthy with similar numbers counted this year to 2017 region- wide.
There was however an increase at Wainono, which is the region's parrie moulting stronghold.
Over the last 20 years, the count at Wainono fluctuates between around 2,000 and 7,800 bird - for 2017 the Wainono count was approximately 5,000 birds.
Business as usual
The Central South Island game bird hunting regulations are set to maximise opportunities for the licenceholder to harvest game birds while still maintaining a healthy breeding population at the end of the season.
Although game bird populations have been shown to fluctuate from year to year, our long term monitoring shows that they are relatively stable and our harvest is sustainable.
For this reason, the CSI hunting regulations remain unchanged for the 2018 season.
Opening Day this year is Saturday the 5th of May, at 6:45am.
To brush up on all the 2018 game bird regulations for the Central South Island Region click here.
Ever wondered if a chef could cook your duck better than you or your spouse?
Well, wonder no more. This season select a couple of your best birds, pluck and gut 'em and drop them off at a local restaurant a day or two in advance and let the chef work some magic.
We're referring of course, to the Game Bird Food Festival and luckily even those ‘bad shots’ get to try some delicious recipes as “prepared” bird dishes are on offer too.
Click here to check out the Festival website and find out what restaurants are participating near you.
Rhys Adams, Central South Island Fish & Game.