Fish & Game tips ‘better hunting’ for new game bird season

Game bird hunters in Fish & Game’s Eastern Region can expect one of the best hunting seasons for some time, going by the latest research into mallard duck numbers.

The Eastern Region covers a big chunk of the central North Island, taking in areas including the East Coast, Tauranga, Taupo, the Rangitaiki Plains, and Rotorua lakes district.

Senior Fish & Game Officer Matthew McDougall says Fish & Game is predicting “a better season than we’ve had for the last seven or so years.”

We base this on duck numbers we’ve trapped over summer within the Eastern region, and banding data collected over a 20 year period, he says.  “We trapped 1,500 ducks in total this year which is more than we have in any of the preceding years of trapping and banding.”

Mr McDougall says that what trapping and population modelling tells us is that there are “lots of ducks around in reasonable condition, and we’re predicting that this opening could be one of the best in years.”

Fish & Game’s research, which has included aerial flyovers to estimate bird numbers, indicates a mallard population in the order of 350,000 to 450,000 birds.

Fish & Game’s harvest regulations are set according to estimated duck numbers, and this year’s region wide estimate falls into our “intermediate” zone in which a six week season and daily bag limit of eight birds applies, he says.

Mr McDougall says that anecdotal reports of duck numbers from hunters vary across parts of the region.  “Some hunters have reported good numbers of ducks within their district while others, such as those who hunt in the Galatea and Reporoa areas, believe fewer birds are present.

 “Bay of Plenty numbers are looking pretty good, while in the Gisborne /Wairoa region we’ve caught more ducks during our banding operations there than we have for many years.” 

Numbers within the Reporoa area however are of some concern and the Eastern Fish and Game Council has decided to impose more restrictive conditions there with a shorter season which runs from Opening Day on 6 May to 5 June with a daily bag limit of four mallards.

Hunters need to note other changes to the regulations.  This season a three shot rule applies and hunters are required to plug their shotgun magazines so that the gun holds no more than two shots in the magazine and one in the breech, three shots in total.  It’s timely to remind all hunters to check their Game Bird Hunting Guide booklets, or go online to do this at www.fishandgame.org.nz prior to getting out on Opening Day.

Mr McDougall says that the numbers of other game bird species, including black swan and paradise shelduck, appear to be on a par with previous seasons.

Hunters are encouraged to report any banded birds they might harvest to Fish & Game along with their contact details, the band number, and location and date it was recovered.  This will assist mallard research programmes, and sustainable management of the species. 

 Hunting season web banner