Both Barrels July 2022
It’s late season. The mornings are cold, and it’s a lot harder to get out of bed than it was in May.
Mallards are also breaking up into smaller mobs as they start thinking about pre-breeding season courtship.
This is great news for those setting decoys ─ it means that you can set smaller spreads and use that extra time saved in the morning to enjoy the electric blanket for a few more minutes.
Setting decoys as pairs is a good way to imitate the natural behaviour of the birds. Three to six pairs will often suffice and is a deadly tactic to lure in those late-season drakes.
Many drakes will be flying around alone at this time of the year, even on sunny calm days, looking for any surplus hens.
They can fly well into the morning too, so don’t be too hasty to pack up in the morning if things are a little quiet.
Organising other hunters to shoot in a local area will help to shift birds around and create more hunting opportunities.
Why not get your mates and family members together for a final weekend hunt for the mallard and shoveler season?
Above Right: Setting decoys as pairs is a good way to imitate the natural behaviour of the birds.
Start preparing now
At the end of the season, it’s easy to close the door on the maimai,throw the decoys into storage, clean the shotgun, and forget about everything until the week before opening next year.
However, now is a great time to start your preparations for the next season.
Are there any repairs needed on the maimai?
Does that broken floorboard need replacing?
Has the mesh used for brushing up come away?
Does the whole thing need tearing down and replacing?
All these little and big jobs are best done sooner rather than later.
Doing all those pond jobs such as maimai renovations early gives the birds more time to familiarise themselves with the changes made and any disturbance caused, well out from opening day.
As for the decoys, are there any that need their weights replaced or need re-rigging entirely?
Give the decoys a clean with some warm soapy water to remove any mud.
It's a great time to touch up the paint on them, too, or get creative and paint or flock the decoys ready for next year.
Make sure any of your leftover ammo is dried out fully to prevent the brass rusting during the off-season.
Even a light coat of gun oil can help, then store in the ammo cabinet, knowing they will be good to go next year.
All these preparations now can make life so much easier in the lead-up to the next season.
Otago’s extended seasons
Just because the mallards and shoveler will be off the menu for the waterfowler after July 31, it doesn’t mean that the shotgun barrel needs to go cold.
Otago has a wealth of hunting opportunities outside of the main open season.
Black swan (in all areas outside of area A) and paradise shelduck are still huntable until August 28.
It’s a great opportunity to get out and harvest some of these birds, especially if you need a bit more meat to take to the butcher to make game sausages.
Upland game birds may also be targeted until the last Sunday of August.
This season there is also a summer season for paradise shelduck.
From March 4-12, 2023, all game bird licence holders may hunt these birds in all areas 200m or more from open water.
Previously this season had been restricted to junior hunters, but with the increase of shelduck numbers across the region, the season has been opened for all licence holders.
The limit is five birds a day during the summer season, and it’s a great opportunity to get beginners out to try bird shooting for the first time.
Fish & Game staff plan to remove old maimais no longer being used by hunters along the Lake Dunstan shores.
Some of these maimais haven’t been used for years, are an eyesore for other lake users, and could reflect poorly on gamebird hunters.
Some of the maimais are near the newly formed cycle trail, which is going to be extended to join the cycle trail from Wanaka.
Ben Sowry, Otago Fish & Game