Both Barrels June 2023
The dabbling duck (mallard/grey/shoveler) season is now past; parries finish on 25 June in this region. From contacting hundreds of hunters in the field and through the Game bird hunter phone Survey, there are a few observations worth sharing.
Perhaps the most surprising is that many hunters saw early ducklings this year. This has been a record wet & warm May, according to NIWA, and some ducks have clearly been confused by this.
Potentially, if these early nesters can now bring their early broods off, recover their condition and raise another brood this coming spring, we could be onto a real bonus. Hunters were careful to let any hens pass that were acting as if they had ducklings nearby. Thank you for that restraint.
All that weather filled most people’s ponds too, which hasn’t always been the case in recent years. Ironically, all that rain also meant the birds skipped using ponds as much as they usually would, as they could now feed in open flooded fields. These birds were generally impossible to approach.
The ranger feedback about the new ban on drift shooting between Cambridge and Hamilton has been entirely positive. All affected hunters had to do is to instead moor their boat and shoot over decoys where it was safe to do so. It seems that strategy worked well for them, and enforcement staff were very pleased with the level of compliance.
Several hunters tried bismuth (a legal steel shot alternative) this year, and one said although he shoots quite a bit, he probably only goes through a box in a season. Putting this into perspective, bismuth made sense for him. As well as the Kiwi-made Falcon bismuth shells in 12 gauge, there is now a product called Hevi-Bismuth in 3” 20 gauge on the market. (See photo attached).
It’s worth noting that, despite the botulism problems in the Whangamarino Wetland over summer, where several thousand sick or dead birds were removed by Fish & Game to limit contagion to other healthy birds, the same wetland generally shot well this May.
Our impression is that once the anoxic events (i.e. the collapse in the water’s dissolved oxygen levels) that led to fish kills, and subsequent botulism issues ended, waterfowl flocked back into the wetland from surrounding unaffected areas.
The upland game season (pheasants, quail and pukeko) is still in full swing until the end of August. Some well-conditioned pheasants have been bagged, and it might be a good time to order a copy of the new Fish & Game cookbook online.
This has many new ideas for cooking these birds and hints for those who might not have had their grandparent's advice about preparing them.
Lean wild game meat of all kinds is well-known overseas to be extremely heart-healthy. Getting out of the lounge chair to chase them all around the hills and dales is pretty good for your health.
You can purchase your copy here: Fish and Game Cookbook
While you’re online, time’s running out to report your duck band/s to be in to win prizes. Band returns are well down this year (less birds were banded this year), so your chances are even better. So far, just one swan transmitter has been recovered.
Warm barrels and safe shooting from your Fish & Game team.
John Dyer, Auckland Waikato Fish and Game