Both Barrels May 2023

  • Otago
  • 15/05/2023

Above: Keith Leslie had a good Opening Weekend with his dog Ellie near the Pomahaka River. Photo: Ian Hadland. 

Three-month season offers promise after a slow start

If Opening Weekend this season felt a little quiet in your maimai, you’re not alone.

While hunters enjoyed the camaraderie and sunny weather, harvest rates were low compared with recent averages for most of the region, except for Dunedin City District.

Wintery weather has since rolled in, offering better conditions for hunters to make the most of the 12-week mallard season.

Key points from the Opening Weekend hunter harvest survey:

  • Otago hunters spent an average of just over 10 hours in the maimai across the weekend, harvesting just under 10 game birds.
  • About 75 percent of the birds harvested were greylards (mallards/grey ducks/hybrids).
  • Just under 3 percent of hunters achieved the bag limit of 25 greylards.
  • The survey involved random phone surveys of 205 game bird licence holders after Opening Weekend. 

The most likely reasons for the low harvest were the clear, calm weather on Opening Weekend and dry conditions beforehand, which resulted in many ponds having little water.

Rangers saw a few greylards flying around the region on Opening Weekend.

Opening Weekend is only a small proportion of the available days for hunting in the Otago Region, and good overall seasons can follow relatively poor Openings.

As always, the prepared hunters are, the better the results.

Compliance good

Enjoying a sunny South Otago opening day are (from left) Fletcher Anderson, (8) from Ohai, Jessica Reid (16) from Tapanui, and Carter Hoey, (13) from Rolleston. Photo: Jayde Couper

Hunters in Otago were generally well-behaved on Opening Weekend.

Compliance was above 90 percent but below the excellent rates of recent seasons.

Seven teams of rangers operated in Ida Valley, Lower Manuherikia, Waikoikoi, Heriot, Clinton, and the Taieri Plain.

More than 90 percent of hunters checked were on private land.

  • Rangers seized five guns.
  • Five lead shot offences
  • Four no-game-licence offences.
  • One species offence (grey teal)
  • One bag-limit offence (0 bag limit for shoveler hens)
  • Some hunters were shooting from 6.40 am, well before the 7 am start time.

We were disappointed at the level of alcohol seen at maimais rangers checked on Opening Weekend.

Father and son Tim (left) and Ian Spencer had a quiet start on Opening Weekend at their maimai on the Taieri Plain. Photo: Bruce Quirey

The Firearms Safety Code says alcohol must never be consumed before or during shooting or when handling firearms, including cleaning or maintaining them.

Police who joined Fish and Game ranging teams on Opening Weekend were equally disappointed and taking notes.

Hunters should be aware that this could come up when they seek to renew their firearms licence.

Lock your guns away before having a post-hunt drink.

Remember to dispose of game bird offal and carcases responsibly.

The best way is to bury them or put them in an offal pit where you have permission.

Highly coveted coveys 

Looking to test your reflexes and fitness hunting game birds in the hills?

The 2023 upland game bird season opens on June 3, the start of King’s Birthday Weekend.

A bag of quail is a well-earned culinary pleasure. Carefully prepared in the kitchen, these small birds make delicious and delicately flavoured eating.

Quail coveys are most likely found in Central Otago. Chukar and pheasant, while far less common, may be found in small pockets by hunters willing to do their research.

  • Most upland game bird hunting occurs on private property. Public land opportunities for upland game birds are highly limited.
  • Hunters looking for places to hunt need to knock on farmhouse doors.
  • Earning the respect and trust of private landowners takes time and effort to build relationships.
  • Hunting access on private land is a privilege, not a right.
  • Ensure hunting dogs are correctly dosed to avoid spreading sheep measles. Dogs should be dosed with tapeworm drugs containing Praziquantel at least 48 hours or within a month before going hunting. A monthly dosage will kill tapeworm in your pet’s gut. Three-month all-wormer dosages do not prevent tapeworms for the entire period. Speak to your vet. 

Warm Barrels

Bruce Quirey, Otago Fish & Game.

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