Both Barrels May 2023
Opening weekend wrap-up
As is often the case in Southland, the weather during Opening Weekend was calm and sunny, perfect for firing up the BBQ but not exactly ideal for duck hunting.
However, whilst catching up with hunters across the region, Fish & Game rangers did encounter several groups who had achieved some excellent harvests.
Based on our observations, there were a couple of key factors that appeared to contribute to their success: well-maintained decoys and incorporating movement into the decoy spread.
Ponds with strategically placed moving decoys, such as decoys on a jerk cord or rippling decoys, outperformed those where hunters simply set out a few low-quality decoys.
Above Right: Kurt MacBeth and his trusty Lab Moose with one of his 72 retrieves on Opening Day.
Our recent hunter harvest surveys indicate that approximately 12.5% of hunters managed to reach their 20 mallard bag limit on the opening day.
On average, each hunter took home 12 mallards for the weekend.
This figure is in line with our long-term average of 12.6 mallards for the Opening Weekend.
Opening weekend compliance
Opening Weekend was a fantastic opportunity for our rangers to catch up with passionate waterfowl hunters from across the region, and as expected, the majority of hunters were adhering to the rules and regulations.
However, it was disappointing that a handful of hunters decided to ‘chance it’ and did not purchase a game bird hunting licence or, were found using lead shot.
While out doing our hunter compliance checks, our team of rangers found three hunters hunting without a game bird hunting licence and two hunters using lead shot.
The shotguns and ammunition of these hunters were confiscated, and appropriate enforcement actions will be taken.
Planning a duck hunt? Take note of environmental variables.
Worms in puddles are irresistible duck food.
After a dry lead-up to Opening Weekend, Southland has experienced substantial rainfall in the past few weeks.
This heavy rainfall is an important factor to consider when planning your next hunt, as heavy rain can significantly influence mallard behaviour.
For instance, many hunters will have observed the proliferation of surface water in the paddocks due to the heavy rain.
These temporary waterbodies, or puddles, are magnets for mallards as they flock to feed on worms that emerge from the saturated ground.
During the late afternoon, mallards often depart from their loafing areas and make their way to these productive feeding spots.
To target mallards on puddles, strategically position decoys on or near the puddle, lay down on the ground and camouflage yourself with appropriate clothing or a camo net.
You will also need some neoprene waders to insulate you from the cold ground.
Targeting mallards on puddles is great fun and can make for a productive and enjoyable evening hunt.
Backwaters can be a productive location to find mallards during floods.
Additionally, the recent rainfall has transformed how mallards utilise rivers in our region.
The main stems of our rivers are currently in flood, making it near impossible for mallards to loaf under the willows during the day.
Consequently, they tend to congregate in river backwaters with reduced flow.
If you're aware of a few backwater locations, stealthily approach them in the mid-afternoon to assess the mallard population residing there.
If you spot 20 or more mallards, it's definitely worth setting up for a hunt the following morning.
Cohen Stewart, Southland Fish and Game.