Game bird hunting bulletin 31 March 2020
Season 2020 Is Still A ‘Go’
Welcome to the first issue of our special Game Bird Hunting Bulletin - March 31, 2020.
With Opening Day for season 2020 just around the corner, we’re getting excited about the prospects of a bumper game bird season.
There’s been plenty of speculation and mixed messaging (and, let’s be honest, some absolute nonsense) currently doing the rounds about what’s going to happen amid the Covid-19 outbreak, so we thought we'd contact you to try and provide some clarity around what's happening.
Let’s be clear, Fish & Game is doing everything in our power to facilitate game bird hunting this season.
The key message to hunters at this time, though, is that Alert Level 4 lockdown is set to end April 22 and the season will proceed on May 2 until we hear otherwise.
We appreciate that over 50,000 New Zealanders get outdoors to hunt game birds, that this is their passion, and for many it is the highlight of the year. Many hunters mentor youngsters, train gun dogs, look after and enhance waterfowl habitat, all because the heritage is a huge part of hunters' lives.
Fish & Game is therefore going to be sending you regular updates, via the Game Bird Hunting Bulletin, to keep you informed about what’s happening, when it happens.
So, cutting to the chase…
Opening Day (May 2) for the 2020 game bird hunting season falls after the four-week lockdown period, so the game bird hunting season will currently go ahead as planned.
At this stage, the 2020 game bird season is expected to go ahead as planned (Copyright Hamish Carnachan)
While the amount of time we are at Alert Level 4 could be extended, the present four-week lockdown period ends April 22. If the measures to contain and arrest the spread of the virus have been successful, the Prime Minister has said restrictions would be eased.
To date the only interruption to hunters surrounding this coming game bird season will be around their ability to tag stands because of the self-isolation requirements and travel ban.
- Pegging day
Hunters are legally required to peg their stands.
However, because pegging day (April 5) will occur when the country is at Alert Level 4 lock down, all pegs from the 2019 game bird season will be valid for the 2020 season so long as the hunter has a valid 2020 game season licence.
Pegs from last season will be valid for 2020 so long as hunters have a 2020 season game bird licence (Copyright Hamish Carachan)
Put simply, hunters wanting to retain their maimais from the previous season don’t need to travel to claim their stand but they must purchase a 2020 game bird hunting licence.
The ‘What Ifs’
- Drop in Alert Level
Fish & Game understands hunting is currently permitted at Alert Level 3 and below, provided the rules are followed.
Some hunters might be affected in terms of the way they hunt (i.e. those who share maimais will have to come to arrangements so as to keep their distance from one another) or where they hunt (i.e. inter-regional travel might be restricted).
However, the majority of hunters, including landowners shooting their own property with people from within their ‘isolation bubble’, will be able to enjoy the game bird season without significant interruption.
Fish & Game understands hunting is permitted at Alert Level 3 (Copyright Hamish Carnachan).
Any hunters who are going to be inconvenienced by Alert Level restrictions can contact Fish & Game closer to Opening and we’ll do our best to facilitate some alternative shooting opportunities for you.
In the meantime, we are currently seeking clarification from the Government and associated agencies around what a game season under different Alert Levels may look like. We’ll keep you in the loop!
- What if Alert Level 4 isn’t lifted until after Opening?
The Prime Minister has indicated that April 6 is the first day when there could be signs of the Covid-19 transmission chain being broken.
If the number of new cases starts to shrink by this date, then lockdown could be eased. However, if community transmission is continuing it would likely be extended.
Fish & Game will be watching this date closely to see whether lockdown is extended into the start of the season.
When we know what we’re dealing with in terms of the likely Alert Levels in place around Opening, we’ll then start considering the options, which might include a deferred start date and/or longer game bird season.
Any changes would be up to each Fish & Game region, and facilitated through an amendment to the Gazette, which details game season regulations in the Game Notice.
Fish & Game are doing everything in our power to facilitate a successful game bird hunting season. The key message to hunters at this time, though, is that lockdown is set to end April 22 and the season will proceed on May 2, unless we hear otherwise.
- What if the season doesn’t go ahead?
If there is no opportunity for any game bird hunting during the 2020 game bird season because of the Covid-19 Alert Level, all game bird licences purchased will be refunded.
Click here to visit our website with all the latest updates.
Buy Your Licence Now
If restrictions, including those on retailers' ability to trade, are eased when Alert Level 4 is lifted, expect a mad rush on hunting and outdoor stores.
Fish & Game advises hunters to purchase your licence online, now, rather than leave it to the last minute. (Remember, if there is no opportunity for any game bird hunting during the 2020 season because of the Covid-19 Alert Level, all licence purchases will be refunded).
When stores re-open, queues, delays and potential system overloads are likely at the places you normally buy your game bird hunting licence. Do the smart thing and buy online.
Because the provision of plastic licence cards is not an essential service, online purchasers will receive a licence in PDF form. You can use this on a phone screen or print it out and carry it with you when hunting with photo ID, once the Alert Level 4 lockdown has ended.
Plastic licences will be sent once production starts again.
Stay In The Game – Keeping Sane During Lockdown
Sure, lockdown has thrown a few curve-balls at us in terms of limiting our ability to get to maimais, scrub them up and take care of the normal site prep.
The upshot of this temporary isolation, however, is that it affords us a chance to get everything else in order for the assumed May 2 Opening Day.
Being in lockdown leaves plenty of time for gear maintenance (Copyright Hamish Carnachan).
It’s likely they’ll be little lead in to Opening from when Alert Level 4 is lifted, so it makes sense to use this time we have to get as much in order as we can – don’t leave it all ‘til the last minute.
Following is a short checklist of prep to keep you in the game, and help you stay sane while in lockdown over the next few weeks.
- Check you decoys – re-rig and touch paint as required.
- Remember that annoying leak in you waders you discovered at the end of last season? Now’s the time to patch it.
- Get the dog ‘match ready’ – plenty of time to pound the pavement to ensure the dog is fit for Opening, and practice some dummy retrieves on the front lawn while you outside.
- Clean your shotgun!
- Buy your licence – get it online, avoid the inevitable queues at hunting and outdoor stores when they reopen.
- Practice your calling – there’s none better than Hunter Morrow… check out tips from the pro.
- Plan some new decoy spreads – the internet has some great resources for waterfowl hunters, here are some top decoy spread tips from North American hunters.
With time on our hands over the next few weeks, it’ll pay to do some planning to adjust to any revised Alert Level status.
For example, Alert Level 3 means hunting can go ahead but it will likely mean restrictions in terms of social distancing and possibly regional travel.
- Check in with your hunting mates – Not just to see how they’re fairing, but also to coordinate how you’re going to hunt. It could mean you can’t share the same maimai, so make a plan for someone to shoot from natural cover that is safely out of the firing arc.
- If you have to erect temporary cover to maintain social distancing, consider and prepare the camo material you might need to take with you.
- Contact the landowner – Those hunting private property should get in touch with the landowner and make sure you have permission to shoot Opening, if it goes ahead as planned. Do this well in advance, not on the eve of Opening.
The information in this issue of the Game Bird Hunting Bulletin was accurate at time of writing. Please ensure you keep up the latest Covid-19 information and announcements from Fish & Game by regularly visiting our dedicated web pages.