Prospects 'looking up' for North Island game bird hunters
Thousands of game bird hunters will turn out this Saturday (May 2, 2015) – with hopes for a better season in the North Island – with duck numbers generally reported to be healthier after some lean years.
Fish & Game New Zealand says that weather permitting opening weekend should provide improved hunting in a number of regions, going by the latest population surveys.
Communications Manager Don Rood says that a number of North Island regions seem to be “on the up” and some look strong for waterfowl numbers.
A good breeding season and relatively strong duck numbers have allowed Taranaki Fish & Game to continue with an eight week hunting season, and 10 bird daily bag limit for mallard and grey ducks.
In the Auckland/Waikato Region, mallards and greys are reportedly beginning to return to their normal levels after floods that have hit in several springs over previous years.
During one banding day on the Hauraki Plains, a record 995 mallards were caught in a single catch.
In Eastern, which takes in areas including the East Coast, Tauranga, Taupo, Gisborne and the Rangitaiki Plains, officers are hopeful of a more positive start to the new game bird season – with mallard numbers at last appearing to be “on the up.”
However Eastern Fish & Game is sticking with a conservative four week season and daily bag limit if six mallards or grey ducks.
Hawke’s Bay Fish & Game staff have high hopes for at least a “reasonable” start to the game bird season in May. Staff say the local mallard population appears to have been stable over the last few years.
The season will run for just under eight weeks to June 28, with a daily bag limit of 10 mallard and grey ducks (and 10 paradise shelducks).
While regions like Wellington were hit by drought conditions, recent rains have helped turn things around.
In Northland, the bag limit for mallards and grey ducks has been reduced to 12 birds per day, however the bag limit for paradise shelducks has been raised to 25 birds per day.
‘Rules & regs’
Mr Rood says hunters in all regions are urged to be sure they take note of the bag limit and season changes which have been made for this hunting season.
“The regulations and bag limits change depending on which region you are in, so study the 2015 Game Bird Hunting Guide or our Fish & Game website, www.fishandgame.org.nz, so you are clear on exactly what these the rules and regs are.”
For example, both Hawke’s Bay and Wellington have banned magazine extensions this season, so be sure your shotgun complies with the new rule.
Fish & Game rangers will be out in force across the country this weekend, checking to ensure hunters are carrying their licences and that they’re complying with the ban on using lead shot ammunition in 12-gauge shotguns over open water. Some ranger teams will be accompanied by Police officers.
Mr Rood says that most hunters stick to the rules as they enjoy a great outdoor pursuit with a long history behind it but there are usually a few a small minority who think they can sidestep regulations which are there to ensure the future of the sport.
“Please be patient and assist our rangers, many of whom are volunteers giving up their own time. Their checks and questions take only a few minutes and those who are sticking to the rules have nothing to fear.
“Offenders risk fines of up to $100,000 and loss of any firearms used and a review of their suitability to hold a firearms licence by Police.”
“We saw a couple of isolated incidents last season where hunters were injured, fortunately not seriously, when shotguns went off accidently,” says Mr Rood.
“So at the risk of repeating ourselves, please take extreme care in hunting and handling firearms, especially in confined spaces like maimais.
“We want all hunters back safely with their families at the end of the day. As part of that, leave the drinks til you’ve locked the shotguns securely away. Firearms and alcohol are always a potentially lethal combination, no ifs or buts.”
Mr Rood also urges hunters not to leave buying a licence to the last minute.
“If you are in your favourite hunting store stocking up on items like ammunition and decoys, use the opportunity to get your licence.
“The easiest way to buy one, if you haven’t already done so, is via our online purchasing facility that most stores can now access. More than 80% of licences are now being bought via the online method.”
Customers receive a durable plastic licence card, which has the benefit of being waterproof “and because it’s about the size of a credit card it fits easily fits into a hunter’s wallet or jacket.”
Mr Rood says that Fish & Game is moving towards ‘paperless’ licences. A complete licence history, including accurate contact information, is maintained for each customer, which means we can easily contact them with fishing and hunting news and information, he adds.
Hunters are also encouraged to report any banded birds harvested, along with band number, location and date recovered, and their personal details, to help Fish & Game with its mallard research, and ensure sustainable hunting in future.
Hunters are being again given some extra incentive to send in their band details – if they do so by the end of August they can go in the draw to win a camo’ jacket in a prize draw sponsored by Hunting & Fishing New Zealand.