Safety ‘number one priority’ this game bird season
Game bird hunters are being urged to make safety their number one priority when the new hunting season opens this weekend Saturday 5 May.
Police, Mountain Safety Council, Water Safety New Zealand and Fish & Game are all advising game bird hunting licenceholders to think carefully about what they are doing and make sure they do everything to keep both themselves and others safe.
Fish & Game New Zealand Chief Executive Martin Taylor says nothing less than “single-minded concentration” on safety is required from all hunters.
“This season, we will have around 40 thousand licenced game bird hunters in the field. We urge every one of those hunters to focus on safe gun handling by everyone in their party and check firing zones to make sure it is safe to fire,” Mr Taylor says.
“No duck is worth ignoring the seven basic gun safety rules.”
Martin Taylor’s advice is backed by Police spokesperson acting superintendent Michael McIlraith.
“Safety is the key. Anyone using a firearm must not only have a valid firearms licence but also comply with the firearm laws and Arms Code at all times,” he says.
Mr McIlraith says beginners wanting to try game bird hunting for the first time can use a shotgun but only under strict supervision.
“If you don’t have a licence, you must be with someone who does and they must supervise the unlicensed person closely.
"This means the firearms licence holder must be in arm’s reach of the unlicensed person and can’t hunt themselves while supervising,” he says.
In many regions, police accompany Fish & Game staff and rangers on their patrols checking hunters’ firearm and hunting licences and making sure they are complying with the hunting regulations.
Michael McIlraith says hunters should be prepared for the inspections.
“Make sure you have your firearm and hunting licences with you. And save any celebratory drinks until you get home,” he advises.
The Mountain Safety Council is backing the safety message.
While the game bird season runs from May to August, MSC Chief Executive Mike Daisley says the first month poses the greatest risk.
"Our research shows that 64% of all game bird hunting injuries occur in May and most of these are preventable,” Mr Daisley says.
“The vast majority of hunting incidents involving a firearm can be traced to the firearms safety rules not being followed.”
Mike Daisley says a season without any firearm accident is possible.
“It's absolutely achievable for the hunting community to have zero fatalities and injuries if hunters heed the firearms safety rules and make sensible decisions."
It’s not only firearms which pose a threat to game bird hunters.
Water Safety New Zealand CEO Jonty Mills is urging hunters to take care around water, especially when using boats or kayaks to travel to their mai mais or retrieve waterfowl.
“Use caution and make safety a priority. Assess the risks and look after yourself and others. We want all hunters to come back to their families this season,” he says.
“It’s important to always check the forecast and remember that after heavy rain, high water levels mean increased risk.”
Jonty Mills says in 2016, rivers were our deadliest aquatic environment with 23 preventable deaths. In 2017, there were 13.
“Last year more people died from accidental immersion than any other cause – they ended up in the water when they had no intention to.
"This shows how important it is to think about water safety and wear a lifejacket,” says Mr Mills.
Jonty Mills echoes the “no drinking while hunting” message.
“Alcohol impairs your motor function and judgement so not only could it lead to trouble but make it worse if you end up in the water” says Mr Mills.
“Save the drink for when you get home with your family. Drinking while hunting on the water just isn’t worth the risk.”
Hunters are also urged to think about food safety and prepare their game birds properly for the table.
Information on how to care for wild game is available on the Ministry for Primary Industries’ website.
For the Seven Basic Rules of Firearm Safety, click here
When the unthinkable happens, click here for Mountain Safety Council video.