Both Barrels April 2019
It’s only a few days to go before the new season opens, and the prospects are looking good throughout much of the country.
Rain has fallen over large parts of the country in recent weeks, topping up dam and pond levels after a hot summer, and restoring river flows.
Throughout Fish & Game’s 12 regions, reports are coming in of good game bird numbers, prompting predictions that 2019 will see successful harvests. And that translates into some good plump birds on the family dinner table!
In Southland, duck numbers are booming, according to Fish & Game population counts.
In the Central South Island, the latest duck counts are the second highest recorded since the annual surveys kicked off in 2007.
Further north in Taranaki, there are “strong” mallard populations and parrie numbers have rebounded.
In the Auckland/Waikato and Wellington regions, Fish and Game field staff are also reporting good duck numbers.
Upland species like quail and pheasant have also done well over summer and if you haven’t targeted them in the past, make 2019 the year to give upland hunting a try.
As the countdown begins until the new season begins on Saturday morning 4 May, now is the time to make sure you have everything ready.
Give your decoys one last inspection, put new batteries in your head lamp and make sure your duck call is with the rest of your gear.
And buy your licence now instead of leaving it to the last minute!
Above all, if you use a semi-automatic or pump action shotgun, make sure it complies with the new firearm laws.
More detailed information on the new laws is available below, but basically if your gun has a magazine capacity of more than five shells, or has a magazine extension, it is illegal.
P.S. Our photo above shows Nixon Martin putting his duck calling to the test – showing you’re never too young to learn.
P.P.S - If you think you've got a hunting image worthy of featuring on our 'cover', email it to Richard Cosgrove for consideration.
New firearm laws
Firearm laws have been changed in the wake of the horrifying Christchurch mosque massacres and those changes have seen most semi-automatic firearms made illegal. However, Fish & Game successfully made a case to retain semi-auto and pump shotguns for game bird hunting. This means game bird hunters can use semi-automatic and pump action shotguns as long as their internal magazines only hold five shots. Pump action shotguns cannot have detachable or clip magazines. The Police website contains some information which you can see here. Fish & Game also asked the Police a series of questions relating to firearms, magazines and parts. You can read their answers in full here.
Animal rights protestors
The opening of game bird hunting is often targeted by anti-hunting groups seeking media coverage and publicity. While much of this activity in the past has been in the media, there have been protests in hunting areas. If you encounter such a protest, how you react will either present game bird hunting in a good light, or damage hunting’s public reputation and image. Have a look here on what to do if confronted by protestors. Lake Ellesmere, pictured, has been the scene of protests.
Once the hunting season begins, Fish & Game rangers will be out on patrol inspecting hunters’ licences and making sure they are following the rules. In many regions, those patrols will include police officers who will be checking to make sure the firearm laws are being complied with. That includes security and using drugs and alcohol while handling firearms, so make sure you and all members of your hunting group are doing the right thing. A court appearance, confiscation of your firearms and hefty fines are all likely if you aren’t! Take a fresh look at our Fish & Game Code of Conduct, click here.
Don’t forget your licence
Make sure you have your licence before going out hunting! Buying one helps protect the wetland habitat waterfowl need to survive and ensure we continue to have hunting opportunities in the future. To avoid those last minute licence queues at your local hunting store, why not buy your licence on line this year? It’s easy – just click here.
Take a mate out
This year, how about introducing a mate or relative to game bird hunting? They might just want to come along and see what all the fuss is about, so show them. Hopefully, as well as marvelling at your hunting skills, they can also enjoy a duck dinner and want to try it for themselves. Here’s some information on getting started that will help you introduce a new hunter to the outdoors.
Following the rules
Whether you are a beginner, or a seasoned expert, make sure you know what the hunting regulations are. More importantly, make sure you follow them! Bag limits and season lengths change from year to year, so avoid embarrassing questions when your local ranger comes calling by reading the regulation booklet which comes with every licence. For a quick reference, you can also check here.
A non-toxic change
If you use a sub-gauge shotgun for your waterfowl hunting, you need to start thinking about how you are going to transition from lead shot to non-toxic shot like steel or bismuth. While .410 hunters will be exempt, from 2021, owners of 16, 20 and 28 gauge shotguns will all have to use non-toxic shot when they are duck hunting. If you have a modern, sub-gauge semi-automatic, then steel is probably your best option, but if you have an older double gun, then you should investigate bismuth shot. For full details of the non-toxic shot requirements, look here.
A Note From The Mountain Safety Council
Opening weekend for game bird season around the country is about to get underway. While there’s a great deal of excitement and atmosphere building, safety should be front of mind says Mike Daisley, CEO of the Mountain Safety Council (MSC)
“We know from our insights that 64% of all game bird hunting injuries occur in May and that the majority of these are preventable,
“In fact, 41% of the annual total of ‘Game Bird’ hunting injuries occur on opening weekend,
“We’re keen to have a zero in the fatality, search and rescue and injury column this year. It’s 100% achievable if hunters heed the firearms safety rules,
“A lot of families will be affected by incidents that are likely to occur over the weekend. The tragedy is that firearms-related incidents are entirely preventable,
“The vast majority of hunting incidents that involved a firearm can be traced to one or many of the firearms safety rules not being followed,” he concluded.
Anto Hall from the Red Stag Timber Hunters Club NZ who helped to develop a series of hunting specific safety videos with MSC is keen to make sure the last two years of low incident rates continue, especially given the public attention and nervousness about firearms at the moment
“Be mindful of where the firearm ends up. People stand them up in MaiMai’s all the time. But, if it’s a loaded weapon that’s a recipe for disaster. You’ve got dogs around, guys jumping up and moving around the MaiMai, so you’ve got to remember to keep the chamber empty if you’re not shooting. Don’t rely on safety catches, check and empty so you’re always safe. ”
“A successful hunt is one where you’re out with your mates and you all make it back home in one piece. If you happen to get a few birds that’s great, but don’t risk a serious injury or worse just because you’re too lazy to follow the procedures.”
“It all comes down to good communication. If you’re not sure if your mate’s shotgun is safe, then you have to ask him! He should do the same for you.”
“Opening weekend is a very social occasion, but we’ve got to take a long hard look at ourselves with respect to alcohol and firearms. The best way to be safe is really to leave the alcohol until after the shoot. It’s worse than drink driving in my opinion and should be seen and managed in the same way. Celebrate for sure, but don’t ever do it while you’re shooting.”
Daisley reiterated MSC key message to make it home in their hard-hitting “Early Bird” video that explores, from a first-person view, what a firearms incident while duck hunting might be like.
“The main video, as well as two shorter 30-sec versions, is very emotive and is designed to get a conversation going within families. The video has been specifically produced to strike a chord with the friends and families of the hunters,” he said.
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