Where to Hunt Game Birds

The North Canterbury region is a mix of public and private land.

Most of the public land is administered by the Canterbury Regional Council and the Department of Conservation. Either of these organisations, or Fish & Game North Canterbury, will be able to assist you with any access inquiries relating to public land. Fish & Game North Canterbury has a “Gamebird Hunter Access” publication available to assist hunters with access issues and it is available from the Fish & Game office or from major game licence outlets. You can also click on the links below to download area-specific access pamphlets.

The North Canterbury Fish & Game Region stretches from the south bank of the Rakaia to the headwaters of the Waiau, from the Southern Alps to the sea. Habitats range from coastal dunes, through to shallow wetlands and wide riverbeds, high country lakes and mountain valleys.

Mallard ducks are the most abundant and popular game bird in the region. They have adapted well to the developed agricultural land which dominates the North Canterbury landscape. The paradise shelduck is the next most popular species among hunters in the region and like the mallard, also does well in developed land. The North Canterbury region offers the best Canada goose hunting in the country.

Upland game birds are less prolific than in some other Fish & Game regions but reasonable California quail numbers are present in the middle reaches of the braided riverbeds. Small pheasant populations are also present, but are not sufficiently abundant to withstand heavy hunting pressure. There will again be a short open season (2nd and 3rd June) for cock pheasant hunting in the North Canterbury region in 2007.

A number of pheasant hunters appear to be confused about the exact location of the boundary between the North Canterbury and Central South Island Fish & Game Regions. This is a problem because there is a longer open season and higher daily limit bag for pheasant hunting in the Central South Island region. A number of hunters have been caught in breach of the North Canterbury rules, thinking they were hunting in the Central South Island region. To set the record straight the North Canterbury boundary to Central South Island Region is Acton Road which runs from Rakaia township east to the sea.

The Major Hunting Areas:

The following is a brief summary of the major hunting areas in the North Canterbury region:

Lake Ellesmere:

Lake Ellesmere (Te Waihora), a wetland of national and international importance, is the major game bird hunting area in the region. Mallard ducks are the most popular quarry during the traditional hunting months of May and June, but good numbers of Canada goose, Black swan and Shoveler duck are also present. It is important to note that Lake Ellesmere is home to a large Grey teal population which are protected wildlife. It is important that hunters take time to properly identify their target, especially during periods of low light. The best time to hunt Ellesmere is during a strong southerly wind. Birds which usually roost in the middle of the lake are pushed off by the rough conditions and tend to fly to the downwind shore. The lake can also shoot well during strong northwest or northeast winds; once again the downwind shoreline is the best place to hunt. Lake Ellesmere has a good number of maimais located around the shoreline and most Ellesmere regulars have a maimai of their own. However any hunter is free to use any maimai situated on public land which has not been occupied by 7:30am in the morning. This is a great option for new or inexperienced hunters who want a taste of open water gamebird hunting without having to commit the time and expense of having a maimai of their own. Another highlight of the shooting calendar on Lake Ellesmere is the special goose season in February and March. There is no doubt that the best goose hunting in New Zealand is on offer at this time with large numbers of young, and less-educated Canada geese migrating to Lake Ellesmere and the surrounding farm land. Fish & Game North Canterbury has stocks of Canada goose decoys available for hire.

Please note that a permit is required to hunt on DOC managed land on the shores of Lake Ellesmere. These are available at the DOC Christchurch Visitor Centre is located at the Christchurch Botanic Gardens, Armagh St car park entrance (03) 379 4082 or christchurchvc@doc.govt.nz

Maimais on Lake Ellesmere

The construction of permanent maimais on public land at Lake Ellesmere is subject to a number of conditions. Hunters need to obtain a registration tag from Fish & Game prior to commencing work on a new maimai. Hunters with existing maimais which have yet to be tagged should contact Steve Terry at the Fish & Game office. There is no charge for these services.

The Braided Riverbeds:

The Rakaia, Waimakariri, Hurunui and Waiau Rivers are also popular hunting locations. Many of these rivers have large tidal lagoons which provide good hunting opportunities. Further upriver ducks and geese can be targeted using traditional decoy setups in open water areas. Good duck shooting is also available in places by flush shooting small springs and ponds, which are often found on the margins of major riverbeds. Licensed game bird hunters are able to hunt in most of the North Canterbury braided riverbeds except parts where they lie close to population centres. In some places "No Shooting" signs are in place but the Canterbury Regional Council has assured Fish & Game staff that this relates to rabbit shooters only. Hunters need to be aware of the rabbit poisoning operations in Canterbury riverbeds. While poison operations are of little threat to humans or to the safe consumption of any game birds killed, it is of concern to hunters dogs which are very susceptible to 1080 poison. Any area which has been subject to recent poison operations will be signposted at all public access points. Hunters are advised to keep their dogs away from such areas until the following spring.

High Country Lakes:

Some of the region's high country lakes offer good game bird hunting opportunities. In some cases hunting can be pursued without the owner's permission but it is highly recommended that you put in the effort and talk to the farmer concerned in advance. Please note that Lake Grasmere is a wildlife refuge and that all hunting is prohibited.

Special Paradise Shelduck Season:

Once again this season there will be a Paradise shelduck season during February and March in Area B. This will provide additional opportunities for Goose and Duck hunters alike.

Private Land:

Private land also offers good game bird hunting opportunities but the owner's permission needs to be sought in advance.

The paradise shelduck is a species for which most hunting opportunities lie on private land particularly in the northern and western parts of the region. Most farmers will be happy for you to hunt Paradise Shelduck on their land so long as you ask first!

There are two further hunting areas in the region which are worthy of further mention. The Boggy Creek Game Bird Hunting Area, on the western shore of Lake Ellesmere, is owned by Fish & Game, North Canterbury. Annual ballots are held for shooting stands in this area and are open to all licenced hunters, stand 10 is reserved for junior shooters only.

The Coutts Island Young Hunter Area near Belfast, is open to all licenced hunters. Once again stands are allocated by ballot. Please direct any inquiries to the Fish & Game office.

Maps

North Canterbury Hunting Spots