Southland Both Barrels May 2016

Mixed fortunes for Opening Day

Opening Day is probably the only day of the year when I wake up and I’m upset by a lack of wind!

BB16May S DSC 0108 2As you’re all painfully aware, last time we had one of the calmest days for weeks, which made for difficult hunting with ducks taking extra time to survey decoy spreads and setups.

I heard numerous grumblings that Fish & Game had said there were lots of ducks…but where were they?

Most experienced hunters recognised there were good numbers of birds about over Opening Weekend, but the calm and settled conditions made it difficult to decoy them.

Everyone’s got stories about shots from neighbours scaring ducks just before they committed! However, the great news is there are still plenty of ducks getting around to encourage more trips to the maimai this season.

Overall harvest for the weekend was on a par with last year, seeing the average weekend bag being just shy of 11 mallards.

BB16May S DSC 0096Right: Peter Tucker does a count up on Opening Day.

As usual, there was quite a large spread in success between ponds, with one group exclaiming it was the best opening they’d experienced in 53 years!

Others rated it a pretty poor morning, with not many ducks seen.

Shotguns seized

Unfortunately we came across quite a few non-compliant hunters and now have a safe full of seized shotguns.

Most of these were unlicenced hunters, with a couple of lead shot offences added.

There seemed to be a bit of confusion around the owner/occupier status or privilege, or cases of hunters trying to claim many more people than an owner, his partner and one child.

Please, if you are uncertain if you qualify for this, call the office and check with a staff member; this is obviously far preferable to finding out after the fact, and potentially having your shotgun seized!

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My first Opening Weekend ranging

I must still be acclimatising to Southland’s weather as I can probably almost count on two hands how many times I have worn shorts this year – but two of those days were on Opening Weekend!

As a fellow game bird hunter I thoroughly enjoyed meeting hunters over the weekend and seeing different set ups and success rates around the region.

However, one thing that particularly stood out to me was the spectrum between those that shoot, and those that hunt.

BB16May S DSC 0072 2Next Generation:Harry Wilson with his over and under out enjoying his Opening Weekend.

Fortunately, shooters are in the minority, (and probably only out on Opening?) but tend to be the ones picked up by the media for their antics, with the most recent example the dumping of 18 ducks on Bainfield Road.

As an organisation that advocates for hunters, we can only hope to encourage shooters to become hunters, and urge hunters to continue to contribute to wetland habitat and predator management.

I realise this is a difficult goal, as our thoughts and actions towards taking game reflects our ethics and values, which are deeply rooted in our upbringing.

So I encourage you to elbow your mate in the ribs next time there’s any suggestion of not treating our game birds as a valued resource.

We need to be very careful with how hunters are portrayed to the great bulk of the population, who don’t hunt.

On another note, I was quite surprised at the popularity of electronic callers. In fact, I’m not sure we went to a maimai that didn’t have one (or more) present.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a problem with them. They just seem so…electronic, for lack of a better term!

I know my first attempt at roaring up a stag just got the local possum upset (or laughing) as it cackled away at me, but I am still steadfast against ever using something electronic!

But then again, it’s all what you get out of it, and I get just as much enjoyment and satisfaction from working ducks into a spread, as the actual shooting.

Overall, it was a great experience and I thoroughly enjoyed yarning to many of our licenceholders, although those without a licence weren’t quite as cheerful.

Remember, the season has only just started and now we’re getting real waterfowling weather! The rain we’ve experienced will have had ducks gorging on worms and potentially ignoring a fed-pond, so consider broadening your options and hunting some surface water.

Good luck and happy hunting!

Fish & Game Officer Erin Garrick 

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