Otago Both Barrels April 2019
Welcome to the 2019 game bird hunting season!
By now most hunters will have tagged favourite hunting spots and scrubbed up their maimais for the season ahead.
Good early preparation enhances your opportunities for success.
The element we can’t control is the weather, but let’s hope that suitable hunting conditions will assist hunters on opening weekend.
Above right: Well organised hunters can still be rewarded during calm conditions.
How do the numbers stack up?
Regular periods of rain throughout the spring and early summer provided ideal breeding and rearing conditions.
The west of the region has been receiving plenty of rain. Ducks are abundant on grass paddocks and heavily irrigated areas.
The Clutha Arm of Lake Dunstan is holding a very good population of mallards, and paradise shelduck.
Recent aerial counts of mallard hybrids in coastal and south Otago has shown numbers are well up on last year, but rain's needed to fill up numerous ponds and wetlands.
Many smaller ponds were observed completely dry with no ducks at all, but mallards were in good numbers in larger ponds and along the river transects, especially the Taieri and the Pomahaka.
Parrie moult counts in January revealed an increase in numbers from the previous season.
Healthy quail numbers have been observed throughout Central Otago for the season opening on June 1.
Overall, the Otago duck population is healthy and neighbouring Fish & Game regions are showing similar trends which is promising for southern hunters.
Sub gauges and lead
This is the second year of the four year phase-out of lead shot for shotguns smaller than 12 gauge.
2019 is still a voluntary period for the phase out to non-toxic shot.
In 2020, a hunter hunting waterfowl on DOC or Fish & Game-controlled land with sub-gauges must use non-toxic shot, nothing else.
From 2021, non-toxic shot will be required for waterfowl hunting over open water in all shotguns except the .410.
This applies to all public (including DOC) and private lands.
Sticking to the rules
It’s essential to the image and reputation of the sport that hunters abide by the regulations and hunt safely.
Check you have in your possession legal ammunition, correctly identify bird species, respect daily bag limits and most importantly handle firearms responsibly.
An electronic copy of the regulations and supporting information can be found here
Extra care and attention must be exercised around novice and junior hunters, especially those handling a firearm under direct supervision.
Don’t forget the ear protection! And most importantly carry your firearms licence and your 2019 game bird hunting licence at all times while hunting.
Respect your harvest
If you harvest it, look after it! Keep birds cool, clean them well and then refrigerate as soon as possible.
Leaving birds in the fridge for a few days prior to freezing will enhance their eating qualities.
More information on preparation and cooking can be found here
All the best for the season ahead!
Cliff Halford Fish and Game Officer