Both Barrels North Island Roundup
Heath Worsfold’s truck with a nice pheasant and a happy pup named Sneak.
The game bird season drew to a close on August 27 in Northland. We hope you’ve had a great season and have managed to secure a good harvest. Now's a good time to review your season and whether there’s more you can do to improve your pond, hunting possie or hunting opportunities. Our office can make loads of advice available, whether on planting, predator control or how to create better habitat. Our Game Bird Habitat Trust also provides help with developing wetlands. It’s a good time to to consider joining your local hunting or gun club to keep your skills honed for next season.
Northland Fish & Game (NFGC) is in the process of creating more habitat at the various wetlands we own. A planting day has just been held at the Greenheart block. We will also be developing more game bird habitat at the Underwood block this coming summer.
Game bird returns
Please remember to fill out a game bird return for all NFGC-owned wetlands, forestry blocks and DOC areas. Fill it out after the season and send it in to our office, PO Box 25003, Whangarei 0148, or email firstname.lastname@example.org . These surveys provide us with valuable information on harvest rates.
Don’t forget to mark on your calendar the Special Parrie Weekend which will be held on February the 24th and 25th, 2018. This is a great opportunity for you to get your eye in before the main shooting season. There will also be a special season for black swan and pukeko from February 24th to March 4, 2018, so make the most of this opportunity.
We are in the process of putting together a review of Northland’s Sport Fish & Game Bird Management Plan. Thank you for those who replied to our survey and provided feedback. We are now in the process of drafting up a plan to be circulated for further comment later in the year.
Andrew Kirk, Field Officer
Auckland / Waikato Region
Help ducks to breed
The pheasant season finished on August 27 and those of us who got out found no shortage of birds, including Fish & Game Councillor Grant Annan who, with the able assistance of G.S.P. Meg, notched up another 3-bird limit (below left).
With so much water about for so long, most ducks are currently sitting on eggs and there are many ducklings about. A few broods were even seen in the game bird season as happens some years. That’s probably one more reason to selectively target drakes next year, to increase the number of breeding female ducks. Both mallard and shoveler species have surplus numbers of drakes, so ‘go for green’ and ‘Go for Blue.’ Excess drakes can be quite a nuisance come breeding time, however the lone drake you see in the field now is probably waiting for his mate to come off her nest nearby.
All that flooding of low ground this year also begs the question, where is it safe for mother mallard to nest? Is the only cover left near the water’s edge where any nest will likely be drowned out? Is there a hill face or similar high ground above the floodline that would benefit from being fenced off and left to grow in rank grass, with perhaps a few Fish & Game habitat trees to make first-rate nesting cover? Mallards will take their ducklings some distance to water so keep this in mind if weed spraying and the like.
That clump of gorse may ironically be the last habitat left. If it has to go, could it be replaced with something that’s also attractive to game birds? Our mallard research points to nest and brood survival as bottlenecks in local mallard recovery so even just locking the pond paddock up and removing the sheep or the mower is one way to thwart predators. A duck nest randomly placed in a large area of rank grass mixed with shrubs is a lot harder for predators to search than a thin strip beside a road that a wandering cat can walk along and check every day.
Send in the band info!
If you shot any banded birds this year, stop what you’re doing right now, go get them and report them to (free-phone), 0800 BIRD BAND. Be sure to give us the exact number on the band, where and when you shot it, as well as your contact details. If you don’t hear back from us for any reason, there’s no harm in calling twice. Reporting bands is a simple way you can greatly help your sport, so do make the effort. Want to know more about banding? Let us know at the Hamilton office that you’re keen and we’ll contact you with more details around January about coming along to help.
Get Trappin’ - now's the time
Breeding season is upon us so if you aren’t already doing some predator control around your pond, now’s the time to do it. Trapping doesn’t have to be hard, just some basic kill traps (DOC 200’s or Timms traps – about $50 each), bait with some fresh rabbit and set it. As they are kill traps you don’t have to check them every day unlike capture traps. You can wander around inspecting your success once a week or fortnight.
Obviously the more time it is set the more chance of capturing those killer pests – cats, rats, stoats, weasels, ferrets and hedgehogs. You don’t have to go at it all year – from August through until February is the best period as you have ducks nesting, rearing and then moulting – all times when they are most susceptible to predation. Get into it!
Plant your pond
Most game bird hunters have a couple of ponds they shoot over the season which can be dramatically enhanced, with a little effort and money. Most works are not significant and are easy to implement. There are huge opportunities on private land to create, enhance and develop more wetlands – resulting in improved water fowl shooting. All that is needed is for more keen hunters to lead the way. Look out for these opportunities, speak to landowners, and should you need any free technical advice regarding your duck pond, give our Eastern officers a call on 07-357 5501 – they are only too willing to help!
‘Perfect conditions’ for mallard breeding
While pre-season surveys revealed that mallard numbers were the highest for many years, the harvest on opening weekend was fairly average, as fine and calm conditions conspired against the hunters and definitely favoured the ducks. However, hunters who kept chasing ducks after opening weekend had some excellent shooting on the countless areas of casual water that lay in farm paddocks all season. The ducks were fat too, having had access to an unlimited supply of worms and other bugs.
The unrelenting rainfall has provided perfect conditions for mallard breeding throughout the region, with overflowing wetlands and well-established areas of shallow casual water providing a fantastic supply of the invertebrates that ducklings need for good survival. So all going well, hunters can look forward to mallard numbers remaining high for the 2018 season.
Murray Dobbin and grandson Wyatt with the results of a successful shoot during the 2017 game season.
There were some very good bags of paradise shelduck on Opening Weekend, but mobs dispersed fairly quickly and by June most birds were back in pairs on their home territories. As for mallards, conditions are looking very good for the coming breeding season.
The weather hasn’t been ideal for pheasant hunting, but Taranaki pheasants don’t mind the rain and hunters have still reported seeing good numbers of both cock and hen pheasants. The inclement weather also looks to have reduced hunting efforts aimed at pukeko during the extended season, although this will need to be confirmed once the hunter survey phone calls have been carried out in August.
Hunters checked by Fish & Game Rangers during the season had an excellent level of compliance with the regulations and bag limits and there have been no reports of dumped birds or firearms incidents in the region – a statistic that all hunters can be proud of.
Hawke’s Bay Region
Good breeding season on the way
Opening Weekend followed the pattern of the past few years, with the weather not conducive to waterfowl hunting. But many hunters had a good hunt in the morning in spite of the nice sunny weather. After Opening, the season got progressively better for waterfowl hunters with several storms coming through to move the ducks around. Waterfowl hunters focusing on non-traditional areas (i.e. ponds and wetlands) did well with layout blinds in flooded paddocks or harvested crop fields. Pheasant hunters had a slow start to the season which was probably due to the large number of maize fields that hadn’t been harvested. As the season progressed and the maize was harvested, the pheasant hunting improved.
The ducks harvested this year were in good condition with plenty of fat on them, which indicates that they should go into this year’s breeding season with good fat reserves. With the large amount of rainfall this winter, there is plenty of water in our wetlands. We are expecting a good breeding season this summer after the wet winter and with the ducks having good body reserves. Hawke’s Bay Fish & Game is in the final stages of finishing its five year waterfowl management plan which will be available to the public after the next council meeting.
Retrieving a well-earned duck.
Keep up to date with what it happening in Hawke’s Bay by following our Facebook site. Hawke’s Bay Fish & Game encourages hunter to continue shooting during the off season. Game bird hunters can join a local gun club and attend their shoots. By joining a local gun club, you not only get more practice but get to shoot with others who are proficient and can pass on tips improve your shooting.
Signing off after a successful season
Right: Retrieving a black swan during an evening shoot on Lake Wairarapa (Photo Hamish Carnachan).
“Plenty more ducks about” was the general consensus among lower North Island water fowl hunters this season.
While the eight-week waterfowl season closed in July, Wellington Fish & Game’s game bird hunting season ends this weekend and does so on a reasonably high note following several preceding years that were quite average. What it came down to was site selection, perseverance and picking the right occasions to shoot, such as during a big blow or change of weather direction.
Hunters would be advised to take on those simple tips next season to enhance their success and enjoyment. And for the Opening Weekend warriors who only shoot the first Saturday and Sunday of the season, you’re probably missing the best hunting given that the weather has a tendency to be benign early on.
We’ve had favourable feedback from upland game hunters too, particularly newbies to this form of bird shooting. Many have recorded their first quail and pheasant from public land and hunting areas managed by Fish & Game.
It appears word is getting out about the access to these hunting areas that Wellington Fish & Game has actively been working on to open up, as well as the game bird population enhancement we’ve been involved in. All in all, it’s great news our endeavour is producing rewards and opportunities for our hunters.
Finally, we’ll leave hunters with a plea to consider targeting some of the less favoured species next season. Fish & Game is constantly being called upon to manage swan and pukeko numbers at select sites around the region. These species provide great hunting and make a superb addition to salami and sausage meat.
Making an offer to landowners to chase a few can also provide good will and possible lead to other hunting opportunities.
Thanks for getting involved this season. We hope it has been a rewarding one for you. Catch you next May!