A bit of duck shoot­ing his­tory in New Zealand

Central Otago Mirror - - ENTERTAINMENT -

The first week­end of May is Duck Shoot­ing week­end and duck hun­ters (mainly men but some women) of all ages, skill lev­els, and oc­cu­pa­tions head to ponds, lakes, swamps and rivers and their maimais, armed with de­coy birds, guns, am­mu­ni­tion, duck call­ers, im­por­tant sup­plies to en­joy the an­nual ri­tual of open­ing morn­ing of Duck shoot­ing. Along­side the hunter could also be their trusty dog to try and help them to nab their prey. While most duck hun­ters only shoot on open­ing day, there is a hardy team of ded­i­cated hun­ters who stay with the sport through­out the duck shoot­ing sea­son. Later that week­end, and through­out the year, that luck­less bird, plucked, gut­ted and pre­pared in a va­ri­ety of ways to be served up for din­ner, al­though roast duck, with all its trim­mings, still tends to be the tra­di­tional favourite. Duck hunt­ing for many, brings forth fam­ily ri­val­ries amidst fam­ily tales of lucky shots and build­ing ponds and maimais.

Where did this all be­gin? Na­tive ducks, (par­adise and grey) were an im­por­tant source of food and feath­ers for Maori. Flight­less fledglings and moult­ing adults were hunted in Jan­uary and Fe­bru­ary when they were fate from spring and sum­mer feed­ing. Men, women and chil­dren drove ducks, some­times us­ing ca­noes and dogs, into wet­land veg­e­ta­tion where they were eas­ily caught and snared. Early set­tlers to New Zealand in­tro­duced over 20 dif­fer­ent species of wild­fowl and up­land game birds, but few be­came nat­u­ralised. From the 1860s, ac­cli­ma­ti­sa­tion so­ci­eties played an im­por­tant role in im­port­ing, man­ag­ing and later pro­tect­ing wild­fowl and other an­i­mals and birds. The Pro­tec­tion of Cer­tain An­i­mals Act of 1861 en­cour­aged im­port­ing crea­tures from Europe, in­clud­ing par­tridges, swans, rooks and star­lings, largely to pro­vide hunt­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties. So­ci­eties also reg­u­lated the shoot­ing of na­tive species clas­si­fied as game, in­clud­ing ducks and other wet­land birds. The Wildlife Act of 1953 de­fines 14 bird species as game, and they are man­aged by re­gional fish and game coun­cils. Hun­ters who pur­chase a game-bird li­cence and fol­low reg­u­la­tions, can legally hunt these species at cer­tain times of the year, usu­ally au­tumn and win­ter. For much of the 1800s and early 1900s, New Zealand was a duck hunter’s par­adise as there were large ar­eas of wet­lands. Ac­cli­ma­ti­sa­tion so­ci­eties suc­cess­fully in­tro­duced the mal­lard duck and the Canada goose and large bags of game could be had for the cost of a shot­gun and a li­cence. Ducks may only be shot in flight. The length of the sea­son de­pends on the species but ends in July for most ducks.

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