A bit of duck shooting history in New Zealand
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.