Duck hunt­ing al­ways pop­u­lar in the south

Central Otago Mirror - - FRONT PAGE -

The pop­u­lar­ity of duck shoot­ing has never re­ally waned in ru­ral ar­eas like South­land, and the tra­di­tion has a long and ven­er­a­ble his­tory stretch­ing back to pre-Euro­pean times.

For ex­am­ple, par­adise shel­ducks and grey ducks were an im­por­tant his­tor­i­cal food source for Maori, with flight­less fledglings and moult­ing adults taken in high sum­mer at their peak of plump­ness.

The ducks would be driven into wet­land veg­e­ta­tion where they could rel­a­tively eas­ily be caught or snared.

Just as to­day, a closed sea­son was ap­plied, specif­i­cally for the na­tive grey duck.

With the ar­rival of early Euro­pean set­tlers came in­tro­duced wild­fowl and other game birds, although not all be­came nat­u­ralised as a mat­ter of course.

How­ever, the ac­cli­ma­ti­sa­tion so­ci­eties of the 1860s on­wards, en­cour­aged and aided by the Pro­tec­tion of Cer­tain An­i­mals Act 1861, sys­tem­at­i­cally im­ported, man­aged and, later, pro­tected wild­fowl and other an­i­mals and birds

The so­ci­eties also reg­u­lated the shoot­ing of na­tive species clas­si­fied as game, in­clud­ing ducks and other wet­land birds.

To­day, the mal­lard is the most com­mon duck in New Zealand, but it wasn’t al­ways the case.

From 1867 re­peated at­tempts were made to ac­cli­ma­tise English game farm stock, but these failed.

In the 1930s and 40s, how­ever, eggs from San Fran­cisco came in wicker bas­kets on board fly­ing boats, the hatch­lings from which spread rapidly and suc­cess­fully through­out the coun­try.

To­day there are about 4.5 mil­lion mal­lards – enough to be a gen­uine nui­sance.

Re­sul­tantly, the mal­lard is the main­stay of the duck hunter’s bag.

The com­monly seen par­adise duck, or ‘‘parry’’, is New Zealand’s only shel­duck (goose­like duck) but, when the coun­try was first set­tled by Euro­peans, it was rare.

The his­tor­i­cal con­ver­sion of bush to pas­ture, and the ad­di­tion of stock ponds, many sub­sidised by hunters’ li­cence fees, has helped num­bers grow ex­po­nen­tially.

Although abun­dant right across the south, north­ern South­land pro­vides the best par­adise duck hunt­ing in the re­gion.

Canada geese, or ‘‘Honkers’’ were first in­tro­duced from the USA as a gift from Pres­i­dent Theodore Roo­sevelt.

This is known as the wari­est of all wa­ter­fowl and there­fore the hunter’s most chal­leng­ing tar­get.

They feed on pas­ture, and this is where the most suc­cess­ful hunt­ing can oc­cur.

How­ever a high de­gree of skill and much per­se­ver­ance is re­quired to taste suc­cess, as they are dis­tinctly wily birds.

South­land has a healthy Canada goose pop­u­la­tion with most be­ing found in the Te Anau Basin and along the coastal fringe where they seek out the large wa­ter bod­ies they use for rest­ing and refuge.

What­ever ends up in your bag this sea­son though: have fun, and safe shoot­ing!

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