Promising quacks for duck shooters
Auckland/Waikato Fish & Game officers say prospects for the game bird season have improved over last year, with farmers reporting high numbers of waterfowl breeding.
The season for mallard, grey and shoveler ducks begins on May 2 and runs until June 1.
Northern Wildlife manager John Dyer said farmers were reporting good numbers of birds breeding in their drains and other wetlands – particularly if they’ve had a predator control programme in place.
‘‘After a series of badly timed floods several years ago, we’ve seen a steady climb back for local dabbling duck populations,’’ Dyer said.
‘‘However, other species such as paradise shelduck have been much less affected. In fact, the last few breeding seasons seem to have been ideal over summer for both pheasants and quail raising chicks.’’
Dyer said paradise shelduck and black swan could be hunted until June 28 in the Auckland/ Waikato region.
To get maximum value from their game bird licence, hunters are urged to take advantage of the upland game bird season, which runs until the end of August. Pheasant, quail and pukeko can all be hunted until August 30.
Dyer noted that season lengths varied according to the numbers of each species and the extent to which they were hunted. The goal is to ensure a sustainable harvest with enough birds always surviving to breed, to sow the seed for the following year’s harvest.
‘‘A variety of monitoring programmes ensure this, such as hunter field checks, hunter phone surveys, banding of birds and aerial counts before the season begins.’’
Dyer said Fish & Game encouraged hunters to target pukeko over a generous four-month season as they ‘‘unfortunately do extensive and almost wanton damage to all manner of crops, everything from watermelons [one bite makes them unmarketable] to Chinese vegetables.’’
Fish & Game urges hunters to swot up on local rules and regulations. For example, hunters cannot shoot within 30 days of season opening within 100 metres of ‘‘any water area’’ that has been deliberately fed [with maize, barley et cetera] to attract ducks or shelducks. This year that means from May 2 to June 28.
The region also enforces a three-shot rule which requires hunters to plug their magazines to accept only two rounds, so the shotgun has a ‘‘total capacity’’ of three rounds.
‘‘ If a ranger can get more than two rounds in the magazine, then regardless of any excuse the person will receive an offence notice and will likely have their shotgun confiscated,’’ Dyer said.
‘‘This year we’d ask that hunters who are preparing ducks for the table to check for transmitters surgically implanted in their abdomen, ‘‘preferably before they roast them’’.
The transmitters are part of a PhD study of mallard productivity and can be used again if recovered and Fish & Game officers are notified.
Fish & Game rangers will be out checking that people have current game bird licences, and are sticking to bag limits and other rules. ‘‘There is a variety of costs associated with getting caught including loss of confiscated equipment, fines, lawyers’ fees, and time off work to appear in court,’’ Dyer said.