'The reality is we're hunters': Duck season scrap over claims thousands of injured birds will be left to die

Hunters are defending their right to shoot game birds, with the hunting season now underway.

SAFE is calling for an end to the sport, estimating 200,000 birds may die slowly and painfully this season.

"Imagine taking your children to the pond to feed the ducks, and to find maimed birds, slowly dying, who have been shot by duck shooters," said SAFE boss Debra Ashton.

"If you did this to a cat or dog you would be charged with animal cruelty."

SAFE bases its 200,000 claim on "overseas studies", which reportedly say up to 30 percent of shot birds are wounded, but not immediately killed.

Fish & Game CEO Martin Taylor says that's not true.

"When a bird is wounded a dog can actually sense it and bring them down," he told Newshub. "The whole idea that there is no mechanism to address wounded birds is incorrect.

"We respect SAFE's position that they want to protect all animals, but the reality is we're hunters. We don't reconcile than that."

He says most hunters are responsible and hunt ethically.

"We're happy with the ethics and the approach that hunters have to our sport."

More than 40,000 Kiwis are licensed to hunt birds.