'Several' hunters caught without licences on first weekend of season

duck hunter
Several were caught without licences to hunt in the South Island. Photo credit: File

While some hunters will be looking forward to their first duck roasts of the season, others will be dreading their looming court appearances. 

Across most of the country Fish and Game rangers reported excellent compliance with the rules, but there were "several" caught hunting without a licence in Southland, and others in Timaru and on the West Coast were also snapped.

The season this year was delayed three weeks due to COVID-19 restrictions, meaning there were plenty of birds around.

Southland Fish and Game manager Zane Moss says it was a cracker of an opening for those hunters who did comply.

"People were mindful that we might not get a duck season this year... so there was a huge level of excitement and appreciation of being able to get out and go hunting and harvest some birds for the table."

He said the fun was ruined by those who showed up without a licence, which can result in a year in prison or a fine up to $100,000. 

"There's always a degree of non-compliance. We'd prefer there was absolutely no non-compliance. But still, certainly disappointing to catch some people hunting without licences... it wrecks the staff's day, dealing with them, and certainly wrecks their day as well. Their guns have been seized as evidence and they'll proceed through the court system. 

"It's a pretty significant offence in reality. People sometimes see it as a bit innocuous, but in reality it's a criminal conviction which has pretty significant consequences for people in the future, with the 'fit and proper person' test for firearms licences."

For those hunting legally in Southland, the only downer was the nice weather.

"It was a beautiful calm day - duck hunting is a lot easier when there's some wind," said Moss.

"It makes people's decoys look a lot more realistic and it makes it a lot easier to fool birds."

Animal rights group SAFE on Friday called for the Government to investigate how many shot birds don't die instantly, and instead are left to "lie in agony for hours until they finally die".

"Overseas studies indicate wounding rates from duck shooting could be between about 10 percent and 30 percent," the group said in a statement.