With this year's duck shooting season starting on Saturday, an animal rights group says 200,000 birds will be maimed and left to die in agony over the course of the season.
But hunters have defended the sport, insisting the group's "numbers simply don't add up" and do not reflect reality.
The game bird hunting season was originally scheduled to begin on May 2, but was postponed due to COVID-19.
With the nation now at alert level 2 Kiwis are once again allowed to travel inter-regionally and access public conservation land, meaning hunting has the green light to go ahead.
But animal rights organisation SAFE says the sport is "inherently cruel" and should be banned.
Marianne Macdonald, the group's campaigns manager, says projectiles released when a shotgun shell is fired can spread out to hit non-target birds flying nearby, with the injured birds sometimes lying in agony for hours until they finally die.
"An estimated 200,000 birds will be needlessly maimed in New Zealand this season," Macdonald said.
According to the organisation, studies from Australia show the wounding rates from duck shooting could be between 10 percent and 30 percent.
But according to Fish & Game, SAFE's claims "do not reflect the reality in New Zealand".
"Their numbers simply don't add up," Martin Taylor, Fish & Game chief executive, told Newshub.
"They talk about 200,000 birds unrecovered, we normally only have around 400,000 birds in New Zealand, so adding that to hunter harvest there would be no mallards left in New Zealand, which is clearly not the case considering the reports we have of huge numbers of birds around New Zealand."
According to Fish & Game more than 40,000 Kiwis hunt each year, and Taylor said he stood behind their behaviour.
"We're happy with the ethics and the approach that hunters have to our sport."