Thousands of Kiwis gearing up for start of game bird hunting season

The season kicks off on Saturday.
The season kicks off on Saturday. Photo credit: Getty

As many as 45,000 New Zealanders will be taking part in the duck shooting season this year.

The season kicks off on Saturday, with hunters up and down the country gearing up for opening weekend.

Initial monitoring has already shown promising signs duck numbers are high in many parts of the country - such as Taranaki and Otago - thanks to a great breeding season and favourable weather conditions.

Fish and Game chairman Ray Grubb says the tradition dates back "well over 100 years" and is a chance for friends and family to come together and "gather food for the table whilst reconnecting with each other".

"Unlike other forms of hunting, game bird hunting is done collectively as it is only for a few weeks a year and gives everyone the chance to spend time together," Grubb said on Thursday.

"Duck hunting is also multi-generational, with all ages coming together for the weekend. It's this ability to connect with each other, discuss the past and plan for the future while enjoying the great outdoors that makes opening weekend an ingrained part of New Zealand’s culture."

Federated Farmers president Andrew Hoggard says after the start of last season was delayed due to COVID-19 hunters this year are especially looking forward to opening weekend.

He reminded hunters to be respectful with farmers whose property they may be using. 

"Many farmers across the country invite hunters onto their farms, but we would like to remind these visitors that their hunting spot is also a business, home and place of other recreation, and we ask that people recognise this if they head out for a shoot on private land. 

"Opening weekend is a traditional time for farmers to share their properties with visitors from town and a chance for hunters to show their appreciation to their farmer hosts. We just want everyone to have a good time this weekend and come home safe to their loved ones." 

Mike Daisley, chief executive of the New Zealand Mountain Safety Council (MSC), says in recent years there has been a drop in the number of firearms-safety incidents during the duck shooting season, a "postive trend" he hopes will continue.

“Last year's figures are very encouraging because it shows duck hunters are thinking about their behaviour around firearms and recognising the safety impacts of bad habits."

He said it's often a generational barrier that drives bad habits and MSC was working to encourage hunters to improve their safety habits.

Last year MSC released a video called "Let old habits die, not your mates", which Daisley says has helped raised awareness of the issue.

"We want hunters to be safe and enjoy duck shooting season, but we want them to do it safely."