2012 Gamebird Season opening   27 Apr 2012

Well, the wet weather has returned and so has the winter gamebird season. Before the season gets under way Fish & Game completes aerial surveys in the region. 2012 results show numbers substantially up on last year. This will be welcome news for the fanatical hunters counting the sleeps until opening day on 5th of May. Most hunters will have already ‘pegged’ and tidied up their ‘maimai well in advance of opening weekend so as not to unsettle the ducks prior to the big weekend.

For gamebird hunting families opening weekend is a highlight for a variety of reasons which often have more to do with tradition than the actual hunting. For this group a big bag of ducks is less important than having friends and family visit for the weekend, while for others a freezer full of ducks at the end of the season is the prime objective.

West Coast Fish & Game Manager Dean Kelly said the Coast region that extends roughly from Karamea to Haast caters well for all hunter preferences, which is one of the reasons why it has become an important destination for visiting hunters. Over a third of all the gamebird hunting on the coast is now from visiting hunters. Throughout the country wetland drainage and urban sprawl have severely depleted gamebird habitat and access. A comparatively large number of public wetlands and riverbeds provide numerous opportunities and combined with the variety in hunting is the main attraction for visiting hunters.

This year Fish & Game were surprised with the overwhelming success of gamebird tasters at the 2012 wildfoods festival. Mr Kelly stated that “Public opinion about wildfood has changed markedly over the last deacade and Fish & Game detected bit of jealousy at the wildfoods festival due to the fact that there is no commercial sale of gamebirds in New Zealand and this delicacy is restricted to those that go out and sustainably harvest it themselves.”

There are three big weekends throughout the season. Opening weekend, the weekend closest to the shortest day, which for 2012 will be the 23rd and 24th of June, and closing weekend on 28th and 29th July. Fish & Game promotes these weekends in response to hunter requests for a coordinated approach to improve bird circulation. Both local and visiting hunters use these weekends to take advantage of increased numbers of birds in flight. Good decoying and calling techniques come in handy on weekends such as these.

Sunday 29th July marks the closing of regular season but opportunities still continue through to the end of August for hunting Paradise Shelduck. Fish & Game remind all hunters that they must carry their licence on them at all times when hunting and it is an offence to use toxic (lead) shot while hunting waterfowl and this includes private land.

(Fish and Game New Zealand)

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