Fine forecast for start of duck shooting season

About 40,000 hunters will be heading to huts, ponds and rivers from tomorrow as duck shooting season begins.

The weather might not be ideal for them, but their prey should benefit from fine, bright skies.

Duck shooters prefer overcast, windy and rainy weather to keep ducks lower so they can respond to decoys within the 40m shooting range.

MetService spokesman Daniel Corbett says it will be fine and sunny in the North Island at the weekend, becoming wet and windy from Monday.

However veteran hunter Murray Davies isn't worried about the weather. "It won't make any difference to me. I'm one of these people that is a duck hunter not a duck shooter and the difference to me is some people go out and shoot ducks and I will hunt them until I find where they are and they've got to be somewhere. I do a fair bit of surveillance watching before the season."

The season lasts from 4-8 weeks, depending on the region.

Senior Fish and Game officer Matthew McDougall is expecting a tough season in Auckland, Waikato and Bay of Plenty because the number of mallards and grey ducks is lower after months of dry conditions.

The bag limit has been lowered and the season length shortened to just 4 weeks to try to protect stock in these areas. Parts of the South Island have an abundance of birds and fewer hunters, so can look forward to a longer season.

Popular hunting areas from north to south include Wairoa Valley, Dargaville and lowland plains such as the Hauraki Plains, Rangitikei Plains and Lake Wairarapa, according to Fish and Game.

Safe executive director Hans Kriek says the anti-animal cruelty organisation is strongly opposed to duck shooting not just because of the large number of birds that are killed but those that are left injured.

International research shows about 30 per cent of those shot at are left crippled, he says.

Auckland Waikato Fish and Game gamebird manager David Klee says rules in the Auckland/Waikato regions mean a plug has to be put in magazines to limit the total number of shots a gun can hold to three.

"We are trying to take some pressure off our mallard stock and get hunters to be a bit more thoughtful about when they pull the trigger."

Mr Klee says more ducks head to refuge sites, such as lakes within city limits before duck shooting season, and Hamilton Lake tended to have an extra couple of hundred ducks by the start of May.

"Whether it's due to them knowing, having some kind of innate knowledge of what is about to occur is questions. I think it is more due to the fact there's more disturbance."

There are an estimated 500,000 mallard and grey ducks in the Auckland/Waikato region.

- Nikki Preston of the New Zealand Herald

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