Hunters huddled in maimais around the district awaiting those first whispers of wings, were greeted by a fine calm morning, with fog in some areas. But frustration over the conditions was generally more than made up for with an increase in the numbers of ducks observed, compared with the previous season.
While some hunters struggled to fool the birds into decoying, most were satisfied that they were getting reasonable opportunities.
Duck numbers are often patchy over the opening weekend of the season, and while most areas that Fish & Game rangers visited reported more birds than last, some areas were down.
Sunrise over Waituna Lagoon, a slight breeze helping move the decoys.
Rangers are almost always questioned when chatting with hunters in a maimai how others are getting on?
Sometimes it’s embarrassing to have to acknowledge that others are doing well ‘compared to you guys', but often there are obvious reasons for poor success.
I know we mention it frequently, and if you’re reading this you’re probably keener than most, but one thing that many hunters lack is adequate movement in their decoys, a situation made even worse by calm conditions.
The other common issues are poor maimai locations in relation to the ponds, and poor maimai design – that limits shooting opportunities.
Hanging heavy over Southland’s hunt this year was gun safety, sparked by the tragic shooting death of a very popular young man on a deer shooting trip.
Unfortunately, the media tried hard to make the connection between this death and the upcoming duck hunting season, virtually implying that A&E would be half-full of intoxicated duck hunters with a variety of gunshot wounds.
The Police were also highlighting the issue of mixing alcohol and firearms, which further fuelled the media’s tabloid enthusiasm. Fortunately there were no accidents reported nationally, let alone locally. This made it much easier for staff to deal with media enquiries along the lines of ‘is anyone shot yet?’
The media’s focus on the behaviour of one or two idiots highlights the need to ensure we continue to promote sensible and ethical behaviour among hunters. You can find Fish & Game's Hunting Code of Conduct here.
While by far the majority do behave sensibly, staff did observe hunters in a couple of maimais who should have had their guns put away before behaviour deteriorated.
Forecasts show that we’re in for a few cold fronts over the next few days, which may bring enough rain to change duck behaviour.
With the relatively dry conditions we’ve experienced, duck feeding opportunities have been pretty limited. All that will change as soon as we get enough sufficient rainfall to cause a bit of surface water.
Ducks will look to gobble up worms until they can hardly lift themselves off the paddock. Hunters should be keeping an eye out for such evening hunting opportunities which can be fast and furious!