Duck hunters need to up the ante if they want to improve on what has been a tough start to the season for some, says Southland Fish & Game.
“Some hunters are reporting fewer birds than normal being harvested over opening weekend of the game bird season,” says Southland Fish & Game manager Maurice Rodway, who explains there could be several factors at play.
“Rangers noticed a large number of hunters who were not sufficiently prepared or who had poor hunting techniques and this is a likely contributor to some having limited success.”
Mallards are very wary birds and hunters cannot expect to be successful if they just roll up to a maimai on opening morning, throw out a few decoys and hope the ducks will come flocking in, he says.
“Good camouflage and maimai design, duck calling and shooting skills are all necessary.”
Mr Rodway points out that ducks are also using pastures and open areas rather than duck ponds as loafing and feeding areas so hunters need to be aware of these habits.
“While hunters who were prepared and did their homework had good results over opening weekend, we acknowledge that overall duck numbers were lower than average.”
The harvest is partially related to the previous spring rainfall conditions with plenty of rain resulting in lots of ducks – rainfall last winter and early spring was fairly normal so a good population would be expected.
However, the heavy snowfall in early October last year may have had an adverse effect on newly hatched ducklings and this might partly explain why some hunters have noticed fewer birds.
“A dry November and December could also be involved,” says Mr Rodway.
Initial results from the annual game harvest survey indicate the opening weekend mallard harvest was about 9.5 mallards taken per hunter. This compares to an average of around 12 mallards per hunter over the last 10 years. Only three times in the last 20 years has it been less than 10 per hunter. Some years it has been as high as 17.