Out for a duck, or two, or three
The duck hunting season got off to a slow but ultimately satisfying start for at least two Marlborough hunters on Saturday morning.
Phillip Rayner and his son Nick were among hundreds who headed out well before daybreak on Saturday to prepare for the first day of the three-month season.
But duck hunting in Marlborough isn't what it used to be 10 years ago, Phillip said.
He blamed the viticulture industry and the move away from more traditional crop farming for the decrease in duck numbers. But despite a bag limit of 15 birds per person for grey and mallard ducks, the Rayners are happy to go home with just one or two birds after a morning's shooting.
This was the last time the pair would be shooting at their preferred spot at Bothams Bend, with an equestrian centre due to be built there this year.
Opening day is the most opportune time, with many hunters out on the prowl, said Nick.
"It makes it really difficult for the ducks to find a place to land because there are so many hunters around - it's not a good day to be a duck."
It is illegal to shoot a duck unless it is flying so the few seconds as it takes off or as it comes into land are a hunter's best chance for a kill.
The father and son waited patiently for around an hour at their maimai before the first mallard landed on the water near them. As it took off again three shots rang, with one of Nick's winging the bird.
Unfortunately this meant it was only injured and after crashing to the water made a quick getaway by diving for cover, despite hunting dog Chip's best efforts to find and retrieve it.
"We'll go and have another look for it later but sometimes they do get away, which is a real waste," Phillip said.
Half-an-hour later another two ducks made an attempt to land but Phillip and Nick's shots missed. After another quiet spell, punctuated by much duck calling by Nick, three mallards arrived.
This time the father-and-son team were on target and downed two fine drakes, which Chip eagerly fetched from the water. "We just had the a l'orange at home, now we have the duck to go with it," Phillip said.
By the end of the morning they had bagged seven ducks between them - not a bad start to the season.