Duck hunters warned to lay off the booze

After eight shooting accidents in the past four years, the New Zealand Mountain Safety Council is urging duck shooters to take care this year.

The duck shooting season opens on May 3 and runs into June.

Mike Spray, the council's firearms and hunter training programme manager, urges duck shooters to always remember three important safety messages:

* Check your firing zone;

* Do not consume alcohol leading up to or while duck shooting;

* Lock your guns away when you have finished shooting.

"In the past four years there have been eight incidents during the duck shooting season where victims have been fired upon by other shooters," Mr Spray said.

"In one particularly tragic incident a 12-year-old boy was killed in the home by a shotgun left insecure."

Mr Spray said there were about 45,000 duck shooting licences issued each year, which suggested the majority of duck shooters did comply with firearms safety rules.

"However, each of those eight shooting incidents could have been avoided if those responsible had not dropped their guard at the critical moment," Mr Spray said.

Incidents in which a shooter hit another with shot pellets were generally caused by the shooter concentrating on fast moving game and not on the other shooters close by, or the shooter not confirming where other hunters were and keep visual contact with them.

"Shooters must establish their firing zone ensuring that other shooters do not fall within that zone. Shooters must also remain vigilant as zones of fire can change as they move, as other hunters move or as game moves," Mr Spray said.

He warned shooters that it was unsafe to consume alcohol before shooting or while shooting.

"The myth that alcohol will warm the body on a cold May afternoon is only a myth," he said. "Alcohol will contribute to decreasing body temperature and if conditions are adverse there is a real risk of hypothermia."

Mr Spray said shooters needed to ensure guns were securely locked away after the shooting has finished.