Healthy 2014 season predicted

Last updated 08:40 17/04/2014

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Taranaki game bird hunters are being assured of an eight week season - and no shortage of birds to target.

Taranaki Fish & Game has cleared up confusion over the mallard and grey duck season length, saying it was caused by newspaper reports that referred only to the Auckland/Waikato, Eastern and Wellington regions, where a short season applies.

Fish & Game officer Allen Stancliff says Taranaki's daily bag limit also remains at 10 birds, with healthy-looking prospects for the season that begins Saturday, May 3. The Taranaki region's mallard and grey populations are helped by relatively low hunter pressure, and an absence of botulism that's caused thousands of duck deaths in other regions.

There should be plenty of ducks available for hunters "who take the time to work out where the birds are concentrated."

With the dry conditions over February and March similar to last year, mallard and grey duck have flocked to the region's rivers, streams, lakes and ponds that have retained water.

Positive indicators for the season include recent bird trend counts, along with increased reports of mallards and paradise shelduck causing damage to chicory and other crops. And staff have seen mallards mobbing up on farm oxidation ponds and then flying out to feed in nearby chicory paddocks.

"It's been something of an issue, with a number of complaints received; so we hope that hunters can target some of these concentrations of paradise shelduck and mallard duck, especially if their favourite ponds are still looking dry for the start of the season."

Pukeko are widespread around the region and the hunting season for the birds has been extended through to August 31.

"We would urge hunters to organise pukeko drives after the duck season ends - to reduce numbers in areas where the birds have been damaging maize crops and silage and baleage covers."

Hunters may encounter small numbers of fast-flying shoveler duck on coastal wetlands this season, and they make good eating despite their small size. But hunters must ensure they clearly identify them - as distinct from grey teal and scaup (black teal), which are fully protected. The maximum fine for shooting grey teal is $5000 and $100,000 for scaup. A one-month season through to June 2, 2014, and a daily bag limit of two birds have been set for shoveler duck.

Mr Stancliff says hunters can also regard black swan, seen in good numbers on the coast, as a good 'bonus bird' to target. The Taranaki daily bag limit is one swan per hunter and the season runs for eight weeks.

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Weather conditions have also favoured pheasant populations and quail over the past couple of years, he adds.

Mr Stancliff reminds local hunters who are travelling to hunt in other Fish & Game regions to be very aware of the different regulations that apply. "Make sure, especially if you are near a boundary, that you know the rules that apply."

As one example, in the north-west of the region, all waters that run into the Mokau River are in Auckland/Waikato - where hunters must ensure their shotgun magazines are pinned to hold no more than three shells.

Hunters are reminded to get their free copy of the 2014 game bird hunting regulation guide and to carry their game licence with them when hunting, as rangers will be out checking on compliance.

Mr Stancliff says it should go without saying, especially after a string of accidents during the 'roar,' that hunters should give themselves a safety refresher - and remember to leave alcohol at home, or use it only after their shotguns are safely secured at the end of the day's hunting.

Daily bag limits for all areas of the Taranaki Fish & Game region are:

Grey/mallard duck (May 3 to Jun 29) - 10;

NZ shoveler duck (May 3 to Jun 2) - 2;

Paradise shelduck (May 3 to Jun 29) - 10;

Pukeko (May 3 to Aug 31) - 10;

Black swan (May 3 to Jun 29) - 1;

California quail (May 3 to Aug 31) - 5;

Cock pheasant (May 3 to Aug 31) - 2;

All other game birds (May 3 to Aug 31) - 1.

- Taranaki Daily News

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