More than 65,000 hunters are expected to take part in this year’s game bird hunting season, which gets underway the first weekend of May.
Fish & Game New Zealand said this is widely anticipated to be one of the best seasons in years.
“Some of the wettest spring and summer seasons on record in many regions has meant that the waterfowl population is thriving,” Fish & Game NZ chief executive Corina Jordan said.
“The weather has provided optimum conditions for brood rearing, with plenty of wet and ponded areas providing ample food.”
Jordan, who will be joining other hunters and tangata whenua at Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere, said opening morning is one of the most longstanding recreational traditions in New Zealand.
“So much of opening weekend is about the tradition of coming together to spend time with loved ones and enjoying being in the outdoors. Ask hunters and there’s most certainly a wellness aspect to it.
“Often our ranging teams will also encounter three generations hunting from the same maimai – a spot that may, in some cases, have been used by great-great grandparents.”
Jordan said that for many, opening weekend may be the only time friends and families come together each year.
“It’s a sort of pilgrimage as much about rekindling friendships and family bonds as harvesting game birds for many people,” she said.
Not only is the first weekend in May a celebration of coming together, but it has also become a significant part of the Kiwi culture and heritage.
“The importance of the game bird season is reflected in many parts of the country like no other pursuit. For example, there are towns where shops are shut, open homes aren’t held, and sport – even rugby – isn’t scheduled.”
The duck hunters who descend on the dams, ponds and wetlands dotted around the rural hinterland come from all walks of life too, Jordan said.
“It shouldn’t be overlooked that the thread that pulls this part of the country’s cultural fabric together is the kindness and hospitality of the farmers who host hunters.”