A hobby with a conscience

The 2018 Game Bird Season opens on May 5.

There’s less than two weeks to go until every gamebird hunter’s favourite weekend of the year, so it’s time to break out the camo, ammo, and get your ducks in a row.

It’s a given the 2018 Game Bird Season brings endless amounts of recreational fun – but what many don’t realise is the quiet ways the hobby is helping to conserve native flora and fauna.

From a farmer creating wetlands for their own duck-hunting posse, to assisting with population control, there are many ways duck hunters establish themselves as quiet conservationists, says Fish & Game New Zealand communication manager Don Rood.

“A wetland has major benefits for native wildlife, particularly birds and fish, and they play such a vital part of the environment. They filter and clean water and they provide breeding spots and food for bird life.”

Don says in some areas throughout New Zealand the loss of wetlands has been major – so when you think of the role duck hunters play in rebuilding those areas, it’s very positive.

“As well as building wetlands, duck hunters contribute to the environment by helping with population control – both with predators and with gamebirds themselves.”

Hunters mount predator control programs by trapping stoats and weasels. This has a benefit for gamebirds and all wetland creatures.

“Some gamebird species can create problems at times. Take, for example, when there are lovely new fields of grass or crops which the birds feast on – so harvesting birds can help farmers.”

Another part of the reason for the hunting season is to keep a cap on populations. Fish & Game conducts studies every year to assess how many birds live in a certain area, and the information tells them how many birds are able to be sustainably harvested.

“A hunter’s role is not to wipe ducks out, but to sustain populations and encourage them to grow. It’s all very carefully managed, which is why the limits vary widely between Fish & Game’s 12 regions in New Zealand.”

The 2018 Game Bird Season opens on Saturday, May 5. For more information visit www.fishandgame.org.nz