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Duck-shooting weekend is in the wings once more, and officials are urging safety alongside the traditional opening weekend festivities.

This season opens for thousands of keen local duck-shooters on Saturday and they are putting out their decoys and cocking their guns in preparation for a successful weekend.

This season is expected to turn out a ‘‘standard’’ harvest of mallards, Otago Fish & Game officer Jayde Couper said.

‘‘Fish & Game have taken some of the guesswork out of those speculative conversations by monitoring the pre-season duck population with aerial surveys.‘‘Mallard numbers appear to have held up reasonably well, thanks to a good breeding season in spring, despite drought conditions in summer which may have affected late broods,’’ Mr Couper said.

Just under 5000 mallards were recorded in Otago’s annual trend count conducted last month, lower than the previous surveys’ average of 5780. ‘‘Mallards are counted at selected locations, not the entire region. Counts can be affected on the survey day by conditions such as water levels and weather.

‘‘Long-term data shows Otago’s mallard population is in good shape.

‘‘Hunters are reminded to double-check the regulation booklet each season, as regulations can change.

‘‘One such regulation change this season is the reduced shoveler duck bag limit.’’

Last year’s national trend count showed a decline in shovelers, and Otago Fish & Game Council responded by reducing the shoveler limit from two birds to one drake per day.

The 2023-24 season will be the last time duck-shooters may legally use lead shot in.410 gauge shotguns, which are used mostly by junior hunters.

Game bird hunting with lead shot within 200m of water has been banned from all other shotguns since 2021.

Waterfowl hunters must use non-toxic shot such as steel, tungsten and bismuth.

Balclutha Police prevention sergeant Chris Parsons said police would be out in force over the weekend and the coming season.

‘‘We’re looking forward to ensuring people have a good time, but people need to be careful and safe.

‘‘Police and Fish & Game will likely be around, so don’t be surprised if we show up to mai mais as we’re doing our job to keep people safe.’’

‘‘Make sure to follow the rules, otherwise you run the risk of enforcement.’’