New Zealand Fish & Game estimates ‘‘at least 90%’’ of waterfowl shooting happens over opening weekend, but the number of ducks actually downed depends on the weather, as the Bonney family explained in their mai mai on opening day.
‘‘With no wind and bright sunlight the decoys don’t move and the game can see what they are,’’ Paul Bonney, of Dunedin, said.
He and his family placed about 70 decoys around their usual mai mai on Kaitangata’s Lake Tuakitoto as unseasonably warm temperatures climbed into the 20s, and by 3pm had just five ducks and a swan — a fraction of the birds bagged last year.
“Duck-hunters were happy to be out there and most bagged a few ducks for the table,” Otago Fish & Game officer and ranger Bruce Quirey said.
“Bags were generally low due to the weather, but there were some impressive results particularly in South Otago, where some hunters harvested their limit.”
While ranging data for Otago was still being finalised, compliance with game bird regulations was expected to be better than 95% -on par with previous years, Mr Quirey said.
Five shotguns were seized for use or possession of lead shot within 200m of water, and two were seized for hunting without a game bird licence.
“It’s always disappointing to find a few offences that could easily have been avoided,” Mr Quirey said.
‘‘The forecast for cold and wet weather this week means hunters should be thinking about options to make the most of their full-season licences.’’
Flights of mallards, swans and paradise ducks periodically patrolled Tuakitoto on Saturday for a safe landing but generally disregarded the chorus of calls from the Bonneys and other teams, although the mai mai about 100m north downed about eight birds between 12.30pm and 3pm.
‘‘When it’s this calm it’s possible a lot of ducks are out at sea,’’ Mr Bonney said.
‘‘But if a southeasterly picks up the swell, they may come back in and there’s always tomorrow and the rest of the season.’’
Day licences are available from the second Sunday after opening weekend and the three-month mallard season runs until July 30.