The first weekend of May signals the opening of duck hunting.With many regions having shorter duck seasons, it is a good idea to prepare well before opening morning to improve your shooting. Here a few things you can do ahead of the season to increase your odds for more successful bags.
Access to your pond
If you’re like me you have access to a pond, river or wetland and a good relationship with the farmer or landowner. The committed hunter should call in a few times since the previous season to check on the pond and undertake some basic preparation. The removal of pest plants such as ragwort, blackberry and glyceria helps ensure that good plants can prosper and provide food for the ducks. Sedges and willow weed are a favourite food, so let these plants grow.
Clearing thick Raupo is a good idea to encourage a good landing strip for ducks. Simply cut them back at their base and you can then bundle together to use as floating pads. Ducks love resting on them.
March is a good month to do any maintenance on the pond or maimai as it is outside the breeding and moulting times – so the ducks aren’t disturbed. You should check your maimai and replace any rotten floorboards or old iron used in the walls and roof. Make sure you remove the old materials from the site so the landowner is kept happy. Fencing off the pond from stock is a good idea to prevent maimai damage and leave the pond undisturbed; if the farmer is happy for you to do so.
Feeding out with maize is a good method to attract more waterfowl to your pond or dam. It is prohibited in some regions so check with www.fishandgame.org.nz . This should be started at least six weeks prior to opening morning. In Northland where I shoot, a lot of the local hunters use kumara which is commonly grown and a favourite of ducks that land in the kumara paddocks on dark to feed.
If you do feed maize on your pond it can also attract more pests such as rats and weasels. So it’s a good idea to bait a couple of traps which helps your duck numbers too.
If you don’t belong to a gun club then getting some clay birds and a bunch of mates for an afternoon on a farm is a great idea. Getting some confidence with your shotgun on clays is important before you are sitting in your maimai. You don’t want to be rusty on opening morning and missing a few early ducks isn’t what any hunter wants. Practising on clay birds helps get your eye in and gives you that familiar feel for the gun again. The old clay bird throwers work fine and there are some great electronic skeet throwers available now that are a lot of fun to use.