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Great spot . . . Rodney Herrick and gun dog Ash at their farm pond near Papakaio on opening weekend. PHOTO: RHYS ADAMS/SUPPLIED

Although good weather conditions in Waitaki favoured the ducks, hunters did not come away empty-handed on opening day of the game bird season.

Central South Island Fish & Game officer Rhys Adams said a survey of hunters revealed duck numbers on opening weekend were slightly below average for the Waitaki district.

The conditions were against most hunters, Mr Adams said.

“Both the weather and the dry conditions – maybe that affected breeding a bit this year,” he said.

“All in all, it’s not a negative. The reality is, we have great hunting here, even on a season like this one.

“It was still a positive opening, people still got healthy duck numbers – I just think it wasn’t as good as what people were hoping for. But the expectations are always super high for the biggest weekend of the year.”

Central South Island Fish & Game ranging teams patrolled the Lake Benmore, Twizel, Omarama and Waitaki Valley areas on opening day and five duck-shooters were issued with offence notices for breaching regulations, including hunting without a game bird licence and possession of lead shot within 200m of open water.

Guns and ammunition were seized and the offences, which occurred in the Twizel and Omarama areas, were under investigation, Mr Adams said.

No other issues arose, and he considered opening weekend a great success.

Officers would continue to patrol sporadically throughout the game bird season, which runs until July 25.

From Monday, day licenses go on sale and Mr Adams encouraged experienced hunters to take a friend along to introduce them to the pastime.

“It’s less cost commitment, you just buy the day licence, head out with an experienced hunter and go for a hunt,” he said.

“We encourage people to do that.”

Fish & Game also offered free permits to hunt at its wetlands – the Wainono Reserve in Waimate, All Day Bay, and Devils Bridge – on a ”first in first served basis” for the rest of the season.

More information can be found at fishandgame.org.nz.