Lifelong hobby still bringing pleasure

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After some 60 years’ duck-shooting, Richard Wade knows a thing or two about the sport.

Opening morning is tomorrow – the first Saturday in May. Mr Wade will be heading out to his favourite spot with his long-time shooting mate. Needless to say, the location is a closely-guarded secret.

But duck-shooting is much more than a short burst on the first day. Mr Wade makes the most of the whole season.

“I very much enjoy, after the opening, walking around the ponds and creeks.”

He began the sport as a teenager with his cousins, on his uncle’s Ranfurly farm.

Mr Wade’s family moved to Oamaru in 1950, but went back to Central Otago at duck-shooting time.

In those days separate licenses were needed for different areas.

“It cost me two licences per season. It was not economical, so I started shooting here.”

Mr Wade had Labrador dogs to accompany him on duck-shooting expeditions for 30 years. When the last one died, he decided not to get another because he is now 74.

“It’s not half as much fun without a dog. But my mate’s got a dog.”

There were two facets to duck-shooting, he said: shooting the ducks, and finding them after they fell to the ground. Thatwas where the Labradors came in.

“I’m down on my hands and knees now.”

His dogs had also gone fishing, wallaby-shooting, and pig-shooting with him, as well as being family pets.

“Both my daughters have been duck-shooting with me, and my two grandsons have been with me. My granddaughter’s been out, too.”

Conditions had changed since the advent of irrigation.

“There’s far more permanent water around North Otago.”

Mr Wade’s equipment has also moved with the times. Whereas his first shotgun was “a big mongrel” with side-by-side barrels, he now has an Italian-made five-shot much better suited to him.

And the old duck-callers have been ditched in favour of an electronic model.

Mr Wade’s interest in wildfowl and fishing led to a 15-year involvement with the acclimatisation society, the forerunner of Fish and Game New Zealand.

He was instrumental in establishing the Devils Bridge Wetland.

He also used to give surplus ducks to the foodbank after a good day’s shooting.