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Small haul . . . Chris and Hunter Wilson with some of the ducks they shot in the Airedale area on Saturday morning. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

A group of local hunters were caught hunting without licences in the North Otago area in an otherwise positive start to this year’s duck-shooting season.

Three Fish and Game rangers, including central South Island field officer Rhys Adams, patrolled the northern boundary of Oamaru, Windsor, Ngapara, Enfield and Weston, and carried out compliance checks on Saturday morning.

Most hunters were shooting in compliance with regulations with the exception of a group of four gathered at a pond near Weston who were unable to produce licences when questioned by rangers.

Each of the hunters had firearms seized and faced further action, Mr Adams said.

Penalties for hunting without a licence include a maximum fine of $5000 or community work.

Mr Adams said the incident was unfortunate, but not entirely unexpected.

“It’s the nature of the beast, really. There’s always a small percentage of the population taking a risk and seeing if they can get away with it.”

Other than nabbing the group of unlicensed hunters, he said the weekend was incident-free and was he not aware of safety issues being reported in the area.

“I thought it was a great start to the season in terms of safety.”

Several groups Mr Adams spoke to on Saturday reported they had shot an average of about four ducks, three mallards and one paradise duck by 10am despite less than ideal conditions.

“The weather certainly didn’t help, with it just being sunny, clear and windless and the birds keeping on flying.

” It was what people expected and what we as rangers expected on the day.

“There was a bit of a scattering of hunters and there was a lot of gunshots around the place so there was reasonable numbers – about what we would have expected.”

One pair of hunters, shooting at a Fish and Game-owned wetland area at Kakanui, reported they had shot 70 birds over the weekend.