Seeing the family tradition of duck shooting passed on to the next generation is always a thrill for Richard Hill.

Over many years, the Oamaru Sports and Outdoors co-owner has seen generations of North Otago families prepare for the duck-shooting season. Children who once came in to the store with their fathers were now coming in with their own children.

“It’s just awesome – it makes me feel old, though,” Hill said.

It was also encouraging to see more young women take up duck-shooting.

“We’re starting to see a lot of teenage girls getting into the sport now, which is absolutely fantastic.”

The first weekend in May – when the season opened – always a highlight on the calendar for Oamaru Sports and Outdoors, and staff started getting inquiries about duck-shooting gear and licences from about mid February.

“The two important weeks are the lead-up into duck shooting. That is big, that is really, really big for us,” Hill said.

Last year, when New Zealand went into lockdown, Oamaru Sports and Outdoors had all its duck-shooting stock sitting in store. The season was delayed from May 2 to 23, due to Alert Level restrictions.

“All of a sudden we had a window of 10 days to sell our duck-shooting gear and it was brilliant. It was really, really good,” he said.

After lockdown, the “shop local” theme had been ingrained in the North Otago community, which had been “fantastic”.

“We’re seeing that filter through for the duck-shooting [this year].”

Duck-shooting gear had developed and improved a lot over the years.

Decoys had gone from “your standard, tiny 12-inch” to a variety of “great big magnums”, flocked decoys, and motorised flying decoys. The latter were “very, very popular”.

Hill stressed the importance of firearm safety – making sure everything was functioning and matched with the proper ammunition before heading out.

He was happy to talk people through the process step by step.

“It’s about giving the shooter as much of our knowledge … to help them out on the day.”

Papakaio hunter and Central South Island Fish & Game councillor Brent Growcott anticipated a “pretty good” season in North Otago.

“I’ve seen lots of paradise shelduck around making the most of this year’s grain harvest,” Mr Growcott said.

However, Mr Growcott believed hunters may need to check water levels as dry conditions could mean small ponds were dry.

“We are in need of some rain before opening and some small ponds are drying up, requiring hunters to find an alternative spot.

“Those hunters on permanent waterbodies like big ponds, coastal lagoons and rivers should anticipate a good share of the birds this opening weekend.”

The Central South Island duck season runs until July 26, with a 50-bird daily limit for mallard and 25 for paradise shelduck.

“Hopefully some rough weather occurs over the opening weekend to enhance the hunting and hunters have a safe and enjoyable time,” Central South Island Fish & Game officer Rhys Adams said.

Mr Adams reminded hunters to buy their licences and carry them while hunting and review the rules and bag limits for their particular area.

Hunters also need to check their ammunition complied with new rules on the possession and use of lead shot within 200m of open water.

Lead shot is not permitted except in .410 cartridges.