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Like father, like son .. Father and son Blair and Abel (3) McKenzie show off their haul.PHOTO: BROOKE MCKENZIE

The opening weekend of the duck-shooting season had its ups and downs but fewer hunters were caught flouting regulations, Southland Fish & Game manager Zane Moss said.

“We found around a dozen people [in breach] – less than we find on average each year,” Mr Moss said.

In bad years, rangers would find upwards of 30 hunters not complying with regulations on opening weekend.

“Hopefully, the number this year reflects the growing recognition of the penalties and the fact they’re pretty severe.”

Those caught in breach were either hunting without a licence or using lead shot, he said.

Although there were fewer in breach, opening weekend presented another problem.

“From a hunting perspective it wasn’t as good as past years.”

“Hunters will be randomly selected and surveyed but what we know already is there were less ducks from the last few years.”

The duck population fluctuated naturally but the decline in numbers could could have something to do with the drier summer, Mr Moss said.

“They moult when it gets hotter and lose their flight during that time, so food is limited during that time.”

Along with deaths related to moulting, the breeding season could have also been suppressed by the drier conditions, Mr Moss said.

“We had highlighted there were less birds around prior to opening weekend. Because of the poorer breeding season, you’ve got less birds but you’ve also got older, more experienced birds that are harder to hunt.”

Those factors made this year’s opening weekend much more challenging, Mr Moss said.

On the plus side, the ducks that had been bagged were in healthy condition.