Pond ready just in time

Birds in the hand. . . James Baker, Aidan De Ruyter and Ryan Maxwell show the fruits of a successful duck shooting opening morning. PHOTO: SANDY EGGLESTON

Easter’s rainfall came just at the right time for Ryan Maxwell and his friends’ duck-shooting opening weekend.

On Saturday, Mr Maxwell and brother-in-law James Baker, of Invercargill, shot on one of the two ponds on Hayden Gaines’ Wendon dairy farm, where Mr Maxwell works.

At the start of April, the pond had not been looking good for opening weekend, Mr Maxwell said.

“The pond was pretty much dry for 12 weeks.

“We had two wee puddles.

“We only got water in our pond about three weeks ago.”

If the rain had not come at Easter they would not have been able to shoot at the pond, he said.

The ducks had been slow to come back to the pond this year as the grain harvest had been later than usual.

The ducks had stayed on the paddocks eating the grain that was left but were now at the pond in good numbers.

Most of the ducks were in good condition.

“There’s some big birds there.”

This year the ducks were not landing on the pond and had to be enticed to fly low enough so they were in range.

“[We] try and call when they are flying away from us and as they are circling round we wait for the last circle, then as long as they get low enough, we get into them.”

Mallards were the main game birds that visited the pond.

“We generally don’t get much else in here – the pond is too narrow for geese or parries [paradise ducks].”

In the three years the pair had been shooting at the pond, they usually shot the bag limit of 20 birds each on opening day.

His favourite way of cooking duck was to remove the breast, cut it into chunks and then roll them in crumbs to which chilli flakes had been added, Mr Maxwell said.

“Then [they go] on a hot plate on the barbecue.”

Mr Baker’s friend Aidan De Ruyter, of Invercargill, was observing opening day for the first time.

He was enjoying the experience.

“I’ll be back next year.”

Southland Fish & Game field officer Cohen Stewart visited shooters in the Lumsden, Balfour and Hokonui Hills areas.

As usual, some hunters had been doing better than others, Mr Cohen said.

“We saw some great harvests … but all hunters we spoke with would have some ducks to take home for dinner.”

The weather played its part with overcast conditions, some drizzle and a moderate breeze.

Compliance was great this year, only one hunter having been found hunting without a licence, he said.

He enjoyed seeing family groups shooting together.

“This is what opening day is all about and family in the great outdoors and harvesting healthy free-range food for the table.

“We even came across a mai mai with three generations of hunters all hunting together.”

Southland Fish & Game encouraged all Southland hunters to make the most of the waterfowl hunting season, which would close on July 10, he said.