Fish & Game and police are joining forces this weekend for the opening of the game bird hunting season to encourage safety and enforce hunting and firearm laws.
The 2018 game bird hunting season opens on Saturday, and runs through to the end of August.
Game bird hunting is popular in New Zealand, with around 40,000 people taking part every year, hoping to bag a duck or two to put on the family table.
The joint patrols, which are aimed at educating hunters and promoting hunting safety, have run for several years in many regions and been well received by Fish & Game licence holders.
Fish & Game’s National Compliance Officer Anthony van Dorp says they work well.
“It’s a very positive inter-agency approach which is producing good outcomes and increased compliance and hunter safety,” he says.
Acting Superintendent Mike McIlraith says safety is a key focus for police.
“I can’t emphasise enough the importance of handling firearms safely. It is critical hunters treat every firearm as loaded, always point firearms in a safe direction and to check their firing zone,” he says.
“We want everyone to have a safe and successful game bird season, and to ensure that happens, we need hunters to be vigilant when hunting in such close proximity to each other to avoid serious injuries or worse.”
And he has some advice on alcohol.
“Going hunting with your mates can be good fun and having a drink with your mates can be fun too - but the two activities should never be mixed. Operating a firearm safely requires vigilance and good judgement, so skip the alcohol until the firearms are locked away safely.”
Anthony has some advice for hunters encountering ranging patrols over the weekend.
“You will be required to unload your gun, make it safe and place it in a safe position, and present your ammunition for inspection,” he says.
“Fish & Game rangers will check you have your hunting licence with you, and inspect any birds you’ve shot, while Police will ask to see firearms licences, check no one’s drinking alcohol and focus on any issues around guns and ammunition security.
“If everyone’s doing the right thing, a visit doesn’t take long, and generally includes a friendly chat about how the day’s going and season prospects.”
Anthony says pleasingly the joint patrols have encountered relatively few incidents which needed to be dealt with by either police or Fish & Game.
“It is well worth repeating that most hunters are careful and doing the right things and I congratulate them for that,” he says.
“Occasionally some hunters push the boundaries and try their luck - that’s not a very wise thing to do as rangers have the ability to deal with people committing offences.
“And no one wants their weekend hunting to have a sequel in Court where they’re facing prosecution after having their gun seized. The simplest way is to buy a licence, follow the rules and everyone’s happy.”
While many checks are carried out over Opening Weekend, they aren’t confined to those two days. Fish & Game rangers will carry out further checks throughout the season so hunters can expect to see a ranger at any time over the coming months.