Duck hunters are being urged to lay off drugs and alcohol before handling firearms.
Duck hunting season opens tomorrow with more than 40,000 duck hunters expected to head off to their maimai to enjoy a highlight of the hunting calendar.
The season can run up to three months, depending on the region. For the majority of participants, it's a good opportunity to bag a few of the 4.5 million mallards that populate New Zealand's ponds and wetlands.
Each year, the careless use of shotguns and risky behaviour potentially leads to non-intentional firearms incidents, says Tracy Wakeford, the acting firearms and hunter safety programme manager for the New Zealand Mountain Safety Council.
Injuries can be minor but there were several fatal incidents in recent years.
"The message, is that all incidents can be avoided if duck hunters maintain responsible shooting behaviours and follow the seven basic and common sense rules of the Firearms Safety Code," said Ms Wakeford.
Points to remember:
Avoid alcohol and drugs: It's fine to have a drink or two when all the guns are safely stored away but hunters who choose to imbibe alcohol, or drugs before or during shooting, put themselves and others at risk. Mixing alcohol and firearms is also illegal and a breach of rule seven of the Firearms Safety Code
Maintain a safe muzzle direction: Many shotgun injuries are caused by carelessness and complacency. Maintaining a safe muzzle direction is critical when using the safety catch with a semi-automatic shotgun.
Safety catches are mechanical devices and can malfunction, so whether it's loaded or unloaded (or safety catch on or not) never point a firearm at yourself or anyone else.
Unload your shotgun when not in use: Firearms users should always unload their shotgun before leaving their hunting area.
Injuries and deaths have occurred when firearms have discharged accidentally while being transported in a vehicle, during cleaning, or when shooters move from one hunting area to another.
More about firearms and outdoor safety at www.mountainsafety.org.nz/firearms.