Game bird hunters are again being offered some "very appealing" incentives to take part in one of Fish & Game's longest-running scientific research programmes.

Senior Fish & Game officer Matt McDougall says its duck banding programme has now been running for over 20 years, and the information gathered plays a vital role in management decisions such as what bag limits to apply.

"We are grateful to Hunting and Fishing New Zealand for standing by this programme year after year, offering some real incentives to duck hunters to get their duck band details sent in," he says.

"Going into a prize draw to win state of the art hunting gear offers just the nudge that some hunters need to take part — instead of putting bands aside and forgetting about them once the season closes.

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"We extend a big 'thank you' to the company for its ongoing, generous support."

The annual banding operation involves capturing the ducks in baited traps and attaching numbered bands to their legs before releasing them unharmed.

This provides information to compare with the previous breeding season, which helps in setting duck shooting limits.

The banding data is used to find out survival rates for juveniles and adults, males and females.

Hunting & Fishing New Zealand's head of marketing, Chris Cameron, says the company is delighted to continue its support for the programme, as one of Fish & Game's most important data gathering initiatives.

"This season there will again be five winners drawn — those who return band details by the deadline can win not only a top-quality duck hunting jacket, but a six-pack of state of the art decoys.

"Each prize pack is worth nearly $570 in total — containing a Banded White River duck hunting jacket, plus a six-pack of the latest Avery GHG XD (Extra Detail) Floating Mallard Decoys."

The prizes have been sponsored in conjunction with the US waterfowling company Banded Holdings, distributors of Banded and Avery hunting gear.

"Getting the band number and details of where and when birds were harvested, and their age, provides invaluable information," says Chris.

"An estimated 6000 birds were banded last summer and it's the 23rd year that banding has been carried out.

"It's a key programme that allows Fish & Game to monitor population trends, and help staff manage game bird resources with the tools of season lengths and bag limits."

Chris says it's important hunters realise the information gathered is vital for waterfowl hunting in New Zealand, and "benefits each and every game bird hunter".

"Let's 'band together' on duck bands," he says.

It is simple to take part and be in with a chance of winning, there's no good reason not to have a crack, he adds.

"Remember, you can keep your duck bands — Fish & Game only needs the band number and a few additional facts. You can phone in or lodge the details online."

Five winners will be drawn randomly from the list of hunters who send in their band details. Hunters may send in multiple entries, but only one entry is permitted per duck band.

To send in band details, ring the free phone number 0800 BIRD BAND (0800-247322). Alternatively, you'll find a ready-made form to fill out on the Fish & Game website.