It was a case of "just when you want a dam, where is it" for some Hawke's Bay duckshooters as the new season began on Saturday.

While rain and wind bring the best conditions for the annual shoot, and had obliged in some parts of the country, Hawke's Bay hunters used to shooting over water storage dams were faced with drying-up ponds.

It wasn't always the case, however, with swamps a better proposition in some areas including west of Hastings where shooters reported good opening day catches of paradise ducks, but lesser than usual mallard.

Okawa farmer Selwyn Dorward hunted with sons Nick and Matt and friends on Hurimoana Swamp - "just over the back" - some achieving their limit bags.


It came despite the weather being "favourable to the ducks", without the low skies those in his area would have wanted, and evolving into a postcard-view clear and warm Hawke's Bay autumn day.

Continuing the annual ritual, the family and friends plucked the catch yesterday and stored the birds in freezers ready for a winter of casseroles and roasts.

"For us the opening of duck shooting is a big day on the calendar," he said. "It has been for as long as I can remember."

Police were unaware yesterday of any duck shooting mishaps on the opening day in Hawke's Bay, although a 55-year-old man was struck in an eye by a shotgun pellet near Akitio, about 70km southeast of Dannevirke.

It was the first of three incidents involving shooting injuries reported to police in the first three hours of the season, with a man in his 30s suffering a wrist injury in Mid-Canterbury, and a boy, aged 10, being shot in a foot when a shotgun accidentally fired in Taranaki, all before 9.30am.

Police did visit several popular spots north of Napier, while nationally Fish & Game officers were out in force.

In the Central South Island two teams of rangers had covered 25 ponds, and sighted lots of ducks, and found hunters achieving "okay bags" of about eight mallards and a couple of paradise shelduck each, a Fish & Game spokesman said.