The Taieri Plain rumbled with the sound of gunshots on Saturday morning as hunters marked the first day of the duck-shooting season.
Because of the still weather, many hunters did not bag the number of ducks they had hoped for. But as Dunedin man Graeme Scott said, they were "hunting, not shopping". Otago Fish & Game Council chief executive Ian Hadland said it was "round one to the ducks". Fish & Game was pleased with how the day went, he said.
"There were plenty of hunters out and everybody's got a bit of shooting," Mr Hadland said.
Across Otago, the Clutha and Lower Taieri areas were foggy but that was not unusual. There were hunters in Central Otago bringing in bags of ducks, Mr Hadland said. Mr Scott said at the Sinclair Wetlands, near Lake Waihola, he and his cousin John Richardson rowed back to shore empty-handed, but they planned to return in the coming weekends. On Lake Waihola itself, a group of hunters including Hawke's Bay trio Tyrone Robinson and his sons Jacob (14) and Levi (13) had more luck, killing about 60 birds by early afternoon.
Mr Robinson said before leaving Otago five years ago, he built a large family mai mai and returned there every year. Most of the ducks they shot were mallards, with a few paradise ducks in the mix. Some of the ducks would be turned into salami, he said.
"We eat all the ducks that we get," he said.
"It's about getting kai and hunting — we do it as a family."
Friends from Hawke's Bay and Otago joined him this season, and the group had even made their own nets from cabbage tree fronds and their own duck straps.
Only one firearms-related incident was reported across the country on Saturday, after shotgun pellets hit a house near the Clutha River. Police issued a statement urging people to "be mindful of your line of sight and how far shot can travel".
Fish & Game staff praised duck-shooters for their focus on safety on the first day of the season.
Communications manager Don Rood gave credit to the thousands of shooters who turned out for behaving well and safely. By noon yesterday, there had been no reports of serious injury, Mr Rood said.
Fish & Game confirmed some shotguns were confiscated from hunters across the country, for offences including the use of banned lead shot and unrestricted magazines.
Mr Rood said it was encouraging the number of shotguns seized appeared to be down on last season.
Confirmed numbers would not be known until today. Last year there had been a spate of thefts from vehicles, so duck-shooters were urged to keep an eye on their property and report any suspicious activity, Mr Rood said. In the Taieri area, officers were out putting leaflets under the windscreen wipers of duck-shooters' vehicles reminding them of firearm safety.
At the Takitakitoa Wetland near Henley, which Fish & Game reserved for novice duck shooters, Brighton father-and-son team Neil and Will (10) Robinson said they had a good morning, shooting about eight ducks. They headed down to the wetland at dawn, and Will shot one of the first ducks of the day, using a small .410-bore rifle.
"It's a great place — we've got a few this morning," Mr Robinson said.
Will said duck-shooting was "quite fun", but he did not enjoy having to cover the mai mai in foliage the day before. Mr Robinson, who was also a keen pig and deer hunter, said he would probably make the ducks into "duck nuggets". Groups of paradise ducks could be seen flying across the wetland during the morning.
Elsewhere, Outram man Lyall Nash took his 7-year-old grandson, Lee Sutherland, duck-shooting for the third time, the pair bagging three birds before noon. Lee had a replica rifle made of plywood, to educate him about handling guns before he dealt with the real thing, Mr Nash said.