Hunters are being warned to follow the safety rules and always point their guns in a safe direction as the shooting season looms.

The "roar" is already under way for deer hunters and as the duck shooting season starts in early May the New Zealand Deerstalkers Association president Bill O'Leary said accidents can be avoided by following the basic safety rules.

About 50,000 hunters were expected to go game animal hunting and about 45,000 take part in the game bird season.

"A big concentration of shooters will be out over the next couple of weeks. Simply because reds are the most common deer in New Zealand and its the red stag roar that seems to attract most of our hunters."


O'Leary said experienced hunters make mistakes, but unlicensed shooters and illegal hunting and spotlighting were common themes in hunting accidents.

"Experienced shooters are not exempt from making mistakes. Bad habits, complacency and deteriorated eyesight have been linked to past incidents," O'Leary said.

He said accidents were often caused by shooters who failed to identify their targets and every year someone was shot because a firearm was accidentally pointed at a person.

"In one case last year one of the companions [knocked] the gun and it fell over and shot one of his mates.

"If a person is hit with a bullet or a pail of shotgun pellets very rarely will they survive."

O'Leary said accidents could be avoided if people observed basic rules such as pointing their guns in the right direction.

"Each and every hunter needs to look hard at their own and their mates' attitudes and conduct and ensure that safety is the most basic of considerations when hunting."

Fish and Game New Zealand communications manager Don Rood said firearm safety was a key focus and the organisation would be checking people's licences and that they were keeping themselves safe from the start of the duck shooting season on May 6.


"We want to present a consistent message to people that their safety is important to us and more importantly it's very important to their family and friends."

Basic rules for hunters:

&null;Get a firearms licence
&null;Get permission to access and hunt on land
&null;Communicate your presence to other hunters
&null;Understand and observe the basic rules of firearm safety