Helping Fish & Game's research has paid off "big time" for five game bird hunters, who have each been rewarded with a $600 Hunting & Fishing prize package — for returning their duck band details.

To enter the Banding Together draw, hunters had to send in the duck band details from birds they'd harvested by the end of August.

A random computer draw selected the five winners, including Peter Shaw and Alan Betschart from Te Awamutu.

Other winners were Benjamin King-Tamihana of Port Waikato, Bernard Rowe of Palmerston North and Tom Farrell of Pokeno.

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The small metal bands are put on the duck' legs during the summer and help Fish & Game estimate productivity, population sizes, movement and survival rates for both adults and juveniles of both sexes.

Hunting & Fishing New Zealand head of marketing Chris Cameron is praising hunters who took the trouble to return their band details.

"We at Hunting & Fishing are certainly well aware how important the information is to Fish & Game's management of game birds, and its why we raised the stakes this past hunting season — to provide even more incentive for the return of band details," he says.

Each of the five prize packs is worth nearly $600 in total and contains a "double prize" of a top quality hunting jacket, and a six pack of state of the art decoys.

"We were able to offer the packs in conjunction with the US waterfowling company Banded Holdings, distributors of Banded and Avery hunting gear," says Chris.

He says some hunters might not be aware that Fish & Game's duck banding programme has now been running for 22 years.

"It extends from Wellington up through the Auckland/Waikato and Taranaki regions through the big Eastern Fish & Game Region that takes in a large chunk of central North Island," says Chris.

"We are only too happy to help with a programme that forms such a crucial part of Fish & Game's ongoing research."

"The name says it all — let's band together for the sake of our birds.

"The bottom line is this data helps Fish & Game better manage the birds, gain better estimates of duck populations and how healthy they are.

"It's invaluable information and ultimately it's both the ducks and hunters that benefit from this work."

Senior Fish & Game officer Matthew McDougall says that Fish & Game is grateful to the retailer for increasing its sponsorship — providing even more incentive for the return of band details.

"We calculate the reporting rate for Eastern region for example, has improved by about 12 per cent, no doubt due at least in part to the quality of the incentives Hunting & Fishing has offered for return of band information," says Matthew.

"Over the years the banding programme has produced some fascinating facts on how far some ducks travel, and how long they live."

He says it's important to note that most birds, more than 80 per cent, are recovered within 50km of where they were banded.

"However, last season one mallard travelled between Manutuke near Gisborne where it was banded, and Lake Grassmere in the South Island, 463km away," he says.

"The longest bit of air travel within New Zealand was a mallard banded near Wairoa which was recovered from the Waiwera River in South Otago, a distance of 1026km."

Matthew says that there are mallards that even make some lengthy overseas flights.

"Mallards banded in the Waikato have turned up in New Caledonia, well over 2300km away."

Last summer well over 8000 ducks were banded around the North Island, by staff and volunteers.

"This latest banding work, and hunter surveys, suggest the populations are the best they've been for a number of years," says Matthew.

"And hunter surveys indicate it was the best season they'd had for about seven years.
"The better the information coming in from hunters, the better the decisions we can make in setting regulations such as bag limits and season length," he says.