A recent aerial survey around the Taranaki ring plain has revealed that mallard populations remain strong and there should be plenty of ducks for hunters in the coming season.

As usual, the birds are not evenly distributed and ponds with good overhead cover are currently holding the largest mobs. These birds will be heading out to feed in nearby paddocks in the evenings before returning to rest up during the day.

Because of dry conditions over summer, good numbers of ducks were also seen in river beds and on the larger stream pools.

Numbers of paradise shelduck in the Taranaki provincial area have rebounded from last year, with highest numbers present on the ringplain surrounding Mount Taranaki.

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Good mobs have been coming into harvested maize paddocks, with other productive hunting sites being areas of new grass and paddocks where chicory has been grown.

Paradise numbers are lower further south in the Waverley – Waitotara area and hunters there should only harvest what they can use.

The drier conditions this year have favoured upland game populations and a noticeable feature has been the number of late broods of both pheasant and quail seen around the region.

Opening day is May 4.

■ Recent changes to firearms legislation allow for the continued use of pump or semi-automatic shotguns for game bird hunting so long as the magazine cannot hold more than five cartridges. Shotguns with a larger magazine capacity and the use of magazine extensions are now illegal. Hunters are reminded that this season is year two of the four-year phase out period for using lead in sub-gauge shotguns greater than 410 bore. From 2021 the use of lead shot will be prohibited in any shotgun other than a 410 when hunting waterfowl within 200m of all waterways and wetlands.