Safety-first is paramount for game bird hunters as the new hunting season opens next month with new gun laws in force, says Fish and Game New Zealand

It is crucial that hunters treat the safe transport and handling of their shotguns with the "utmost care and sensitivity" when the season opens nationwide on May 4, Fish & Game's chief executive Martin Taylor said.

"Every single hunter out in the field is urged to focus on safe gun handling by each person in the party, and be fastidious about checking firing zones to make sure it's safe to fire."

Taylor said this will be the first season under the reformed gun laws which have made most semi-automatic firearms illegal, he said.

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"Fish & Game supports these changes to these gun laws and believes that good decisions have been made for both game bird hunters and the community," Taylor said.

Many game bird hunters will be catching up with old friends or family members to enjoy what is often a long-standing tradition of harvesting some birds on opening, he said.

"It's about much more than hunting - there's the camaraderie and of course the taking home of some tasty wild food.

"There will be no real change for the vast majority of game bird hunters as we successfully made a case to retain semi-auto and pump shotguns for game bird hunting.

"This means game bird hunters can use semi-automatic and pump action shotguns as long as their internal magazines only hold five shots.

"This season, we will again have thousands of licenced game bird hunters in the field for opening weekend."

"Fish & Game has asked the police to clarify some points of the new law and we are sending those details to all game bird licence holders," he said.

The season closes on August 25 for upland game like pheasant and quail, while duck season closes earlier depending on individual regions.

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Fish & Game advises all hunters to visit the police website and click on the yellow link called Firearms Law Reform Information.