Duck-shooting is no longer just a boys' club.

Although men still account for the majority of duck-shooters in Southland, the number of women involved has increased in recent years.

However, it was still a small rise, Southland Fish & Game manager Zane Moss said.

Less than 10 per cent of the duck-shooting licences were issued to women.

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"We [Fish & Game Council] would love to see more women joining the sport and breaking this stereotype."

The season began on Saturday after a delay because of Covid-19 restrictions.

A group of female Southland duck-shooters believed it was a fun activity for everyone.

Kate Boylan, Nadine Duff, Jamiee Edwards, Janice Gerken, Jayne Law and Jess Turnbull have been duck-shooting together for the past seven years at their mai mai in Balfour.

"We named it Hen House," Edwards said.

Some of the group grew up on farms and their parents taught them to shoot.

"We all knew each other before and grew up with duck-shooting around us. We decided we wanted to get together as a group of girls to have some fun while we went duck-shooting," Gerken said.

Turnbull agreed.

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"Doesn't matter who you are or what sex you are. It [duck-shooting] is about having a good time," she said.

"There are a lot of only-girls mai mai out there and they have way more fun than the boys."

But the gathering is not only about girl time.

Every year, the group also pays homage to Edwards' late husband, Liam Edwards, who died four years ago in a helicopter crash near Athol.

She said he encouraged her to get into duck-shooting and when her friends decided to create a girls-only mai mai, Mr Edwards helped them build it.

"We used to compete against his mai mai. It was a hell of a time."

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As Mr Edwards died one week before the beginning of the duck season, the group supported Mrs Edwards through the rough time and they decided to create a new tradition.

"We do a salute to him every duck-shooting season. We toast to the great man he was.

"We usually arrive at the mai mai the day before the beginning of the season to prepare everything. It is like a slumber party."

Fish & Game New Zealand officers throughout Otago reported excellent compliance by shooters, although conditions were in the ducks' favour.

Sinclair Wetlands syndicate members Peter Lee (left) and Robert Anton, along with dog Flynn. Photos / Luisa Girao and Peter McIntosh
Sinclair Wetlands syndicate members Peter Lee (left) and Robert Anton, along with dog Flynn. Photos / Luisa Girao and Peter McIntosh

Officer Paul van Klink was monitoring the Arrow Junction and Arrowtown areas and said there were not enough shooters to keep the ducks moving, so the ducks were using the ponds without hunters as refuges.

One pond had more than 200 ducks and another had 100 ducks.

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He said in Arrowtown there were a lot of wetlands on private property and dwindling numbers of shooters, so the birds would be building up their numbers.

Keen duck-shooters in Dunedin rose with the sun to begin the season.

Peter Lee and Robert Anton, who are both a part of the Sinclair Wetlands syndicate, were up by 5am and in their boat.

The pair had shot about 40 ducks in the morning but said that was "average" compared with other years.

Water levels were low due to a lack of rain and the birds were lighter.

But Lee said none of the ducks would go to waste.

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"We have plenty of people volunteering to help eat them."