Waikato duck shooters ready for season

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By Hunter Calder

Richard Philburn has been duck shooting since he was five years old - it's an annual tradition in his family.

"I live and breathe duck shooting, so yeah it's just always been in my blood."

He says it's been a week of excitement and anticipation building up for this weekend.

"On that Saturday morning when you're rolling on the face paint, we call it wall paint, and you know, that first gleam of light that comes over the horizon you're looking."

He describes the sport - as a tactful artform - practiced by shooters around the country when the season kicks off each May.

"When you got a duck cupped up to your calling. Coming straight over all your decoys that's what it's all about."

And that is what offends animal rights activists - who say ducks are being indiscriminately slaughtered for no good reason.

Marianne MacDonald campaign manager for Safe and says more than a million ducks are killed each year which she calls an indiscriminate slaughter.

"Some people say that their primary reason for going out for duck shooting is for food, but a majority of people, particularly on the first day of the season they're going out there because they're having fun with all their mates, that's what it's all about and the reality shows that so many of these birds they're killed and they just get dumped because they're just not wanted."

Mrs MacDonald says many ducks are also shot and injured - left to "die a slow painful death".

But the President of Rosetown Pistol Club Gene Letford says it's a minority who shoot and injure - making everyone else look bad.

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"People get it in their head that a lot of hunters are concentrated on this blood sports thing but actually hunters are more environmentalists than anybody else, they like nature, they like being part of it, they like being able to harvest their food from it."

And Richard Philburn's partner Nicacia Miller says for them - it is about gathering food and teaching their tamariki where it comes from.

"We don't just go out to kill something, we go out to harvest to feed our family and if we're not going to use it we give it to somebody else that will. So nothing gets wasted."

And Mr Philburn says there's very little that goes to waist, thigh breast is given to eelers and feathers are donated to Korowai makers.

"I've lost count of how many people have made korowai from the feathers that I've donated."

In the Waikato, Fish & Game have issued around 7,000 gun licenses and expect there will be another 2,000 farmers out shooting on their own properties when the season starts this weekend.

Regional Manager Ben Wilson says the risks of drowning are higher than normal due to recent rainfall.

"There's still a lot of water out there and rivers are still very high. So in the Waikato, one of the biggest dangers of duck shooting is actually drowning. So hunters need to be careful if they're wading out in deep water they need to wear life jackets and they just need to be a bit more cautious than they have in previous years."

Shooters in the Waikato are limited to 10 ducks per person and a three-shot-rule. Rangers will be out to check compliance.

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