I should be thankful. 30,000 game-bird hunting licences are purchased each year in this country. And I suspect that the majority of them only shoot on the opening morning of the shooting season, the first Saturday in May.
Yesterday I was reminded what day it was when I was woken by gunshots. It was raining steadily, the perfect weather for duck shooters, the worst possible for the ducks. Low cloud cover means the ducks fly low and make them ‘sitting ducks’ to the hunters.
The shots seemed to be so close I thought the farmer on the other side of the road must have been shooting from his house. Maybe he had a friend or two join him yesterday as he couldn’t fire off 10 consecutive shots – or could he? I don’t know (or care to know) much about guns.
The shots alarmed all the birds in the vicinity. Every time I heard shots nearby I’d look out the window to see birds fleeing, heading away from hunters. Strangely, I thought, the sparrows seemed to realize they weren’t in danger and would do a loop or two around the paddock, startled by the sound, then settle down again quickly. But I spent the whole day deeply concerned about the ducks.
Fish & Game NZ staff count waterfowl populations and evaluate their habitat each year. They say this allows season length and limits to be set with a precision that ensures the birds are not over harvested so they will be around in equal numbers in the years to come. They claim they are active in saving habitat and even creating it and have fought major court cases on behalf of waterfowl to prevent their homes being drained and lost forever. I hope they are right.
Today I went for a walk around the farm and was reassured to see three pairs of Paradise ducks in their usual areas. Squawking and honking away noisily as usual – if only they knew they would be safer if they kept quiet. They don’t fly off until I am about 30 metres from them – where are their survival instincts? Or maybe they are smarter than I thought. Hanging out close to the cows is a very good idea!
The wild turkeys were much more wary. Guess they don't know they don't make good eating in May.
It’s been a beautiful day, warm and sunny.
I started the walk accompanied by two of my granddaughters but the cats they were carrying got too heavy. The fact that the cats didn't want to be carried didn't help either.