With the duck seasons not getting any longer, Rheem Off-site regular Barry Sharplin decided to write an article on species other than ducks you can hunt during the game bird season. 

One thing I want to make clear is that I don’t encourage people to just go and shoot game. If it’s just pulling the trigger you’re keen on, join a clay target club or buy a clay bird slinger. You will get to fire more shots and its cheaper than hunting, that’s for sure, and with a lot less clean up. But if you enjoy shooting for the sport and refining the various techniques, then read on!

A pair of pheasants staying close to cover.

Pukeko

One bird that people don’t seem to hunt enough is the pukeko. The population of pukekos in New Zealand is growing quickly and hunters need to target them a bit more to keep the numbers down. They can be a fun bird to hunt when you actually target them and there are a lot of methods that can be very successful.

One of my favourite methods is walking a willow-choked river or swamp and having them fly out. It can be challenging shooting at times, but very rewarding, involving some memorable shots between trees or at long range. The chance to shoot a double or triple is common. Another method that can be good fun is floating for them. Get into a kayak or dinghy and find a river to float down. Normally this kind of shooting can be quick-fire, as the birds head smartly towards higher ground.

Paradise ducks

In a lot of regions around the country, there is a bit longer to shoot paradise ducks and black swans. Targeting paradise ducks can be some of the most fast-paced shooting you can get, because when they decide they want to come in, its hard to change their minds and mobs of paradise ducks can be very large.

The trick to paradise ducks is doing a reconnaissance mission first: work out where they are landing and at what time. Are they there early in the morning or is it a roosting spot for the evening?
Shooting paradise ducks over decoys or silhouettes using a caller can be a very rewarding and great fun when the adventure is shared with someone who appreciates or wants to get into shooting.
Getting permission from farmers to shoot paradise ducks doesn’t seem to be too hard. Most farmers are happy to let you on on their properties if they are having problems with ducks, but remember to respect the farm, leave gates as you found them, and to be cautious when shooting around stock.
Another thing a lot of people don’t realise is that Fish and Game regions throughout the country have different regulations, so you never know – you may be able to hunt a game bird a little longer in the month if you drive for half an hour and shoot in a different region.

Be sure to read your license book to get the most from your game bird license.

Pheasants and quail

A decent bag of delicious pheasants.

Pheasants and quail are also challenging birds to hunt and you don’t necessarily need dogs. Though your success can be greatly improved by using a dog, you can still have a lot of fun without one – you just have to learn the kinds of areas where you will find these game birds.

Pheasants love ink weed, so if there is an old pine block or ex-pine block nearby, it could be worth asking around and going for a walk. Whenever you come across an area that has ink weed, slow down and get ready – you don’t have a lot of time to shoot because a pheasant in the air can be out of range very quickly.

If you’re hunting with a mate, a bright item of clothing is a good idea – something like a blaze hat or vest – because the way pheasants fly can be unpredictable. For my own safety around other shooters, I want to stand out as much as possible when shooting this way.

Quail are another exciting bird to hunt. And don’t let their size fool you! They are very quick, and normally where there is one there is more. Quail sit tight until you are right on top of them and then and burst from cover right in front of you, but before you know it they are out of range. Remember to use finer pellet sizes like 7s or 9s rather than a duck load because they are a small bird.

Quail are a fantastic table bird with white, mild-flavoured meat that’s perfect to prepare for guests or for the family.

This season, also try to take someone new hunting, even if just for a day as a tag-along.

Home run

If you are looking for a challenge this season, try and get the ‘home run,’ as I like to call it. That’s bagging one of each species of game bird in the season.

It’s good fun, takes you to all sorts of places and can be a fun to do with mates – a bit of a contest to see who can get the most species.

Shoveller is another species that’s a real challenge to target. To increase your chances you definitely need to learn where to find these ducks around our costal margins.

Birds for the table

Game bird hunting can be a family affair.

There are many different ways to cook game birds, and if you think you won’t like duck or pheasant because you tried it once before a long time ago, just try cooking it using a different method. There are a lot of Asian mixers out there that go well with game birds, or even curries. Just experiment with things you like.

There are also more traditional dishes, like birds slow-cooked in the crock pot with red wine, a few herbs and veggies. Just jump on Google for some inspiration – there are so many different methods out there. You can also take birds to your nearest home kill butcher and get the meat made into salami. I tend to do half duck meat and half venison, but have used wild pork or goat meat in the past and it came out great. This season, also try to take someone new hunting, even if just for a day as a tag-along. It’s great to see newbies getting into hunting and it’s even better seeing kids out there with dad or mum.

So happy and safe shooting out there everyone: be responsible, identify your target and always point your firearm in a safe direction.