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Hunters flock to Eketāhuna

This weekend marks the beginning of open season for mallard and grey duck hunters in Wairarapa.

The new owners of the Eketāhuna Inn are celebrating the opening of the 58-day hunting window by hosting a duck shooting weigh-in competition with prizes and trophies this Saturday and Sunday.

Pub proprietor Paula Keedwell – who bought the establishment with husband Paul in February 2023 after 13 years sharemilking – said although the event won’t be “huge”, she wanted to throw something together to support the locals.

“Let’s just give it a crack,” she said.

The event was started by the previous owners and Keedwell had been encouraged by regulars to bring it back.

Although registration numbers are currently low, Keedwell is confident more will turn up over the weekend.

Sponsors include Masterton’s Hunting and Fishing, which has provided a shotgun as a prize.

Hunting and Fishing owner Greg McKinney said Wairarapa has come off the back of several good breeding seasons, but the only downside is the dry conditions.

“There is not a lot of water in the Wairarapa, and the ducks love water, obviously,” he said.

McKinney predicted that the season’s opening weekend could be a bit thin in some of the more traditional shooting ponds but that the higher duck numbers are positive because of the May rains.

“Those ducks will move back to those traditional habitats once they start filling up with water again,” he said.

“It’s good news for the season, but it might be a bit tough to start with.”

Wellington Fish & Game officer Hamish Carnachan confirmed there are good numbers of birds throughout Wairarapa, but they have been concentrated at water reservoirs over the summer.

“Mobile hunters who make an effort to scout out where the birds are holding will do well,” he said.

“The ducks are there in good numbers; the trick is to find them.

“As wetlands and ponds start to fill, these large congregations of ducks we’ve observed will break up and disperse to those wetlands and farm dams where hunters have their maimais.

“This is why we encourage hunters to make the most of the whole season because when the rain and bad weather arrives, the duck hunting will be amazing.”

according to Fish & Game New Zealand, Lake Onoke is currently blocked to the sea, and the barrage gates are closed, meaning water will back up in Lake Wairarapa and hopefully flow into the surrounding wetlands.

Once the rain arrives, though, the organisation expects some “spectacular hunting as the big mobs of birds break up and go in search of fresh water”.

The main hunting season for waterfowl runs for eight weeks until Sunday, June 30, with a 12-bird limit for mallard and grey.

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