Game Bird Hunting

Game bird hunting in New Zealand is a long-loved tradition for many hunters. It involves the pursuit of waterfowl and upland game birds during set seasons of the year. One particular event is the annual duck hunting season, in which hunters call in and shoot ducks from hides (maimais). Firearm safety in this form of hunting is essential as participants are in close proximity and rapid reactions to the appearance of game.

Watch this video outlining some of the key risks to duck hunters so you can learn to mitigate these


Get ready for your hunt 

Here are some key tips on how to have a safe and successful hunt while shooting in the duck season. 

Set up your maimai  
  • Store firearms safely in the maimai and stick to the plan of the area. Discuss your firing zones and put out pegs to help visualise these 
  • Consider your access points to the maimai, especially in low light. Understand the area to aid your search for fallen birds and possible hard places to walk through like rough terrain 
  • You can learn learn basics on maimai building on the Fish and Game website. Ensure you have a gun rack to safely store firearms when not in use 
Duck shooting season
Prepare your firearm
  • Get some trigger time well before opening. Check the shotgun and give it a clean as well. Make sure it cycles the ammo you’re going to use on the day. 
  • Practise your range estimates of your shotgun and leading when shooting a target in flight. Keep this range in mind at all times to help you understand a safe firing zone. 
  • Patterning your shotgun is also a very good idea. You can learn more about techniques on the Fish and Game website.

Wear the right clothing and equipment 
  • Wear eye protection and ear protection as these are a common form of injury and can cause long-term damage 
  • Practice shouldering when unloaded, bulky jackets can impair a good shooting position 
  • Gumboots and warm/waterproof clothing can help keep you comfortable and focussed 

Create a safe culture with everyone 
  • Almost all firearms related hunting incidents relate back to one of the 7 Basic Firearms Safety rules. Always treat your firearms as loaded, point in a safe direction and check its load state before storing in a rack.

    “Being in the tight confines within the maimai, you can’t really have anyone not controlling the muzzle and things like that, otherwise it just gets a whole lot more dangerous.

    A habit cannot be formed only doing it once or twice a year.

    “You can’t claim to be a proficient user of that firearm, just like with any skill,” he says.

    Read our story from a duck hunter and how they manage firearm safety for their duck season

On the day  
  • Take regular breaks to maintain a sharp mind with warm food and hot drinks. Always unload and check when you have breaks 
  • Let others know the state of your firearm as well as ask others the state of theirs, a quick display that it is safe can keep everyone on track and avoid an incident. This is where using chamber flags come in handy. Make sure you know where everyone is and stop shooting if someone is not visible. 
  • There can be plenty of action in the evenings so stick it out if you have the energy, but don’t push yourself beyond your own limits, check in with each other. Take extra care in low light to identify targets and bring a head torch for safe exit of the area. 
  • Unload and prove all shotguns are safe before you start moving out, double check those magazines 
  • Avoid alcohol. Enjoy your drinks at the end of the shoot when firearms are safely stored away. 

Find out more 

Continue your preparation with our online resources, there is still plenty to learn to ensure for a safe and enjoyable hunt. 

  • Try this useful Online Learning Tool from the NZ Police to outline further information on safety in a maimai  
Explore our other resources 

If you are not duck hunting and exploring resources for other hunting types, check out more of the resources below.