New Zealand is a place where a visiting bird shooter can simultaneously hunt a wide range of game bird species. Generous bag limits, a long season, and ever-changing terrain means a series of adventures is available under the umbrella of one trip. Lakes, rivers, streams, upland cover, and grass paddocks are all adjacent to each other, which makes opportunistic hunting easy.
Outfiffers generally offer packages, which are designed with a group in mind, but for the single or pair booking there, is another option well worth considering. It is much less expensive, and much more tailored to the individual's wants. James Gray offers all-inclusive guide fee-only bird-shooting expeditions.
He is based in North Canterbury, which is in the centre of the South island. His patch extends both south and north of the city of Christchurch, and targets both waterfowl and upland game birds. Christchurch has an international airport, so soon after arriving the client is in the field.
Rather than target a specific species, his hunts target all the licenced species that are encountered on the properties he hunts upon. He will also seek out specific species wanted by the client. Black swan is a excellent example of this.
Due to a secondary occupation as a livestock consultant, he has amassed a huge network of farmer contacts, which provides him with exclusive access to numerous hunting areas. Bird species available to the hunter are giant canada goose, paradise shelduck, mallard, grey, and shoveller duck, pukeko, black swan, California quail, feral white goose, rock pigeon, and turkey.
Depending on the species and the area, Gray does a lot of jump shooting at stock ponds, creeks, swamps, and riverbeds for a mixed population of geese, ducks, shelducks, and pukeko. Where large populations of paradise ducks are present on a farm, Gray puts his hunters in blinds located in a grass or grain paddock and surrounded by decoys. Ducks and geese will often glide straight in.
These birds are this country's major grass feeding duck, and are the size of a small goose. Most clients have a pair of these birds mounted for the trophy room. The males are glossy black all over, and the females a chestnut brown, with a white head. They are a relatively unsophisticated game bird and if the decoy spread looks real will decoy easily. This fearless approach makes for fast and furious shooting.
I joined Gray on a recent daily adventure. The property we accessed was a large ranch that ran alongside one of the major rivers in the Canterbury region. This property featured extensive grass paddocks adjacent to the river, and feeding on these was a huge flock of 500 plus paradise shelducks. Gray set out decoys, flushed the birds away and on their return the client shot a full bag limit of 20. Ducks continued to pour in even as as we collected the decoys and dead birds.
The area Gray takes clients to is largely untouched by other hunters, so paradise ducks in particular are in large numbers. This area also has a large resident population of Canada geese, but the day I was there the shelduck shooting caused them to leave the area.
As for the other species, quail hunting involves the use of flushing dogs, while turkey and pigeon are stalked. Gray has one area that has a large population of black swan. These immigrants from Australia are present in excellent numbers, although they are essentially bonus birds to the main bag of paradise ducks and mallard ducks. Small game such as rabbits and hare are plentiful and may be shot. Using Grays custom made .223 fitted with a silencer is a must for overseas hunters. Also spotlighting and shooting from a moving vechile with a shotgun is the most used method of pest (small game) control in New Zealand.
The only limits placed by Gray on the hunter are what is dictated by the region's hunting licence.
The afternoon of my hunt we visited another property where stalks of several small ponds saw the client add five mallard ducks to his bag. At this point he had to stop shooting. In this area, the mixed bag limit is 25 birds a day.
A full season New Zealand hunting licence costs about $US30, although cheaper weekly or daily licences are also available. The main waterfowl season runs from May to the end of July, the upland season May to late August, with an additional season being available in January to March for the hunting of Canada Geese and Paradise Duck. Because Gray can book out, now is a good time to plan your visit with him.
Clients fly into Christchurch and soon after arrivinbg are in the field hunting. Accommodation ranges from farm-stay to motels to ranch cabins depending on the game species they are hunting. Gray charges a daily huting fee of $450 a day for one hunter, which covers guiding, transport, accommodation, and food. For a party of two hunters the fee drops to $350 a day each. Gray requires a minimum booking of five days. Ammunition and licences are not included.
Gray's daily rate applies to both bird shooting, trout fishing and small game hunting so a client can do all on the same expedition for only the daily guiding fee. Lakes, rivers, streams, upland cover and grass paddocks are all adjacent to each other, which makes it very easy to conduct one activity one day and another the next.