By Mario Friendly | ProStaff Regional Manager
Mario is a Mossy Oak ProStaff Regional Manager in the waterfowl category along the Pacific Flyway. When he speaks of the “off season,” he means “not hunting waterfowl.” If time and resources allow, New Zealand is a great place to hunt during the summer slump here the U.S.
This off season was supposed to be like any other, but it turned out to be one of the greatest off seasons of my life. Usually I spend the spring chasing a few turkeys and working on our duck properties for the next season, but this year’s spring took an unexpected turn.
I was invited to go to New Zealand by the store Hunting & Fishing New Zealand to do some in-store seminars and hunt the opening of duck season. As spring gets into full swing in Mississippi around May, fall is just beginning in New Zealand. The opener for duck season this year was May 3 , so we hit the road at the end of April to get some work in before hunting.
I was fortunate enough to take someone who, like me, had never been to New Zealand before. My friend Brad Fenson, a free-lance outdoor writer, and I enjoyed all of the food, lifestyle, and culture that New Zealand had to offer on this trip. Brad went red stag and fallow deer hunting while I did store appearances and seminars. We then met up later in the trip to do some duck and goose hunting.
Our first morning hunting together we shot over fifty Canada Geese. Then, a landowner next door asked us if we could help him with his “turkey problem.” The main sources of food and income for farmers in New Zealand are sheep and cows. If any other animals eat the grass that is meant for the sheep and cows, then those animals become a pest and are usually killed. So, New Zealand has no hunting season on Canada Geese, turkeys, goats (feral), pigs and many others. Needless to say, Brad and I were happy to help the neighbor with his turkey problem.
The duck opener is a highly anticipated day for all duck hunters. Opening day is not only the beginning of duck season, but also it is a reunion of old friends and family that you may have not seen all year. Successfully pulling off opening day is a major production as several meals, as well as jokes, are made in the blind each day while watching for the ducks.
In New Zealand, people take duck hunting very seriously, and it might be the only thing that takes a back seat to red stag hunting, which is the most popular hunting sport. The weather was clear and cool, and the ducks, mostly mallards and greys, came along with the native paradise shelducks. We even shot a few Canada Geese as they were trading back and forth. All in all, it was a trip of a lifetime. I would take this trip again in a heartbeat and recommend the trip to anyone looking for the off season of a lifetime.