While better known for big game hunting, New Zealand offers some great waterfowl opportunities, including several indigenous species sure to intrigue avid bird collectors looking for a new adventure.
Endemic species hunted in New Zealand are Paradise Shelducks, Pacific Blackducks, and Australian Shovelers. Black Swans, Mallards, and Canada Geese make up the majority of bag limits. What separates New Zealand waterfowl hunting is the sedentary nature of the birds. Unlike other migratory waterfowl species, New Zealand waterfowl do not range outside the small country. This can provide unique challenges. Birds become stale more often, and hunting pressure has a much larger impact throughout the course of a season.
While many of the hunting tactics are similar, there are also subtle differences. Birds are hunted on both land and water over decoys. Due to high-pressure hunting and the sedentary nature of these birds, it is very easy to make mistakes. Decoy spreads are slightly different. Calling is a must, but calling tactics aren't quite as aggressive as compared to North American waterfowl hunting.
New Zealand also offers outstanding decoyed pigeon hunts. Hunting pukekos, often referred to as blue pheasants, and even California quail can make for some great additional upland bird hunting.
Regardless, any time spent in New Zealand is time well spent, and you’d be hard pressed to find a more beautiful place to hunt.
Hunting internationally can be a challenging adventure, but it always brings a refreshing perspective. There are many exciting opportunities for waterfowlers looking to hunt internationally. Doing your research ahead of time will save you a lot of hassle and help to ensure your hunt is as successful and fun as possible.
Due to a variety of variables — from varying bird habits to lack of hunting resources — hunting for waterfowl species can be quite different from country to country. That doesn’t mean the hunting isn’t as good — if not better — than what we enjoy in the U.S. Tactics we utilize here might not work well elsewhere based on the specific habits of birds, local predators, and many other variables. In other cases, there are also hunting tactics we utilize in the U.S. that simply haven’t been introduced to many countries and vice versa. The key is to be respectful and open minded; as with all hunting, the more you listen to people with more experience, the more knowledge you’ll have to be successful yourself. There is always something new to be learned.
If carrying a firearm, be sure to check with your destination country’s firearm import regulations. Some countries, like Pakistan, require visitors to have firearm documentation presented months in advance to your arrival. Other times, the import of firearms is strictly prohibited or simply not worth attempting. Mexico and Russia are prime examples of this. If that’s the case, be sure to have alternative options at your final destination. Other countries prohibit the use of pump or semiautomatic shotguns, such as Australia.
Hiring a guide or outfitter is always a great option if you can afford it. Typically, freelancing for birds outside of North America can be very challenging, primarily due to language barriers and understanding laws and regulations. Reputable outfitters and guides will help you get all the gear and can ensure you are hunting legally with the proper permits, tags, licenses, etc.
Consumer hunting shows throughout the U.S. are a great way to connect with quality guides and outfitters. Researching online will also help. Personally, the most success I’ve experienced was a result of working with a knowledgeable and reputable booking agency. These agencies typically do things the right way and have already done all the research ahead of time, including invaluable boots-on-the-ground experience. Booking agencies will make sure many of your questions are be answered by someone who speaks your language, and they also help with step-by-step travel information, including your transit, accommodations, food, hunting specifics, firearm importation (if possible), species variety, etc.
Lastly, all of the above is always changing, so keep a close eye on your destination before you go.
Below are some general seasons for international waterfowl hunting:
*These are the peak season time frames, but some countries in these areas enjoy waterfowl hunting either year-round or nearly year-round for certain species.
-Ryan Bassham, SITKA Gear Waterfowl Category Marketer
-Photos by Matt McCormick