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The nature of duck-shooting has changed from a boys’ weekend on the booze to a more family-friendly affair, an outdoor sports retailer says.

Stu Middendorf, of Central Otago Sports Depot, said sales of shot and licences had been “fantastic” as anticipation built for the most exciting weekend of the year for duck-shooters in Central Otago.

“It’s really changing from a boys’ drinking weekend like the bad old days and it’s just dads taking the kids out for the weekend.”

Duck numbers in the district looked as good as ever for Saturday’s opening of the 2022 game bird season, Otago Fish & Game officer Bruce Quirey said.

“It’s a great family occasion that many hunters consider more important than Christmas.

“At places like the Maniototo, we get people returning from overseas for duck-shooting who aren’t seen around Christmas.”

This year, the Otago annual mallard counts on selected ponds, rivers and other areas were the highest seen in seven years.

“We encourage you to take what you need on opening weekend and then enjoy hunting for the rest of the three-month mallard season,” Mr Quirey said.

“We are hoping for an accident-free season, so take care with firearms and water safety,” he said.

“Carry your hunting and firearms licences at all times.

“Hunt ethically and responsibly, clean your harvest quickly to ensure the best quality meat, and bury waste after cleaning birds.”