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By ROBYN BRISTOW

Four shotguns were confiscated from hunters near Rangiora during the opening day of the duck shooting season over the illegal use of lead shot instead of steel.

Three of the four young shooters also did not have gamebird hunting licences when compliance officers visited them at the Ashley River.

To add to their woe, one shotgun is believed to be an antique belonging to his grandfather, while the others had been passed down through families.

Compliance officers visited 145 hunters in North Canterbury during the season’s opening day on May 5.

Fish and Game North Canterbury compliance manager Dirk Barr says compliance was good apart from the four young shooters, who were students with a farming background.

He says the use of toxic lead shot within 200 metres of waterways was banned in 2013 to protect “dabbling” ducks and bird species from lead poisoning after feeding off the bottom of ponds and rivers where the shot can accumulate.

One of the hunters had no idea lead shot was illegal while another said he realised his mistake and had stopped using it. They had raised the issue of the lead shot being available in rural supply stores alongside duck-shooting gear.

Mr Barr says Fish and Game visited stores pointing out the law, but it appeared to make little difference to some who continued to put it on display along with camouflage gear and duck decoys.

All were upset at the confiscation of their shotguns. “It is a shame. It is sad to have grand-dad’s gun taken away, but we have to be pro-active as a compliance group.

“We don’t want to take guns away but the reality is we have to uphold the law.”

Occasionally, he said, hunters took a risk and thought they were “bullet proof” on private property. However, compliance officers were able to enter private property when doing their job.

Mr Barr says being convicted of an offence under the Wild Life Act could impact on everything from job prospects to overseas travel.

Officers were aiming at a 95 percent compliance rate and, after having interacting with so many hunters with only four alleged offenders found, they were on target to achieve this. “Most offences happen during the opening weekend as many only shoot one weekend,” he says.

Opening weekend had been a mixed bag for shooters, with groups on ponds having a great weekend, getting 60 to 70 ducks.

In contrast, those at Lake Ellesmere struggled to get a duck because there was no wind and clear skies – conditions unsuited to duck shooting.

Mr Barr says the compliance group will consider the cases of the four youngsters over the next few days.