Game licence growth
The Game Management Authority has released detailed data showing a marked rise in the number of game licence holders but across all categories the relatively low participation level of women and youth highlights the opportunity to grow.
The majority of game licence holders predominantly hunt a single species of game with 19 557 (40 per cent) only hunting deer and a further 14 711 (31 per cent) only hunting duck. The remaining 29 per cent of licence holders hunt a combination of game species.
A total of 28 873 of all licence holders (60 per cent) currently hold a long-term licence (ie three years) with 23 per cent of this figure claiming a concession entitlement and 4 per cent holding a junior licence (12–17 years).
The duck season was cancelled in 1995, 2003, 2007 and 2008 but the dips in licence numbers in each of those years is more than made up for in later years when there was a season.
Duck hunting in Victoria is predominantly a male recreation with 98.5 per cent of licence holders with the duck entitlement being male. Males aged 38 to 67 account for 58 per cent of this figure.
Ten per cent of female duck hunters are aged 10–17 while for males it is just 2 per cent. The next aged bracket, 18–27, follows a similar pattern, making up 28 per cent of total female licence holders and 10 per cent of male.
From 1995 to 2016 the total number of game licences has grown from 23 206 to 48 023 (106.9 per cent) and the different licence types have recorded significant growth.
The raw numbers show duck entitlements have risen from 17 156 to 25 646 (49.5 per cent) and quail entitlements 19 163 to 28 545 (48.9 per cent). While those numbers are healthy, they pale in comparison to the surge in deer entitlements, which have gone from 7708 to 32 306 (320 per cent) over the same period.
Australian Deer Association executive officer Barry Howlett said access and abundance had drawn more people to deer hunting. “The explosion in deer numbers is a big factor but I also think lack of duck seasons in some years has also been a factor,” he said. “There are people hunting now that didn’t know there were deer 10 years ago.”
The age profile of licence categories shows a skewing of duck hunting towards an older audience.
The dramatic growth in the number of deer licences is underpinned by a younger demographic, with 38 per cent of hunters aged under 27 compared to 26 per cent of duck hunters. “Deer hunting is more accessible but for the most part you have to be fairly active; for younger people who have a 4WD and enjoy going bush, it’s a natural extension,” Barry said.
Six out of 10 deer hunters are aged under 47 but for ducks, it is four hunters out of every 10.
FGA general manager David Mcnabb said that could be explained in part by the longevity of duck hunters. “You can keep duck hunting a lot longer than you can deer hunting; for many of our members, hunting ducks is a longstanding family tradition and it is not unusual to find three generations of the one family in a duck camp.”
The age and gender demographics of game licence holders show that duck hunting skews to older males but that presents an opportunity to grow by attracting youth and women.
Delta Waterfowl met the challenge of a similar age profile in North America by implementing a youth hunt program in 2001.
Delta Waterfowl conducted its first mentored hunt on the famed Delta Marsh, which spawned what today is North America’s largest waterfowl specific hunter recruitment program, First Hunt.
First Hunt events offer a comprehensive immersion into a rich waterfowl-hunting heritage. Day one includes a broad range of skill training, which includes waterfowling-specific gun safety and wing-shooting, introduction to duck and goose calling, decoy placement, retriever training, duck identification, etc.
Day two finds a new hunter paired with an experienced mentor for a trip to the blind. After a successful hunt, the new hunters are taught to handle, clean and cook their harvest. This experience, from skills development to the shooting of a new hunter’s first duck, culminating in a duck dinner, provides a rich and powerful baptism into the waterfowl hunting fraternity.
In 2015, 126 First Hunt events attracted 5666 participants. “We are pursuing the youth hunt concept but it needs to fit the regulatory environments we operate within,” David said. “The initial discussions suggest there is a way forward. We want to encourage new duck hunters by offering them the knowledge to operate safely in the field and to understand and respect the traditions, value of the birds they harvest and understand the clear link between hunting and conservation.”