Hunt­ing pres­sure

The ac­tions of a few have tar­nished the rep­u­ta­tion of all re­spon­si­ble and eth­i­cal hunters and re­newed pres­sure on the Vic­to­rian Gov­ern­ment and reg­u­la­tors.

Field and Game - - HUNTING PRESSURE -

The ca­coph­ony of shots ring­ing out across the Kerang marshes well be­fore the of­fi­cial start time for the 2017 Vic­to­rian Duck Sea­son was just the be­gin­ning.

Those hunters who started were shooting out of sea­son, an il­le­gal act pub­licly con­demned by Field & Game Aus­tralia, but worse was to come. The Coali­tion Against Duck Shooting col­lected and dumped on Par­lia­ment the car­casses of 810 wa­ter­birds. Clearly the bulk of their haul was legally shot game birds but there were non-game species: freckle duck and blue-wing shov­eler, a game bird ex­cluded from the bag this sea­son.

While re­spon­si­ble hunters might want to ar­gue the de­tail, the spec­ta­cle had im­me­di­ate im­pact along with ad­di­tional is­sues ob­served by the Game Man­age­ment Au­thor­ity (GMA).

The Koorangie State Game Re­serve, com­pris­ing Lake Bael Bael and First, Sec­ond and Third Marsh (col­lec­tively known as the Marshes), was closed to hunt­ing by the week­end af­ter open­ing.

GMA chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Greg Hyams said the de­ci­sion fol­lowed a sur­vey that iden­ti­fied sig­nif­i­cant num­bers of freck­led and blue-billed ducks on the re­serve but it was also clear the events of open­ing week­end weighed most heav­ily on the de­ci­sion.

“Given that at least 75 Freck­led duck and 22 blue-billed duck were il­le­gally de­stroyed at this wet­land com­plex over the open­ing week­end, the loss of any of these threat­ened birds would be un­ac­cept­able,” Mr Hyams said.

In other words, given the ir­re­spon­si­ble and il­le­gal ac­tions of a mi­nor­ity of hunters on the wet­lands, the GMA could not take the risk of al­low­ing hunt­ing to con­tinue while pro­tected species were present.

FGA has fought hard for more than two years to es­tab­lish a course of ac­tion that keeps wet­lands open and in­stead man­ages risk when pro­tected species are present. Given ev­i­dence of shooting pro­tected birds, through ei­ther misiden­ti­fi­ca­tion or il­le­gal ac­tions, and the un­eth­i­cal fail­ure of hunters to re­trieve hun­dreds of game birds, there re­ally was no case we could ar­gue with a straight face.

FGA pub­licly con­demned what oc­curred and ac­cepted the clo­sure de­ci­sion even though, re­gret­tably, it would af­fect the vast ma­jor­ity of hunters who are eth­i­cal

and com­ply with hunt­ing reg­u­la­tions.

We know mem­bers are ap­palled by what oc­curred and an­gry at the dam­age in­flicted on our rep­u­ta­tion and the cause of duck hunt­ing in Vic­to­ria.

This is the prover­bial ‘two steps back’ but we will con­tinue to stride for­ward — we sim­ply have to change our path. Hav­ing recog­nised the prob­lem, Field & Game Aus­tralia is work­ing at a high level to en­sure our or­gan­i­sa­tion and our mem­bers can be part of the so­lu­tion. Many of you will have seen the ABC

7.30 Re­port story fea­tur­ing anti-duck hunt­ing protesters dis­cov­er­ing pits con­tain­ing nearly 200 whole ducks in the Koorangie State Game Re­serve.

Again, an­gered and frus­trated hunters will point out the ob­vi­ous lack of prove­nance with the dis­cov­ery, given 7.30 was only re­ly­ing on footage sup­plied by the Coali­tion Against Duck Shooting (CADS).

There is no ev­i­dence as to who buried the ducks and CADS should have called in au­thor­i­ties rather than pull out the video cam­era. Stunt or not, it is again the spec­ta­cle and not the de­tail that dam­ages the per­cep­tion of hunt­ing.

Eth­i­cal hunt­ing as prac­ticed by FGA mem­bers is about tak­ing what you need and re­spect­ing the ducks by us­ing what you take. So, it doesn’t mat­ter how the birds were buried, they were not in a hunter’s bag and that is anath­ema to gen­uine hunters.

In an in­ter­view with 7.30, GMA chair­man Brian Hine re­vealed that the dead and in­jured birds found on the marshes had prompted his or­gan­i­sa­tion to re­view duck hunt­ing li­cence ar­range­ments.

“Our re­spon­si­bil­ity as a game man­age­ment au­thor­ity is to en­sure that hunt­ing in Vic­to­ria re­mains sus­tain­able and re­spon­si­ble, and this in­di­cates clearly nei­ther,” he said.

Mr Hine said while it was not il­le­gal to bury whole birds, it was clearly un­eth­i­cal.

“It’s pos­si­ble there were a num­ber of hunters there who shot their le­gal en­ti­tle­ment of birds, who don’t value the bird and don’t value the meat, and then buried them,” he told 7.30.

“It’s also a like­li­hood that they have po­ten­tially shot 10 birds on the day, their le­gal bag limit, and these birds have been above their bag lim­its.”

Mr Hine said, ei­ther way, it was ex­tremely con­cern­ing.

Field & Game Aus­tralia is equally con­cerned, as are our mem­bers who we en­cour­age to re­port il­le­gal and un­eth­i­cal be­hav­iour to Crimestop­pers on 1800 333 000.

Speak up, take ac­tion, for the fu­ture of duck hunt­ing.

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