Breaking the rules
Paddy Maguire, Port Phillip.
The latest bad news about illegal behaviour at the 2017 Duck Opening at Kerang brings many things to mind.
FGA was formed when duck numbers were declining. Many swamps had been drained and no longer supported waterbirds. In those years, many people were shooting wildlife for a multitude of reasons. Live bird shoots were a popular weekend sport, where birds, mainly pigeons and starlings, were released from traps, and bets were placed on the various shooters’ skills. Top shots could end up in the Olympic Games. Donald Mackintosh won a gold medal in the Olympics, W. G. Downie, awarded World Champion. Interestingly, he had no left hand, and rested the gun on his forearm.
Hunters would shoot birds and other animals because they were pests, or presumed pests. We tried hard targets, such as bronze-winged pigeons; they’re fast, and often fly low in thick forest. Snipe: fast and erratic low flight, in swampy places. Wallabies: fast and often in thick scrub. Our guns were mostly ill-fitting single barrel full choke, or double barrel, chokes full and modified, no add-on, or variable chokes. Cartridges were inferior to today’s. This forced us to improve our skills to enable us to bring down a duck or quail. We had no waders, and mostly no boat. Rabbits were common targets, but mostly with a .22 rifle, which was cheap, and bullets were very cheap. Many people simply shot for the pleasure of a day walking in the country, and coming home with a few bunnies to eat or to sell around the neighbourhood. If we saw an unfamiliar bird or animal, it was shot to have a good look at it.
The Victorian Field & Game Association has changed shooting over the past 59 years. Thousands of members have worked with government on regulations and educating shooters, educating children, as well as huge conservation undertakings. The opening was always in February, but many immature birds were around. Now it’s in March, and many Victorian birds have departed for Queensland and the
Outback after the wet. We have brought ethics into hunting. A love of our land and its wildlife, respect for the animals we shoot. They may be for food, pose a threat to the environment, a danger to farming or to native wildlife.
The shooting outrage at Kerang is not a straightforward open-and-shut case. It may have just been the work of radical troublemakers, who have one aim: trouble.
They care not why, as long as it causes unrest and bitterness in our society. It may have been egotistical ‘Rambos’ with no respect for law and order; those who make their own rules and think they should just do as they please without regard for those of us who made it possible for them to own a gun, enter a wetland and shoot a duck. They often feel inferior, so need to boost their esteem, they then think they are special because they have defied the law, made a deafening noise with a firearm, and killed or wounded a defenceless animal. Rambos are low-life, maggots of society. Our hard work over the years was not for their selfish benefit. They just take all, but don’t give back. Their guns should be destroyed; they should be forced to work long, hard hours, for a lengthy period, to help the environment. Fines are no deterrent to a person who can afford it.
Since 1951, I have volunteered for this great country, cleaning up rubbish left by others and helping to re-vegetate and restore the land, restore many wetlands and creating shooting grounds, such as Lysterfield and Cape Schanck.
We have built, erected and maintained nest boxes, educated those who would listen and helped set up Serendip Sanctuary and game licences.
We did this to get rid of the Rambos of the shooting world.
Let’s not forget the (loving, caring) animal rights people. Sadly, they include some kind people who want to end animal suffering but who lack knowledge of hunting. Activists, many of whom will go to extremes to prove their views are correct, feed them misguided views. Kindhearted people, who think they are helping to save animal suffering, will fund them.
For years we have had animal rights groups causing trouble and wasting the valuable time of our police and government officers. Time that could have been better spent catching the Rambos and troublemakers. I have met with Coalition Against Duck Shooting founder Laurie Levy, and we have exchanged a few words.
I have observed him, his followers and his tactics, showcasing his lack of knowledge. He arrived at Lake Buloke one opening morning with a busload of schoolgirls and a couple of older ladies. The girls ran into the water in shorts and tops, tripping over fallen trees and snags, then racing to collect ducks shot by legal hunters. If they beat the hunter, they are then in possession of a game bird, but they have no game licence. It is also stolen property; it belongs to the shooter. The wind blew on their wet clothes, they got very cold, and some started to cry. A van arrived with some boxes with straw in them; nests for the rescued birds. Quite an unwelcome change from the bird’s normal habitat. One young girl came shivering and crying to our campfire with a cygnet. She asked what type of duck it was. We explained it was a baby swan, uninjured, but too young to fly. “Should I put it back in the water?” she asked. We said no, it’s mum would be far away by now. It would probably be killed by a bird of prey. We wrapped the girl in a blanket, and gave her a cup of tea and something to eat by the fire. One bloke took the cygnet back and placed it in a reed bed; maybe it would survive.
Wounded birds are often not badly injured, and continue to fly off into the distance. Later, weary and weak, they land in sheltered places, such as reed beds. In earlier times, people with well-trained dogs would enter the swamp and gather these birds. Keep those they wanted, and give the others to shooters who only had a few. I believe such people could be re-introduced, licenced, and allowed to gather injured birds. Many people with well-trained dogs would be a great asset.