Break­ing the rules

Paddy Maguire, Port Phillip.

Field and Game - - RECOIL -

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.

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