For a lot of duck hunters, learning the craft was a rite of passage. From a young age, family members took them under their wing, passing their hunting tradition and knowledge down to the next generation.
What about those who have no family tradition? How do they gain even the basic skills and knowledge to be effective and confident in the field?
The answer may lie in a hunter education program started by Geelong Field & Game. While in its infancy, more than 20 hunters signed up for a full-day course that consisted of classroom and practical exercises covering ethics, safety, different types of waterfowling and how to deploy successful techniques to hunt and retrieve birds.
Blair Findlay and Sav Mangion ran the sessions. “It is aimed at juniors and people with no experience, although we have a few doing the course who have some hunting experience,” Blair said. “The catalyst was our experience from conducting waterfowl identification tests; we thought there needed to be more, especially for people who don’t have an experienced mentor.”
Sav Mangion understands the difficulty faced by those who don’t have a family tradition of hunting.
“In terms of the learning curve, this course is designed to flatten it out but arming people with hunting knowledge the first time they go out,” he said. “The aim is for everyone, regardless of their experience, to go away with new knowledge and an appreciation that the pleasure in duck hunting comes from having to work for it and apply skill and knowledge.”
The classroom sessions delivered a broad range of information but the theoretical was backed by personal and ‘real world’ examples of how the knowledge could be applied in the field.
During breaks, the lectures prompted questions and discussion, which was one of the aims of the training.
“If people leave asking the right questions and seeking out that information, that is a good outcome and we are happy to continue contact with the participants,” Blair said.
Geelong FGA president Trent Leen said participants were being surveyed on the course content and the way it was conducted to further refine the program. “It was really good from our perspective and the feedback on the day was certainly positive,” he said. “The Connewarre Wetland Centre was perfect as a venue because we could do practical demonstrations in the wetlands.”
Blair Findlay takes to the water to teach decoy strategy
Discovering the comfort of a layout blind Sav Mangion taking the class