One Foggy night

In 1958 Bryan James was one of the Bairns­dale Field Sports­man’s As­so­ci­a­tion del­e­gates sent to attend an im­por­tant meet­ing in Sale. Now 91 years old and still sharp as a tack, Bryan re­mem­bers mov­ing the mo­tion to form the Vic­to­rian Field & Game As­so­ci­a­tion

Field and Game - - FGA HISTORY -

Also with Bryan in the car bound for Sale that evening were Roy Walker, Frank Howlett, Alby Kyle and Don Wil­son. They would all be part of an his­toric event, the for­ma­tion of an or­gan­i­sa­tion that would bind hunters and wetland con­ser­va­tion in a vol­un­tary part­ner­ship recog­nised and re­spected by gov­ern­ment.

That part­ner­ship con­tin­ues to this day as Field & Game Aus­tralia and it is in­ter­est­ing to note from Bryan’s rec­ol­lec­tions that the hunter/ con­ser­va­tion­ist model was not an in­ven­tion for con­ve­nience; it was sim­ply a re­flec­tion of what had been hap­pen­ing in­for­mally for gen­er­a­tions. “Our move to form the VFGA was later de­scribed in the min­utes as be­ing moved by the Sale area to form the As­so­ci­a­tion,” Bryan said.

In a fire­side chat some years ago, Alby Kyle backed up the story that Bryan moved to form VFGA. “Bryan moved that the VFGA be formed and Her­bie Guy­att, who was act­ing as minute sec­re­tary for the meet­ing said, ‘Just a minute Mr Chair­man, I’ve got a mo­tion writ­ten down here, a more com­pre­hen­sive mo­tion than that’, and you then with­drew your mo­tion and they took Her­bie’s,” he said.

Bryan laughed that if there was any credit to be taken, they had “got done on that one”. “I did how­ever move a mo­tion that we ask the Gov­ern­ment to cre­ate a one pound li­cence. I sup­pose I started some­thing there but it had its ef­fect; the Gov­ern­ment saw we were ca­pa­ble of do­ing the right thing and tak­ing a lot of peo­ple along with us.”

The fact though, is that the Bairns­dale crew were al­ready trail­blaz­ers.

The Hon­our Board in the Bairns­dale Field & Game club rooms goes back to 1952 when the Bairns­dale Field Sports­man’s As­so­ci­a­tion formed, a first for Gipp­s­land. “The first few lines in the old minute book state that the meet­ing was ‘de­signed to en­hance re­la­tions be­tween shoot­ers, an­glers and land own­ers’,” Bryan said.

It was a re­ac­tion to ev­i­dence of poor re­la­tions be­tween land­hold­ers and shoot­ers through­out Vic­to­ria. With let­ters ap­peared reg­u­larly in the coun­try press, the for­ma­tion meet­ing was called by Cr Ray Archibald, the Shire pres­i­dent, who had suf­fered cut fences, camp­fires left burn­ing and dis­carded rub­bish. “I think, if we hadn’t acted, any­one with a firearm or fish­ing rod might have been banned from en­ter­ing prop­erty; it was the feel­ing we had, it was pretty des­per­ate,” Bryan said. “The other cause for de­spair was that peo­ple had started to drain wet­lands to cre­ate or ex­pand farms and we could see the duck habi­tat be­ing re­duced, so we needed to pro­mote and par­tic­i­pate in con­ser­va­tion.”

The As­so­ci­a­tion might have been formed to pro­tect the in­ter­ests and rep­u­ta­tion of field sports­men but the com­mit­tee was soon ac­tive on other is­sues.

Later that first year a del­e­gate was dis­patched to the Gipp­s­land An­gling

>> As­so­ci­a­tion meet­ing in or­der to ‘ob­ject to the fish­ing laws’.

Bryan said in those days hunters and an­glers faced sim­i­lar is­sues around ac­cess and reg­u­la­tion and the im­pact of com­mer­cial har­vest­ing. In those early days they would join forces (backed by gov­ern­ment) to con­trol lo­cal pop­u­la­tions of cor­morants.

The first men­tion of com­pet­i­tive shoot­ing ap­pears in the min­utes of Au­gust 15, 1953, when a mo­tion was passed to ob­tain the cost of clay birds and par­tic­u­lars of a trap and to scout a site to hold a clay tar­get shoot. “I was never a tar­get shooter or at least never an ac­cu­rate one, I’m a field shooter,” Bryan said.

The first shoot was in a pad­dock be­hind the Lin­de­now South res­i­dence of Char­lie Grow­cott, who also hap­pened to own the only trap in the district. Hay bales were stacked around the sin­gle trap for the trap­per to shel­ter be­hind.

Shoots later re­lo­cated to land be­hind the Bairns­dale Rac­ing Club Ho­tel on the out­skirts of Bairns­dale.

Bryan said when in­for­mal dis­cus­sions about form­ing a state-wide or­gan­i­sa­tion be­gan it was only log­i­cal to ap­proach Bairns­dale, which had al­ready been ac­tive for six years. “It was ac­tu­ally an ap­proach from Herb Guy­att, on be­half of some fel­low sports­men in the Sale area, seek­ing the sup­port of our es­tab­lished or­gan­i­sa­tion in any move to form some sort of Vic­to­ria wide or­gan­i­sa­tion,” he said. “We were formed be­cause the farm­ers were com­plain­ing about peo­ple com­ing onto their prop­er­ties, cut­ting fences, light­ing fires and what not; we could see that if we didn’t do some­thing the Gov­ern­ment would crack down. “We were get­ting in con­tact with a lot of the land­hold­ers and many let us put up signs say­ing ‘Field Sports­man’s mem­bers only’ to pro­tect our ac­cess. Sale was hav­ing the same prob­lems.”

Bairns­dale was not only happy to sup­port the for­ma­tion but voted to join up as well. “I can re­mem­ber speak­ing at that meet­ing and want­ing to move for a one pound game li­cence, which we thought would help the Gov­ern­ment do what we wanted. I prob­a­bly also spoke about form­ing an As­so­ci­a­tion and it looks as if that made for a too long and com­pli­cated mo­tion,” Bryan said.

His­tory in­stead records that Her­bie Guy­att’s pre­pared mo­tion was ac­cepted and en­dorsed.

Bryan left sat­is­fied with the out­come and ex­cited about the fu­ture but there was lit­tle dis­cus­sion on the way home: all eyes were on the road. “Roy Walker had a big Amer­i­can Chevro­let and there was a pea soup-fog all the way home. He had to drive right down the white line in the mid­dle of the road to see but luck­ily there wasn’t much traf­fic about in those days.”

Bryan is a Life Mem­ber of Bairns­dale Field & Game and at the re­cent open­ing of their new club rooms was pre­sented with a plaque com­mem­o­rat­ing 60 years of in­volve­ment. “I feel very proud to have been in­volved in get­ting it started; it only seemed in many ways a self­ish thing at the time to pro­tect our­selves, but we cre­ated a legacy,” he said. “We knew we were work­ing for a much big­ger cause but I guess we didn’t imag­ine at the time it would end up as big as it has.”

“We knew we were work­ing for a much big­ger cause but I guess we didn’t imag­ine at the time it would end up as big as it has.” Bryan James

Five Bairns­dale Life Mem­bers; (L-R back) Norm El­liot, Bryan James (L-R front) Al­bie Kyle, Leo O'sul­li­van, Terry Whe­lan

Bryan James and Rob Tre­ble

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