Hooray for hunters
I hope you had a good one; I was out in the West Wimmera on a lake with a good number of hunters and at just past 9 am, shooting started, the birds got up and moving and we had some great hunting. They were coming from all angles and presented well.
I was using a locally produced duck load (34 g No. 5s) and most birds hit the water dead.
For various reasons, I did not have my dog with me, so made each retrieve myself. I paid for this on one long retrieve, when I did not see a submerged branch and took a dive! Result, a full strip and clean of the gun and a new mobile phone (waterproof). In future, I’ll always take Rodney.
Across the state the Opening went extremely well with very few hunter infringements and the usual few protesters charged, basically for being pests.
The protesters had to delay their laying of the ducks on Parliament steps due to them only getting three birds on the Opening weekend. Hunters had complied with the new regulations regarding retrieving each bird and the protesters were unable to easily come by birds. It took them three weeks to get enough birds to justify a media event — which the media did not bother attending!
It’s fair to say we had a lot of reservations about the changes the government made to the 2018 season and we were very clear in our messaging to hunters that the new times and regulations must be complied with and that we could still have a great Duck Season.
The response was excellent! Hunters were clear at the Duck Fever nights and at other forums that there was no tolerance of the actions of a few putting at risk the enjoyment of many.
On the issue of numbers, the GMA officers were reported as saying they saw about 2100 hunters out on the Opening weekend. However, they were at 38 wetlands and there are 200 State Game Reserves in the state and many private wetlands where hunting occurs. In the Wimmera, each wetland we visited had hunter camps on them and across the state there would have been more like 8500 hunters.
Hunters’ licence fees paid for our SGRS and it was disappointing to see in the 2016 audit of Victoria’s unique 199 SGRS that: 46 cannot be accessed due to ambiguous or undefined access points or leased easements; 116 SGRS do not have two-wheeled drive access and there is no vehicle access to 80 sites. Importantly, the
management of State Game Reserves is not done by the GMA, but by Parks Victoria.
Management of SGRS should be under the control of the GMA, whose objectives should be more in line with the Victorian Fisheries Authority who promote, optimise and develop recreational fishing.
There was a bit of change to the season this year and some hunters avoided the Opening weekend because of this. However, those who did go out had a lie-in rather than a dawn rise, but still had some great hunting.
The government has said the late starts on the Opening weekend will be a two-year trial, but we will be seeking to move back to the previous times. The new regulations and hunter education have worked well and we believe a relaxation back to the earlier times can be done without risk of bad hunter behaviour.
I intend, and encourage you all, to get out as often as you can for the rest of the season.
Prior to Opening, the EPA conducted further PFAS testing on ducks from locations that were thought to be uncontaminated with PFAS, as well as further samples from the Heart Morass. The locations were Hird Swamp, Lake Bolac and the Heart Morass State Game Reserve (this is adjacent to the section of the Heart Morass owned by the WET Trust that has suffered PFAS run-off from the Department of Defence property.
The birds from Hirds and Bolac recorded low levels of PFAS, below levels that would cause warnings from the EPA. The levels in the Heart Morass SGR birds were higher, but considerably lower than the original samples from the Heart contamination site. Hence, no general warnings regarding the consumption of meat from ducks were considered necessary by the EPA, but the warnings regarding consumption of ducks from the Heart were left in place, pending further evaluation.
It is worth noting that Professor Brian Priestly, director, Australian Centre for Human Health Risk Assessment (ACHHRA) at Monash University, has published his latest (Dec 2017) update on the literature review on the potential health effects of PFAS. This review, which has been going for seven years, is of all scientific research on the subject and seeks to draw conclusions from all the work being done on this subject. The latest review has added approximately 50 new epidemiological studies to the knowledge base of the health effects of PFAS. Professor Priestly summarises the latest review as: “The new epidemiology studies have not added any substantially new or concerning information on the potential health effects of PFAS.”
Hence, we are still in the position, despite continued research, of having no established adverse health effects directly linked to PFAS chemicals and have the EPA continuing to take a cautious approach.
The Victorian Government has given a lot of publicity over the past week to their new laws regarding Firearm Prohibition Orders and their intention to use these to target outlaw bikers and drug dealers. The Combined Firearms Council of Victoria, of which FGA is a member and I am its president, strongly fought to have changes made to this Act that would have given some protection to firearm owners. The government was determined not to allow any “watering down” of these draconian provisions and we were narrowly defeated. In meetings with senior police we were assured that the powers given to police under this Act would only be used to fight serious crime and not used against firearms owners. The provisions for a Prohibited Person under the Firearms Act would remain and these would continue to be used in normal cases.
I would like to think the assurances we have been given prove to be correct. However, I would like to hear from any member who has the new Fierearms Prohibition Order applied to them under the new Act, in order that we can check these orders are indeed being applied as intended and are not being used to pressure ordinary firearms owners.