Hun­ters prove a point

We have had a busy month but it has been an im­mensely suc­cess­ful start to Duck Sea­son, par­tic­u­larly in Vic­to­ria where crit­i­cal eyes were upon us.

Field and Game - - FGA CEO -

Con­grat­u­la­tions to ev­ery­body who hunted in Vic­to­ria dur­ing the open­ing three weeks.

You have shown ev­ery­body that, given the proper frame­work and en­force­ment sup­port, we can just get on with suc­cess­ful and sus­tain­able duck hunt­ing.

We worked hard in the lead up to the sea­son to get the new reg­u­la­tions straight­ened out, and to then deal with wet­land clo­sures.

I was dis­ap­pointed in the clo­sures process.

While Daryl Snow­don and I were in­volved in the call with the GMA, as was David Laird of SSAA and Birds Aus­tralia, I felt that again nei­ther the GMA nor the gov­ern­ment lis­tened to our opin­ion.

I sus­pect some of the clo­sures were not based purely on pro­tected species lim­its and clos­ing of The Marshes (when there was lit­tle wa­ter in it) and Hirds Swamp and Lake Martin just for the open­ing week­end was bizarre. The clo­sure again of Lake Martin late on the Thurs­day af­ter­noon be­fore the Easter long week­end, with peo­ple al­ready there or trav­el­ling there to hunt, felt like Lake El­iz­a­beth two years ago. This is not the way to win hun­ters sup­port.

I would like to thank Barry Howlett and ADA, and David Laird and SSAA for work­ing closely with us to en­sure the right mes­sages were com­mu­ni­cated to all our com­bined mem­ber­ships. Our com­bined ef­forts were noted and even com­mented on by Min­is­ter Jaala Pul­ford in Par­lia­ment:

“I would also take the op­por­tu­nity to thank the hunt­ing or­gan­i­sa­tions, the Sport­ing Shoot­ers As­so­ci­a­tion of Aus­tralia, Field & Game and the Aus­tralian Deer As­so­ci­a­tion, all of whom prob­a­bly had less than en­thu­si­as­tic sen­ti­ments about the new reg­u­la­tions but played a re­ally im­por­tant role in con­vey­ing to their mem­bers the im­por­tance of ev­ery­body abid­ing by the old rules and the new rules alike.” Jaala Pul­ford, Vic­to­rian Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter Vic­to­rian Par­lia­ment, March 29, 2018

I spent open­ing week­end in the Kerang area and had the plea­sure of meet­ing many hun­ters and FGA mem­bers. I was a lit­tle dis­ap­pointed that I didn’t have the time to join the camp with the spit roast at the South­ern end of Cul­lens. Those guys looked like they knew how to camp!

What was im­me­di­ately ev­i­dent was the large en­force­ment pres­ence. There was a road­block on the high­way into Kerang with breath test­ing and com­pli­ance of­fi­cers talk­ing with hun­ters, ed­u­cat­ing them on the new reg­u­la­tions.

I al­most needed to make an ap­point­ment to visit hun­ters’ camps as they were be­ing vis­ited mul­ti­ple times by dif­fer­ent en­force­ment groups. But it was good to see the pos­i­tive two-way dis­cus­sions be­ing had be­tween hun­ters and en­force­ment of­fi­cers.

I spent open­ing morn­ing at Cul­lens and Lake El­iz­a­beth. I ob­served ab­so­lute com­pli­ance with the 9 am start on Sat­ur­day, 8 am start on Sun­day and the 6.56 am start on Mon­day (at Hird Swamp). Given the com­pli­ance with the dif­fer­ent times, it is ev­i­dent the time is not the is­sue, it is the ed­u­ca­tion, com­mu­ni­ca­tion and en­force­ment ef­forts that en­sured this was done prop­erly. It was also great to see co-op­er­a­tion be­tween the dif­fer­ent camps in co-or­di­nat­ing the times they moved out to the wet­land and also in call­ing out pro­tected species while in flight. I ob­served all hun­ters mak­ing more than rea­son­able at­tempts to col­lect downed birds.

The minis­cule num­ber of mostly game birds dumped by CADS at the Premier’s of­fice a full three weeks af­ter open­ing was a des­per­ate at­tempt to grand­stand: all it demon­strated was the weak­ness and fal­li­bil­ity of their ar­gu­ment.

Com­pared to last year, it shows that hun­ters can very suc­cess­fully hunt in­side the frame­work of cur­rent reg­u­la­tions when there is proper ed­u­ca­tion, com­mu­ni­ca­tion and en­force­ment. Based on the sup­plied fig­ures (be­low), this rep­re­sents 0.13 per cent of the birds har­vested over open­ing week­end. Of the 73 birds col­lected only 6.85 per cent were non-game species (two coots and one grebe), which means 0.009 per cent of the es­ti­mated take were pro­tected species! I was dis­ap­pointed to hear that these birds will not be tested by the GMA, as has been the case in the past. I would en­cour­age the GMA to un­der­take test­ing and pub­licly re­port the re­sults to clar­ify many claims and counter claims as to the source of the birds.

There have been some re­ports that num­bers were down for open­ing, based on the GMA es­ti­mate of 2100 hun­ters on the 38 wet­lands they mon­i­tored. This is not the case at all and was mis­con­strued (or bla­tantly mis­rep­re­sented) by some groups as the to­tal num­ber of hun­ters. If you ex­trap­o­lated this num­ber across all 20 000 Vic­to­rian wet­lands, it would rep­re­sent more than one mil­lion hun­ters — you need to be care­ful how ‘facts’ are re­ported.

Of­fi­cial num­ber of hun­ters sup­plied by GMA and quoted in Hansard by Min­is­ter Pul­ford:

“With re­spect to the fig­ure of 2100 hun­ters, that is the es­ti­mated num­ber of hun­ters where agency staff were present at wet­lands across the state over the open­ing week­end. The to­tal num­ber that were ac­tu­ally hunt­ing comes from our phone sur­vey, which is con­ducted af­ter the open­ing week­end and then ev­ery two weeks af­ter that. We have some pre­lim­i­nary fig­ures through which I have in­cluded be­low. These all have to be ver­i­fied by our statis­ti­cians and will be in­cluded in our har­vest re­port which is fi­nalised later in the year and in­cludes quail. Deer are dealt with in a sep­a­rate re­port, given it is a year-long ‘sea­son’. Based on 24 833 li­censed duck hun­ters as of open­ing week­end.” • Hunted open­ing week­end: 8964 • Ducks har­vested: 56 647 • Sat­ur­day har­vest: 45 816 • Sun­day har­vest: 10 831 • Hunt­ing Pub­lic land: 61 per cent • Hunt­ing Pri­vate land: 39 per cent”

This is a solid open­ing and shows that hun­ters con­tinue to have a sig­nif­i­cant fi­nan­cial im­pact and ben­e­fit in ru­ral ar­eas and can sus­tain­ably har­vest ducks.

I also think hun­ters have got­ten smarter and de­cided to avoid the cir­cus with pro­test­ers.

I ob­served pro­tester ac­tiv­ity and what I ob­served was gen­er­ally well be­haved, how­ever, I have been pro­vided with ev­i­dence (that has been handed to the au­thor­i­ties) of bla­tantly danger­ous and il­le­gal ac­tiv­ity by pro­test­ers.

I have dis­cussed this with the gov­ern­ment and will con­tinue to lobby for pro­test­ers to not be al­lowed to dis­rupt the law­ful ac­tiv­i­ties of hun­ters. What con­cerns me greatly is the overtly ag­gres­sive tac­tic of stand­ing in front of hun­ters in the wa­ter. This is crazy be­hav­iour and it must be reg­u­lated or leg­is­lated against by the gov­ern­ment to avoid un­nec­es­sar­ily danger­ous and po­ten­tially fa­tal sit­u­a­tions. Protest­ing should never be al­lowed to be used as a valid rea­son to get a firearms or hunt­ing li­cence and any per­son do­ing so should im­me­di­ately have their firearms and hunt­ing li­cence re­voked. The gov­ern­ment can­not pos­si­bly sup­port a per­son who’s main rea­son for procur­ing a firearms li­cence is to protest or un­der­take il­le­gal ac­tiv­ity. Such il­le­gal ac­tiv­ity is surely grounds for not be­ing a fit per­son to have a firearms li­cence. The gov­ern­ment is tac­itly arm­ing pro­test­ers.

I en­cour­age you all to con­tinue to re­port in­creas­ingly danger­ous and il­le­gal be­hav­iour to Vicpol via Crimestop­pers. Any in­for­ma­tion you pro­vide through this av­enue helps build an in­tel­li­gence data­base against the pro­test­ers.

We had Dr Gra­ham Hall visit us for Vic­to­rian Open­ing and un­der­take the Head and Wing Study for the 10th straight year. He also trav­elled down to Gipp­s­land for open­ing. Hav­ing not met Dr Hall be­fore, I had a num­ber of fas­ci­nat­ing talks with him while he was here and in­creased my knowl­edge of game birds sub­stan­tially. I am in­ter­ested in start­ing to de­velop a re­search strat­egy and, no sur­prise, a blue-wing shov­eler study is top of the list. It is crit­i­cal that any study we fund or un­der­take is soundly based on sci­en­tific prin­ci­ples that are ro­bust and stand up to scru­tiny from the aca­demic and sci­en­tific com­mu­nity.

We can­not af­ford to spend money on a study that gov­ern­ments can ig­nore. There are some key de­vel­op­ments com­ing down the pipe­line that will make satel­lite track­ing of birds much eas­ier and cost ef­fec­tive. We are mon­i­tor­ing this and other tech­nolo­gies, such as drone bird counts, very closely.

En­joy the rest of your duck & quail hunt­ing sea­sons.

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