In the pursuit of headlines anti-hunting activists are turning to depicting the dispatching of wounded birds as cruelty, which places pressure on way hunters deal with wounded game.
The Shotgunning Education Program is designed to make hunters more efficient and effective in the field, minimising wounding.
A Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals in Hunting, issued in March 2005 under Section 7 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 states:
An animal must only be shot at when: • it can be clearly seen and
recognised; • it is within the effective range of the firearm, ammunition, or bow and arrow and the skills of the hunter; and • a humane kill is likely. The obligation is clear: a hunter must shoot to cause a quick and painless death but there is also recognition that wounding may occur.
Every animal that isn’t dead on retrieval must be humanely destroyed immediately.
If an animal is wounded and escapes, all reasonable attempts must be made to locate it so it can be killed quickly and humanely before hunting another animal. The preferred method of dispatching wounded game birds is not specifically codified other than the recommendation to carry “swatter” loads suitable for dispatching downed birds on the water where safe.
Swatter loads are shotshell combinations specifically used for dispatching downed birds. These loads produce a rich, dense shot pattern. Typical shooting range for swatter loads is 20–32 metres, with the most effective steel shot size #7 to #6 at 1oz/28g.
Swatter loads should be used through the tightest choke available, i.e. top barrel if that is the tighter barrel.
In Tasmania, rapid dislocation of the vertebrae of the neck is a recommended method, achieved by taking the legs of the duck in one hand and the head held between the first two fingers of the other hand with the thumb under the beak. A sharp jerk with each hand pulling the head backwards over the neck will break the spinal cord.
Some hunters continue to use the method of quickly twirling the wounded bird by the neck.
Apart from the twirl not being effective, to the casual observer it can appear excessive, especially when post death, the bird continues to twitch after being hung from the strap.
Slow the footage down, add some dark music and commentary about inhumane treatment of birds and you have a ready-made antihunting message.
There are better ways, ones that satisfy the requirement to humanely dispatch game birds, but can’t be misinterpreted or misrepresented by those who oppose waterfowl hunting.
The Finisher was the first product developed by US company Adrenal-line as a humane way to dispatch wounded birds in the field.
The Finisher method will kill any bird instantly using a small amount of pressure where the back of neck and base of the skull meet.
The devices are small enough to clip to a belt or hang off a lanyard and generally cost less than $20.
A simple tool like an old hammer handle will also dispatch a bird with a swift blow.
Of course, as ethical hunters, the real aim is to achieve a clean kill first time and for that, you need to understand your effective kill zone and work the birds into the right range.
Participating in the Shotgunning Education Program is a good way to improve your hunting skills and your effectiveness in the field.