Field & Game Australia general manager David McNabb reflects on the positives
and negatives for hunting from the opening of the 2017 Duck Seasons.
“Thinking about the future, there’s only one thing to think about, and that’s ‘respect’ … Respect for the animal, respect for everyone else … It really is that simple. Maintain respect for the animal.”
Peter Burke, known to many as Burkey, made this statement on the Australian hunting television series, Beyond the Divide.
While Burkey’s quote is made in the context of sambar deer and public land access to our forests for hunting, it applies equally to duck hunting on public wetlands.
Respect, or more specifically, a lack of respect, is the sentiment echoed by concerned members following the opening weekend of the Victorian Duck Season. The lack of respect demonstrated by the minority through irresponsible, unethical, and in some cases, illegal, actions means the majority of hunters who demonstrated ethical, responsible behaviours have been penalised through the loss of access to public land for duck hunting. Public land access is a unique privilege established over almost 60 years. Those restrictions have delivered success to those who are actively opposed to sustainable, responsible duck hunting.
People take up membership of FGA for a variety of reasons. What is common is that members are ambassadors for FGA’s leadership in wetland conservation and hunting and the incredible opportunities for recreational shooting at one of our 57 shooting grounds.
As members of FGA our actions are guided by our long-established Code of Conduct.
Every hunter demonstrating responsible, ethical hunting provides positive role modelling to new hunters and to the community. They are also great ambassadors for hunting; in the eyes of the community we are all ambassadors for hunting and recreational shooting.
FGA supports the RESPECT program.
The response to irresponsible, unethical and illegal behaviour is to abide by a common framework that demonstrates to the community that we know what it takes to act ethically and responsibly as hunters.
FGA members have the task of bringing RESPECT to life through their actions in the field and we know that you do so. Unfortunately, when a few do the wrong thing, all hunters are tarnished; the community makes no distinction between good and bad hunters.
Within these frameworks, we’re addressing the issues from the opening weekend and will continue sharing updates at the appropriate time. This work happens face-to-face, it doesn’t happen online or on social media. Without apology we will continue with our proven approach that we don’t broadcast our tactics, nor do we divulge the conversations that must be maintained in confidence.
That time and effort must be invested in addressing the issues for hunting caused by the minority is an unfortunate reality. It also distracts from the many positive aspects of the 2017 hunting seasons now underway throughout south-eastern Australia.
FGA’s contribution to duck hunting is year-round and not confined to the opening weekend. We were on the ground leading up to and throughout the opening weekends in both South Australia and Victoria. Thank you to all the hunters we met for your fantastic hospitality — the tea and coffee were most welcome.
Rural businesses and local government recognise the economic contribution by hunters buying fuel and supplies. In 2013, a government study in Victoria recognised a contribution from all hunting of $439 million.
In Victoria, Barry Howlett from the Australian Deer Association (ADA), a keen hunter regardless of the quarry, joined us for the opening weekend. Unfortunately, we didn’t get Barry any time in a duck hunting hide over decoys. he instead was shoulder-to-shoulder with us all weekend as issues unfolded.
Thanks Barry, for sacrificing your own opening weekend to support hunting. This continues the close collaboration across our organisations for the future of hunting.
Hunters continue contributing to our long-running duck research program with head and wing samples. Our research partners from University of New England again collected blood samples, assisting research into infectious diseases. Hunters demonstrate incredible curiosity when witnessing this research; the desire to develop their knowledge highlights the respect that true hunters have for game.
Any grumbles about the long, wet winter dragging through to a wet, mild spring has now been forgotten. We’re seeing the ecological dividend from healthy wetlands and an incredible breeding event, not just game birds but all waterbirds. It reinforces why FGA continues to advocate for habitat and water, these are the critical requirements for healthy waterbird populations.
Our advocacy work extends across multiple issues. We have written before about the work with our colleagues at ADA that contributed to increased scrutiny of RSPCA Victoria, which stepped back from activism after an independent review backed our concerns.
RSPCA’s ongoing challenge will be avoiding a regression back into animal rights activism. We have also made a joint submission to the Victorian parliament inquiry into the RSPCA on our members’ behalf.
Not all is positive. We continue to work on firearms issues, most recently the National Firearms Agreement 2017, which still has significant issues.
We’re entering the third year of countering the campaign for a new national park across a large swathe of Victoria. It is starting to appear likely there will be some form of new park, which is incredibly disappointing. Nevertheless, we’ll continue our efforts on this issue to preserve access to public land for hunting.
Again, with our colleagues at ADA, we have continued with our focus on the Victorian Government’s Sustainable Hunting Action Plan (SHAP), identifying the key outcomes for the future of hunting, and we’ve already jumped into shaping up some parts of the design work. While the SHAP has taken time to finalise, we’re pleased the recent constructive discussions between Government, FGA and ADA have contributed to the Government’s commitment to quarterly updates on progress with the plan.
The great opportunities and growth in membership in South Australia continues, thanks to the work by dedicated, passionate volunteers. I’m delighted to welcome another branch into the FGA community and my sincere thanks to the committee and members of Renmark Berri for entrusting FGA with the support deemed essential for the future of your branch.
We continue advocating on behalf of our members on issues specific to SA, including those related to duck hunting and the draft Firearms Regulations.
Growth in membership allows delivery of more hunter education, more hunting opportunities and more access to recreational shooting.
Make sure anyone you know who hunts and isn’t a member of a hunting organisation, understands that FGA membership is an investment in the future of hunting in Australia.
We’ve continued our public storytelling, with TV commercials, online, through social media and radio. The next phase of the campaign launches soon. In the meantime, thanks to the partnership with Kubota, we have an incredible RTV to give away. Renew now, or join up before July 1 and be in with a chance to win this incredible vehicle.
Celebrate this natural bounty by making plans to spend as much time in the bush and hunting as your circumstances allow. With so much good habitat it’s a great year to introduce hunting to someone who’s keen but not sure how to go about it, sharing incredible wild food with people who might never hunt, or for mentoring a new hunter to reinforce the importance of respect.
Enjoy time hunting with a gun in hand and a good dog at your side.