Duck Season 2017 was one of the best on record and 2018 promises to be as good if not better, we have a lot to look forward to.
While the start of the season in Victoria provided a few challenges we are meeting them head on.
We have led from the front, engaging with government directly to ensure any response to illegal and unethical practices on wetlands is appropriate, evidence based and proportional.
A key fact that can’t be ignored in the process is that the remainder of the season was unremarkable, including hunters cooperating to keep some wetlands open while acknowledging and responding appropriately to the presence of protected species.
Neither our organisation nor any other is able to control or monitor every hunter in the field but we can set clear expectations and provide information and education to promote ethical hunting.
Enforcement is necessary and in the case of a small minority, the only way to deliver the message that illegal and unethical practices have no place. It is important, as we have been saying for a long time now, that the Game Management Authority is given the powers and resources to act.
We are starting to see outcomes from the Victorian government’s Sustainable Hunting Action Plan, a $5.3 million investment to support and guide the long term growth of hunting.
As we went to press, the first quarterly report on progress with SHAP was released. The quarterly reporting process has started later than we’d hoped given the whole of government plan was released and adopted in early December 2016, however, from this point forward it will be an important marker of progress, or the lack of it.
FGA and our colleagues at the Australian Deer Association developed joint key performance indicators for SHAP, which we shared with Agriculture Minister Jaala Pulford. You can read more about them in this issue on page 20.
Ms Pulford made the commitment to quarterly reporting because, as she told a recent Estimates Committee hearing, “This is a multi-agency effort, but it is certainly something of great interest to hunters in Victoria.”
We should all keep an eye on the quarterly reports from the SHAP implementation team because the outcomes are critical to the future of hunting.
The first quarterly update included only one funded initiative; $40 000 to the Wetlands Environmental Taskforce to ensure the Australian National Hunting Archive, Australia’s most comprehensive and valuable collection of works on the social history of hunting, is digitally indexed and accessible.
You can read more about that project on page 18.
One of the key objectives of SHAP is to grow hunting and particularly, the economic benefits that flow to regional Australia.
You will have read in the last issue about Andrew Bogan’s trip to Australia as a hunting tourist and his view that our wonderful wetlands and duck species would appeal to many North American hunters.
A framed map of the Loveday wetland now hangs proudly on the wall of the Teal Club in California as a reminder of the hunt with FGA board member Jim Godden from Barmera Moorook, but also as incentive for others to follow.
Ramsey Russell from getducks.com, one of the biggest and certainly most respected hunting outfitters in the world, is also singing our praises (page 45).
Ramsey hunted Australia for the first time as a guest of Geelong FGA member Glenn Falla and loved it, including at some of my favourite live red gum timber wetlands in the North east.
Hunting tourism is a reality and with the support of people like Ramsey, it can grow rapidly, achieving the economic aims of Government and cementing the value of providing access and opportunity to hunt.
Building international relationships also provides us with access to experts in their fields, research, and ideas, which is why we were pleased Daryl Snowdon was able to speak at the Fish & Game New Zealand Conference in July.
We have also added more experience to the FGA leadership team with Scott Mitchell joining our board. Scott has a wealth of experience and particular expertise in navigating the political landscape — he is not a bad shot either.
The National Carnival nominations open this month so I hope to see the many of our competitive clay target shooters at the Wodonga Albury ground in November.
As I suggested at the start we have a lot to look forward to, onwards and upwards is the only way. While the ducks get breeding I’ll be out in a paddock trying to do my bit to reduce the number of damaging foxes in the wild.
So get out and enjoy your shooting whether it be clays or hunting, a day’s shooting with family and friends is quality time!