Firearm Owners United (FOU) is a registered Not-For-Profit advocacy organisation, representing Law Abiding Firearm Owner’s (LAFO’s), hunters, and the wider sport shooting community. Our operating team consists of volunteers who bring a wide variety of expertise to the organisation, from former Defense members, security specialists – including IT security experts, agriculturalists, firearm trainers and instructors, sporting shooters, hunters, and more.
Eureka Tactical is a small hunting business owned and operated by a wildlife biologist, which has an aim to spread a positive, scientific, message that conservation values can be and are achieved by hunting.
We would like to thank the Parliament of Victoria and the Select Committee for inviting us to make a submission on the Inquiry into Victoria’s Recreational Native Bird Hunting Arrangements. In this document you will find out responses to the four (4) posed terms of reference, which have been responded to in good faith, our formal submission, and references. We request that this submission be read in good faith, with the understanding that we want what is best for both the community we represent, the environment, the wildlife, and the community we represent.
Terms of Reference
A. The operation of annual native bird hunting seasons
What is meant to happen
The annual native bird hunting seasons, such as the duck hunting season in Victoria, are a regulated and managed activity. These seasons are designed to strike a balance between conservation and the sustainable harvest of game species. The opening and closing dates are set in legislation, with the Victorian Game Management Authority (Vic GMA) setting conditions for these seasons based on scientific research (currently the Interim Adaptive Harvest Model – IAHM) and population assessments (mainly the Eastern Australian Waterbird Survey – EAWS)1. The seasons allow for a limited period of hunting, ensuring that it does not have a detrimental impact on the targeted bird populations. By establishing clear open seasons, the GMA ensures that hunting is conducted in a controlled manner, reducing the potential for illegal or unregulated hunting.
The IAHM is a scientifically sound model that the Vic GMA utilises while developing a more robust Adaptive Harvest Model (AHM). It utilises inputs from long-term duck population data, the previous years duck hunter participation and harvest, weather patterns, and other abiotic factors, to identify relationships between duck abundance and habitat availability, to then inform the daily bag limit2. This has presented multiple issues in 2023.
a) The recommendations are not being followed by Victorian Parliament
The Victorian Parliament and other stakeholders have entrusted the Vic GMA to use scientific evidence to inform the seasonal requirements, however their recommendations are not being followed. Vic GMA made a recommendation of 4-birds per day across the full legislated 12-week season, again, using scientific evidence that this would ensure sustainability within the duck population. The Minister for Outdoor Recreation decided to not follow this recommendation, calling for a reduced season. This reduced season has no basis in science, nor has any evidence been given as to why this is necessary3.
b) Hunting opportunities are being shut down through erroneous means
Multiple prime locations in the 2023 season have been shut down, citing that it is to reduce harm to non-game birds. Duck hunters must undertake an identification test called the “Waterfowl Identification Test” (WIT) before being permitted to hunt ducks, and as such, are able to identify the birds they are authorised to hunt from those they are not. Whilst it is understandable that some of these wetland closures are to protect critically endangered species that are susceptible to disturbance, a large portion of these shutdowns have been without evidence that legal hunting would endanger the species listed. Closure of wetlands should come with substantial scientific evidence that the listed species are sensitive to disturbance, as without such evidence it is suspected that the closures are a grey measure to ban hunting via a circumvention of legislation.
c) Not all inputs of the IAHM are quantitative
The Vic GMA factors in anti-duck hunting protestors in their recommendations, and while we applaud Vic GMA for wanting to protect duck hunters, it is important to note that this is a subjective non-quantitative factor which has no basis in mathematical modelling. Protestors, and particularly protestors who break the law, is an issue of the lack-of law enforcement and should not play a part in the daily-bag limit nor opening times.
B. Arrangements in other Australian jurisdictions
The South Australian government has declared an open season for duck hunting in 2023. The season will commence 30 minutes prior to sunrise on Saturday, 18 March 2023, and end 30 minutes after sunset on Sunday, 25 June 2023. However, it is important to note that some game reserves may have restricted dates for the 2023 open season.
During the open season, shooting is permitted between 30 minutes prior to sunrise and 30 minutes after sunset at approved locations. The protected species that can be hunted during the 2023 open season include grey teal, chestnut teal, Pacific black duck, Australian shelduck (mountain duck), and maned (wood) duck. However, hunting of Australasian (blue-winged) shoveler, pink-eared duck, and hardhead is not permitted for the 2023 season. Taking of eggs of any duck species during the open season is prohibited.
The bag limit for duck hunting in South Australia is a maximum of eight ducks per day, from the species mentioned above. Hunters need to ensure they comply with the bag limit and species restrictions.
Duck hunting is permitted on Game Reserves explicitly declared in the open season notice, as well as on some unalienated Crown land and private land with the written permission of the landowner. However, hunting is not permitted within reserves constituted under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972 (except specified game reserves), wilderness protection areas and zones constituted under the Wilderness Protection Act 1992, and sanctuary zones within marine parks established under the Marine Parks Act 2007.
To participate in duck hunting, hunters are required to obtain a duck hunting permit, which can be obtained through the Wildlife Permits System prior to the opening of the season. Additionally, hunters are required to pass the Waterfowl Identification Test (WIT) to demonstrate their ability to identify different waterfowl species.
A voluntary hunter survey is encouraged during the open season, as it provides valuable information on waterfowl populations and distributions. This data can inform future open season declarations.
This summary is based on the information provided by the South Australian government regarding their duck hunting season for 20234, 5.
Notes on South Australia
As noted, the South Australian 2023 season had allowed a daily bag limit of eight birds, not four. The data used for this should be available to Vic GMA as part of their assessments, and the differences should be explained. This level of transparency would be useful when the Vic GMA opens their recommendations for consultation submissions.
New South Wales
The New South Wales duck season is unlike SA and VIC, where it is more commonly known as the “rice season” and is called the Native Game Bird Management Program. It allows licensed and responsible volunteer hunters to assist landholders in managing the impacts of native game birds on agricultural lands. To participate in this program, hunters must hold a current NSW Game Hunting Licence endorsed for native game bird hunting. This endorsement requires passing the Waterfowl Identification Test (WIT) to ensure individuals have the necessary skills to hunt native species in NSW. This licensing requirement ensures that landholders can access the assistance of hunters while protecting their crops.
Hunters who wish to target native game birds must obtain express authority from the landholder before hunting on their property. This permission can be granted in any manner determined by the landholder, aligning with the principles outlined in the NSW Game Hunting Licence Code of Practice and the mandatory conditions of NSW game hunting licences.
Landholders have several options to manage native game birds. They can be issued a Native Game Bird Management (Owner/Occupier) Licence, register for assistance to receive help from licensed hunters, or apply for a NSW Game Hunting Licence and pass the Waterfowl Identification Test to manage game bird impacts themselves, in addition to holding a management licence.
Hunters participating in the program must complete the Waterfowl Identification Test and apply for or update their NSW Game Hunting Licence to receive the game bird endorsement. They are also required to adhere to the conditions of their licence, as well as the special licence conditions for hunting native game birds.
This program shows great considerations for the needs of rice growers while understanding the need for a focus on conservation6.
Notes on NSW
The NSW Department of Primary Industries run harvest reports and in person checks to ensure laws are being followed and to track the effects on the duck population. Where specific species are outlined as not to be taken, the DPI harvest reports indicate this has been strictly followed, which is an indication that duck hunters understand and follow the law6.
C. Their environmental sustainability and impact on amenity
As previously noted, the Vic GMA run scientific modelling that utilises a wide range of data to publish a recommendation on daily bag-limits that would ensure ecological sustainability. These considerations need only to be followed, and sustainability will be achieved.
Impact on amenity
Australian recreational duck hunters must follow legislated practices when hunting, however, most duck hunters will follow further self-imposed rules and code-of-ethics which go beyond the legislative requirements. These rules are designed to ensure that they observe and respect the natural environment, are alert to and aware of other land users in the area, have an understanding that some people in the area may be intimidated by the presence of hunters and therefore should be as respectful as possible, and be sympathetic to non-hunters. These self-imposed rules are followed community-wide and are self-policed quite often7-9.
D. Their social and economic impact
Contributions to the national, state, and local economies from recreational hunting are nothing to be dismissed, as recreational hunters have shown to be a significant contributor. In Victoria, the contribution from recreational hunting is estimated to be $365 million per year and creates 3,318 jobs. Furthermore, a 2014 nationwide survey concluded that the average direct expenditure per hunter on hunting was $1,835, and indirectly $2,168. There were 22,880 hunters endorsed for the 2022 duck hunting season, indicating an approximate $91,588,640 contribution to the economy from duck hunters in 2022. This money is a lifeline to rural communities, who are reliant on the yearly influx of hunters who travel through their towns, visiting their shops and utilising their services10-13.
Duck hunting, as a recreational activity, has significant social impacts that contribute positively to the lives of the individuals who partake and the surrounding communities. Engaging in duck hunting provides valuable mental health benefits by offering individuals an opportunity to spend time in nature. Being immersed in the natural environment, away from the hustle of daily life, promotes relaxation, stress reduction, and a sense of tranquillity. The peacefulness of nature and time in the wetlands creates an unmatched therapeutic setting that promotes mental well-being14, 15.
Additionally, duck hunting fosters social connections and strengthens relationships with friends and family. It offers a shared experience that brings people together in the pursuit of a common passion. Spending time in the field with loved ones and mates, sharing stories, and collaborating in the excitement of the hunt builds lasting memories and strengthens social ties. Duck hunting is a cherished tradition that can be, and has been, passed down through generations, reinforcing family bonds and promoting a sense of belonging.
The meat harvested from duck hunting serves as a valuable resource for feeding hunters and their friends and families. Wild game, such as ducks and stubble quail, offers a sustainable food source. It provides nutritious, lean meat, sourced from nature. It promotes self-sufficiency, as hunters can rely on their skills and the resources of the land to provide for themselves and their communities.
We believe that the current arrangements for native bird hunting are scientifically sound and should not be banned, however we have some thoughts which should be considered. Firstly, the slow soft-ban that is happening by the Minister for Outdoor Recreation not following the scientifically valid advice from the Vic GMA, and then closing of prime wetlands due to erroneous reasoning, needs to be looked into and stopped. Furthermore, if protestors are an issue, enforcement and reconsiderations of where the protestors are allowed to be and what they are allowed to do should be inquired upon, and the action of these protestors should not be a factor in the daily-bag limit modelling.
- Victorian Government Game Management, A., 2023 duck hunting season arrangements. Game Management Authority, 2023.
- Klaassen, M. and R. Kingsford, Relationships among duck population indices and abiotic drivers to guide annual duck harvest management. 2021, Victorian Game Management Authority.
- Victorian Game Management Authority, GMA Brief to Minister for 2023 duck season recommendation. 2023, Victorian GMA.
- South Australia Department For Environment and Water, Duck Hunting. South Australian Government Department for Environment and Water.
- Department for Environment and Water, 2023 open season duck hunting Limitations, Restrictions and Conditions of Permit. South Australian Government Department for Environment and Water.
- New South Wales Department of Primary, I., Native Game Bird Management Program. Department of Primary Industries, 2017.
- Field and A. Game, Code of Conduct & Ethics. www.fieldandgame.com.au.
- Code of Ethics. Shooters Union Australia.
- Hunter ethics. SSAA Victoria.
- Department of Jobs, P. and V. Regions, Economic contribution of recreational hunting in Victoria. 2020.
- Finch, N., et al., Expenditure and motivation of Australian recreational hunters. Wildlife Research, 2014. 41: p. 76.
- The Nationals, V., Dan’s duck decision hurts small business. The Nationals Victoria, 2023.
- Moloney, P.D. and J.S. Flesch, Estimate of duck and Stubble Quail harvest in Victoria for 2022: results from surveys of Victorian Game Licence holders in 2022. 2023, Unpublished Client Report for the Game Management Authority. Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research, of Energy, Environment and Climate Action, Heidelberg, Victoria.
- Kotera, Y., M. Richardson, and D. Sheffield, Effects of Shinrin-Yoku (Forest Bathing) and Nature Therapy on Mental Health: a Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 2022. 20(1): p. 337-361.
15. O’Keefe, E.L. and C.J. Lavie, A Hunter-Gatherer Exercise Prescription to Optimize Health and Well-Being in the Modern World. Journal of Science in Sport and Exercise, 2021. 3(2): p. 147-157.