Duck hunting season announced

THE 2017 duck hunting season will open on Saturday, March 18, lasting for 12 weeks, before closing on Monday, June 12.

The bag limit, as per standing regulations, will remain at 10 birds per person per day.

The hunting of the Bluewinged Shoveler, however, will be prohibited because of the low numbers of the species.

The settings for this year's duck season reflect the expert advice provided by the Game Management Authority, based on extensive habitat and waterbird surveys across eastern Australia.

The surveys found that last winter's rainfall resulted in a significant increase in waterbird breeding and extensive and widespread habitat availability.

This has allowed game ducks to breed for a second time and disperse widely.

The GMA and partner compliance agencies, including DELWP, DEDJTR, Parks Victoria and Victoria Police, will be out in force in 2017 to ensure compliance with hunting and public safety laws, and will continue to monitor conditions in the lead up to and during the season.

Details of this year's duck season, including any wetland closures, will be regularly updated on the GMA website www.gma.vic.gov.au and the Game Hunting Victoria smartphone app.

The government recently launched its Sustainable Hunting Action Plan which includes funding for the implementation of a new Waterfowl Conservation Harvest Model.

This new modelling will provide an even stronger scientific and evidence-based approach to the sustainable management of Victoria's game duck populations in future years.

Agriculture Minister Jaala Pulford, who confirmed the opening last week, said habitat availability and duck population distribution were reviewed each year to ensure sustainability.

"Duck season is a customary trip away for many families and is an important economic contributor to the rural economy, bringing 26,000 licensed duck hunters to small towns and regional centres across the state," she said.

"Hunters are reminded to act safely and responsibly at all times while hunting this year."

In Sale, H&S Firearms' Geoff Abrahall said he was optimistic for the season ahead.

"It's fantastic that the announcement's been made; it's that time of year that everyone gets excited," he said.

"The opening weekend is a great time for families, and we get a massive influx in Sale."

Field and Game Australia spokesperson Gary Howard said he was confident the season would be successful.

"There's a reasonable amount of water at the Heart (Morass)," he said.

"We've had massive rains through eastern Australia, and that means bird numbers explode."

However some locals aren't looking forward to this year's season, with one Longford resident alleging some reckless hunting behaviour in previous years, such as shooting too close to homes or outside of legal hunting hours. The resident said this behaviour undermined the economic benefits recreational shooting offered.

"Every year, we watch hunters shoot birds that aren't on the game species list for target practice cormorants, cockatoos, native waterbirds just leaving wounded birds behind to die," the householder said.

"We've reported hunters to the police before for shooting too close to our house or outside the legal hunting hours, far more than half an hour after sunset, when they can't even see what they're shooting anymore.

"Watching the wetlands near our house become completely void of any bird life at all for five months of the year is just heartbreaking.

"Pest management is a valid practice that needs to take place, but a small portion of these hunters are just trigger happy."

Mr Abrahall admitted incidents may occur, but hunters understood the rules.

"Most of the hunters abide by legal shooting times and boat speed limits, and people do have to undergo a (species identification test)," he said.

Mr Howard agreed, and said law-abiding hunters often faced extra criticism despite other illegal behaviours by non-hunters occurring during the year.

Game Management Authority chief executive officer Greg Hyams said it was important land owners, hunters and the general public continue to assist the GMA combat illegal game hunting in Victoria.

"Anyone who witnesses suspected illegal hunting activity should report it," Mr Hyams said.

"It is critical that hunters maintain the highest behavioural standards, comply with the law and continue to meet the community's expectations concerning their conduct when hunting."

Gippsland Senior
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