SALE Field and Game president Gary Howard has claimed illegal hunting overheard locally recently did not take place at the Heart Morass.
An article in Friday’s Gippsland Times described how nearby residents reported to the police hearing multiple gunshots in pitch black conditions the weekend after duck hunting season opened, well past the legal time slot for duck hunting.
The Game Management Authority stipulates hunting must cease half an hour after sunset on each day, and cannot begin until half an hour before sunrise.
However, Mr Howard said he was in the Heart Morass at the time, and he and a group of camping hunters heard the shots, and agreed they came from a neighbouring property.
“It wasn’t in the Heart Morass. Sale Field and Game do not condone illegal hunting practices — that is, shooting behind or after the legal times,” he said.
“In all pursuits, sports, whatever we do in life, there is always an element that will chose to do the wrong thing.
“That doesn’t justify what’s happened, and we do our best to try and stamp it out, but it does happen, and I, and the Field and Game organisation do not condone it.
“The unfortunate thing is with the Australian psyche is that you don’t dob anyone in, but it’s that critical.
“Hunters should take the responsible attitude and report illegal activities to Game Management Authority.
“I want to reiterate, categorically, that the shooting did not happen in the Heart Morass -— the property owned by Field and Game Australia.”
Heart Morass is about 1800 hectares of wetlands, at about 13 kilometres long, rehabilitated through a partnership between Bug Blitz Trust, Field and Game Australia, Hugh Williamson Foundation, Watermark and West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority.
Since the Heart Morass was bought, the partnership has planted more than 60,000 indigenous trees, shrubs and grasses, direct seeded indigenous vegetation on five hectares of the wetlands, controlled weeds including blackberry, boxthorn and invasive grasses, developed a seed collection program from more than 50 wetland and riparian plant species to support future revegetation efforts, constructed a new gravel road surface and parking area, managed existing drain entrances to maintain water levels in the wetland and rock beaching at the entrance of two main drains and removed more 20 tonnes of carp.
Mr Howard reported a difficult 2021 season for duck hunters so far, with COVID-19 restrictions eating into an already reduced 20 day season.
“Those in Sale and Bairnsdale have been quite fortunate that they are within the 5km [of a shooting area], but those in the [Latrobe] Valley and Melbourne aren’t so much,” he said.
“The 20-day season has been severely limited by lockdown, but those who have been able to get out have been able to pick up a couple of birds every time they go out.”
Mr Howard said Friday morning brought a bit more activity locally, after lockdown restrictions finished, giving hunters from the Valley the opportunity to visit Sale.
“We’ve just got to make the most of what we’ve got left,” he said.
“If they don’t extend the season, I think we’re entitled for a further license extension.
“We’ve paid for a license in good faith, and by and large we’ve not been able to hunt.”
Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party Eastern Victoria MLC Jeff Bourman announced via his Facebook page he was in discussions with Agriculture Minister Mary-Anne Thomas to see if he could get the season extended by at least seven days.
Sale Field and Game branch has 1050 financial members, and encourages more.
“Duck hunters should take the opportunity to join a responsible hunting organisation such as the Field and Game to support their pursuit,” Mr Howard said.
To join, visit www.revolutionise.com.au/fieldandgameaus/registration and nominate the Sale branch from there.