Deer hunters lead the way as number of participants reaches 50,000 in Victoria

Hunting is enjoying a boom time throughout the state of Victoria. Figures released at the start of November show that Victoria has just registered its 50,000th licensed game hunter. This heady milestone means that since 2001 there has been a 68 per cent increase in the number of deer, duck and quail hunters. Across these categories, it is deer hunting that has enjoyed the biggest surge in participants, with more than 2000 Victorians since July this year signing up to try to track down the six introduced species.

Game Management Authority chief executive officer Greg Hyams outlined how the hunting trends had taken shape. “Of the 50,000 hunters now registered, 34,321 are licensed to hunt deer, 25,753 can hunt ducks and 28,693 can hunt quail,” said Mr Hyams. He went on to explain how the state prospers from the growth in hunting activities. “Recreational hunting contributes approximately $439 million to the Victorian economy, with much of that spent on food, accommodation and other services in the country towns around the state,” said Mr Hyams.

Meanwhile, the Victorian Government apportioned $5.33 million in its 2016-17 budget to bolster safe, responsible and sustainable hunting. The monetary backing will extend to the soon-to-be-released sustainable hunting action plan, which will partner government agencies aligning with hunters to endorse responsible hunting and cement game hunting as a viable recreation for future generations.

The state government is also sponsoring firearms safety courses to educate hunters about the responsible safe storage, handling and use of firearms. “We will continue to take a responsible, well managed approach to ensure that hunting remains a safe and sustainable recreation for future generations,” said Mr Hyams.

Another gauge of the soaring popularity of deer hunting comes via the findings of the GMA in conjunction with the Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research. This project has been based on data obtained from telephone surveys of registered deer hunters, which involved questioning 1200 respondents. Enquiries covered how many deer were harvested by each hunter, what hunting methods were employed, where they hunted, how many days in the mission and what type of deer were targeted.

Mr Hyams disclosed that the number of deer harvested over the past two years were the largest monitored under the present survey procedure, which had come into place in 2009. “Surveys showed each licensed deer hunter hunted on approximately 6.7 days in 2014 and 6.8 days in 2015, with an average season harvest of 2.2 and 2.4 deer respectively,” he said. “The most commonly harvested species was sambar deer with an estimated total harvest of 51,390 in 2014 and 55,094 in 2015. The next most harvested deer was fallow, with an estimated 7870 in 2014 and almost double that (14,488) in 2015. In total, an estimated 62,165 deer of all species were harvested in 2014 increasing to 71,142 in 2015.”

There was also eye-opening information collected about how hunters went about their tasks. “Stalking was the most preferred hunting method used, accounting for the majority of the harvest, with scent-trailing hounds being the most productive technique in both years,” said Mr Hyams.

SSAA National’s Wildlife Programs Leader Matthew Godson said the increase in hunter participation is fantastic. “More and more people are finding out that wild food is good food,” he said. “This is certainly a driver for people to go hunting.”

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