The concept of ethical hunting has been around for some time and it is important that all hunters have an understanding of its principles and practise these when in the field.
Ethical hunting means that a person knows and respects the game hunted, follows the law and behaves in a way that will satisfy what society expects of a hunter. Ethical hunters are familiar with the places they hunt, the wildlife that live there and the way they should behave when hunting.
Practising ethical hunting techniques in the field will ensure that you get the most out of your hunting experience and will assist to secure the future of your recreational activity.
There are three key aspects to ethical hunting:
- knowing and respecting the game:
understanding the birds and their habitat, and treating them fairly and with respect ;
- obeying the law:
laws and regulations have been introduced to ensure that hunting is conducted in a safe, responsible and sustainable manner; and
- behaving in the right manner:
hunter behaviour has a direct impact on public opinion; remember your actions may impact on the future of duck hunting.
Respect 'fair chase'
One of the key components of ethical hunting is the concept of 'fair chase'. This means giving the game a sporting chance.
All ethical duck hunters will ensure that ducks are not unduly harassed during a hunt. The improper and illegal use of boats or vehicles is considered to be highly unethical and is inconsistent with the concept of 'fair chase'.
Avoid mechanised pursuit in any form; a true hunter makes every effort to ensure the contest is as fair as possible.
Also, wherever possible, do not fire at birds on the water. This is unethical and could result in injury to other hunters or non-game birds by ricocheting shot. If it is necessary to dispatch an injured bird on the water, make sure there is nothing in front of or behind your line of fire.
Concentrate on shot placement
The first priority for all duck hunters when hunting is to identify the intended target as a game species.
Once you are sure it is a game species: single out your bird; do not fire into flocks, as this may injure other birds, including protected species.
Further, it is very important to make sure that the bird is within range, before you pull the trigger. Good hunters know their personal shooting capabilities and the capabilities of their firearms and do not shoot at ducks beyond a range of 30 metres.
Follow up every shot
No hunter will dispatch every duck instantly. Sometimes your first shot may not be fatal. If this happens, it is your responsibility to handle the matter swiftly and ethically. This means focusing on the wounded duck – you should follow the duck, find it and ensure that it is dispatched quickly and in a humane way.
A well-trained dog will increase you chances of retrieving a downed bird.
Practice makes perfect
Ethical hunters practice their marksmanship before entering the field. This will not only maximise the chances of cleanly dispatching birds, but will make your hunting experience more enjoyable.
Choose a suitable hunting location
In areas of tall reed growth, where your view is restricted and birds may be lost so it is important to position yourself so that birds fall into open water. Ethical hunters always choose a hunting spot where "downed" birds can be recovered quickly.
Respect dispatched game
Once a duck is dispatched it should be properly handled to minimise waste. Never shoot a duck if you know you are not going to use it. Avoid wasting a valuable game resource. Prepare game quickly and never leave game to waste.
Respect the habitat
Quality habitat is the key to a healthy population of game and other wildlife. To help keep our wetlands clean, make sure you collect all spent cartridges. Do not leave cartridges in the water or on land, as they become plastic litter and you can be fined for leaving them behind.
When camping, make sure you set up at least 20 metres away from rivers or waterbodies and wherever possible, bring your own firewood from home. Never cut down trees or shrubs (alive or dead) for use as firewood.
You should also be careful that your fuel or rubbish does not pollute streams and swamps. Clean up litter and waste and take it home with you. If you come across someone else's rubbish, remove it and deposit it at an appropriate place.
Respect the opinions of non-hunters
People who are unfamiliar with hunting practices may be intimidated by the presence of firearms, so be sympathetic to their concerns. Be considerate, be courteous and show the public that duck hunters are responsible and ethical recreationalists.
Good hunting behaviour will reflect on people's opinions of all hunters. Rude, illegal and irresponsible actions can prejudice the community against all hunters.
Respect private property and landowner rights
Responsible behaviour on private property means appreciating and respecting the rights of landowners or managers. If you have been given permission to hunt on private property, you should ask the landowner or manager where they want you to hunt, if there are any areas you should avoid and where you should park your car. You should always respect their decisions. Leave gates as you find them and be sure to hunt well away from people, livestock, buildings and crops.
Make sure you are fit
You must be physically capable of following a duck under any circumstances, over various types of terrain. If you are well prepared physically, you will have a much better hunting experience.
Choose your hunting companions wisely
Choice of a hunting partner or companions is important to your hunting experience and to your safety, the safety of other hunters in the team and the safety of members of the public. Select people who have good ethics and avoid those who behave irresponsibly.
The image of duck hunting depends on how you conduct yourself as a hunter, how you handle your firearms and how you respect the game you hunt. Remember that the public may judge all hunters by the irresponsible actions of a few. Therefore, every hunter should be an ambassador for the recreation.
A Code of Practice is in place for the welfare of animals in hunting. The code was developed to prevent cruelty and encourage the considerate treatment of animals that are hunted and to protect the welfare of other animals where hunting occurs.
Find the Code or contact the Bureau of Animal Welfare on (03) 9217 4200, for further details.