Why is recreational game hunting regulated in Victoria?
Game hunting in Victoria is regulated to:
- Provide continued sustainable (except where other management objectives seek to control or reduce populations), humane, ethical and safe recreational hunting opportunities.
- Ensure equitable sharing of game resources between stakeholders.
- Minimise the destruction of non-game species.
- Ensure the protection of wildlife habitats.
How is game hunting managed?
To remain sustainable, game harvest levels must not exceed the annual rate of production. There are a number of mechanisms that can be used to regulate harvest levels, including season length, bag limits, number of hunters and the times and places where hunting can occur. In Victoria, the most commonly applied harvest regulators are season length and bag limits, but in certain instances, tighter controls (eg. balloted hunting) are used to achieve particular management objectives.
Open and close seasons are one of the most common management tools used by wildlife agencies throughout the world to ensure the conservation of game resources and reduce hunting disturbance to both game and other wildlife during important stages of their life cycle. Open seasons are timed so as not to impact on productivity or core breeding stocks. The length of an open season is also used as a mechanism to regulate harvest, as harvest levels are known to show a positive relationship with increasing time.
The primary consideration when setting open season dates is the probable impact that hunting will have on the species at a particular given time. Although the need to provide hunting opportunity is important, it must come second to minimising any likely detrimental impact on the status of the population and must be consistent with the biology of the species.
For game populations, harvesting is generally timed to coincide with the post-breeding period when the population is temporarily increased by replacement and recruitment, and the activities of hunters are less likely to damage breeding stocks. Close seasons allow game to breed undisturbed prior to hunting, maximising production and reducing the risk of any long-term effects of harvesting on the total population. Local elimination of small breeding populations of game species is also less likely than with a twelve-month season. The use of open and close seasons also means that enforcement efforts can be concentrated into particular periods.
In addition to protecting game during periods of vulnerability, close seasons can also be a useful tool to ensure that hunting activity is conducted during periods consistent with other land management activities or peaks in other recreational pursuits. In most cases, these periods are not considered suitable for hunting anyway, due to high levels of disturbance which can disrupt hunting activities. To a large extent, hunting takes place during the colder months (autumn and early winter) when other recreational activities are reduced and the chance of conflict is less likely. In instances where there may be significant conflict or some threat to public safety, areas or periods may be closed to hunting.
The length of the open season is used as a mechanism to regulate harvest levels, as levels are known to increase with longer seasons. If, for example, hunting is reducing a game animal population excessively, shortening of the open season could reduce the harvest to a sustainable level.
Bag limits are used to restrict the number of animals taken on a daily or a seasonal basis and are used to ensure that harvesting does not compromise the long-term conservation status of the population. Bag limits can apply to a species generally or they can be more specific and set different limits for sex and/or age categories. The regulation of harvests using bag limits can also result in a more even distribution of game among hunters and can limit or prevent the accumulation of game species for illegal commercial sale.
Bag limits have their greatest impact when set below levels that most hunters can achieve. If bag limits are excessively high, they have little effect on regulating the total harvest. High bag limits may also act as a goal that some hunters may strive to fulfil, placing unnecessary pressure on game populations and possibly leading to poor shooting practises. High bag limits that are rarely attained by the majority can also discourage goal-oriented hunters and can result in both the general and hunting communities believing that management is poor and that the population is not capable of sustaining such high levels of harvest.
Responsibilities for game management and hunting in Victoria
Game management involves the monitoring and management of habitats and game populations to achieve sustainable harvest objectives. Regulating hunters and hunting activity contributes to sustainable recreational, social, environmental and economic benefits. The responsibility for hunting and game management is shared across a range of government departments and agencies because the factors associated with sustainable hunting and game management (game species, water, environment, firearms, land management, pest management etc.) are not the responsibility of any one organisation. The following table outlines the roles and responsibilities of these organisations in game management in Victoria.
Minister for Agriculture
Minister for Environment
Game Management Authority (GMA)
Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources (DEDJTR)
Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP)
Department of Justice and Regulation
Victorian Environmental Water Holder
Rural Water Corporations
Catchment Management Authorities