Hunting laws

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.

Who

         Role

Minister for Agriculture

  • Lead Minister responsible for game hunting policy
  • Jointly responsible with Environment Minister for any season modifications, including further regulation or closure of hunting areas, and other decisions under the Wildlife Act 1975

Minister for Environment

  • Jointly responsible with Agriculture Minister for some decisions under the Wildlife Act 1975 which relate to game species, including season modifications, further regulation or closure of hunting areas and other decisions under the Act

Game Management Authority (GMA)

  • Primary regulator of game hunting on public and private land
  • Responsible for operational policy, licensing, education, research and compliance
  • Can provide advice to government on game and pest management
  • Not responsible for public land management, game species management, water management, habitat management or game and wildlife policy
  • Can issue authorisations to conduct research on or manage game species

Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources (DEDJTR)

  • Responsible for statewide game, animal welfare and pest animal policy, including regulatory and legislative advice and development
  • Responsible for instituting any game hunting related decisions under the Wildlife Act 1975, including further regulation or closure of hunting areas and seasonal modifications
  • Responsible for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 and animal welfare policy, including regulatory and legislative advice and development
  • Responsible for agriculture and meat industry policy, including regulatory and legislative advice and development

Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP)

  • Responsible for statewide land, water and wildlife management policy, including regulatory and legislative advice and development
  • Responsible for determining public land classifications and permitted activities
  • Responsible for monitoring and research on the status of wildlife, including game jointly with the GMA
  • Responsible for issuing Authorities to Control Wildlife which can include game
  • Manages public land that is not managed by Parks Victoria (e.g. state forests). This includes managing wildlife and the activities that occur on the land DELWP manages
  • Administers the Wildlife Act 1975 and the Wildlife Regulations 2013 and is responsible for wildlife possession, trade and processing, including taxidermy
  • Administers the Wildlife (State Game Reserve) Regulations 2014

Parks Victoria

  • Manages parks and most reserves and the activities that occur on them, including hunting.  National Parks and State Game Reserves are two examples. Game hunting can be permitted in certain parks and reserves, during season

Department of Justice and Regulation

  • Responsible for firearms policy, including regulatory and legislative advice and development

Victoria Police

  • Responsible for the licensing, possession, use and trade in firearms and controlled weapons
  • Important role in ensuring public safety and public order
  • Assists the GMA during enforcement activities

Victorian Environmental Water Holder

  • Responsible for holding and managing Victoria's environmental water entitlements, and making decisions on where environmental water is used to improve and maintain the health of rivers and wetlands, which includes some State Game Reserves and other wetlands used for hunting

Rural Water Corporations

  • Rural water corporations provide water supply, drainage, and salinity mitigation services for irrigation and domestic and stock purposes.  Some of these corporations (e.g. Goulburn-Murray Water) allow hunting on some of the waters they manage and produce information for hunters

Catchment Management Authorities

  • CMAs have management powers over regional waterways, floodplains, drainage and environmental water

RSPCA Victoria

  • Inspectorate has a role in enforcing animal welfare provisions under the Prevention Of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986, including the Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals in Hunting