Firearms Lawyer Simon Munslow answers your legal questions.

Paid hunting, Part 1

In Australia, it is said you’ve pretty much got to marry a farmer’s daughter to get access to his land.  I do not know that it is quite that bad, or good as the case may be, but you certainly need an ‘in’.

One ‘in’ commonly used in Europe and America, is money.

Paid hunting causes a lot of heated argument amongst shooters in Australia, however, viewed logically, a farm is a source of income for the farmer. Why in a capitalist system is hunting exempt as a source of income?

Certainly, the saying ‘people don’t talk, money does’ is true, and paid access is easier to obtain than relying merely upon the good will of the farmer. After all five rabbits would eat about as much as a sheep, and a deer would probably eat as much as a sheep as well, so if you are running a farm, why else would you tolerate something that will reduce yield?

Defenders of free hunting will say that they kill many feral pests.  Often they do, but the outcome of a hunt can be variable. Some hunters shoot very little and do more harm than good, particularly in the early stage of their hunting careers.

As an example of this, I note that serious fox hunters and farmers often have to go to great lengths in pursuit of foxes educated by a beginner who has screwed up with a spotlight.

Why can’t a farmer receive at least as much money for hunting access as you pay for other social distractions such as a trip to the movies or going out to dinner?

Some farmers are happy with an occasional payment.  I used to access a property where he adopted the view that if I shot a deer, I paid an amount similar to what a sheep was worth.  If I shot a trophy, he wanted a trophy fee. As I do not trophy hunt, this impost did not apply to me.  Farmers were  ‘doing it hard’ at the time, and I was happy to contribute in this way.

A shooter who wishes to visit a property more often many want more control over what is hunted on the property, perhaps so Quality Deer Management can be implemented. 

Here, you need to be wary. I know of one group of people who have acquired a hunting lease near Lake George and abandoned the lease after twelve months. They gave up because the unrelenting poaching on the property left them feeling uneasy hunting there, and made implementation of a QDM approach all but impossible.

In other words, they were better off hunting on crown land, where blocks are booked, and better policing is available courtesy of the Department of Primary Industries.

For cost reasons, and because most shooters would not visit a property enough to make paying for rights pay, unless you are a professional guide, the acquisition of shooting rights is best done through a consortium or club. 

The advantage of the consortium is that one has a greater degree of control over who is able to join.

When considering a lease you would probably want to consider:

  • Do you get exclusive access?
  • Do deer use the property as a base or just travel through it?
  • Are there poaching problems?
  • Are state forests nearby?
  • Are there shearers’ quarters, or a disused homestead that you can use as a base, or are you going to be camping?
  • What is access to water like? (An ability to take a top up your water supply, swim or fish is always a welcome on a trip).
  • What is road access like?
  • How far is it for members of the group to travel to?
  • Is there any trophy potential and at what cost?
  • Is the lease renewable?
  • Are you looking to establish a QDM program on the property?
  • Is the property prepared to endorse QDM
  • Is the farmer allowed to kill game (remember, to him they are still pests)? Even if you own the rights, this can cause a conflict.

When considering a lease, a farmer would consider:

  • Are these people legally compliant: fully licensed including game licenses?
  • Are they safe?
  • Are they insured?
  • Will they maintain good gun handling practices?
  • Are they ‘farm friendly’ or will they disturb stock?
  • Will they shoot away at everything, or are they going to stalk and take the occasional animal?
  • Will they advise me where they are going and stick to that advice?
  • Will they leave gates as they found them?
  • Will they take all care to avoid fires?

I suggest that any agreement reached be professionally documented.

In a future article I will discuss the type of thing that I would consider when entering into a contract.




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