An estimated 15,000 hunters turned out for a successful opening to Victoria’s 2013 duck hunting season, although police fined some hunters and protesters for breaches.
No major confrontations were reported, and early indications suggest a few hunters went home with full bags. Some hunters were openly thanking protesters for stirring the ducks into the air for them.
Field and Game Australia said most major hunting areas recorded a good turnout of hunters and opening day bags appeared to be up on last year.
“In the North-West many achieved the better part of a bag while there were also many happy hunters around Gippsland, Geelong and the North-East,” the FGA statement said.
Protesters led by Laurie Levy entered the water in defiance of new laws and many, including Levy, were fined $350. One protester was arrested.
Around 120 police and other government officers patrolled the wetlands, targeting protesters as well as hunters, and a DPI spokesperson said 19 fines had been issued to hunters.
They including using lead shot and failing to leave a feathered wing on a shot duck.
FGA was critical of the protesters, who they say “blatantly disregarded” the new laws introduced to improve human safety after a protester was accidentally shot in the face while in the water in 2011.
“Notorious activist Laurie Levy instructed his naïve followers to enter the water at around 6.30am,” FGA said in a statement.
“However, protester numbers appeared to be down from previous years.”
FGA wants “tougher action taken against the extremists, many of whom are repeat offenders and are well known to authorities”.
It said activists had obtained firearm licences and game hunting permits to deliberately evade the law.
“These people may be in breach of the genuine reasons they used to obtain a firearm license. Hunting is a genuine reason, and you would have to question if animal rights activists intend to hunt animals,” FGA CEO Rod Drew said
“Victorian hunters are highly regulated and compliant, but they’re continuously forced to operate under duress from this group of activists who have a total disregard for the law, their personal safety and indeed the safety of others.”
Meanwhile, an anti-hunting activist convicted of criminal offences against hunters, has accused Laurie Levy and the Coalition Against Duck Shooting of abandoning promises to help protesters cover the cost of fines.
David Mould, who stole from hunters and destroyed their property, was hit with tens of thousands of dollars in fines and costs.
“Laurie Levy says they raise $100,000’s to pay fines,” says a status post on the Facebook page Anti-Duck Shooting Activists Need Help. “So why has Dave had to enter into payment arrangements with the court in order to pay his fines personally?”
Another posts says, “Laurie Levy has $10,000 to give the … RSPCA, but the RSPCA don’t want it. Why doesn’t he use this money to pay Dave’s fines?”
The RSPCA took out full-page ads in opposition to duck season, featuring the image of a young child with a shotgun under the headline “The playground of tomorrow’s generation” and asking, “What’s wrong with this picture?”
The contentious ad described the season as “a 12-week massacre of our native waterbirds”.
One accident occurred on private property, when a 10-year-old boy reportedly discharged a shotgun and injured a man in the leg. The injuries were not life threatening and police were investigating.