Queensland University's Deer Research Project has surveyed the Australian hunter to give us a better picture of who we are.

Survey exposes the Aussie hunter’s heart and habits

The typical Australian hunter was introduced to the sport by family or friends, gets out regularly to hunt, loves hunting ducks, deer, pigs, foxes or rabbits, uses firearms, spends a few thousand dollars a year and wants to help landowners control pests.

The main things that get in the way of hunting for him are time, access, money and legislation, in that order.

These details were revealed in a survey of 7770 hunters conducted by the University of Queensland’s Deer Research Group, and supported by a number of hunting organisations and government bodies, including the SSAA, Field and Game, Australian Deer Association and NSW Game Council.

The survey fell well short of the 50,000 responses the DRG was hoping to get, but it still paints a useful picture of the Australian hunting scene.

It indicates that almost half (46%) of Australia’s hunters are aged 31-50 years old, and only 11% of hunters are 30 years or younger. Four in five (79%) of us were introduced to hunting by family or friends, and two-thirds (65%) of us have been doing it for at least 20 years.

More than nine out of 10 of us (92%) had hunted in the past year.

We’re motivated in almost equal measure by the need to control pests, the joy of recreation and the desire for meat, with conservation up there, too, ahead of game management. One in three of us also gets some motivation from the pursuit of trophies.

The SSAA is by far the most popular hunting organisation among hunters, with 58% of respondents being a member. 17% were not a member of any organisation, 17% were with Field and Game Australia, 16% were with the Australian Deer Association, and other specified organisations were all single-figure percentages.

As you’d expect, rifles (92%) and shotguns (56%) were the primary choices for our methods of hunting, which include using dogs (the numbers don’t add to 100% here as respondents could choose more than one method).

Some interesting figures come out on how much we spend each and year, and on what. The majority of us spend less than $1000 a year on firearms or bows, while a third of us spent $1000-$5000 on them, and only 6% of us spent more.

When it comes to ammo purchases, almost half (48%) of hunters spend $100-$500 a year. 60% of us also spend that amount on licences.

About three-quarters of us (73%) don’t pay for guided hunts, but one in 25 of us (4%) spend $5000 or more on guides each year, mostly overseas.

We’d happily pay a levy on hunting goods to help wildlife conservation, on the proviso we had some say in where the money went. Most of would agree to either a 5% or 10% levy.

When it comes to taking game, hunters of waterbirds, quail, rabbits, possums and wallabies (yes, certain natives are legal in some places, such as Tasmania during a set season) get the biggest bags. The vast majority of other hunters kill fewer than 10 each of the species they pursue each year.

Deer hunters, as you’d expect, have the lowest kill rate, while just over half of all pig hunters and fox hunters take more than 10 animals a year, and well over half the hunters of rabbits, wallabies, possums and kangaroos are at least that successful.

Rabbits, foxes and pigs are our most popular targets, unless you lump all deer species together, when they top the count. It’s not the kind of number you can directly correlate, though, as respondents could nominate multiple species.

When asked what species hunters would hunt “if you had the opportunity”, pigs (78%) topped the list, although the majority of us would go after almost any game or feral animal if the chance was there.

Almost universally, we’d like the chance to help landowners control any pest animals.

Just over half of us travelled interstate to hunt, and NSW was the most popular destination. The survey did not make it clear whether NSW was popular because of the Game Council’s public-land hunting system.

The Game Council has made inroads quickly into our culture. Even though it is NSW-based, it boasts more hunters who’ve done its training/accreditation courses than the SSAA, ADA or other organisations.

One if five of us has travelled overseas to hunt at some stage in our life, and New Zealand is the destination of choice by a wide margin.

We’re driven by the media and our peers, rating magazines, websites and friends pretty equally when it comes to sources of information on hunting. Clubs ranked a little way behind.

The full survey is available on the SSAA and FGA websites.

Note: For the sake of brevity and lack of repetition, we’ve not always specified whether the percentages quoted here were for all 7770 survey respondents, or just for the number who answered the particular question being referred to. For a detailed analysis of the figures, see the full survey.




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Mick Matheson

Mick grew up with guns and journalism, and has included both in his career. A life-long hunter, he has long-distant military experience and holds licence categories A, B and H. In the glory days of print media, he edited six national magazines in total, and has written about, photographed and filmed firearms and hunting for more than 15 years.