Residents have issues with after dark shooting

By Alana Christensen

Some Goulburn Valley residents have equated the start of the duck hunting season to ‘‘World War III’’ with reports of abandoned birds and illegal shooting in at least two wetlands.

More than 2000 hunters were out in force on the opening weekend of the duck hunting season across the state, with 1683 hunters lining up for the later starting time on the first day of shooting on March 17.

This was the first trial of later daylight starting times, with hunting not beginning in wetlands until 9am on the Saturday and 8am on the Sunday.

Avid hunter and Trelly’s Hunting and Fishing owner, Steve Threlfall, said the early morning start was well received and made for a ‘‘very social event’’ on the weekend.

‘‘(The later start) will probably increase the number of hunters going out there,’’ Mr Threlfall said.

‘‘It was a good start to the season by most accounts.’’

The Game Management Authority said duck hunters and protesters largely obeyed regulations on the opening weekend, although there were some ‘‘disappointing’’ exceptions.

One hunter’s firearm was seized for taking protected wildlife, three hunters’ firearms were seized for hunting in a closed area, and a further two hunters — who failed to make all reasonable attempts to retrieve a downed bird — received infringement notices.

While the later morning start was designed to prevent early shooting, Kirsty Ramadan — who lives near Loch Garry Wildlife Reserve at Bunbartha, north of Shepparton — said there was still shooting going on long after it should have stopped at night.

She heard shots ringing out about 9.15pm on the opening day. Shooting is supposed to stop half an hour after sunset, which on March 17 was 7.35pm.

‘‘There was continuous shooting for about 20 minutes,’’ Ms Ramadan said.

‘‘And of course the neighbours are texting each other saying ‘do you hear that?’ and the dogs are going berserk.

‘‘They’re just not policed ... They shot up the place for three weeks last year, the place was like a morgue.’’

Ms Ramadan said although she didn’t experience any early shooting this year, she did find a number of ducks that had not been retrieved.

New regulations require hunters to at least salvage the breast meat from a duck to ensure that harvested game is not wasted.

Tuesday Bromwell, whose home backs onto Baillieu (Richardsons) Lagoon Wildlife Reserve at Torrumbarry, said several hunters trespassed on nearby properties, while one duck hunter was verbally abusive towards her.

‘‘It’s like World War III with 60 guns going off at the same time, it’s just chaos. It was bloody awful,’’ she said.

‘‘It’s time the GMA looked at the danger zones where people live ... to have 20 duck shooters around four houses is ridiculous.

‘‘The GMA were saying ‘what a successful weekend’ but that was at the monitored sites and there’s a lot that aren’t monitored.’’

The opening weekend saw duck hunting opponents come out in force, with about 170 protesters descending on Lake Cullen and Lake Elizabeth, near Kerang.

The GMA said two protesters were currently under investigation for hindering or harassing hunters, with some protesters also observed breaching public safety laws.

The 2018 duck hunting season ends on Monday, June 11.