The season was declared on 24 February. The same day the government announced a Parliamentary Inquiry to examine Victoria’s native bird hunting arrangements. We thank everyone who lodged a submission. The outcome of the Inquiry won’t be announced until the end of August.
When the 2023 season was announced there was a swift backlash with rescuers and the public appalled that the hunt was going ahead and hunters equally unimpressed with the restricted season.
The RSPCA also led a chorus of criticism on the decision to hold a 2023 duck shooting season, demanding an explanation from the Andrews Government.
Hundreds of metro tunnel tradies walked off the job to defend their right to go duck hunting with threats of more action to come.
The government closed unusually large numbers of wetlands (18) which held significant numbers of threatened species in 2023, both before and during the season including Lake Buloke, which was finally closed on the second weekend.
Lake Connewarre near Geelong was closed to shooting mid-season due to a release of critically endangered captive bred Orange-bellied Parrots. This was a very positive move.
A few days prior to this year’s duck season, CADS’ rescuers used a drone and observed tens of thousands of birds, including significant numbers of Freckled and Blue-billed Ducks on Lake Buloke, near the north-western town near Donald.
Despite reporting these birds to the GMA, the wetland was not closed to shooting for opening, so in order to protect these birds we quickly cancelled our Kerang bookings and instead moved the rescue team to Donald.
We issued a media release announcing we’d be at Lake Buloke for opening and consequently the shooters stayed away, allowing us to protect this wetland.
Seasoned rescuers would remember the early days of the campaign when Donald was like the shooting wild west of Victoria. Around 10,000 shooters would descend on Lake Buloke, using semi-automatic or pump action shotguns. It was terrifying and birds fell out of the sky everywhere.
Members of the Parliamentary Inquiry attended the April 26 opening at Lake Connewarre near Geelong, while the main Coalition Against Duck Shooting rescue team was based at Donald in north-western Victoria.
There were no shooters at Lake Buloke during opening so we concentrated our efforts on nearby Lake Wooroonook where rescuers found illegally shot threatened species.
Illegal shooter behaviour
The 2023 season was the shortest on record (35 days as opposed to 90 last year) and very few shooters were active. Yet on the few wetlands we attended, and despite clear indications that a ban is being considered, shooters were still observed ignoring the regulations.
What took place on unmonitored wetlands is anyone’s guess.
On the very first day at Lake Wooroonook, rescuers recovered four threatened Blue-winged Shovelers, a threatened Hardhead and protected Black-tailed Native-hen, Eurasian Coot and grebe. They also recovered around 22 dead or injured “game” birds.
Rescuers documented illegal shooting prior to the 8am start, saw shooters breaching the bag limit of four birds per day and found whole ‘game’ birds buried (presumably to hide the evidence of shooting above the bag limit).
Shooters cruelly “windmilled” birds. They walked around with unbroken guns. Using an amphibious vehicle, they illegally flushed birds into the air and they littered wetlands with human faeces, spent cartridges and trash.
Rescuers monitored the wetlands and observed illegal shooter behaviour throughout the season.
The Game Management Authority has a hotline on which illegal shooter behaviour can be reported, but some urgent calls went unanswered.
Threats to AJP MP Georgie Purcell
Animal Justice Party MP Georgie Purcell reported vicious verbal abuse and threats in response to her opposition to duck shooting. In an interview on 7 News, she described living in fear as she faced “a barrage of violent threats” every day.
Wildlife Victoria, RSPCA, Animals Australia & BirdLife Australia call for shooting to be banned
On 18 February 2023, Wildlife Victoria joined in a powerful show of unity with RSPCA Victoria, Animals Australia and BirdLife Australia with this advertisement in The Herald-Sun and The Age.
All four organisations have grave concerns around animal welfare and sustainability and note that data on community expectations indicates that two out of three Victorians support a ban.
Wildlife Victoria was in-field near Donald for the first five days of the season. Across those five days their veterinary teams received and assessed 73 native waterbirds including eight threatened, protected species.
“This is just a tiny snapshot of the death and injury that was inflicted on our native waterbirds across the state’s wetlands for the last six weeks,” said Lisa Palma, CEO of Wildlife Victoria.
Dead bird display
A display of dead birds took place outside the Premier’s office on Tuesday, May 2. After the season’s first five days, close to 100 birds had been recovered but the Game Management Authority had seized some included in this total from rescuers. Still others were recovered after Wildlife Victoria had returned to Melbourne on Sunday.
After the season ended
Rescuers continued searching for wounded birds after the season closed. This wounded Wood Duck (below) was found on Lake Wooroonook five days after the season ended. X-rays revealed five pellets in the bird’s body so the vet decided the most humane option was euthanasia.See Yahoo News article here.
This bird epitomises the suffering wounded birds endure during – and after – recreational duck shooting seasons.