Despite other-worldly sightings, things like swamp dwelling kangaroos, unique pink-eared ducks, and beet-topped hamburgers, Australia duck hunting is more readily familiar to US duck hunters than elsewhere hunted worldwide. But they’re constantly fighting tooth-and-nail to preserve it, and this year proved an uphill battle. Absolute madness. Who governs migratory bird management in Australia, and how are duck seasons set as compared to here in US? What waterfowl conservation activities are being conducted by hunters and anti-hunters, respectively? How do anti-hunters interfere with duck hunting afield? What does duck hunting mean to hunters – and what’s its relevance? Field and Game Australia’s CEO, Dean O’Hara, and Hunting & Conservation Manager, Glenn Falla, join Ramsey from way Down Under to discuss Australia duck hunting’s imperiled future. Is Australia a canary in the coal mine? Duck hunting has ceased elsewhere in the world. Could it really happen here in the United States, too?
Australia Duck Hunting being Threaten by Anti-Hunters?
Ramsey Russell: Welcome back to Duck Season Somewhere. And today’s conversation is Australia, where my friend Glenn Falla and his associates with Field & Game Australia are fighting tooth and nail. Now, the first thing some of y’all may be saying is, so what they’re halfway across the world. What’s going on in Australia don’t affect me. We’re John Wayne. We’re the American flag. We’re American. No sir. Uh – uh. I’m telling you right now, what these guys are fighting could happen anywhere. I’ve seen it happen worldwide, and it is a very real fact. Y’all that follow me on social media, y’all have seen the pictures, y’all have seen the short films, y’all have heard the stories, y’all read the magazine articles about how much I love Australia duck hunting. Wonderful hunting, incredible resource, extremely dedicated hunters and people committed to hunting into the birds themselves. And yet they’re fighting an anti hunters force that really, really disagrees with them. They are an excruciating minority. Joining me in today’s special Duck Season Somewhere podcast episode is Mr. Glenn Falla, who is Hunting and Conservation Manager now for Field & Game Australia, and Mr. Dean O’Hara, who is the CEO of Field & Game Australia. How are you gentlemen today?
Dean O’Hara: Yeah, we’re really good Ramsey as good as we can be when we’re talking what we are.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah.
Dean O’Hara: Thanks, Ramsey. So I’m really – it’s my pleasure to speak to you and your podcast listeners. So thanks for having us on.
Australia 2021 Duck Season Shortened Because Anti Hunter Politics.
Ramsey Russell: Let’s start this way, Glenn. When is your hunting season supposed to open and what is going on? What’s going on with your hunting season right now?
Glenn Falla: Well, Ramsey traditionally we would start on the 3rd Saturday in March. And we’re all looking forward to that. This year with some slightly improved conditions on the previous year, we’ve had some dry signs here. In Australia, in recent years, we are one of the driest continent that has inhabited. But conditions were, in our opinion, slightly improved over last year, and we were expecting something to be announced better than last year. We certainly had requested and advocated for a full season and a full 10 bird limit starting on the 3rd Saturday in March. But indeed, that’s not anything like what we’ve been delivered.
Ramsey Russell: What has been delivered?
Glenn Falla: So essentially, the 3rd Saturday in March has now been pushed out to the 26th of May. And we get a total of 20 sides of hunting with two birds per day as a limit.
Glenn Falla: That’s correct. And we had a ball as we are looking forward to doing again this year. And we’re talking specifically about the state of Victoria currently, but some staff Australia was announced prior to Victoria and they also have severe restrictions on what they’re doing. But not as bad as what Victoria has got.
Ramsey Russell: Who – okay, now, who set the limits. I’m trying to get apples to apples with America, you know, the way I think what I’m familiar with, who sets the limits in Australia, where are these shortened season that abbreviation coming from? Do y’all have like a Fish and Wildlife Service in charge of all your migratory birds in Australia?
Glenn Falla: Yeah, we do. But the process is a bit more complicated than that and I’m quite happy to hand over to Dean and let him explain that process. Because he’s aware of it.
Ramsey Russell: Please.
Glenn Falla: And it’s quite complicated.
How are Duck Hunting Season Regulated in Australia?
Dean O’Hara: So essentially, Ramsey unlike the states, we’re very different in our legislative processes. So we have a federal government. And what happened many years ago is that the central government removed its proposed political national powers, and delegated those powers down to our state and territory. So each of our state or territory governments have their own powers when it comes to setting game season. Now, here in Victoria, the same in South Australian and other states that allow duck hunting or legalize duck hunting. They legislated season, so it’s in law. So up here in Victoria, the law says that our season starts and finishes, it’s about three months, and the maximum take is 10 birds per day. Now here in Victoria, like other states, a minister of the crown. So in our state, as the Minister for Agriculture has a power under the Wildlife Act, that if they believe it is warranted, they can make changes to the legislation and therefore make changes to our seasons. And that, in essence, has what has happened here, in Victoria, our current government has made that change and delivered a season which is nowhere near what we would expect and nowhere near what the legislation allows for.
Ramsey Russell: Okay, so if I understood you to say the federal legislation allows for a take of 10 bird in a longer season. They have ceded responsibility to the provincial or state governments who have the luxury of their discretion to reduce it and they have reduced it, is that right?
Dean O’Hara: Yes nearly. The federal government has no policy or has no power at all around a kind of fishing and game scenario. They’ve delegated all those powers to the state and territory governments so they have no power to set a season only the state or territory governments do.
Ramsey Russell: Well, now we’re going to get down to the meat potatoes of conversation I think, why has the state of Victoria decided to go so scorched earth, such an abbreviated season in such a bag limit. What are they – what – I’m assuming biological waterfowl surveys, rigorous waterfowl management science, waterfowl harvest data from past seasons they’ve got this very sophisticated and educated and complicated model for governing and managing this national resource so is that where this is coming from?
Dean O’Hara: Ramsey, we only wish that was the case. Unfortunately the process that the Victoria state government undertakes is a very subjective process.
Ramsey Russell: Yes.
Unfortunately the process that the Victoria state government undertakes is a very subjective process.They haven’t got all the research, they haven’t got all the data, they call for submissions from whom they call stakeholders – and we are one of those stakeholders – but they also take counsel from anti-hunters! – Dean O’Hara, Field & Game Australia
Dean O’Hara: It’s not – They haven’t got all the research, they haven’t got all the data, they call for submissions from or who they call stakeholders and we are one of those stakeholders, but they also take counsel from anti-hunters, those that oppose duck hunting. So people like Animals Australia or Birdlife Australia or the RSPCA, who’s fundamentally – their fundamental principle is to ban duck hunting in Australia. So they look at that – we have to do – we do have some research which is undertaken by the University of New South Wales, but that particular research was never developed with the outcome of setting a doctoral gamebirds season. It was purely to look at the abundance of gamebirds across decent Australia but unfortunately our game management authority here in Victoria had used that as well. So we know what the harvest tables for last few years, we know what the conditions are climatically and in relation to water in our state, and we understand the volume of birds that are around that could be harvested, but unfortunately the process undertaken by the state government currently here in Victoria is a subjective one. It’s not backed on research or science or data, it’s based on subjective outcomes and there’s also the political element that sits alongside it. Have I missed anything there Glenn?
Ramsey Russell: It sounds like it might be based on personal bias. Would that be fair to say?
Glenn Falla: It does sound a little bit that way. Does it?
Ramsey Russell: Yes it does.
Glenn Falla: It does a little bit that way Ramsey. They think that I would add is we, Field and Game Australia, have been here in Victoria working towards an adaptive harvest management model for, well, near on 18 years now. In fact it’s probably a little bit more than that so if I think back to 2003 we started to talk about this adaptive harvest management models and in fact we got a commitment from our local government a few years back that we would head down this path at a faster rate, but still we haven’t seen it delivered and we’re committed to assisting to make that happen. You’d be familiar with the deputy pilot management models over there Ramsey and it’s just been a long time coming.
Ramsey Russell: That’s a long time y’all been trying to install this model. It just, you know, from outside looking in it, it seems to me that perhaps some state politicians are exercising their personal bias to sit on this. That’s just what it looks like to me. I’m not trying to put words in your mouth.
Glenn Falla: Yeah, and, of course, the other thing that happened that was a little bit out of the ordinary this year is, you know, the announcements and we don’t like to use the term announcement because as Dean says, this is a legislative truth and there shouldn’t need to be any announcements. It should just go ahead as for the legislation, you know, 3rd Saturday in March Ken Burns and you only need to announce any modifications, but a bit of a review during this submission process is, you know, clearly spelled out that 19 out of the 25 or 26 years that was just looked at has been modified in some ways. So it’s become the norm that we do expect an announcement, and this year they throw us a curveball where and throw it to us on a Saturday morning. So we got a couple of hours of heads up before it was announced on a Saturday at 01:00 PM in amongst the biggest tennis tournament here in Victoria hidden away on the other news.
Who is Field & Game Australia?
Ramsey Russell: Let’s back up just a second and explain to the listeners who or what Field & Game Australia is to the Australian duck hunter. Could y’all elaborate on that?
Dean O’Hara: So audience listeners, so Field & Game Australia was born out of a small cohort of duck hunters back in 1958. So we’re over 60 years old, and our Field and Game Australia principal is to sit on three pillars. The first pillar, the most important one some of us say is duck hunting. So what we’ve done in the last 60 odd years is that, with the money that has been ceased from the game licenses, the state of Victoria managed to develop and deliver a number of state game reserves and plan went out the number of over 200. So it’s about our associations backed with promotion, and advocacy around duck hunting. The ethical and sustainability of duck hunting, and allowing farmers or allowing our hunters to get on farmland, both private and public land to allow them to harvest wild duck for the table. The second pillar, which is really important is around conservation work. This conservation work is around wetland restoration, wetland management, and showing what wetlands gives to us as a community. So we run a school programs shine now that the ecology of wetlands and why they are important to our communities. And then our third pillar states around clay targets. Now, the reason that was that there was during the offseason, the idea behind the clay target shooting was that, duck hunters could continue to practice their skill, or hone their skill or develop their skill. So when the hunting season was out there, then we could go out there and hunt more efficiently with sustainability in our heart. So Field and Game Australia is a national organization and we have branches and members across all states and territory here in Australia and we are the premier duck hunting organization here in Australia. So we do a lot of work around advocacy and influencing politicians and decision makers, but also promote the benefits of hunting. That might be the social benefits, the economic benefits, or the health benefits. So we know that now to harvest duck in the wild is the most organic free range meat you can and try and promote that activity within Australia. So that’s probably what our organization is really all about, but mainly it is about supporting, promoting, and developing duck hunters and duck hunting in Australia. Again, Glenn have I missed anything there?
Glenn Falla: No, you’ve done well on what we’re doing. And Ramsey, you’ve had the pleasure of hunting in a couple of outtakes here over the years and to be honest, I think I’ve said to you before, you’ve probably seen more of our country than a lot of the local duck hunters. But Victoria in South Australia, you’ve traveled and hunted extensively. We’ve got a couple of other things to do in the future which is the Northern Territory and down in Tasmania, where there’s some fantastic duck hunting that we had. And the situation here in Australia is South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania all have their waterfowl seasons. So the south east part of the country all have their seasons pretty much at the same time of the year. They are the last 10 of them and we’ve got varying conditions in varying states. Varying duck seasons that have been announced, two out of the three sites have already been announced publicly. We expect there’s going to be an announcement in Tasmania anytime soon and it’s looking like they’re heading for standard waterfowl season. South Australia has been somewhat restricted significantly and you know, when it was first announced to people were very disappointed. No real explanation either. And, you know, everybody was saying how disappointed they were in the announcement in South Australia and then we got hit with something even more harsh here in Victoria.
Ramsey Russell: Field & Game Australia is a non-government organization that advocates hunting and conservation, but to me having hunted down there and worked with y’all on some different things. I mean, y’all are the waterfowl hunting advocacy group politically down in Australia. There’s really no other hunting support to fight this growing mass of anti-hunters is it?
Glenn Falla: Well look, Field and Game Australia works very closely with a couple of other associations, but you’re right Ramsey, we are the premier duck hunting organization that is our main focus. There are some other big organizations that assist us and that we stand beside and go through actually the submission process side by side. But you know, one of those is the Sporting Shooters Association of Australia, Victoria branch, and they’re great supporters. But duck hunting is not their main focus and then there’s the Australian Deer Association who also are very supportive, and we work closely together with ducks at the end of the day. They’re about deer. So you’re right, we are the premier organizations that are the biggest and are predominantly focused on duck hunting, and, you know, it’s becoming a bigger battle against anti hunters every year.
Ramsey Russell: It sure is. I mean, every year that I’ve known you Glenn it has become, it’s like the stakes have doubled. And it is like an uphill battle to fight for hunting to continue for duck hunting, especially to continue in Victoria, but also throughout Australia. Describe – how am I trying to word this, I’m trying to ask you to describe what it’s like to be an Australian duck hunter. And here in America, we suffer under the delusion, I think, that duck hunting is a God-given right, and that it will be a 100% certainty next year for the remainder of our lives. But from your life experience Glenn, you’re my age, you’ve seen the progression, you’ve seen something change. Could you describe that? Could you kind of speak to what it’s like to be a duck hunter in Australia?
What’s it like to be a duck hunter in Australia?
Glenn Falla: Yeah, absolutely Ramsey. And as you know, you know, this has been my main passion, my whole life, you’ve met my family, you’ve seen the people that I hunt with. I’ve been in the industry a long time and there was a time where I felt like you guys do over there that, you know, this would never disappear, we would never have to fight so hard to retain our lifestyle, and to me it’s just natural. It’s a generational thing. For many of us, I was born into water fowling through my father and his father before him. My grandfather used to hunt waterfowl off the back of a horse with no saddle, bare back. He used to ride into wetlands on a horse, not unlike what you’ve seen around the world. But it seems as time is going on, duck hunting is receiving more and more criticism, it’s gaining more and more (emotional) opposition. And it’s not so much that the community has turned against us. It’s more that the small minority that are against what we do and don’t believe in what we do. And become more opinionated, more loud, more organized, and are certainly putting the cause up to us, the fight to us and, you know, it’s a little bit like pushing something uphill and wondering, you know, how long it’s going to be before it rolls over the top of you and flattens you, and it’s really disheartening. You know, we’d probably have been a little bit flat at the moment. Let’s roll back a little bit and go back to this season setting process that generally starts in December, Ramsey, and generally by the time Christmas-New Year rolls around, we know what waterfowl seasons ahead of us with the whole COVID situation here in Australia. And I said just recently in the last hour or so it looks like Melbourne is going into a five-day lockdown. So we’re not out of that situation yet. It’s pushed everything back, the whole season submission process was pushed back and we’ve essentially worked through the whole Christmas, New Year period. Dean and myself and many other staff and volunteers and board members have been engrossed in this whole process since December and it’s still going, we really haven’t had a Christmas break or any families on we’ve worked right through to get to where we are and we’re not complaining about that. We’ll do whatever it takes to get us across the line. But it’s a hard task and it’s very demanding. And after two or three months of fighting every day, we work towards this year round. This is a 24 hours 7 days a week right around the year, this is not something that we just get into for a few weeks leading into the process, but we’ve had our nose to the grindstone since December and we barely lifted our heads and looked up.
Ramsey Russell: How many duck hunters are there in Australia? How many duck hunters are there? You know, you mentioned as possibly the anti-hunters are a vocal minority. How do their numbers compare to the number of duck hunters in Australia?
Glenn Falla: Yeah looks very good question and I actually couldn’t give you an answer holistically across Australia. But we’ve been around about 26,000 Victorian gun license holders. As far as those who are opposing us, it’s very, very small number compared to that, but they’re very well organized, and they’re very vocal. And at the end of the day, they pull on the heartstrings of those who see a fluffy duck on the TV and think that it’s something that we need to protect and don’t get me wrong, I love fluffy ducks as much as anybody else. We love rehabilitating wetland areas for these things to breed. Nobody has the resource more in front of mine than 100 conservationist, as you know, because you live it over there as well mate, that’s the end of the day, this three months out of the year, where we’d like to go and harvest a small portion of those birds, you know, 10 ducks per day 26,000 odd hunters. We have harvest figures, we know how many we take, we know that it’s been sustainable. And we look forward to putting them on the plate and sharing them with our friends and family for the remainder of the year. And the other nine months of the year, we’re out there working our backsides off and, you know, we’d encourage these people that are against us to get out there and get involved in some of these conservation projects with us and actually have an impact rather than just making noise about it.
Ramsey Russell: Wow no, no, y’all guys have got a whole lot of an anti-hunters. The few dealings I’ve had with them online and stuff, it’s like, you know, we all know everybody listening. All the state DNR’s everybody knows that. We hunters are footing the bill for wildlife conservation, we play recreational interest. Our hunting is recreational. Yes, we eat the bird but it’s recreational. But in the same way that our recreational interests generates a billion dollar industry around professional sports, football, baseball, whatever, it also generates a tremendous economy around the perpetual conservation of a wild renewable resource. I’ve always said, hey, really interested if we think about it, if they’re being genuine about don’t kill the duck we love duck, we hunters love ducks too. That’s something we can agree on. We all love ducks, we all want ducks. So why don’t we both roll up our sleeves and go to work, or reach elbow deep down in our pockets and pull out money and put our money and and our time where our hearts are. Hunters do that. In Australia, in America, everywhere I’ve been in the world hunters put their time and their money where their mouths are and I don’t see that from any anti-hunting organization and I haven’t seen that in Australia anti-hunters either.
Glenn Falla: Now and you’re not likely to anytime soon, unfortunately, but we continue to invite those people. You know how committed we are Ramsey, and you know the lay of the land here in Victoria pretty well. You know, I’m getting to the stage where tomorrow I’m actually going to get out of the office because I need to get some fresh air and everyone we’ve got a day off, you know, tomorrow Ramsey I’m picking up – you’ll be pleased to know that I’m picking up a young pup for my 84 year-old father who lives and breathes for it as well and I’m delivering a new Labrador to him tomorrow, visiting some wetlands, doing some interviews and on Sunday a day of rest. I’ll be at a wetland with a number of other people down here in Geelong working at the canary wetland center on a conservation project. So, you know, we just don’t stop. It’s in our nature to continue to fight day in day out all year round.
How are waterfowl managed in Australia?
Ramsey Russell: I tell you here’s a good question. We talked about money and time where our mouths are. What are some of the ways that Field & Game Australia and the duck hunting membership has some of the programs, I’m thinking you know Trent Lean’s, banding program. So the state provincial government is not sponsoring this banding program, Field & Game Australia is. Can you talk and list a number of activities that y’all are doing in the interest of waterfowl, some of the programs y’all have.
Glenn Falla: Yeah, absolutely. And again, I might be doing an opportunity to speak about some of our biggest programs there before you hit the nail on the head, there are a number of –
Dean O’Hara: So, we’re obviously – Field and Game Australia is a national organization. So we’ve got programs that cover several states and territories. So speaking here, specifically in the state of Victoria, we’ve got a number of programs. So as you’ve mentioned there Ramsey, Trent Leen’s banding programs, so we leg band ducks, and then monitor their migration processes see where they get out to and we share that information with universities and other well respected educational establishments. We do a lot of work on wetlands arising relation to advocating for environmental water for wetlands, we do wetland restoration, so we control track maintenance. Field and Game Australia does a lot of work around rubbish and litter. So we hear a lot from those agencies about ecotourism and a new term used down here the moment is a term called substitution ability. Which talks about if you remove the duck hunter, from the environment, you substitute that with another activity, which is all nice in theory, but in reality, it’s a lot of rubbish. So we do a lot of work about maintaining the wetlands, making sure they’re clear and free from rubbish. At programs, we invite school kids down to our wetlands and show them what wetland ecology is all about and how important wetlands are to the community. We do tree planting programs, we’ve got a carbon offset program that we try and which we sell, if you like to, some of the big organizations removed their carbon footprint. So the biggest thing we’re working on now is habitat. How do we increase habitat for waterfowl breeding, how we ensure there’s enough water and habitat for waterfowl to breed successfully, to ensure sustainability into the future. And that’s not just for the duck hunter Ramsey, that’s for every Australian. That’s for every citizen of the world wants to come to our beautiful country and have a look at our wonderful waterfowl, or come down here and come duck hunting. So the progress we’ve got in place are vast and wide, and they’re all supported by volunteers. So your point again Ramsey, we’re not funded by government. Field and Game Australia doesn’t get a handout from the government to do these programs, waterfowl hunters fund this, waterfowl hunters get out on the weekend like there is tomorrow, and put their time, their effort, their money, and their reputations out there to support wetland conservation to make sure that ducks can breed to ensure that Australians can view our waterfowl and waterways. The anti hunters are probably sitting in a cafe somewhere drinking the coffee, where hunters are actually going out there and they’re doing the job. They’re building fences, mending fences, they’re supporting the ecology, and they’re getting out there and doing something. And that’s what’s really frustrating that the narrative that the anti’s use about and I hate the term duck shooters, but you know, we don’t just blast away and shoot ducks and as I say to people, it’s not a bloody sport, it’s a recreation activity. And again, to your point Ramsey, we use the food, and we eat the ducks that we harvest. You know, it’s not – wild ducks don’t come in plastic-wrapped in clean film from the supermarket, it’s organic, it’s fresh, it’s beautiful, and it’s sustainable. So the programs we try and produce and deliver and Glenn owns this space. For Field and Game Australia, as a national organization, it is about getting out there and doing something, not sitting in a shop, sipping the coffee in a cafe, but actually getting out there, doing the job, helping out wetland ecology, helping out our waterfowl and increase waterfowl. So generations of Australians and your colleagues over there, they’re welcome here anytime they can come here and enjoy a real sustainable and ethical duck hunt.
For Field and Game Australia, as a national organization, it is about getting out there and doing something, not sitting in a shop, sipping the coffee in a cafe, but actually getting out there, doing the job, helping out wetland ecology, helping out our waterfowl and increase waterfowl.
Ramsey Russell: Absolutely.
Glenn Falla: And Ramsey, in a more progressive states or territories, we spoke about the Northern Territory for a moment where we’re actually supplying fresh, organic, freer-ange wild ducks to our indigenous people in the Northern Territory where there’s a program out that’s the ducks that gets hunted by our fielding guy members and will each donate a batch and hand it back to feed the indigenous and you know, that’s something that you and I looked at in 2015 over there.
Ramsey Russell: That’s right.
Glenn Falla: I was astounded to see that that you are able to put your birds, you know, pay a couple of dollars to have your birds processed and go into a soup kitchen and feed those who were unfortunate enough, that they were struggling to get a food and we’d love to introduce programs like that here in Australia. That’s a real – real passion of mine and the other the thing that we’ve adapted in the last 12 months that we’ve witnessed in my visits to America is the Canadian hen duck nesting-houses and you referred that program down here at the moment. We’re looking to roll that out as wide as we can spread it in the coming years, and try and put some of those on every bit of water that we can, whether it be private or public, and we’re getting some great results out of those hen houses here this year and, you know, the uptake from various breeds has been fantastic. And we’ve got awesome breeding happening that’s, you know, from the day we put the nets out, there’s interest shines straightaway and we’ve had some of those nets this year that have had multiple batches of birds. In fact, we’ve had Pacific black duck and grey teal fighting over the same nest. And we’ve actually got video footage for the first time this year about chicks leaving the nest and hitting the water. And within hours of those ducklings hitting the water, another pair of birds has come in and taken over. So we’ve got some great breeding happening down here in the south.
How does duck hunting benefit society?
Ramsey Russell: That’s fantastic, you know, today’s point is a little while ago, you mentioned something that reminded me of an observation I’ve made worldwide. It is that we hunters are a minority relative to total humanity. There’s a lot more people that don’t hunt, not saying they’re anti-hunters, they just don’t hunt. And time and money for what we love, you know, that we duck hunters, how I differentiate the value and the love that we duck hunters place on a resource versus a bird watcher, or an eco-tourist. If an eco-tourist or birdwatcher, they’re content to go out and see a bird and check them off their list. But because we’re duck hunters, it’s just something in our nature, we want to see the sky black with waterfowl, so that we can take a little bit, but that there’s thousands more for everybody else and, you know, we go on to somebody properties, some of your wetlands, some of my wetlands, we just little wetlands, little spot relative to the surface area of the earth. And we put our time and our money and we grow ducks, but those ducks don’t just stay there, they leave that property. And hunters and other hunters, and non-hunters, and even anti-hunters. All of society benefits from the efforts that we put into producing an excess number of this renewable resource, you know, and that’s the point I’m trying to make the public whether they hunt or not, the public benefits. You know, a big distinction between America and Australia is that a lot of the money, oh, there’s a lot of money coming out of hunters pockets and organization’s like Field & Game Australia, but there’s also a lot of federal money coming at the program to up for scientific management of migratory birds. You know, there’s a lot of federal money being spent, by contrast in Australia it is predominantly the duck hunters. I mean all the volunteers, you know, banding and NGOs, universities, wetland restoration and cleaning up litter and having school programs and reforestation and carbon offset, food program for indigenous people. That’s all being funded by duck hunters, 100%.
How does the Australian Government use Duck Stamp funds?
Glenn Falla: Yeah well, back in ’58, Ramsey, you know, when Field and Game Australia first started in ‘58, you know, duck hunters pretty much taxed themselves and, you know, you guys have a duck stamp over there. We used to have one here as well and the revenue from that Duck Stamp needs to be spent appropriately. These days our fees go into general revenue and you know that while you’re trying change.
Ramsey Russell: Wow you are kidding me! Australia has a Federal Duck Stamp and they are they are putting the funds into a general fund to be squandered by elected officials instead of contributed into the waterfowl resource! I’m going to say it; that just seemed entirely hypocritical to me.
Glenn Falla: Partly correctly Ramsey, we did have a duck stamp that used to go into the wildlife resource that has since changed and we currently don’t have a duck stamp and it’s something that we are looking at whether or not should be reintroduced to be honest. I guess the difference between hunting and fishing here in Victoria is a classic example. You pay for a fishing license, your money 100% goes back into administering that license and improving the facilities that you have, restocking’s like restocking’s, and improving ramp facilities, cleaning facilities, all those types of things and that’s not what’s happening here in Victoria with hunters. And it’s something we have a great passion for. We’d love to see it happen again. It has succeeded in the past and we’re pushing for that to be turned around, because you’re right. Nobody invest more money than what the duck hunter does. But it’s not being used for the right reasons.
What are anti hunters doing to benefit ducks in Australia?
Ramsey Russell: We were talking about the anti-hunters just a few minute ago. We know what the duck hunters and Field and Game Australia are doing, we’ve just talked about it. Besides sitting in a coffee shop right now, describe to the listeners how anti-hunters behave during the hunting season or leading up to the duck hunting season coming, could do a lot of people that may not have heard this before, or are familiar with dealing and coping with anti-hunters in Australia and the legal rights to which they are entitled. It might come as a shocker to a lot of listeners.
Dean O’Hara: So what we got here Ramsey, to your point is that anti hunters have these rights. So even Victoria and other states and territories, hunters go and hunt and those anti hunters can actually go to the wetlands and get this, they can get in the water, they can annoy birds, they can annoy duck hunters and get in the way, they can protest. We’ve had hunters who had their tires slashed by anti hunters when they’re parked their car out or the vehicle up, anti hunters can get there on the wetlands with the fluorescent vests and just be an absolute pest and that is their right, they have a legal right to do so. What anti hunters must not do is to hinder a hunt, but they do. Now, your listeners might be saying, what’s hinder a hunt? That’s a really good question, because our regulators seem not to understand what that means either because they do absolutely bugger all about these anti hunters that hinder a hunt, or place themselves in danger, or place duck hunters in danger. Because, anti hunters seem to say, I believe that the birds have more rights, or more feelings, or more everything than hunters do – and it’s absolutely ridiculous.
How do anti-hunters disrupt legal duck hunts in Australia?
Ramsey Russell: Or when you say, when you say anti hunters bugger a hunt, you were describing bugger in a hunt. I go out to a duck blind and maybe my tires get slashed back into boat ramp maybe they don’t but the anti-hunter comes out there to know how far might these Australian anti-hunters be from me and what – how might they be dressed? And what might anti hunters be doing to legally to hinder my legal duck hunt?
Glenn Falla: So Ramsey, let me try to assume for you, you’ve hunted with me many times over here. And I know how – I guess I know you are about concealment, people keeping skill in hidden and just try and picture yourself trying to do what we’ve done over here together my friend with anti hunters dressed in fluoro with a maybe a five meter flag with a fluoride flag on the soft and a whistle in their mouth. Maybe holding hands with two or three other anti hunters standing no closer than 10 meters away?
Ramsey Russell: About 30 feet. So anti hunters can legally get to within 30 feet of me, 35 feet.
Glenn Falla: Yeah, and not only does it hinder your hands, but of course, it’s a pretty dangerous situation. I don’t know about you, but generally when you step out to pick up a bird, you know, if the dogs are busy, and yet, you’ve got to actually go and retrieve a bird yourself amongst the decoys. You’ll nervously look around to the bugs that have standing beside you and so we’ll just hold fire for a minute guys guns up in the air, I’m going to go and pick a bird up. And yet these anti hunters are prepared to put themselves in that situation right in front of your firing line and hope and pray that you’re not going to take a risky shot.
Ramsey Russell: Y’all shoot steel shot over there. One of my favorite steel shot loads back when I was a steel shot guy with a load that you developed Glenn. I’ve never shot it. I’ve never shot steel shot as effective as the loads I’ve used with you and you shot the times I’ve hunted with you an extremely tight choke. And I asked you about it one time and you said oh no, no, we have to kill these ducks. I mean dead. Explain to the listener, what else an Australian anti-hunter is allowed to do? What happens if you cripple a duck?
Glenn Falla: Yeah, very, very good question Ramsey. We’ve had some additional restrictions placed upon us in recent years where you’ve got to retrieve each bird as quickly as practical before you actually take another shot at the next bird. So if you don’t have a duck dog that’s proficient, you’re actually not allowed to take two shots or two birds that come in and drop two birds onto the water at once. You’ve got to do everything within your power to retrieve that duck as quickly as possible now. Anti hunters are standing there with flags and fluoro vests, may end up being closer to the bird, of course, because they place themselves in front of you, they’re going to be closer to the bird than what you are. And you know what muddy bottoms on our wetlands can be like, over here, you know, it’s hard going, you got to try and beat that person to see your bird. If you haven’t got a duck dog that’s going to do it for you. If they can beat you to the bird, they’ll pick it up if it’s wounded.
Ramsey Russell: They’re legally entitled to recover my crippled bird. They race me to my bird.
Glenn Falla: This is where it’s complicated Ramsey. They, the anti hunters, call themselves duck rescuers. So, you know, if a bird hits the water, and it’s crippled, rather than us dispatching that bird, humanely, and as quickly as we can, it’s a great game to beat us to it and pick it up and take it off the wetland as a wounded bird and claim that you’re actually protecting that bird and —
Ramsey Russell: Which is going to die slow miserable death rather than being dispatched immediately. You know that’s the sick insanity of all of this is that, by law, they are entitled to “rescue my bird”, which probably is going to die before they get it to put it on public exhibit. Only it’s got to die slow tortuous death rather than be quickly and humanely dispatched.
Glenn Falla: Well, not only that Ramsey. But, if you down that bird, if you’ve taken that bird from the sky, and they’ve stolen it from you, effectively, and under the guise of saving, and protecting, rescuing, that’s one bird out of your bag limit that you’re not able to take home because you’ve already taken that bird from the wild. So in this upcoming season, we’re allowed to take only two birds per day. If you’re beaten to one of those two birds. I guess you’re only going home with one to feed the family.
Ramsey Russell: That is just utterly insane. I just can’t get my mind wrapped around that guys. How do you see – let me hear you brought up a good question. I’ve been prowling, you know, social media. I’ve got a lot of friends and associates in contact down in Australia. I found my tribe I was just tell him by listening and I’ll tell y’all I found my tribe as John Odell says, in a good part down in Australia. Y’all got a funny accent but I sure felt at home down there, it’s a long distance family. But it seemed to me that the duck season had been severely restricted in days and bag by political bias, political forces, not science, not anything justified. What has been the public response? Now I know everybody disappointed. But at the end of the day, I learned a very, very valuable lesson having hunted Australia. And that is about what I call my word political relevance at which hunter participation is needed for hunting remain politically relevant. How are the hunters the Field & Game Australia members other duck hunters, how are they receiving the news? Do you think they will continue to go out and zealously pursue their two ducks per 20 days? Or might some of them hang up their wires and learn to play golf and badminton?
Glenn Falla: Well, right now Ramsey, most of our members are feeling pretty down in the dumps. They’re trying to gather their thoughts and regroup I guess. There’s a lot of talk. There’s a little bit of division and a little bit of he said she said, this is a time where we are certainly agitating very, very strongly that we all need to band together. We all need to support the cause by getting out there and making sure that we hunt every day in fact, we had a live feed on Wednesday night that Dean and I were part of and one of the things that was thrown out there. If you’re only allowed hunt 2 birds per day. There is an opportunity for us to go out and hunt for food, ducks in the morning and then go and try and hunt quail because that’s illegal activity at the same time. So we’re calling it the 2 and 20. Challenge yourself to get out there and take your few birds, make sure that you do it every day that you can and then go and try and shoot 20 quail in the afternoon because let’s face it the 2 birds it’s not going to feed the whole family you might as well go and get a piece of quail as well and whack a mole and sloth we’re going to get them.
Ramsey Russell: As I understand it they also cut some of the species from the bag this year did they not?
Glenn Falla: Yeah you’re quite right Ramsey as you know blue-winged shoveler (Australasian Shoveler) we haven’t been able to hunt in recent years so they’re still off the list, but in Victoria they’ve done this other very strange thing this year that really caught us a little bit off guard just not teals and also the Grey Teal you’re only allowed to hunt certain geography. So there’s a delineation, there’s a highway that goes from the bottom of Victoria pretty much through to the border of South Australia and you’ve traveled that with me Ramsey from Melbourne but not the southern part. Effectively what that means is that you can’t have Grey Teals or Chestnut Teals north of that line now how did they come up with that line it’s a clear delineation that people can recognize on a map and it’s effectively means that you can’t hunt those duck species unless you’re in a coastal area. Now you’ve hunted those birds with me in South Australia and Victoria over the years. I’m sure you remember the Chestnut Teal that we hunted with a green hit, beautiful bird. And unfortunately if you’re north of that highway regardless of how many are in your backyard this year you’re going to be unable to hunt them.
Ramsey Russell: Please go ahead, Dean.
How can Australia duck hunters help preserve sustainable duck hunting?
Dean O’Hara: I was just going to say about – I’ll probably go back, I apologize to one of your points about one of the Victorian and Australian Hunters feeling. But I think like every hunter that I’ve ever met in any part of the world, we’re all very passionate, because you can’t learn that if you’re – you’re passionate about it. All hunters are all passionate about this particular issue. We’re banding together as a group and going to become united and to your point about becoming politically relevant and we need to stand up together and campaign to support our narratives our way of life and our activities which are legal and ethical, sustainable and demonstrate to the minority that opposes for whatever reason to show them the benefits of hunting, to show them that our activities are sustainable to show them that we are not you know just these gun house shooters that we have practice and skills and it’s our culture, it’s our tradition that they’re attacking. And we talk about the fight, a fight is what you have with someone at the bar at two o’clock in the morning when you’ve had too many beers and baffle is a sustained prolong offenses. We’re beyond a fight, we’re beyond the baffle we are against that thought now, we’re in conflict and we’ve got a campaign as such because if we don’t stand up, if we don’t show our relevance, if we don’t shout loudly then these kind of persecution I use that word carefully will continue and those that oppose us their voices will get louder and our relevance will become less. So we got to unite so you know to you guys over there I’m sure you’re standing with us and you’re not with this and you know have a look on our website and some stuff we’re doing fieldandgame.com.au If you want to become a member you can become an international member we’d love to have you part of our organization and stand up with us and deflect this absolute bullshit they put on us about ecotourism it can be sustained or substituted for hunting. You know they’ve taken away our traditions that’s what I just get really passionate about as hunters, you know, if anti hunters can attack our vehicles you can probably attack our wives and girlfriends but if you attack our traditions and our abilities to hunt then you know watch out because we are passionate bunch and we’re not taking it down lightly but we are in conflict Ramsey, it’s getting to that point where we are in conflict.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah, sure. And the ecotourism may have been debunked, you know, the anti-hunter sold that to the Botswana president years ago and he banned hunting and he has recently reinstituted hunting because realized there is no conservation dollars in ecotourism. It’s a completely utter fairy tale.
Dean O’Hara: The only thing that I would invest in if – the only people that invest in that kind of environment Ramsey are hunters, because they value that wildlife resource. They value that the – what they know – we ask this question to people, you know, what is the value of hunting to you, that could be an emotional value, it could be a financial value but if it’s worth 100 bucks here, give us 100 bucks and we’ll do something with it. The ecotourists they just like to say well I’ve come along enjoy the track or trail that hunters have provided or enjoy the wetlands that hunters have provided and take a photograph and then go home and I’ve seen a Blue-winged Shoveler or I’ve seen something else well that’s fantastic, I’m really pleased to hear. How about putting $10 in the box on the way out or investing in that environment so we can increase it or improve it. They’re not interested in that. All anti hunters are interested in is attacking our hunting traditions and what we want to do. This is because they don’t like the fact that we harvest and hunt and eat duck. Well, I’m sorry I don’t really like the fact that you sit on your ass and drink coffee, but you don’t see me, you know, going out there making pests of themselves.
Ramsey Russell: No.
So it’s really about us duck hunters standing together and demonstrating what it’s all about because ecotourism is worth nothing in terms of wildlife conservation. – Dean O’Hara, Field & Game Australia
Ramsey Russell: Dean, you very passionately described the anti-hunters that I’ve had dealings with online in Netherlands, in Uruguay and other places. They’re not coming from a rational center point. They do not have a scientific basis. It’s almost like to me through attacking my duck hunting tradition they’re attacking what makes us happy. Are anti-hunters just miserable people that don’t want other people to be happy?
Glenn Falla: Are you telling me that there’s a sign below ground?
Ramsey Russell: Yeah, there’s a sign of the world around and you know I’m going to end this Duck Season Somewhere podcast episode with a question not now but I do get a question but I just want to reiterate Australia, Uruguay, Netherlands other countries that I’m hearing rumors about shutting down hunting, you know, this is becoming more prevalent. It’s not just Australia. This anti-hunting thing is worldwide, parts of Africa they’ve shut countries in Africa, they have shut down hunting. Formerly Botswana now is back on but when will it be off again? I mean this problem is not going away, it’s not going away and it can come to my backyard. I’ve just been talking to people all day today about issues that are dividing hunters and disenfranchised hunters at a time that we need more hunter participation. There are even hunters turning on each other to disenfranchise other hunters and the end result is decreased political relevance.
Dean O’Hara: We duck hunters need to standup as a group Ramsey and unite and that’s whether you’re in the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Africa, Australia anywhere. Because you’re right this could happen anywhere in the world and if you’re not careful it creeps up on you like a snake and it bites you in the arm and then we’re all in the world of pain.
What does the future of Australia duck hunting look like?
Ramsey Russell: What now? Where does Field & Game Australia go? Where do duck hunters in Australia go from right now? What now? What do you do leading up to this coming abbreviated season and what do you do beginning now for future Australia duck hunting seasons?
Dean O’Hara: Well, the fight or the conflict continues, you know, we need to advocate with those decision makers those politicians that sit in those offices that make the decision we need to influence them so when I was starting a campaign with our members to make an appointment with the politician and go and sit down with them and tell them what it means to you. We’re doing a lot of work around publicizing the work that hunter conservationist’s do they provide and how that affects the community and improves community. Field and Game Australia is doing a lot of work around banding together for calling upon newspapers or media outlets to listen to conservationist narratives to tell our story because if we’re not careful those stories get pushed onto the the middle of the paper and no one sees them it’s about you know having a look at our legal opportunities is there a way that we can legally challenge these decisions and our initial advice is probably not because they’re made by a minister. We probably can’t challenge them, but the fight or the battle or the conflict, for next year, for next season, for the next generation starts today. But we can’t do it alone, we have to band together like a band of people, Band of Brothers, Band of sisters, a Band of hunters to fight anti hunters, whether it’s on the shores of the United States or the shores of Australia, we’ve got to come together and show people what this means. Because otherwise, our relevance, and certainly our political relevance will become diminished and we will become a minority even more so than antis, because they’re the ones that are talking and emotive subjects to politicians, the hearts and minds, and they’re getting much more airtime than we are. So there’s a huge amount of work we’re doing, please follow us on our Facebook page, Field & Game Australia, have a look at our website, and join with us, you know, fight together, because we will fight with you, as we have done in many other conflicts around the world over many, many decades. And together we will be that relevant authority, that relevant voice that will be heard, and will not be put down.
Ramsey Russell: Amen.
Glenn Falla: So Ramsey, I guess when it comes to boots on the ground, one of the things that we’re going to push for very hard as we always do, but even more so this time, we have to get out there and be as active as possible in all three states. So you know, at the end of the day, if we can only shoot two birds per day, for 20 days, let’s get off our ass and buy a license and go to South Australia and hunt over there. But let’s buy a plane ticket and go to Tasmania and have a weekend down there. Sure, this might be a few more dollars out of your pocket. But every life you connect helps to boost the numbers, and every experience that you share whether it be with your friends, or your family, for several generations of the same family. Take that traditional loss, get out there and make sure that once the season start, get active, spend your money, be proud let those regional areas know that you’re a hunter and you are only in the region because you’re hunting and be generous with your money, you know, the economic impact that is going to be last year’s. And in Victoria we’re coming up some pretty tragic news in recent years with fires, droughts, then the COVID situation, regional areas needed money more than enough. And so we’re encouraging people to get out there and hunt every single day that they can.
Ramsey Russell: Thank y’all, Glen Falla, Hunting and Conservation Manager, Dane O’Hara, CEO, Field & Game Australia. I do follow you. And I encourage anybody listening to plug into them in social media, plug into their web page. Don’t let yourself suffer from the delusion that because this anti-hunter conflict, this war is raging halfway across the world for the preservation of hunting. Don’t suffer under the delusion that we’re any different because we’re not. It can happen right here in our backyard in the blink of an eye. Gentlemen, thank y’all and we wish you all the best of luck. I’m going to let y’all go and fight the fight. Thank y’all very much for sharing your experience with us. Folks, thank y’all for listening to this Duck Season Somewhere podcast episode. See you next time.
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It really is Duck Season Somewhere for 365 days. Ducks Season Somewhere takes me year-round to worldwide destinations where I meet the most interesting people. I’m your host Ramsey Russell. Join me here to listen to those conversations. Welcome to Duck Season Somewhere.