Hunting in Australia
Many species of animals in Australia have been introduced by European settlers since the 18th century. Among these are rabbits, hares, cats, foxes, goats, pigs, dogs, deer, donkeys, horses and feral cattle, camels and water buffalo.
Rabbit hunting is encouraged across all of Australia due to their being considered pests. The most common form of hunting is shooting.
The recreational hunting of foxes is also commonly done by shooting. However this usually requires other techniques to lure and shoot the animal such as spotlighting hunting with dogs, or use of the fox whistle which makes a sound like a distressed rabbit.
Six species of deer can be found in Australia.
- The Chital (Axis axis) is also known as the Indian spotted deer, they are light to dark brown with permanent white spots which appear as broken lines running along the body. Typically has three tined antlers.
- The Hog Deer (Axis porcinus) is a close relative of the Chital, they range from a uniform dark brown during winter to a rich reddish-brown in summer at which time light coloured spots along the sides and on either side of the dark dorsal stripe are visible in individuals. Typically has three tined antlers but extra points are not unheard of.
- The Sambar (Cervus unicolor) is the largest deer species to be found in Australia. They are normally brown but individuals of grey to almost black are seen. Typically has three tined antlers but with a wide variety of styles.
- The Rusa (Cervus timorensis) is a close relative of the Sambar but smaller in size, they are a uniform grey-brown, variable between individuals and season. Typically has three tined antlers.
- The Fallow Deer(Dama dama) is the most common species of deer in the world. In the summer they are light to reddish brown with white spots. In the winter this changes to a greyish brown.
- The Red Deer(Cervus elaphus) ranges from a dull brown in winter coat to a rich reddish brown in summer; a permanent straw-coloured rump or caudal patch is retained throughout the year
Laws related to hunting vary between each state/territory. Except where otherwise stated, most states and territories allow the hunting of pest species - feral dogs, feral goats, feral pigs, foxes, hares, and rabbits - at any time of year with the landowner's permission. Every state and territory requires those carrying firearms to be licensed to do so.
Australian Capital Territory
All that is required to hunt in Australian Capital Territory is a valid firearms license. Individuals between the ages of 12 - 17 can hold a minor's firearms license, allowing them to hunt under adult supervision. However, hunting is restricted to pest animals on private property and may only be carried out with the landowner's permission.
New South Wales
Dogs, cats and hares are classified as both feral and game.
The Northern Territory freely allows the hunting of feral animals on private land with the landowner's permission as long as the hunter holds a valid firearms license. This excepts feral pigs and waterfowl, for which a permit is required.
As well as species that can be hunted anywhere in Australia, the Northern Territory considers many animals to be feral: Arabian camels, buffaloes, cane toads, donkeys, feral cats, horses, wild dogs, feral cattle, house sparrows, pigeons, Sambar deer, Rusa deer and turtle doves.
All waterfowl hunters require a permit to hunt and may only do say during the declared open season. Waterfowl includes the following species magpie geese, pacific black duck, wandering whistling duck, plumed whistling duck, grey teal, pink-eared duck, hardhead duck, maned duck.
In Queensland, only listed feral animals may be hunted on private property with the landowner's permission. A firearms license is required to carry guns.
South Australia allows the hunting of game species during open season. Species listed as game are the stubble quail, pacific black duck, grey teal, hardhead, Australian shelduck, pink-eared duck, maned duck, chestnut teal and blue-winged shoveler.
Some native species and all introduced species may be hunted at any time of the year. Namely camels, deer, starling, domestic pigeon, European blackbird and the spotted turtle-dove.
A game license is required in order to hunt in Tasmania, pests and feral creatures are eligible to be hunted on private, state and crown land.
Pests can be hunted on crown land at any time, however on private and state land hunts are only carried out with explicit permission from the owner of the private land.
Minor permits in both firearms and hunting can be applied for if under the age of 18 years. There are two different grades of minor permits available to those between 12 - 16 and 16 – 18 years.
Victoria makes no restrictions on the hunting of pest or feral animals on private land or in state forests, as long as the hunter has permission from the landowner. Hunting of game species is allowed during open seasons under a state license scheme.
Victoria allows the hunting of many game species. These include stubble quail, pheasants, Partridges, European Quail, Californian Quail, Pacific Black Duck, Grey teal, Hardhead, Australian Shelduck, Pink-eared duck, Australian Wood Duck, Chestnut teal, Australasian Shoveler, Hog deer, Red deer, Sambar deer and Fallow deer.
Both hares and feral dogs are classified as pests, and can be hunted at any time throughout the year.
In Western Australia, only feral species may be hunted on private land with the landowner's permission, subject to holding a valid firearms license. These species include camels, donkeys, feral cattle, feral dogs, feral horse, hares and starling.
Aboriginal Australians had lived on the Australian Continent for thousands of years before the Europeans discovered it in the mid-1700s. They had a wealth of animals to hunt and had very refined and sometimes ingenious ways of hunting them.
Boomerangs have been used as a hunting tool by Aborigines for tens of thousands of years. Their elliptical flight makes them very useful as they return to the thrower and allows them to use it repeatedly. The way a hunter tends to use a boomerang is to rustle tree branches, causing the birds inside to be startled and fly into nets that the hunter had already set up between trees.
- Throwing sticks
Related to the boomerang, throwing sticks are bigger and heavier. They lack the characteristic ability to return to the thrower though and are instead used to hunt bigger animals such as kangaroos. They were thrown straight at their target and could even break bones on impact. This made it a lethal tool in the hands of an experienced hunter.
Aboriginals use fire to clear vegetation from patches of land to make it easier to hunt game. Among the animals hunted are monitor lizards. Surprisingly in areas where the technique is used, the lizard population increases by as much as 100%. This is thought to be because burning established vegetation clears land for the growth of new plant species, increasing biodiversity thus improving the lizards' habitat.
The widespread persecution of Aboriginals in the mid-20th century which lead to a decrease in Aboriginal hunting and burning may be partly responsible for the extinction of many desert species that had adapted to an environment that Aboriginals played a key role in shaping. Since their arrival on the Australian continent thousands of years ago, Aboriginal Australians had become an essential part of the ecosystem.
There has been a number of controversies surrounding the aboriginal Australians and the Australian government regarding their hunting rights. In 1993 the Australian Government brought in legislation called the Native Title Act. This act meant that the Australian Government recognised that the Aboriginal Australians have rights to and interests to their land that come from their traditional laws and customs. One of the activities that are covered by the Native Title is the right for the Aborigines to hunt otherwise endangered species for food or ceremonial purposes. The killing of endangered is a wide source of outrage with many calling for a rewrite of the legislation to protect the endangered species.
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- Jordan, Rob. "Stanford research: Aboriginal hunting increases animal populations". Retrieved 26 November 2013.