Australia

Hunting Club marks 20 years of pest control

The Southern Riverina Hunting Club celebrated its 20th anniversary this year.

The club has more than 350 members from across Australia but focuses its hunting drives in the local region, including across farmland around Finley, Berrigan, Mulwala and Corowa.

Finley business man Jim Muirhead, who served as the club’s chairman for 15 years, said it was started to protect the rights of farmers ‘‘doing the right thing’’ with their firearms.

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‘‘The main reason the club was formed was due to the gun legislation introduced by (former Prime Minister) John Howard,’’ Mr Muirhead explained.

‘‘A small group of local people got together led by Bob Lee from Berrigan and formed the club.

‘‘There was legislation in New South Wales that allowed you with a genuine reason to keep a firearm, and being part of a hunting club was a good reason.

‘‘The club allowed farmers and hunters to keep their firearms and continue their good work controlling local vermin numbers.’’

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At the club’s annual fox drive in May, for example, members terminated 147 foxes, which Mr Muirhead said was a decent number.

The club focuses on vermin control, especially on farms to help protect stock and also certain native animals, he added.

‘‘Lambs and native animals are the main targets of foxes.

‘‘Foxes can do serious damage because they’re cunning, but they’re also silly with how they hunt. A fox will go into a lambing paddock, kill 10 lambs overnight and leave them there.

‘‘If the fox took the lamb and ate the whole thing in one go it would fill him up for a couple of days and the farmer wouldn’t notice.

‘‘It can cost a farmer a lot of money and adds up quickly,’’ Mr Muirhead said.

Club members can shoot vermin on behalf of a farmer if requested and can only shoot native animals such as kangaroos under strict permits.

Mr Muirhead said the club will continue to hunt as it’s too hard to completely wipe out a pest.

‘‘There are always going to be pests because they breed,’’ he said.

‘‘There are about four ways of hunting the pests — including poisoning and spotlighting (night) and day time hunting — but the pests are still here.

‘‘Unless somebody comes up with a chemical to eradicate a pest, then in my opinion hunting is the most humane way of control.

‘‘If you give a fox some poison bait, it will die over a couple of days.’’

Mr Muirhead said the main obstacles for the club in its 20 year history have come from government regulations.

‘‘Laws have become stricter … there’s just more red tape.

‘‘Our members don’t break the law, they do the right thing, but sometimes all gun owners wear the brunt of other people’s stupidity.

‘‘The club is important because we teach young farmers the right way to handle guns.

‘‘We teach younger people about gun safety and do everything by the book, and that’s important to the future of our young people.’’

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