Anyone who spends time in the High Country has probably seen a deer (or several). While not as well known as wild horses in terms of environmental damage, deer are a real problem for sub alpine environments.
Recreational hunters have often argued that they are a key part of the solution to the deer problem and have recently made these claims in the Victorian parliamentary inquiry that’s currently underway.
We need a sensible program to reduce deer numbers and I accept that hunting will be necessary as part of this. The question is whether this is done primarily by paid or recreational hunters. There are several issues of legitimate concern about the proposition that recreational hunters should be allowed into national parks for culls: safety of the public, and whether this might be a ‘foot in the door’ for future hunting activity. This debate has been especially prolonged in NSW.
According to a report by Kath Sullivan in The Weekly Times, Gippsland hunters Luke de Boer and Russell Sharman have told a Victorian parliamentary inquiry that hound hunting in national parks could reduce the number of deer.
Mr de Boer said that “hounding has a lot higher success rate in culling deer than stalking”, which is currently allowed in national parks.
Beagles, bloodhounds and harriers are currently prohibited in national and state parks.
The Australian Deer Association says that hound hunting is a “very effective method of deer control”.
In my interactions with hound hunters over the years I have been less than impressed with them as a group. I’ve put out two fires that were left by hunters as they waited by a road for their dogs to flush out a deer, and picked up huge amounts of trash from roadsides and camps that have been left by doggers. On two occasions I’ve found lost dogs. My personal experience has made my very cautious about any claim that might come from this sector that they can be trusted in our national parks. In contrast, my many interactions with deer stalkers has been different. Needless to say, hunting a deer on foot is a very different experience and requires different set of skills to dogging.
Yes, maybe this is just personal prejudice. But I would be very worried to see hound hunters let loose in our national parks.