A principal aim of the 2019 Victorian Balloted Hog Deer Hunters Weekend was to provide those who were successful in the Blond Bay State Game Reserve, sections of the Boole Poole Peninsula, and Snake Island ballot (the Ballot) with information about hunting hog deer safely, ethically and effectively.
Another aim was to give those hunting the same period and the same area an opportunity to get to know each other so as to be able to team up to ensure a successful hunt. The focus of the weekend, in other words, was to learn and share.
The weekend was sponsored by the ADA, in partnership with the Blond Bay Hog Deer Advisery Group (BBHDAG) the Game Management Authority (GMA), and Para Park Co-operative Game Reserve Limited (Para Park). The weekend was open to anyone drawn in the Ballot. About 50 ballot winners took up this offer. The venue for the training was Sunday Island, the home of Para Park.
A few words about Para Park and Sunday Island by way of background. Para Park was established in 1965, for the preservation of Sunday Island as a game management hunting area, particularly for the endangered (in its native area of India, Nepal and Southern Asia) hog (or para) deer. The Island is privately owned and is about 10 minutes by boat from Port Albert, in South Gippsland, Victoria. As Snake Island and Sunday Island are adjacent to each other the terrain on Sunday Island is perfect to understand what it is like to hunt on Snake Island.
The program for the weekend involved presentations from the Game Management Authority (GMA), the Snake Island Cattlemen Association, and experienced hog deer hunters. Topics that were covered included legal obligations when hunting hog deer, concerns relating to hunting on Snake Island, where to place tags on hog deer shot, how the jawbones of hog deer are removed at the checking station, how to cape a hog deer for a full and shoulder mount, how to field dress a hog deer, some of the difficulties in getting to Snake Island and challenges facing those hunting there, and the best ways to hunt hog deer. All attendees toured Sunday Island to see hog deer and develop a better understanding of the habitat these deer live in.
Tavi Manescu, Game Manager, GMA spoke in detail about the regulations concerning hunting hog deer. One of the key aims of Tavi’s presentation was to provide a ‘better understanding of what hunters must do in the field to be safe, sustainable and ethical.’
Another key message concerned the need for hunters to take out what they brought in for the hunt — zero impact hunting. Paul Hamlett from the Snake Island Cattlemen Association spoke about the uniqueness of Snake Island and the relationship that the Association has with the island. Another important part of Paul’s presentation was to explain the topography of Snake Island. The matter of topography led to many side discussions during the day with other the ballot hunters and representatives from GMA, BBHDAG and Para Park.
Cam Johnson, who runs Wildthings Taxidermy, provided an outdoor class on how to cape a hog deer and dress it. For many, Cam’s presentation on field dressing a hog deer, and caping it for a full or shoulder mount was the highlight of the weekend.
Simon Webster from BBHDAG explained how to be a safe and successful hog deer hunter. Some of the safety issues raised included the challenges in getting to Snake Island by boat, dealing with tiger snakes on the Island, and coping with the swarms of sand flies that inhabit the island. Simon showed us some of the gear he uses when hunting hog deer and emphasized the requirement to understand the movement of hog deer. Barry Gell, Rod Coomber and Ron Mayze from Para Park also emphasized the importance of safety. Barry and Ron, two of the most knowledgeable people in Australia on hog deer, also shared their thoughts about hog deer behavior and how to hunt successfully.
Throughout the weekend, hunters had the opportunity to share their understanding and concerns about hunting hog deer with more experienced hunters from Para Park, BBHDAG, ADA and each other. Conversations ranged from the pros and cons of hunting from high seats as opposed to stalking, what to carry in for the hunt, how to best team up to ensure that the hunts are conducted safely, and who to call to assist in breaking down and storing the hog deer.
The ADA Melbourne Branch was responsible for the logistics for the weekend, including catering. Numerous attendees commented on the high quality of the food that came out of chef Mark Fitzmaurice’s (one of the members of the Melbourne Branch executive) kitchen. Members of the Branch’s committee assisted him with food preparation.
Sarah Wynd (the 2017 National Trophy and Arthur Bentley winner) who was drawn in the ballot for Snake Island was thrilled with the knowledge she gained from attending the weekend. Frankie Nigro and his 10-year-old daughter Mia emphasized how much they learned from the caping and field dressing class. Attendees were unanimous in their expression of thanks to all those involved in organizing and presenting during the weekend. Most said that they appreciated the opportunity to chat informally with other hunters, particularly those that had a broad and deep understanding of the challenges and enjoyment of hunting hog deer.