Duck and quail shooting using a shotgun causes inevitable pain and suffering as not every bird is killed outright.
For most of the year, native water birds (mainly ducks) and quail are protected under native wildlife laws. However, during a declared ‘open season’- a specified calendar period announced by the relevant state/territory government – some species are permitted to be shot for sport by licensed hunters. Shooting in some areas may not be permitted due to declining water supply and therefore numbers of native water birds or if threatened species of birds are found to inhabit the area. Shooting may be permitted at lakes in public areas but is also undertaken on private properties, making monitoring very difficult.
Duck hunters usually lay out decoys in the water in front of a hide or camouflaged screen to avoid being detected by incoming flying ducks. They then shoot ducks using a shotgun, that fly across or land among the decoys. Gundogs are often used to retrieve fallen birds. When hunting waterfowl, all states now require the use of lead-free shot, such as steel or bismuth.
Hunting for quail usually involves walking around a specific hunting area with trained gundogs, which help to ‘flush’ the birds from cover. The birds are shot using a shotgun and then retrieved by the gundogs when they fall to the ground.
As with other game animals, the hunting of game birds in Australia is regulated separately by each state and territory government. Hence, there is a variety of regulations and license requirements as well as a range of different species that can be hunted. Hunters are only permitted to shoot the species that are prescribed and hunters are usually required to pass a Waterfowl Identification Test (WIT). However, despite this, many protected species such as swan, ibis, spoonbill and cormorant, and even endangered species such as the freckled duck have been shot by licensed hunters.
Recreational duck hunting is permitted in South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and the Northern Territory. Hunting of ducks for sport is not permitted in the ACT, New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia. However, in some of these states ducks can be shot under licence when they are considered to be causing damage to crops, dams or waterways. Specified species of quail are hunted in NSW, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania. The Northern Territory also permits recreational hunting of magpie geese.
The RSPCA opposes recreational hunting, or the act of stalking or pursuing an animal and then killing it for sport, due to the inherent and inevitable pain and suffering caused.