Their Sport is Banned in 3 States

In the marsh at Lake Connewarre near Geelong, Dean Rundell classes himself as a responsible duck hunter.

Their Sport is Banned in 3 States

Dean Rundell crouches in the marsh grass, clad in three different kinds of camouflage.

Posted on 11.04.2018

Meet a duck hunter

Dean Rundell crouches in the marsh grass, clad in three different kinds of camouflage.

Cast skyward, his pale eyes seem drawn from the same palette as the environment.

An ammo belt filled with gleaming shotgun cartridges encircles the 28-year-old’s waist.

From his neck dangle two bird callers and a device known as a ‘finisher’, with a sharp prong for dealing with wounded ducks.

It’s garb that would draw strong disapproval, on sight, from a large portion of the populace.

It’s impossible to be a duck hunter and be unaware of the almost universally negative media coverage of your kind.

Some people just think we are bogans with guns,” Rundell says.

“Some think we aren’t compassionate or sympathetic people.

“Others think we are just feral and shoot anything we see.”

But to spend time with Rundell is to realise he doesn’t fit the negative stereotypes.

Legal shooting time is half an hour before sunrise but the self-employed builder has been in the swamp much longer.

Tramping through the shallows, he’s unfurled painted decoys designed to lure mobs in.

Made from moulded plastic and weighted to sit a certain way on the water, they do a startlingly realistic impression of a live duck.

Get Rundell talking and the conversation can eddy for minutes around the nuances of decoy patterns.

They can be arranged in a J or a V, designed to funnel birds into a kill zone, giving the hunter a clear shot.

Rundell scouted the area the previous day, setting up here to be under the flight path of birds shifting from one swamp to another.

The boat is dragged between the reeds in an attempt to evade the ducks’ keen eyesight.

But the wind is up and the mobs are moving fast.

Most are out of range.

Bird watching

For long stretches, the hunt devolves into bird watching.

Large mobs of pelicans lope past. Black swans with necks outstretched. Cormorants.

Tethered to the boat, the gun dog shivers half from the cold and half from anticipation. A Brittany, this is what he was bred for.

You get the feeling Rundell doesn’t really mind the lull.

The shotgun rests between his knees, hands clasped around the barrel.

Now would be the perfect time to gnaw on some duck jerky. But it’s early in the season and he hasn’t made any yet.

Coming home with a feed is only part of the point.

Being outdoors is as much the pleasure.

When Rundell isn’t here he is fishing, four wheel driving.

In between hunting seasons he builds nesting boxes to help regenerate waterbird populations.

This is what people miss, he says.

“Hunters are true conservationists.

If this wasn’t a game reserve there’d probably be a housing development down to the water.

ABC News
Words and pictures by Jane Cowan





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