Deer Hunting Revitalising Small Towns in Country Victoria

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Victoria is the hunting state of Australia. The money hunting injects into the rural communities across Victoria is not going unnoticed as hunting grows in popularity nationwide. 

When heading down to chase sambar I always look forward to testing out the local bakeries of country Victoria and stocking up supplies in one of the small towns as I head into the mountains to chase deer. 

In 2014 hunters injected a whopping $439 Million dollars into the Victorian economy. This figure would have only grown as hunting gains popularity. In 2016 it was estimated 48,000 hunters spent approximately 300,000 days in the field throughout the year throughout regional Victoria. 186 per cent increase in the past decade.

Mansfield is a Victorian hot spot for hunting. Hunting has accounted for 2.5 per cent of the shire’s economy, about $14.6 million, with sambar deer hunting the region’s main drawcard for recreational shooters.

Mansfield resident Luke Davis was interviewed by the Weekly Times. Luke said “During hound season, about $15,000 (worth of) meat goes out on a Friday and Saturday, blokes are standing there with orange hunting hats ... on a Friday afternoon it’s ridiculous the amount of people who come into town, about 200 hound utes would come through, $1800 worth of diesel would be sold, then they go and buy $100 worth of food, then their alcohol, it all just adds up,” he says. “It’s the ripple effect, the way hunting brings money into the town.”

The 26-year-old has spent “thousands” on hunting gear, about 95 per cent of his friends hunt and fish and the traditionally masculine pursuit is not only popular among the lads, he says. “My sister, she’s just turned 18 and she’s taken deer of her own,” adding the pair mostly hunt with their dad.

Twelve years ago the Kirley family opened the town’s first dedicated store, Mansfield Hunting and Fishing. Shane and Mandy’s son Nick was shooting competitively — he represented Australia at the Commonwealth Games in India in 2010 — “and we saw this gap in the market,” Shane says. “And it’s (hunting) just becoming bigger and bigger every year.”

And if the proof is in the proverbial pudding, what further evidence is required than the imminent opening of a second taxidermist in Mansfield, with Alpine Artistry. 

But despite the growth of the sport at the foothills of the Victorian alps, Mansfield Shire’s tourism and economic development team leader, Judy Dixon, says it is not actively marketed so as to avoid deterring “mainstream” visitors who come to snow or water ski, fish, hike, horse ride or cycle.

“The economic benefit of hunting is important as a niche market,” Ms Dixon clarifies. She stresses the shire did however acknowledge and value hunting’s benefits to the town’s economy.

It is a stark contrast to the approach taken by nearby Towong Shire, north of Falls Creek, which is keen to embrace the hobby. It is believed to be the first Victorian council to formulate a dedicated hunting tourism action plan.

Mayor David Wortmann says the council threw its support behind the draft plan in August in a bid to capitalise on the shire’s “expansive natural assets” and pursue tourism that had the potential to bring new jobs into the region. 

“As a small rural shire, any idea that could create jobs and money would be investigated,” Cr Wortmann says. “This one has come from the community: the deer population has escalated, they thought there was an opportunity there, and we believe Towong might have some of the best sambar hunting in Victoria, maybe even Australia.”

 

 

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