The Sporting Shooters Association of Australia (Victoria) was incorporated as a public company on October 1, 1973. We exist to promote the shooting sports and protect firearm owners' interests.
With more than 36,000 members, SSAA Victoria is a leading body representing licensed firearm owners in Victoria. SSAA Victoria has more than a dozen branches and more than 30 sub-clubs and disciplines within the organisation.
I missed the first few times I shot at clay targets, mostly because I was totally new to it and did a bunch of things wrong.
Thanks to some help from experienced shooters, I finally smashed one, then a few in a row. I got hooked and would have shot all day if not for the fact the ill-fitting and hard old shottie from the Eagle Park Range bunker was slowly tenderising my shoulder.
That shoot was earlier this year with the Gamebird Hunting Essentials Masterclass (the former Shotgunning Education Program) where I learned the characteristics of different ammunition and chokes.
It was a fantastic grounding in understanding the skill level you need to competently shoot for ducks (they’re safe from me this season).
The next experience I had was all about having fun.
If you’ve had a look at the latest Victorian Shooter, you might have read Shepparton Shotgun Club member Marion Barnes’ tips on buying a shotgun.
It was while putting that story together that she encouraged me to get up there and have a crack during their Tower Shoot and practice day.
The idea of simulating field shooting and testing my skill against moving targets got me interested, so I made the two-hour trip up the Goulburn Valley Highway to SSAA Shepparton Branch’s range.
It’s a large complex with several areas set aside for shotguns including two five-stands and the tower.
Young shooter Tom Bilney was good enough to loan me his gorgeous (and bloody expensive) Perazzi MX10. He has a bunch of junior achievements under his belt including Juniors High Gun at the recent Victorian 5-Stand titles and will be shooting with the Victorian team at the nationals.
He was more than happy to introduce me to the sport he loves, and his patience and good humour made getting chucked in at the deep end for the Tower Shoot competition a lot more fun than it could have been.
The set-up is five bays along the firing line positioned beneath a trap mounted up in a tower about 6m tall.
The clays come out from overhead in any of three general directions, so the art is to quickly pick up the target and shoot as you draw the barrel down.
Each of the five bays gives you a slightly different angle to shoot from and during the competition shooters rotate through the bays.
I barely had time to buy a couple of boxes of ammo (7.5s, 28g at 1300f/s as recommended) before I was lining up against shooters in Marion, Rocky Furci, Barry Bloodwell and Rod Wild who sponsored the Tower Shoot we were competing in.
With not even a practice shot I was away, hitting the first clay with the second barrel and then the next with the first.
Thinking it was easy (and I was told it was among the easiest of the competitions), I missed the next dozen in a row and for the life of me couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong, despite Tom’s expert guidance and lots of encouragement from the others.
Rod and Rocky were making it look easy, calmly striping the barrel down the target line and picking off their clays early.
I was trying to wait for the right moment, getting ahead of the target and tensing up. All the things you don’t do and finished with a six from 35.
Mercifully, I was allowed to get to the practice range where I enjoyed a lot more success at the simpler throws.
I also had the opportunity to shoot with a beautiful Miroku Mk10 Sport Deluxe loaned to me by Marion’s husband Ron.
Both the Miroku and the Perazzi made such a difference to the experience and I could have shot 10 or more boxes of shells after the five I nearly got through for the day. The challenge of each shot and the great satisfaction when you middle one and the clay explodes into fragments are very addictive.
Back at the tower for a second round, I managed to double my score for a total of 18 from 70. It was a long way behind Rod who won the day with a 67 after a shoot-off against club secretary Tony Connell who shot in the second group.
The biggest thing was that it was a whole heap of fun. Club president Geoff Morton was very welcoming, and everyone was keen to help a struggling novice improve.
I’m ultra keen to give it another crack and bring along my fiancé who I reckon would get just as much out of it as I did. This is a sport that anyone can try and is a truly level playing field for men and women of all ages.
Convincing her I need to buy a Perazzi is a whole other conversation.
The great duck hunting protest on Lake Cullen at duck season opening on Saturday turned into high farce with hunters staying away from the lake in droves.
After being alerted to the protester plans, hunters instead chose many of the other State Game Reserves open to them or private property to take their bags.
That meant protesters outnumbered hunters at Lake Cullen and the media stunt planned through the Coalition Against Duck Shooting (CADS) and its new poster boy Andy Meddick MP from the Animal Justice Party was little more than a sideshow.
“There was the usual nonsense including protesters creating dangerous situations by canoeing into firing zones,” said SSAA Victoria Hunting Development Manager David Laird who was at the lake.
“But the hunters who were there didn’t shoot early and suffered the protester harassment without incident.
“Overall the only thing Meddick and (CADS representative) Laurie Levy chose to complain to the media about was there being fewer hunters to complain about.”
Levy and Meddick rallied dozens of anti-duck hunting bigots to Lake Cullen to set up camp including a ‘triage’ tent and woodfired pizza oven.
However, only a handful of hunters were prepared to suffer their foolishness with most choosing other wetlands or to hunt on private land.
That didn’t stop Meddick and Levy from claiming victory. They spun their failure into it being a sign that duck hunting had lost popularity.
SSAA Victoria was asked by ABC Mildura-Swan Hill and The Geelong Advertiser to respond to the claims.
“It's good to see these media outlets showing a bit of professionalism by seeking to balance their stories,” SSAA Victoria Communications Manager Justin Law said.
“But the claim that duck hunting is somehow dying a death is ridiculous and a grasp for relevance by a new Upper House politician who rode in on the current wave of animal activism popularity.
“I think they were embarrassed that they tricked all these people into driving all the way to Kerang for what turned out to be, from their perspective, a fizzer.
"The only thing they appear to have performed emergency surgery on in their triage tent was the truth."
The biggest hiccup was the closure of Lake Elizabeth on Friday evening after less than 50 Freckled Duck were counted among an estimated 3000 ducks.
“That was a big disappointment for the many hunters who were camped there on Friday night, especially as it appears to be a reaction to pressure from anti-hunting political groups,” Mr Laird said.
“Hunters take the Waterfowl Identification Test so they can pick game species from protected birds, so this is completely overly cautious and again hunters are penalised.”
The Game Management Authority said in its media release, “the Victorian Government is closing Lake Elizabeth near Kerang for the beginning of the 2019 duck hunting season to protect a significant population of freckled ducks found on the lake.
“The closure will be in place for seven days during which time it will be monitored to determine if it will remain closed to hunting for a longer period.
“If the numbers of freckled duck decline substantially then it will be recommended to be reopened to hunting.”
Mr Laird said SSAA Victoria will continue to update members on the status of the wetlands throughout the season.
“We’re pushing to have the wetlands reopened and hopefully a bit of common sense will prevail,” he said.
SSAA Victoria was joined by the other leading hunting organisations to deliver a positive message ahead of the 2019 duck season.
Field and Game Australia CEO Glenn Falla and Australian Deer Association Executive Officer Barry Howlett joined SSAA Victoria Hunting Development Manager David Laird to encourage hunters to share their stories.
"Many of our members enjoy the cultural pursuit of duck hunting and we encourage them to celebrate our culture on social media as the 2019 season unfolds," Mr Laird said.
"Duck season continues to enjoy the support of the major parties because it is sustainable and brings millions in tourism dollars to regional Victoria."
Duck season commences this weekend (March 16) at 9am and continues until May 19.
Details about bag limits and wetland closures can be found here.
The Conservation and Pest Management program operated by SSAA Victoria has a new assistant manager and a new mentor initiative.
Savvas Savva took on the role in January to fill the vacancy left by Rhys Coote and says giving members a fair go is a policy he is boosting with the program.
“The door to the CPM program is open to all SSAA Victoria members with some level of hunting and shooting experience,” he says.
“We want to provide opportunities for our members to hunt pests or take part in conservation programs to assist Parks Victoria.
“We also want to ensure we are delivering a professional service to Parks Victoria, so we are developing ways to bring those two goals together.”
The CPM program commenced in 2007 when the State Government entrusted SSAA Victoria to provide skilled volunteers to control pest animals and achieve conservation outcomes on Parks Victoria-controlled land.
An updated accreditation course was implemented in early 2017 and that was revised last year with the practical shooting component upgraded to better replicate field shooting.
The new mentor program will mean SSAA Victoria members will be able to participate in a CPM program soon after they have passed the accreditation course.
The mentor program works by pairing experienced CPM shooters with newly accredited volunteers to ensure they are getting proper guidance.
“A CPM operation is typically handled by a team of eight shooters and the tendency has been to only select that team from the ranks of those with previous CPM experience,” Savvas says.
“Our new mentor program will see newly accredited volunteers included in that team of shooters so the experienced participants can show them the ropes.
“It means we can maintain a level of professionalism while ensuring those new to the CPM program will get equal opportunity to participate.”
Meanwhile, existing active CPM volunteers have been going through a reaccreditation process to ensure best practice is being observed.
Savvas says he has been notifying active CPM volunteers of the requirement to obtain the current CPM card by completing a reaccreditation course.
“We have new CPM programs starting in May which will provide opportunities for properly accredited volunteers,” he says.
“So if you’re a new member with some hunting experience, then sign up for the next accreditation course.
“If you’re an existing active CPM volunteer who hasn’t done a reaccreditation course within the last 18 months, then get in touch and we’ll ensure you’re right to go.”
The next course will be on April 14 and another is scheduled for September.
New CPM assistant manager Savvas Savva says the process of obtaining a Section 37 permit required to use a firearm in National Parks has been streamlined.
A Section 37 is required along with CPM accreditation before a SSAA Victoria volunteer can participate in a CPM program.
“It was an area that had been a little slow in the past, but we have worked with Parks Victoria to ensure they come through much quicker which is good news for our CPM volunteers,” Savvas says.
The steps for an experienced shooter to become an active SSAA Victoria CPM volunteer are:
Attend an accreditation course to prove competency.
Obtain a Section 37 from Parks Victoria.
Am I CPM material?
The Conservation and Pest Management program is professionally run and must adhere to the rules set out by Park Victoria.
It means that the volunteers selected to take part must demonstrate previous hunting experience and marksmanship competency.
Volunteers who successfully complete the accreditation course can hunt a full variety of species from rabbits to goats to deer.
However, they will need to show that they are capable of effectively dispatching those animals before being considered for the CPM program.
“CPM is not a training exercise or education program,” says CPM assistant manager Savvas Savva.
“SSAA Victoria does have training for those who want to improve their skills.
“However, CPM demands a high level of skill and the practical component of our accreditation course is designed to ensure we’re putting competent shooters on the ground.”