Peter Hawker represents the side to duck hunting rarely seen, particularly during hunting season when opposition to the sport has highlighted bad elements and divided opinion.

“I believe that the hunting season promotes a very positive pastime for many Victorians,” Mr Hawker said.

“I think a lot of people forget that through the generations, it’s been handed down that if you’re going to take a bird, you take it for the plate, you respect it.

“And then once you actually get your quota or the amount that you need, that you then walk out.”

Mr Hawker’s hunting heritage reaches back to first settlement, and he presents an argument that blends tradition, sport, ecology and fine cuisine into a cultured narrative.

Conservation is high on the list, and he describes when he first climbed a D6 bulldozer at 12 years old to build a bank across a waterway on his family’s Wimmera property in order to build a wetland.

“The effort to be able to provide that food source has to come from looking after existing wetlands and making new ones as well,” he said.

“And preserving them is actually key because within agriculture, if you took a liberal economic view, you would have one end of Victoria to other with the plow through it and broadacre cropping and monoculture everywhere.

“The flip side of that is if you’re running livestock, where you can cater for wildlife, swamps and rehabilitation programs to bring that ecosystem into balance, you will always have a very good farming outcome.

“That was one of the problems that was happening back in the 1950s when soldier settlement blocks were being established across regional Victoria, wetlands were drained and there were organisations, from the fishing community originally, that saw the decline of wildlife because all of this land was being developed.

“It was only hunters that stood up and said ‘Hey, we’ve got a bit of a problem here’.”

Mr Hawker said hunting organisations and licences were first introduced to preserve and reclaim lost wetlands, a key argument maintained by hunting groups.

He described his childhood as coming with a “huge amount of freedom”, which included rabbit trapping before school, fishing afterwards and duck and quail hunting during prescribed seasons.

“We used all animals that we hunted for a specific purpose,” he said.

“I used rabbits to sell to a milliner in Adelaide to generate money to buy a fishing boat.

“We always had rabbit on the table, ducks on the table and quail on the table.

“We shot foxes to keep the numbers down, but the skins were also sold.

“Now from growing up on a farm, we realised, well, if we enjoy taking from the land, we need to give back to the land.

“And in order to give back to the land you need to preserve it — Victoria wouldn’t have a state game reserve system if it wasn’t for hunters.

“They wouldn’t have wetlands that the public now take for granted, because that was all going to be lost.

“This can only be taught through the generations — the generations essentially are the real teachers of handing down information.”

Mr Hawker with a portrait from his childhood. Through the generations it’s been handed down that if you’re going to take a bird, you take it for the plate, you respect it.”

Mr Hawker described a history of having hunted with many people from across Australia, among them some well-known identities whose involvement might not be widely known.

“There is this common kinship with like-minded people that enjoy each other’s company.

“They enjoy a pastime which only takes a very small amount of birds.”

To illustrate this, Mr Hawker describes luring ducks to within range using calls and decoys and then shooting at the lead duck which is then retrieved by a dog.

The hunter then needs to wait for the next opportunity.

“Duck hunting is completely self-regulated because one or two shots and they’re all gone.

“And when you actually take them back to the table, your interaction with your sisters and your mothers or helping with the cooking and then serving up a meal that you just can’t buy is a most special thing, that is the reward to all of this.

“Essentially, this is a time when we all catch up as a family. And if you really think about hunting, that’s when we all go out together, the brothers and the old man and all of the friends.

“The hunt only really happens for 10 minutes of the whole process.”

In past years Mr Hawker has organised dinners with a Hawthorn-based women’s group who were given one duck each to cook overnight for a luncheon the following day and described dinners held in Melbourne that drew sittings of more than 250 people.

“They all came back with their husbands, and we shared a lunch and an afternoon and drinks and then basically went through hunting stories and why we do it.

“It was a hit out of the park.

“But the government has been slowly edging at the sides and they banned the sharing of game food last year.”

Mr Hawker addressed the concerns of conservationists about the conduct of some shooters.

“I think 99.9 per cent of the population that are out there hunting want it to continue, and so they do the right thing.

“Like anything, there can be a rogue element, but that rogue element can be dealt with pretty swiftly.

“Hunters are very good at pulling people up if something is going wrong.

“There has been a very strong peer group pressure to do the right thing, because you don’t want to lose hunting — that’s exactly the point.

“All the practices today are much better than what they had been — there’s no doubt about that.”

Mr Hawker said the inquiry had ignored hunting families and the heritage and historical culture of hunting.

“I can understand hearing from where the committee has come, but there was always a lot of holes; and a lot of the arguments that have been put forward, were either washed over or weren’t concentrated on.

“And I think that’s where the most disappointing part is around that committee report.

“Ultimately it seems to be that they already had an intended outcome prior to the committee being set up.”

However, Mr Hawker remains upbeat regarding a government response to the recommendations.

“No, it’s not a fait accompli,” he said.

“I believe that we still have a very good argument to maintain duck hunting in Victoria.

“It’s proven scientifically that hunting has no direct effect on wildlife populations, and that’s been said by many scientists.

“I’m of the belief that duck hunting can be here for future generations because of the many positive aspects of what’s happened over the generations of hunters and the way they’ve treated, essentially, conservation head-on over the millennia.”

Thoughts return to the family property and his first wetland construction as a boy.

“That swamp is still there with a mass of wildlife with waterbirds, including brolgas and all rare and endangered waterfowl.

“There was no funding by any government.

“The real driver for us was to be able to harvest a few birds for the plate every year.”

Peter Hawker