Forward: The Mitta Valley Landcare Group has been actively involved in recent years with an on-going project around deer; recognising the threat that deer are to our environment and our landholdings. It is not just their physical presence and the destruction they cause but the sheer numbers, that we have seen build over the years. There has been a level of inactivity over the last 12 months in this space regarding government policy on handling the problem, however the big change has been the Professional Deer Harvesting initiative that was introduced over two years ago. Our new Landcare Facilitator Simon Feillafe provides us with an up- date on progress in this space.
At a recent Mitta Valley Landcare Meeting at Eskdale, the question of “What is happening in This Space?” was asked. To provide context to this article, I have worked in the environmental field, mainly for North East Landcare Groups over the last 20 plus years, I have hunted all my life and have provided deer as a professional deer harvester to the 3 main organisations that receive deer.
Some landholders have been changing their management, as a result of increasing deer numbers and issues with hunters/recreational shooters. There are a lot of farmers that are now adapting or erecting fences to discourage deer. Most involve electric fencing, which vary in construction, price and effect. Some fences are very effective and do remove the issue of deer.
Another adaption I have noticed over the last 5 years, is that some farmers are grazing their paddocks that adjoin the bush lines hard, by the onset of winter. While leaving the paddocks away from the bush alone as part of their grazing rotation. For an illustration of this, in July I went shooting on a property that recently grazed all their paddocks adjoining the bush over about 3km, and there was only one Spiky Sambar in the area. While on the adjoining property there was a lot of improved grass along the bush boundary, within the first 2km of walking, I was able to fill my vehicle with deer. The first property usually has a lot of deer and grass, but the deer move for good feed. Yet a little over a month prior (last time there) we recovered 34 Sambar over 2 nights, only stopping each night as there was no room for more deer. In this case there was good feed, and nearly no moon in the sky. (The reason for not being there in over a month is that a Sambar stag fell on me, so time to have a break!.)
There are a large number of landholders / recreational shooters now buying Thermal and Infrared spotting scopes and rifle scopes. For many people shooting this way keeps the landholder in control and for many it is a social activity, particularly since accompanying parties can generally watch what is going on through their phones. The quality of equipment and their reliability varies a lot for what is generally an expensive purchase, so do your research before purchasing.
One of the benefits of so many people harvesting deer in the region, is the number of people now utilizing venison, with some good and not so good culinary experiences. The picture below is of some deer that have just been processed into various sausages such as Boerewors, Borwurst, Bratwurst, Chorizo, Strazburg, Cabana, Chifotle, etc, with pork fat added.
Many people may not know that there are a range of deer and other pest species in the North East. Sambar are by far the most common, followed by Fallow, Red and Red/ Elk crosses, each behave differently and have a different flavour profile. The 2 pictures below show some deer and pigs that I harvested in the region.
The Professional Harvesting Initiative:
The general consensus is that where professional harvesters have regularly entered properties, the deer have been kept in check. Currently, there are about 10 harvesters in the North East who are providing the majority of the deer to processors. This equates to over 200 deer a week at this point in time.
It has been reported by one of the professional harvesters working in Hancocks Forests that 97 deer were taken in July and an estimated 2,000 over the last two years, over various properties. One would like to think that the removal of these sorts of numbers would be having some localized impacts on the population of deer.
Currently there are three main processors in-taking the deer, there is a fourth processor that some shooters have taken deer directly to, which is located at Seymour.
Corryong Abattoir or Colac Colac Knackery
The Colac Colac firm process deer for pet food. Currently shooters are paid $2.30kg for what is usable, and this has worked out to be about $1.90kg for an equivalent animal to what the other 2 processors provide. Currently they process between 50 to 70 per week.
Contact details: Cassey Phone: 0409 009 326
From approximately June 2020 Koallah Farm started receiving deer for both human and pet food processing. Currently a Chiller (semi trailer) is located at Kiewa. Currently payment to the shooter is $2kg.
Contact details: Steve email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Phone: 035 594 5222
Wild Game Resources
Currently Wild Game Resources are receiving 100 to 120 deer a week, though from April 2021 they are aiming to take 300 deer a week, which are delivered primarily to Howlong NSW.
Currently payments to the shooter is $2kg and $.50kg to the landholders. (This is gutted and head off) I have averaged 86kg per Sambar, which is $43 a deer to landholders currently.
Contact details: John Farr +612 6792 4858