Like many hunters, Chris Toulson, of the Yarra Ranges, believes in only hunting what he needs to eat. The SSAA Victoria member has made it his goal to change the public’s perception of hunters and teach the community about the benefits of harvesting their own meat.
“I think some members of the public have an issue with hunting because firstly, they are afraid of firearms and secondly, they think hunters will wound animals and cause them pain,” Chris said. “I want the public to know that people who have intentions of hunting for meat have every intention of making a clean kill and not rendering an animal wounded.
“Hunters take time out to learn about safe handling of firearms and brushing up their target shooting at the ranges, which means they are safer and more likely to kill in one-shot. All ethical hunters will aim for the kill zone to ensure the animal has little pain. I’ve never had one get away from me. They’ve all dropped on the spot.”
The former truck driver and grandfather, who grew up in Glenburn, only ventures out for a hunt in country Victoria when his freezer is empty. Chris has harvested about 40 to 45 deer over the years, saving himself thousands of dollars at the butcher and providing hundreds of kilograms of natural, hormone-free and fresh venison.
“It would vary, but generally I would get about 38kg of meat from a Hog deer, about 40kg from a Fallow deer and anywhere from 65kg to 70kg from a Sambar stag,” he said. “I eat everything – the rump steak, cutlets, ribs, spare ribs. I take a full rump and back leg, cut it up with vegetables and make a stew or a pie. Deer of those sizes will generally last me between two and three months. Sometimes it lasts even longer.”
But hunting provides more to Chris than just fresh food. A truck accident in 2012 left Chris with serious injuries. He said the best thing for his recovery was getting outdoors and back into hunting. “Getting outdoors was a great motivation for my mind and it helped improve my fitness again,” he said. “There’s so much more to life than sitting on the couch moping about the pain you are in.”
When he’s out on a hunt Chris says safety is always at the forefront of his mind. “I hunt with a blaze orange vest on to ensure all other hunters know it’s me out there, not a deer,” he said. “It’s never ruined my chances of getting a deer. I see it as a life-giving advantage.”
A major challenge for law-abiding hunters moving forward is overcoming the bad press that the few illegal hunters generate. “I think it’s up to every hunter to report anyone doing the wrong thing,” he said. “If I see anyone doing something they shouldn’t be doing I take their vehicle registration and report them to the authorities. There is a small minority of people who are giving the majority a bad name. It’s up to us to make it clear to them that we won’t stand for senseless killing, thrill killing or any illegal activity.”
Illegal hunting can now be reported online through a new Game Management Authority tool. Members are encouraged to save the URL to their favourites for future use: www.gma.vic.gov.au/enforcement/report-illegal-hunting2