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A duck hunter takes aim near Howlong on the Murray River during last year’s season.As Victoria’s duck hunting season begins this weekend — albeit quietly in the rain-starved south-west — activists are still fighting criminal prosecutions arising from last year’s protests.
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Among the unresolved cases as hunting resumes are a charge against one protester of failing to kill a duck he was trying to rescue and five other activists contesting charges of harassing hunters.

Laurie Levy, campaign director for the Coalition Against Duck Shooting, says such criminal charges haven’t been laid in decades and he fears this year’s protest will be made more difficult with the court matters still outstanding.

“This will be our toughest rescue in the last 27 years,” he said.

“It’s going to be a tough one. But on the plus side there aren’t as many duck shooters around these days.”

Under wildlife laws, birds have to be killed as quickly as possible to avoid prolonged suffering.

During the last weekend of the 2011 season protester Anthony Murphy, 56, picked up a wounded duck that had survived being shot.

Mr Murphy had been taking the bird back to a veterinarian to save it when it died, Mr Levy said, which prompted a wildlife officer to then charge him with failing to kill game taken alive.

The matters returned to court briefly this week but all were adjourned to another date.

Mr Levy said the criminal charges were proof wildlife officers, who are now working under the Coalition government’s newly-created gaming unit, have been told to target protesters and protect hunters.

“They now see us as the enemy,” he said.

Game Victoria has been tasked with both promoting hunting and wildlife conservation.

But a spokesman for the Department of Primary Industries noted a number of agencies are involved in monitoring the activities of hunters and protesters, not just officers from Game Victoria.

“DPI has full confidence in its authorised staff to undertake their legislative responsibilities with professionalism and impartiality,” the spokesman said.

Victoria’s duck shooting season opened yesterday morning, with hunters allowed to kill up to 10 birds a day for the next 12 weeks.

The size of this year’s hunt has been criticised by the RSPCA, which called it a barbaric sport.

But the state government continues to actively promote duck hunting and is encouraging as many shooters as possible to head to wetlands this year.

“Victoria has some fantastic game reserves and duck hunters shouldn’t be disheartened by the recent flooding,” Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh said in a statement.

“There are still many areas of northern Victoria not affected by floods that are open for business for the upcoming duck season.”

However, the season across the south-west promises to be subdued with many wetlands drying up in the past six weeks.

The region’s shooters are likely to target Yambuk, Tower Hill and Lake Colac, or travel to Gippsland or northern Victoria in pursuit of ducks.

More than 100 protesters are expected to head to Lake Buloke Wildlife Reserve in north-western Victoria to rescue birds.

Victoria Police will also monitor the situation at the lake and across the state, a police spokeswoman said.

Due to the main duck season action being in other areas of the state, anti-duck shooting protestors are not likely to be prominent in the south-west.

South Australia is the only other state that hasn’t banned or stopped duck shooting seasons.

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