Woman's sickening find during Victoria's hunting season: 'Hadn't buried it enough'

'I saw a webbed foot protruding out of the ground.'

To most people, it would look like no more than an abandoned campsite next to a lake.

But when Deborah Tremayne came across a burnt-out fire pit surrounded by food scraps, something more sinister caught her eye - what appeared to be a shallow grave with flies buzzing around.

Moving closer, what she saw confirmed her suspicions. “I saw a webbed foot protruding out of the ground,” she told Yahoo News Australia. “I thought okay, they haven’t buried the body parts deep enough.”

The pit can be seen in the distance at Lake Koynock. There are a few trees and some reeds in the background.
Deborah found the buried ducks at Lake Koynock in Victoria's northwest. Source: Supplied

Deborah began digging into the earth, uncovering a pit that contained three dead ducks. Continuing to explore the area, she found two more bodies.

Is the woman's duck find unusual?

As a veteran campaigner against Victoria’s controversial shooting season, it’s not the first time Deborah has become aware of buried dead ducks.

Game Management Authority (GMA), which is responsible for investigating alleged breaches of hunting regulations, said it has received 12 reports since the 2023 season began. "All reports of illegal or irresponsible behaviour are taken seriously, and there are significant penalties for hunting protected species," it said.

Why are shooters hiding the bodies of their kills?

Because native waterbird numbers are consistently declining, the government has set limits on how many birds shooters can kill. This year they’re allowed to take four per day.

Five dead ducks on a towel in front of the shallow grave they were found in at Lake Koynock.
Five dead ducks were found buried in a shallow grave at Lake Koynock. Source: Supplied

While there is growing opposition to duck season, for many shooters taking wild game is a family tradition. Many licensed hunters comply with the law, but there are others who overshoot. Rather than face fines for not butchering the birds as required, it’s believed some bury the bodies and leave the meat to rot. Shooting ducks for fun rather than food has been described as "thrill kills".

The Victorian government admitted in April it has “concerns regarding the rates of wounding” as well as poor behaviour by some hunters”, leading it to shorten this year’s season. An inquiry into the season’s future which is currently underway received 1700 submissions.

Are authorities investigating the dead ducks?

Deborah has been protesting duck season for 38 years, and she hopes this duck season will be her last.

A shooter holding the bodies of waterbirds while standing in a lake.
Duck shooters are required to retrieve the bodies of their kills. Source: Supplied

“If people were walking through Melbourne with shotguns there’d be an outcry, but if you walk into a wetland in Victoria, you’ll be confronted by this hidden element of what's going on,” she said.

Deborah found the buried ducks on April 29 at Lake Koynock and reported it to GMA. The agency confirmed it is "investigating alleged illegal hunting activity" at the lake.

Since 2018, GMA has conducted 23 investigations that resulted in prosecutions under the state Wildlife Act or relevant law. Penalties and convictions are determined by the courts.  

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