Professional Hunters Driven Down by Regulation, Fees in Australia

Image by Rachael Webb from The Land

Arizona -( Commercial hunters are the stuff of legend. Scottish Karamojo Bell harvested elephants for ivory in Africa at the turn of the century. American Billy Dixon made the famed long shot with a buffalo rifle to stop the attack on Adobe Walls.  Norwegian Per Jonsson harvested 165 polar bears on Halfmoon Island near Svalbard, Norway, in two years in 1969-71.

Increasing human populations and agriculture have reduced the potential for commercial hunting. Australia is a place where commercial hunters survive. Australia is a continent as big as the lower 48 states, with a human population smaller than Texas. Australia has game populations that must be controlled to prevent starvation and environmental degradation. Australia exports hundreds of millions of dollars of meat and hides a year, harvested by commercial Australian hunters. Kangaroo hunters are being driven out of business by over-regulation driven by animal rights activists.  From

He’s probably the biggest kangaroo shooter by numbers in Australia, but making ends meet in this industry is almost impossible.

Shaun Mills operates out of Packsaddle in western NSW, but at the end of the day he’s a low-income earner although he’s at the top of his game. He shoots about 7500 kangaroos a year, when the industry average per shooter is about 5000 roos. It’s a hard, lonely life and he says he does it because he loves being out in the bush. But it’s hardly rewarding.

The low returns point to why so many shooters have left the $200m-a-year kangaroo meat industry and why no one wants to take harvesting up. The number of NSW commercial kangaroo harvesters has declined dramatically from seven years ago from approximately 900 to 380 last year (slightly up from 2016). And it’s no wonder why.

At the moment Mr Mills gets 70 cents a kilo for his kangaroo carcase, which must be male and weigh over 15kg. He reckons if he got $1 a kilo then it would be a good living. His pay each year ends up at about $53,000 before tax, and then he has all the costs of tags ($1.17 each in NSW), harvest licence (about $900), petrol, guns and bullets. Because only male kangaroos can be shot he has to move further and for longer to get his quarry. It’s no wonder the kangaroo harvest quota is never met (the quota is about 15 per cent of the kangaroo population, failing by nearly 90 per cent most years).

“The biggest problem is there is no money in it,” Mr Mills said. “You can barely make a living.”

“No young blokes want to be in it, they don’t like sitting out in bush camps with no phone service, no toilets and living pretty rough.

“Before we could harvest females and males, but now it is only bucks which forces us to travel further. Sometimes I have to go 140km from camp to find males.”All of this is done while he sees thousands of female kangaroos dying in dry creek beds and under trees from the heat and dry.

Farmers can obtain almost unlimited permits and tags to shoot kangaroos that threaten their crops. They are not limited to shooting bucks. Because regulations have limited the number of processors that can handle kangaroo carcasses, many kangaroos shot to protect crops are left to rot. It isn’t worth it for farmers to attempt to process 20 or 50 kangaroos shot on a depredation hunt.

Commercial hunters like Shaun Mills handle that many kangaroos every day. They have the equipment and expertise to take the meat safely to market.  In remote locations, the meat cannot be brought to market but the skins can be saved. But regulations have forbidden hide-only hunting, even though nearly 90% of the sustainable harvest is being wasted.

Kangaroo and other animal populations are much higher than existed before European settlers developed rural and outback Australia. Stock dams, windmills, and water tanks make a major difference. In Australia, the limit on wildlife carrying capacity is the availability of water during droughts.

Government regulations are too slowly changed to deal with periodic droughts, so tens of thousands of kangaroos die of heat and thirst. That is the effect of the animal rights activists. Their actions cause kangaroos to die of thirst when they could be humanely harvested.

Shaun’s precision rifle in the picture is missing the bolt. That is to comply with the extreme gun regulations in New South Wales. It may have been legal to have a picture taken with the bolt in the rifle, but a professional hunter cannot afford to take the risk. An animal rights activist might have complained.

Shaun is at the top of his game and the top of his profession. He has to be a superb shot, know the land, the game, and the bureaucracy to survive and harvest the thousands of animals a year necessary to make a living as a professional hunter.

There are many specific regulations on how and with what kangaroos can be shot, as I detailed in a previous article.  Governments can always shut down productive activity more easily than it can be created.  One of the restrictions is that only head shots are allowed.

One shooter reportedly lost his license and was fined, because a kangaroo carcass with a body wound made its way into a processing facility. The tag on the carcass was traced back to the hunter, who lost his livelihood for that mistake.

Australia does not allow the harvesting of kangaroos by sport hunters.

©2018 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.

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About Dean WeingartenDean Weingarten

Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of constitutional carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and recently retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.

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3 years ago

It certainly doesn’t help that recently we had the release of the science fiction PETA extremist propaganda film called Kangaroo which gave a massively misleading claim that kangaroos were facing potential extinction when in reality they are not only thriving but even at record levels

3 years ago

I regularly head out to Roma in central Queensland to hunt and bring back both human and dog tukka (food) and quite often the property owner will tell us to give the roo’s a touch up! In other words, shoot the shit out of them. It is nothing unusual to shoot over 200 of them in a night, only taking the big ones I might add. The carcasses are simply dragged off the crops and left to rot. Some nights you see a roo in the spotlight, take a shot and the whole paddock seems to get up and hop… Read more »

3 years ago

I read the posts from Aussies that make it sound like life is fine in Australia. Then I read articles that say, primarily, it is a nanny state.I think I believe the articles and that has reduced my desire to visit “down under.” It appears that the people have become sheeples. We better be careful or we will be next with high schoolers calling all the shots. (Sar.)

Marc Disabled Vet
Marc Disabled Vet
3 years ago

Either over run or gone ,
by way of the Buffalo .
If all the hunters Quit ,
even for 1 season so as
the kangaroos moved into
populated areas due to over
breeding. Maybe prices for them
might go up and restrictions
would eased back.