Behind the Scenes
In this hunt, Rod, Jess and Tash accompany some friends on a driven hunt for wallabies in the Central Highlands of Tasmania. A driven hunt is when dogs are used to flush the animal out into the open towards a waiting group of hunters.
Wallabies are part of the macropod species that includes kangaroos, pademelons, wallabies, wallaroos, tree kangaroos and quokkas. In this episode, we are hunting the Bennett’s wallaby and the Rufous pademelon.
Hunting wallabies is a complex issue in Australia, as they are partly protected in most states. This makes it illegal to hunt them without a permit, which can be difficult to obtain unless you are a landholder with reasonable cause to manage their numbers.
However, Tasmania is one of the only states in Australia where wallaby hunting is not only allowed – it is actively encouraged by the government.
That’s because wallabies actually outweigh the human population. As Australia’s smallest state – and the only island state – Tasmania’s population is just over half a million (540,000 as at June 2020). As for the number of nobody has any idea how many there are. Given the vast tracts of wilderness, and the wallaby’s tendency to live in dense bushland, it would be almost impossible to conduct an accurate survey of their numbers. However, the Tasmanian government reports around 1 million wallabies are culled or hunted each year, and they are still one of the most plentiful animals in the island state and are often seen even in the capital city, Hobart.
There are two major reasons for the population explosion. One comes down to the unique biology of macropods that allows them to sustain multiple pregnancies at once and pause or speed up pregnancies according to food supplies; the other comes down to vast improvements in modern agriculture that has improved the landscape and created a bounty of food for them to eat. This, in turn, allows them to speed up pregnancies and give birth to multiple young each year!
And when wallaby populations explode, that causes some big headaches for farmers, as wallabies both compete with livestock for pasture, and consume agricultural crops intended for human consumption.
We have been shooting wallabies under spotlight on crop protection permits for over 10 years, but in the Tasmanian Central Highlands, where this episode was filmed, it is impossible to hunt wallabies under spotlight. The farmland itself is quite wet and marshy, which means you cannot get vehicles into the paddocks without tearing up the land. And the bushland that surrounds many of the farms is so rocky and thick with scrub that it’s impossible to drive vehicles through without damaging the vehicle!
This creates a perfect environment for wallabies to flourish. They bed down in the thick bushland during the day and then hit the crops and pastures at night.
We had heard plenty about hunting wallabies with dogs, but we had never actually done it ourselves. So when we were offered the chance to accompany some friends, we absolutely jumped at the chance.
The hunting itself is pretty similar to other driven hunts. Like with driven hunts for wild boar and pheasant, trained dogs flush the wallabies out of the thick scrubland, back towards a group of waiting hunters.
It is most often done during the cool, winter months, as there is less chance of running into problems with Tassie’s venomous tiger and copperhead snakes.
Variations of this method date back to ancient times.
When the First Settlers arrived in Tasmania, they learned how to hunt wallaby from the local Aboriginal tribes using fire to flush the wallabies out of the thick bushland into handmade nets. The hunters would then use spears and knives to kill the wallabies.
It didn’t take the settlers long to adapt it to a style of hunting they were more familiar with – substituting fire for the relative reliability of dogs, and trading in spears for shotguns and rifles.
Wallaby hunting became such a popular sport in Colonial Australia that hunting clubs sprung up all over the colony, attracting many international visitors including naturalist Charles Darwin and novelist Anthony Trollope.
Scottish explorer, Thomas Mitchell even commented on the symbiotic relationship that existed between humans, macropods and the environment.
Today, wallaby hunting is by far the most common form of hunting, far surpassing deer hunting or duck hunting. This is both due to the never-ending supply of wallabies to hunt (there are millions of wallabies compared to just 50,000 fallow deer), and the abundance of land to hunt them on.
Gaining access to good deer hunting land can be quite a challenge. You either need to pay big dollars to gain access to private land, own your own land, or take your chances in the public ballot. If you’re really lucky, you might find a farmer willing to let you hunt deer on his land for free.
Gaining access to land to hunt wallabies is almost the polar opposite. In fact, if you pay the $32 for the permit, you can pretty much hunt wallabies in any state forest or on Crown land all year round. In a recent survey by the Tasmanian Farmers and Grazers Association, Tasmanian farmers ranked the wallaby as the biggest pest animal by far. So while farmers can (and do) charge a premium for deer access, they can’t get enough hunters to help them manage their wallaby problem.
No wonder wallaby meat is one of the most commonly eaten game meat in Tasmania.
If you would like a more in-depth look at wallaby hunting in Tasmania, check out Wallaby Hunting Under Fire.
The following people appeared in this episode. Click on their photos below to follow them on social media.
The hunt took place in Bronte Park on a property that borders several agricultural farms. The area is well-known as a fishing destination, but also has wild fallow deer herds, and plenty of native macropods and other wildlife species.
Bronte Park was created in 1947 to house Hydro Electric staff members. By the 1950s, the town grew to over 700 workers, and had its own police station, cinema, hospital and church. Today, all that remains of the once bustling town is a small general store, and several ‘shacks’. Hydro Tasmania sold the town to Denis and Robin Wiss in 1991. The couple saw potential in developing the remnants of the village into a popular fishing destination. The area has even spawned an international trout fishing competition, with anglers travelling from all over the world to hunt brown trout in the local waters.
Located in Tasmania’s Central Highlands, Bronte Park is 154 km north west of Hobart and close to Trig Point 715, which marks the geographical centre of Tasmania.
A few years ago, a savage bushfire ripped through the Central Highlands, decimating millions of acres of native forest and displacing wildlife.
Ironically, Sam and Deb Crow were part of a co-ordinated efforts to save the local wildlife. You can read all about that here.
The Game Animals
In this episode, the team hunted two species of Tasmanian macropods – the Bennett’s wallaby and the Rufous pademelon.
In Tasmania, wallabies and pademelons are hunted both for their meat and to keep numbers down as part of wildlife conservation.
You can learn more about both of these species by clicking on the images below.
Game Saver Tips
Pademelons are colloquially called ‘stinkys’ in Tasmania, due to a strong, almost-off-putting smell that the carcus has. We usually leave them for the dogs, although some hunters do enjoy the taste of their meat.
Bennett’s wallabies, on the other hand, are great eating. The meat has a deep red (almost burgundy) colour and the flesh is tender, with a mild, delicate flavour. If handled well in the field and aged (we wet age ours in Game Saver vacuum seal bags for at least 7 days in the fridge), wallaby meat should not have a strong gamey flavour. In fact, it is often compared to veal in flavour and texture. It is low in cholesterol and fat, and high in protein and minerals, which makes it a great choice for a healthy diet.
Below you will find a couple of the recipes we have posted using wallaby meat, though really, you could substitute wallaby meat for any red meat. You are only limited by your imagination. We have also included a link to a video on how to debone a wallaby leg, as this is where you will find most of the meat.
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If you would like to know more about hunting wallabies, kangaroos or deer in Tasmania, check out these related articles and podcasts.