Shoalhaven Hunting Club members will be out in force this spring as fox numbers explode with the spring breeding season.
The club has more than 400 members and services properties throughout the Shoalhaven, with some as far as Wagga Wagga and Taralga.
It is a free service offered to any landholder in south eastern New South Wales.
With foxes breeding from July through to late October, fox pups will be on the move from now onwards.
"Spring is an ideal time to be out hunting before the new fox generation has too much time to wreck havoc on small, native animals," Len White, the club's secretary said.
"It is also easier to hunt because of the mild weather and short grass in most paddocks."
Foxes do not have any understanding of fences. Too often we see foxes on neighbouring properties but cannot do anything about it because the landowner has not given permission for hunting on their property.Michael Squires
Foxes now number more than seven million throughout Australia, and pray on most native species under three kilograms.
They also regularly attack domestic livestock such as chickens, ducks and young lambs.
Club president Rod Haley said the problem is now so bad that some night they're seeing more foxes than all native species put together.
While the club removes dozens of foxes and other feral animals from the properties it services, it also recognises that feral animal control is the responsibility of the whole community.
"Foxes do not have any understanding of fences," Michael Squires, the club's property coordinator said.
"Too often we see foxes on neighbouring properties but cannot do anything about it because the landowner has not given permission for hunting on their property.
"Foxes, like all ferals, are an environmental and agricultural issue that everyone has a responsibility to control."
Mr Squires said incidents of overabundant deer populations in the Illawarra have highlighted the consequences of complacency surrounding feral animals.
He said contrary to popular belief, deer populations have not just suddenly exploded.
"With proper training, hunting is actually one of the safest forms of feral animal control. Unlike other forms of feral control like baiting, shooting is humane and there is practically no risk to non-target animals. With hunting, safety is always the main focus."Rod Haley
"We have been watching deer numbers steadily grow for over two decades but have been unable to make any strong impact due to limited access to properties and land where the deer have been breeding," he said.
Mr Squires said the same problem exists with all ferals.
"Unless landowners get people onto their properties to control feral populations, then species like foxes, deer and rabbits will steadily take over," he said.
"We must prevent populations of feral animals from reaching crisis point."
Shoalhaven Hunting Club offers a free feral animal control service for all pest animals including foxes, rabbits, deer, wild dogs, and kangaroos, where approved.
The club trains members in all aspects of shooting safety and technique.
It also requires them to pass practical, onsite hunter education.
"We understand that, in the area of hunting, there is no substitute for being trained on training property under real conditions," Len White said.
"Anyone can be an expert on paper, but it is only with that real experience that people go from novices to independent and safe hunters."
Len said this unique training regime is what differentiates Shoalhaven Hunting Club's services from private, volunteer hunters.
"With the club, you can be absolutely confident that anyone coming onto your property has been properly trained and cleared by experts," he said.
"You have complete control. With individual shooters, you may end up with someone who has no more experience than the two-hour, paper-based safety course they completed to obtain their licence."
Shoalhaven Hunting Club is also covered by $20 million in public liability insurance.
"With proper training, hunting is actually one of the safest forms of feral animal control," Rod Haley said.
"Unlike other forms of feral control like baiting, shooting is humane and there is practically no risk to non-target animals. With hunting, safety is always the main focus."
- For more information about Shoalhaven Hunting Club's free services, visit shoalhavenhuntingclub.com.au
- Michael Squires (property coordinator) on 0484 058 952 or firstname.lastname@example.org
- Len White (secretary) on 0406 412 911 or email@example.com.