The RSPCA says its inspectorate will review footage of hunters allegedly using unapproved methods to kill ducks in South Australia’s south east, to determine if it will pursue charges.

WARNING: This article contains a video that some readers may find distressing.

The footage was captured by activists at Lake George on Saturday, the first day of the prescribed duck hunting season, and appeared to show hunters, including children, “windmilling” injured ducks.

RSPCA SA media relations manager Carolyn Jones said windmilling was a practice of swinging a duck in circles by its head, and was not a reliable or humane way to kill the birds.

Another video appeared to show dead ducks left unretrieved, and the RSPCA claimed some footage also showed shooters consuming alcohol while hunting.

She said the footage was “very concerning”.

“We’ve also seen ducks continuing to fly after being struck by pellets before succumbing to their injuries and dropping from the sky some time later,” she said.

“It’s not hard to imagine the kind of deaths that those poor ducks are enduring.”

Conservation and Hunting Alliance SA vice president Rob West said most of the behaviour in the footage released by the RSPCA was “quite acceptable”, but there was “still some education to do” around certain practices.

“The majority of [the footage] showed hunters making every effort to retrieve their wounded birds and finish them in an approved method,” he said.

“Windmilling is a practice that has been quite traditional for duck hunters over the years.

“The video just shows there’s still a little bit of work to do.”

“Windmilling” is the practice of holding a wounded bird by its head and swinging it in circles in an effort to kill it.(Supplied: RSPCA)

Complaint to be lodged 

Ms Jones said the people who recorded the footage had told the RSPCA they intended to lodge a formal complaint with the state’s Department of Environment and Water (DEW).

“Our inspectorate will [also] be viewing this footage to determine if there are grounds for laying charges under the Animal Welfare Act,” she said.

Last year, hunters at Lake George were fined over incidents caught on camera on the first day of hunting season.

One hunter was fined just over $900 for three offences, and two others were fined about $300 each.

“These are a very paltry kind of fines — they’re no more than what you would pay for a minor traffic infringement,” Ms Jones said.

“From the RSPCA’s perspective it certainly doesn’t reflect the seriousness of causing an animal a prolonged and painful death.”

Mr West said he believed DEW had “ample instruments” to enforce regulations.

“We’re about educating people, but people need to take it upon themselves to also learn and do the right things,” he said.

A parliamentary committee report last year recommended duck hunting not be banned.(Supplied: RSPCA/Jeff Groves)

Controversial practice

Last year, a parliamentary committee completed its inquiry into duck hunting in the state, recommending it remain legal but with stricter regulation.

Ms Jones said the RSPCA opposed the practice altogether.

“We know that hunters realise they’re under quite close scrutiny now and we know that CHASA [the Conservation and Hunting Alliance of SA] has read the riot act to them to do the right thing in the field,” she said.

“No matter how much regulation is put around this activity — and of course there are incredible difficulties with enforcing those regulations — this cannot be made a humane activity.”

Mr West said it took time for hunters to learn rules and regulations, and CHASA wanted to take a larger role in educating hunters.

“Training in general we think takes time, and you need access to the hunters to do it,” he said.

A DEW spokeswoman said anyone with evidence of potential duck hunting breaches should contact the department or SA Police. 

“The department is yet to receive direct complaints about the potential breaches at Lake George, which have been raised by the RSPCA,” she said. 

“South Australian legislation allows for properly managed and regulated hunting of game birds by licensed shooters.

“Duck and quail hunters in South Australia must hold an appropriate duck or quail open season hunting permit issued by the Department for Environment and Water.” 

The open season for duck hunting will run until June 30.

Get our local newsletter, delivered free each Friday