A dry spell and drop in duck numbers have cut the hunting season short, with the move infuriating both hunters and environmental groups.
The season has been cut from 12 to nine weeks and bag limits dropped to four birds on opening weekend and five thereafter, the Game Management Authority announced.
"Prevailing and persistent dry conditions across eastern Australia has reduced duck numbers, breeding and wetland habitat in Victoria," the GMA said in a statement on Friday.
"A modified season was necessary to reduce the seasonal harvest, to ensure duck hunting is conducted responsibly and duck numbers remain sustainable."
The season will run from March 19 to May 19, but the shorter time span has angered the hunting lobby, while environmental groups seek a complete ban.
A ban on duck hunting should have been called this year, Coalition Against Duck Hunting director Laurie Levy told AAP.
"It's an act of environmental vandalism by the Andrews government," he said.
"Waterbird numbers have crashed and a moratorium should have been called."
Animal welfare organisation RSPCA Victoria also called for this year's hunting season to be cancelled amid concerns of animal suffering, declining populations and habitat loss.
But Field and Game Australia claim members are seeing "widespread concentrations" of birds and want the state government to refund duck hunting licence holders.
"We call for the Andrews government to refund all duck hunting license holders 62.5 per cent of their current licence fees, in line with the announced season modifications," chief executive Richard Light said.
They also claim a "complete absence of quality science" around the decision and have said the process around setting the season is flawed, secretive and lacks transparency.
Authority chief executive Graeme Ford said decisions are based on best information available, with data available to the public on its website and key stakeholders invited to comment.
"The government has committed to developing an adaptive harvest model to strengthen the scientific basis of decision making," he said.
Despite modifications to the season, it would still be going ahead and costs would not be refunded, he added.
Hunters who don't salvage breast meat from the ducks face fines of about $3220 while those who breach bag limits face fines of $4025.
Australian Associated Press