A Brace of Woodwards

Stephen Barnes in Kangaroo country

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Shooting|December 2022

When one sets lofty goals, there are always problems that can be viewed as a challenge or simply a roadblock.

When I set my goal to shoot 52 English shotgun makers during 2019, I wanted the BEST in that lineup. That is to say, Boss & Co, Holland & Holland 'Royal', James Purdey,  and a snap-action underlever by James Woodward.

They didn't have to be all sidelock, top-lever, ejector shotguns, & cased, but I did have preferences sought. In the case of securing a 'James Woodward' I dearly wanted to acquire a snap action underlever, Automatic!

WHY? You may well ask, simply because in 1996 I had the good fortune to inherit a 303 James Woodward, Automatic double rifle.

Amongst inherited items was also a personally hand made hunting double-edged knife, later cased in a custom sheath by a younger friend.
THANK YOU to Joseph Wyatt, my indentured tradesman, my mentor & encourager, but MOST of all, my FRIEND!

Now, James Woodwards are not like chasing a Hollis, WW Greener, or the like. They are around globally, but only occasionally come up for sale and usually sell quite FAST!

What made my quest more DIFFICULT, was my objective of 'snap action underlever, Automatic' in a scarce maker. I missed out on one in the U.S.A. by just a few hours, I was asleep when it came up and had already been SOLD!!!

I'm reminded of Dexter Yager's quote, "When the DREAM is big enough, the facts don't count." I just kept searching: the internet and Google are wonderful tools even for a 'technophobe' like me.  Eventually another came up in the U.S.A. and I was in quick and made the purchase.

Getting it into Australia and to me was another CHALLENGE and ultimately ended up being outside my 60th years shoot!
So instead of COMPROMISING the context of 'the English shotgun shoot' I decided to shoot a few more makers.

The slot in 2019 vacated by the undelivered 'James Woodward' was filled by another English maker. This way I still was able to achieve shooting 52 English makers with the scope to continue shooting extra English gunmakers.

In early 2020 I received the 12-bore James Woodward (s/n 3638) from 1879 to go with 303 James Woodward (s/n 4510) from 1891.

Joe had talked about getting a James Woodward shotgun, but it NEVER happened, he would be pleased. Now that I had the 12 bore J. Woodward with the 303 J. Woodward it was time to plan a hunt & shoot both of them.

I have many Australian Aboriginal friends who still exercise their traditional hunting & gathering rights for food. Although the weather wasn't favourable, my friend Reece was up for a hunt and some fresh meat in the kitchen.

It was very wet and some roads were closed, whilst other minor roads were impassable even to Toyota 4x4's.

We decided to play it SAFE and stuck to rocky hill country where the chances of getting bogged are reduced. Because of widespread rains the game had dispersed over HUGE expanses of country making contact difficult.

With perseverance we bagged a 'Peaceful Dove' AKA Geopelia Striata for the frying pan, small but tasty. Then we had to locate a 'Rock Kangaroo' close enough to shoot with the 303 iron sights, I've worn glasses all my adult life.

Like the birds, the Roo's as they are generally called in Australia were also in short supply with water & food everywhere. The first few we saw were either TOO far or hopping to SAFER environs, they get shot here regularly for the pot! Eventually through perseverance and a little luck we came upon a young Rock Kangaroo doe over a rise at about 40 metres.

A careful shot with the 303 Woodward secured it. The triggers are like silk and clearly the best of my double rifles. The feeling of elation at having achieved my goal of shooting the brace of James Woodwards is 'up there'.

All the challenges and difficulties of purchase, international importation, inclement weather and boggy roads didn't matter. We took on the odds and prevailed for success, the PROOF was ready for the kitchen and my friends were happy!

Reece went on to shoot some more Rock Kangaroo's for the esky with my 22 WMR Anschutz, with better range to shoot. To return back to Halls Creek with a laden esky validates 'he who perseveres wins'.

SUCCESS is certainly SWEET!

Published by Vintage Guns Ltd on (modified )

Shooting|December 2022

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