Campfire Rabbit

Stephen Barnes in Western Australia.

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Shooting|February 2023

From late December 2018 through to late December 2018 I was on a mission to shoot fifty-two English shotgun makers on as wide an array of game as possible.

The criteria I'd elected upon was the gun must be English, side by side, 12 bore, and be a breech loader. Sounds simple doesn't it? Excepting I live in the remote outback of the Kimberleys of Australia with a tiny population of 34 thousand!

To give this perspective, the Kimberleys are 423,517 sq kilometers. Divided by 34,000 equals 12.456 sq kilometer per man, woman and child. It is roughly three times the size of England, and the First Australians, Aboriginals, make up 41.6% of this population. Besides the challenges of vehicle breakdown, English gunmaker procurement, and finances, in July my Eftpos at Taylor's Store failed!!!

Once I'd positively established the fault was with the Eftpos, I entered into a discussion with my friend KB to capitalize on the opportunity.
My reckoning was that when life deals you a lemon, turn it into lemonade. (carpe diem). Knowing that the bank's contractor wouldn't get a new Eftpos to me within a week, we threw about plans to hunt south into WA's goldfields.

We started packing our swags, basic camp cooking kit, plus the firearms of choice, our main shotguns being 'Charles Boswell'. My girlfriend arrived home that night and I informed her KB and I would be leaving early the next morning on a week's hunt. To me it was simple, if my business is going to lose 90% of turnover through lack of Eftpos, sacrifice the other 10% for a hunting opportunity!

We hit the Great Northern Highway early the next morning, driving southwards with a view to reach Port Hedland that night. Arriving at Wal the Welder's that evening. It was great to catch up with my Maori mate, a KEEN pig hunter. The further south we drove it became colder and COLDER!!

Winter rains had been heavy in the goldfields and this had also contributed to colder weather. I'd arranged to meet a hunting contact in Meekatharra, which didn't work out on the day, so we pushed on along an outback road to Sandstone. Our campsite was comfortable, excepting it was quite COLD, necessitating the stoking of our campfire during the night.

We started to see an odd rabbit near Sandstone and KB made the first kill with his 'C. Boswell' on a fast running coney, just as it exited the light! At first we weren't sure if he'd made the kill, but behind some spinifex it lay dead, success was sweet after the big drive, KB's first Rabbit in nearly 40 ears. Breakfast saw us huddled around the campfire for warmth and eagerly waiting for the rabbit pieces cooking in the frying pan with onion and garlic.

I don't know if it's just psychological or reality, but freshly cooked game meat on a cold morning seems to taste really GOOD! We were also trying to locate fox's and enquired of a sheep farmer as to whether there were any around. Sadly for us she said the 1080 program of a decade prior had virtually eliminated them out in this region, she hadn't seen one in years! She did give us some advice on where feral goats could be found and this gave us another alternative quarry.

We were into a routine by now, breakfasts over the campfire, lunch and dinners at a roadhouse for convenience and showering. Our other hunting contact in Mount Magnet unfortunately was committed with a family funeral and we just had to make the best of it. Where we went to pursue the goats, there was evidence of rabbits living in the area, although presently they were in low numbers. Based on this evidence and a lack of rabbits generally throughout this region, we planned to come back at night and hunt by spotlight. As with most game, the signs tell the true picture even without having seen the quarry, we just had to be careful not to get bogged, as the terrain was wet.

Upon driving around the end of the rocky hillock, no road but just carefully navigating the terrain we flushed a rabbit which popped behind some spinifex. I flushed it and as it sped towards the rocky outcrop, I rolled it with two shots of RC Professional No 5, low pressure cartridges.

Thinking this would be easy, we continued around the hillock with no further flushes until 75% circumnavigated and then we flushed a second. This time the rabbit disappeared behind a small rock cluster which I walked up to not knowing if it was hidden in the shadow or had mad it down a burrow.

I was virtually on top of it, say two metres, when it flushed and i had to let it run a bit before firing, my eye was in and it rolled over to my satisfaction.

Gutted, the two rabbits and hung them high up in a tree at our campsite to set overnight, intending to cook one for breakfast. We woke up at dawn, stoked the fireplace and soon had a dissected rabbit sizzling with onions and garlic in the frypan. There's something SPECIAL about sitting around a campfire on a COLD morning, drinking coffee and having the woodsmoke mixed with aroma of cooking food!

Sitting there we both enjoyed the moment, reminiscing of past hunts over the last 38 years of Buffalo, deer, pigs, etc. Yes, it was SPECIAL!
As with all hunts the end comes and we headed northwards up the bitumen highway, contemplating our latest ADVENTURES as two aging men.

We came to a mathematical conclusion, that having seen eight Rabbits in 8,000 kilometers and shot 3, there were only 5 Rabbits left in Western Australia!!!

I should add that part of the 8,000 K's was an expedition out into the Tanami Desert to saltpans, where in good seasons they appear. It wasn't a good season!

Having been fortunate to hunt many desirable 'big game' species, it was surprising how satisfying it was to hunt and dine under the stars on the humble bunny.

Published by Vintage Guns Ltd on

Shooting|February 2023

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