Needhams and Feral Cats

Mini panther hunting in the outback.

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Shooting|February 2022

In early 2016 I began building a collection of 52 English makers shotguns, that is different makers.

I was coming up to 60 years old at the end of 2018 and set myself the goal to shoot 52 English makers' shotguns; one per week for my 60th year. On 15th May 2018 I purchased a J.V. Needham in a W.W. Greener case, thinking I would pinch the case for my Bluerock W.W. Greener.

George McBurney whom I seek advice off, advised it was probably marketed by W.W. Greener in this case, so I retained it together. What was interesting was, this shotgun had "Challenger No 2" engraved onto the trigger guard tang. I did some research & discovered "Challenger No 1" and "Challenger No 3" were also made by J.V. Needham.

After two years, I was able to purchase a J.V. Needham "Challenger No 1"and in June 2021, I was fortunate to purchase  a J.V. Needham "Challenger No 3". Completing the set was satisfying.

First week of 2022 saw an opportunity to take the set of Challengers out & shoot them with friends. This excursion into the East Kimberly involved mainly black soil plains country, not to be taken lightly with the breaking wet season rains! We packed the usual emergency bag, but also bog treads, axe & shovel along with a first aid kit.

We carried food and drinks in a smaller 'esky', and lots of iced two litre bottles in a big 100-litre 'esky' for game. Departure was set for 4am and, whilst quite wet near Halls Creek, as we travelled eastwards it got less wet, a good sign. Whilst traveling east we passed the returning WAPOL Covid19 border patrol without incident, had a trouble free run through to Ringer Soak community and our Aboriginal contact Lyle, of the Djaru tribe.

Quick cup of coffee and we hit the road as we were already prepared. We enjoyed a good morning shoot & returned for lunch at Ringer Soak. In the steamy afternoon we decided to venture out to Sturt Creek junction and have a swim, collecting thirty eight freshwater mussels in the process. I believe these Freshwater Mussels are 'Velesunio Ambiguus', or plains mussel's.

Cooled off & refreshed we returned to Ringer Soak early, & tidying up departed for home. Driving north along the Ringer Soak Rd to Duncan Highway we surprised 2 black cats out for a late afternoon hunt. We pulled up and I loaded the J.V. Needham 'Challenger No 1' with 2 1/2" Professional Game No.5 shot and stalked the black cat hiding in the grass.

Upon flushing I gave him both barrels, but he managed to keep going in an arc, so I reloaded & cut across the arc & shot him twice more, still mobile. He had been arcing around to re-enter the culvert which was obviously their home, which he made. I reloaded a second time and knelt to look into the culvert upon which he started to retreat, I shot through the culvert, killing him on the fifth shot.

The problem being now a dead cat approximately two metres inside the culvert, so we found a branch along the roadside and with some difficulty fished him out. This was the final cat colour I was seeking in 'the English shotgun shoot' having previously bagged orange & grey.
Photographed the scene & commenced our journey home, passing the WAPOL Covid19 nite patrol headed out.

We were pulled up and gave them an account of our journey and continued westwards, crossing a flooded Halls Creek just in time.
Friends in the vehicles behind us were too late and had to wait for Halls Creek to recede prior to driving across.

The orange cat was bagged in an August hunt 2019 whilst returning to Halls Creek at nite on an outback road. This was a simple affair with the large orange tomcat running across the road and then freezing crouched in the drain. I pulled out the C.G. Bonehill BLNE 3'' chambers, loaded with federal No 4 buck and delivered a one-shot instant kill, in the headlights/spotlight of the Toyota.

The grey cat was bagged in April 2019 upon checking a 'turkey nest dam' on a hunch. This 'turkey nest dam' had in the 6 weeks prior held a "Freckled Duck" as resident, "Stictonetta Naevosa" is Australia's rarest duck! These Freckled Ducks are endemic to Australia & found nowhere else wild in the world. (Australia population est 20,000)

Even in the East Kimberly they are vagrants with their principal range being south east Australia & south west Australia.They are gregarious and in their range occur in flocks from 10 to 100, all 4 examples I've seen in East Kimberly were lone vagrants! This weekend it was gone and I suspected a predator was involved, sometimes hunters just get a hunch about something yet unseen.

We continued the hunt southwards through the large pastoral property, 4,000 sq kilometers so it's not like an English paddock hunt.
Upon driving out at night I ensured I had the Thomas Wild hammered 3" gun ready & cartridges.

We turned off the road slowly and I turned the Toyota to light up the bank of the 'turkey nest dam' and there was the large grey tomcat.
I didn't want to spook him so slowly maneuvered the Toyota so I had a clear shot without exiting ther Toyota.

Shot him through the L/H choked barrel with Professional Game No.5 shot and he was instantly off with the after burners going! He raced left towards the road and before the fence did a U-turn and raced back to the right, disappearing into thick grass.

I was confident of the shot, but we still had to locate the cat, I was using my Maglite torch with a strong beam & searched the bank from left to right several times, to no avail. My Aboriginal hunting companion Gareth Taylor used his mobile light and checked along the fenceline & discovered the dead tomcat alongside the fence almost in front of the Toyota.

We took photographs and I took this tomcat home where we weighed it at just over 5kg's (or 11 lb's), and a satisfying end to the hunt.
Upon talking to the manager's wife, she had also seen a big cat in this area, I believe the killer of the RARE Freckled Duck.

It should be noted that a feral cat kills on average 3 native wildlife per day, or 1,000 per year.
A large tomcat of 5kg or 11 lb can kill an animal/bird 3 times heavier & so many rare & endangered birds & marsupials are at risk.
In closing the only Bilby I've seen in the wild was less than 20 k's from where I shot this grey tomcat!

Story and photographs by Stephen Barnes.

Published by Vintage Guns Ltd on

Shooting|February 2022

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