I'd had quite enough of "everything" by the end of last week and I could feel the bitumen beckoning me, the old Marlin willing me to unpack it from its tight niche in the safe, the Toyota calling out:
"Go west, young man, and grow up with the country."
John B. L. Soule, c.1851
|A couple of braces of bunnies: happy days!|
Come Thursday, I night made ready the .22 Magnum along with a few basics for a quick solo hunt - boots, knives, jacket, water. The block I was hunting was only 30 minutes out of town so no need for an endless list of supplies and other than a breakdown, I wasn't planning on staying long as the girls and I had plans for this weekend.
Nothing ambitious, my plan was simple:
- Leave the office at 3:00pm allowing for a slightly longer Friday afternoon drive;
- Arrive at the farm with enough time for an hour and a half of stalking;
- If I have no luck, go for a spin with the light and be out of there by 10:00pm, home at midnight.
The property I was visiting runs Black Angus these days but up until the mid '90s had a huge herd of superfine merinos. Rabbits could be found anywhere at any time, but there are a few hot spots where it’s really worth investing some effort - front gate, shearing shed, three gullies, the tip, red deer, the big dam and high tops. All seven of these spots good provide excellent hunting given the right conditions and a general absence of myxo and calici.
Best laid plans sometimes don't work out. I left an hour late and the "slightly longer drive" turned out to be twice as long. I arrived with about 20 minutes of light and wanted to make the most of what light I had.
Front gate, nothing. Shearing shed, nothing. Three gullies is rough country, not enough time to hike out there. The tip… aah the tip, ol' reliable. I stalked up the flat washout towards the piles of rusted farming history, springs, bicycle frames, rims, 40 gallon dramas, chains, car parts, broken plough discs... Rabbits darted in and out of the scrap and the blackberries. I dropped to one knee and quickly shot a rabbit through the neck at 40 yards - "...bugger, bruised shoulders!" And then it was dark.
Back at the Toyota I quickly bled and gutted the rabbit, donned my jacket and rigged up the light. A hunting mate of mine rang just as I was about to head off and we spent nearly an hour talking about kids and wives, our planned hunts this year for red and chital, opportunities for wild boar in the months ahead and grand plans for safari; a very welcome distraction.
I drove out to the back of the place – to big dam and high tops. The wind was blowing strong and although the rabbits were dashing all over the mountain, there wasn’t a single opportunity for a shot. From up top I could see ‘roos feeding all over the slopes below, far too many to count.
I pulled out the tin whistle and gave it a blow; kangaroos propped all around me looking into the light. Another series of squeals and I caught a pair of eyes way off in the distance heading my way and fast. The bolt on my old Marlin 25MN is slick with use – it was a birthday present from my father on my thirteenth birthday – I pointed the muzzle out the window and settled in for the shot I hoped would come.
Clever fox turned hard right at 300 yards out and did a big loop to approach me from downwind. Clever fox… I gave the whistle another blow and he continued to race towards the Toyota. At 50 yards he stopped and sat, I wasn’t really in any position to shoot, the game was up. Whether he caught my scent or just decided he had somewhere better to be, the dog fox moved quickly towards the timber below and luckily, he would pass within reach of an awkward shot out of the passenger window.
I was in the driver’s seat, stretched across the car and hanging out the passenger window; I gave a short whistle that pulled the fox up and squeezed the rather terrible trigger on the .22 Magnum dropping him in the long grass. One less predator pest and a great little hunt for me.
It was 11:00pm when I headed off again looking for rabbits. We had a dinner party with friends coming up and we needed rabbit for the boss’s favourite pasta! Down in the lower country the wind was a breeze at bet and the rabbits a little less nervous. With good weather and very healthy rabbit populations collecting a few bunnies on the way back out to the road was going to be fairly straight forward.
At red deer I shot six rabbits in fairly short order.
I dropped another two at the tip.
Up by the shearing shed I knocked over four rabbits without moving an inch.
And finally, by front gate, yet another four rabbits hit the deck.
|These head shot bunnies are heading for some proper cook's kitchens!|
With the rifles packed away I parked by the holding yards out front where I always stop to clean up the day’s catch before I hit the road. It was 3:00am before I got out of there. I was looking forward to getting home for a nap before the girls were up. A great start to the weekend.
|The offal met a much simpler fate: garlic and olive oil!|