The beauty I’ve found in hunting is its diversity.
As many people know, hunting isn’t just limited to deer. It extends to duck hunting, fox hunting, and rabbit hunting.
Fortunately for me, I’ve grown up around all these types of hunting, so whenever I’m not out hunting deer, there’s always something else I can target to fuel the addiction.
My favourite time of the year is around March and April which not only is the start of the fallow deer rut, but in recent years has always been the start of the duck hunting season. It’s also been the start of the fox hunting season for the local fox crew I’ve hunted with for the past decade.
This particular fox club has been helping to control fox populations locally and in neighbouring towns since the 1980s. The club carries a lot of history and sentiment with it.
Dad, all my sisters, and a few close family friends had all hunted with the club before I did. My first hunt with them happened back in 2009 when I was eight years old and I’ve been absolutely hooked ever since.
Every Saturday during the season, I’m up before daylight to meet with the rest of the crew, usually around 7.30am. We plan and discuss the day: where the shooters and drivers will go, then, most importantly, the first drive for the day.
When I first started, I used to sit ‘on the line’ with Dad, who was one of the shooters, during the fox drive. Once I got a bit older, learned a bit more on how each hunt was run and got yelled at one too many times by Dad for moving too much, I decided to go on a few drives with the drivers, and that’s what I’ve done ever since.
During the drives, my favourite thing is to see the dogs work and the magic that unfolds. We’ve had some fantastic dogs over the years and the more hunts you do alongside them, the more you learn their strengths, weaknesses, and what type of hunts you’re best to use them on.
On one of our hunts, we were driving a blue gum plantation. We could hear the dogs barking and tracking something through the gums.
The drivers were letting off ‘scare shots’ to push the foxes out of the drive towards the shooters. The echoes through the plantation were just like music.
As I was walking through, a line of dogs bolted past in front of me with a beagle bitch leading the pack. She was voicing like she was onto something, which was a good sign as she never voiced unless there was a fox around. The pack was headed towards the next driver, so I got on the UHF and gave him the heads up.
Moments later, I got a call over the radio to come across and help with the dogs. They’d bailed up a fox. I could hear all the dogs barking, so I headed over in that general direction.
Each hunt, it’s a general rule of thumb to carry at least one dog lead. Once I’d managed to get all the dogs away, the other driver was able to shoot the fox. We let the dogs off the leads, scalped the fox and continued on in the drive.
It was a memorable and successful drive, made even better by seeing the dogs doing what they do best.
Over time the fox club has become like a second family to me. The atmosphere and constant banter always makes for a good day’s hunting, regardless of the day’s overall hunting outcome; exactly what hunting is all about.
Around the same time of year, when I’m not hunting foxes or deer, Dad and I spend a fair bit of time out during the season hunting ducks.
In February 2018 I sat my WIT (Waterfowl Identification Test). Dad, along with a few family friends, all passed their test with an AA grade.
Before my test I’d been told that if you’re AA, you are part of the ‘elite’. So, needless to say, the pressure was on me to be the same. After a bit of study and help from a few people, I passed and became a part of the ‘elite.’
My most memorable duck hunt was on a family friend’s farm, jumping dams.
On one of the dams there were two mountain ducks, more affectionately known as ‘honkers’ because of the distinct noise they make.
Dad and I decided we’d jump it together. We slowly made our way up the bank of the dam and as we popped our heads up, the mountain ducks got up off the water. I didn’t want to miss the opportunity of a shot so, as they got a bit higher in the air, I put the gun up and fired both barrels. Both mountain ducks fell to the ground. I turned to Dad with a big smile on my face, my ears ringing.
“You like shooting them, don’t ya?” he chuckled.
I smiled in response and walked over to pick up both birds.
We continued on to the next dam with the both of us later taking our bag limits for the day.
Each time Dad and I go out on the ducks, it’s never about the number of ducks we’re able to take. Instead it’s the memories we make, plus the laughs and banter we share along the way that makes each trip just as rewarding as the one before.
Another type of hunting that is always enjoyed is shooting rabbits.
Rabbit shooting was the first type of hunting I was introduced to.
As soon as I could, I was with Dad and his .22 Brno, down at the local rabbit patch to see if I could pass the test.
I’d shot paper and cans, but this was a whole other deal.
All of my sisters are hunters too and as the years have passed, we’ve gotten quite competitive when it comes to who’s the best shot. Recently one of my sisters, Tori, and I started a little competition of who could outshoot who. It started with who could shoot the best group on paper with a .22. After losing, I decided to up the challenge and move onto some better targets: rabbits.
I remember Dad saying once, “You can’t eat paper,” so if any of the competitions mattered, it was this one.
We planned a day that we were both free and headed down to the rabbit patch, with Dad as our referee.
Our competitive streak is quite fierce to say the least, so it was up to Dad who would take the first rabbit.
Tori was lucky to take the first rabbit as we made our way to a spot to sit and wait.
The first rabbit I took for the afternoon was about 40 yards away, camouflaged against a thistle. To be fair, Tori and I took turns shooting. As the afternoon progressed, my tally of rabbits went up to five and Tori’s remained at one.
One of the rabbits we saw was sitting out at a distance that was a bit too far for the .22 to reach. Tori started to sneak up on the rabbit to close the gap and get a clear shot. Dad and I stood back and watched.
After a while of patiently waiting, Tori looked over at us, signaling that she couldn’t get a clear shot. I told Dad I’d head down and see if I’d have any luck.
The grass was dry, hard to crawl on and just tall enough that I couldn’t see the rabbit from where I was laying. I had the bipods up as high as I could, so the next best thing was my boot. I took off my boot and put the bipods on top of it, giving me the perfect height to shoot the rabbit.
I’d won the competition.
We gutted the rabbits and Tori conceded defeat.
It’s been a few months since our little competition which has now become an annual event.
Personally, every form of hunting is enjoyable, especially when you can do it with your family and close friends.
I’m exceptionally lucky to have so many opportunities to hunt and do what I love. Hunting, not just deer hunting, provides so many different chances and opportunities to enjoy and be thankful for.
Contributed by Michaela Shirley.