As teenagers, it was not uncommon for us to grab the rifles and head off to shoot a few rabbits. Whilst there were several places we used to shoot, the area on the fringes of the town behind the electrical switch yard and the old rifle range, were both within walking distance. The practice we were taught and used well, was a single shot .22 rifle and the 'one-shot-one-eye' method.
This meant that the rabbit was dead instantly and the pelt and body were clean and intact for top price and eating. In the early 1960's, we would sling our rifle over our shoulder and walk through town. There was barely a second look that these young teenagers were carrying rifles. We would walk into the hardware shop to buy our bullets and went on our way. If that happened today, the SOG would be called in and it would have ended up with a shoot-out. (but it would be one-sided, as we were crack shots and knew the terrain backwards).
Occasionally, constable Clive Smith would call by but only to remind us to be responsible, carry the rifles pointing at the ground or in the air and shoot towards the river bank. Check that all is clear twice, then shoot once only. We would gut the rabbits, leaving the heart, liver and kidneys in, string them up as a pair and head for home, fending off the hordes of bloody flies. Very rarely did we make it home with all our rabbits, as the town folk would often buy them for the going price of 5 bob (50c) each.
Another place we used to shoot was from our base at Chicks Hut, near John Slomp's property, opposite Sullivan's Lane, on the other side of the Kiewa River. At this particular site, right on the river, there was a half log cabin with two sides covered in canvas, where we used to camp during school holidays.
It was built by the Chicks family, from Albury - Wodonga, as a fishing getaway but abandoned as the family aged. It had a huge log fireplace and a ‘kitchen’ area surrounded in fly screen. We used to camp there and shoot and trap rabbits on the surrounding farmers' properties. A pair of rabbits would bring six shillings and sixpence from a travelling meat vendor who would drive his coolstore van out from Wodonga on a weekly run. This would be our shopping day and we would walk up to the Tawonga general store to buy groceries and bullets.
In winter, on the river at Chicks Hut, it was a bitterly cold place and we soon learned that the frosty early mornings were unforgiving and we should have come better prepared. Kim recalled Bill calling out one night from his stretcher, “are you cold mate?” To which Kim replied, “I’m bloody freezing!” Bill then responded, “How the hell do you think I feel then?” You see Kim had a sleeping bag, 3 pairs of clothes on, 3 blankets and a hot water bottle. Bill had 1 blanket. So it came time to improvise. There was an old double bed and mattress covered in canvas which we prepared, sharing our blankets and using the canvas sheet as a cover. We shared the bed and it was nice and cozy, so to speak. This was so until one night Bill said to Kim, “did you piss the bed mate?” Kim replied, “no, it is wet though, did you?” Bill said that he had not. We then discovered that Kim's hot water bottle had sprung a leak. He had filled it up like a balloon with boiling hot water and it had ruptured. We slept avoiding that icy spot for the rest of the night.
Contribution by Bill Hutton, so please consider the accuracy.
"When it was time to leave, we packed our swags, slung our rifles, together with a shotgun and a .38 calibre handgun, crossed the river and walked to the pub where we would ring one of our parents to pick us up.
When we entered the pub armed to the teeth and looking like wild west villains, with a handgun slung in the holster, we dumped our swag and array of weapons. The tourists were horrified and terrified. Further to that, we stunk of rabbit guts. Karl Havelka, the publican, quickly moved us away from the log fire to a corner of the pub stating, “your scaring the hell out of the customers and you stink.”
Just then constable Clive Smith stuck his head in the door stating, “bloody hell, it looks the wild west in here and you two stink, jeez.” He saw the .38 handgun and said, “bloody hell, get rid of that thing.” He said nothing more and walked out. What a great guy. When the pickup came, the people in the pub were glad to see us go, but the locals didn’t give a shit. Those were the days!"
One of our great childhood memories was ferreting. Our little pet ferret 'Ferry', was amazing. She would head off down the burrow and we would be sitting still, listening for the 'bump, bump', that was the sound of the rabbits scurring to get out of their burrow. The sound would get closer, closer, then out would shoot a bunny into the prepared net. You would place one foot over the burrow, untangle the rabbit, put him to sleep, then re-set the net.
It was not uncommon to get 4-5 rabbits in the one colony of rabbit burrows. Sometimes, Ferry would come across some kittens and after a nice full belly, she would snuggle up six feet underground and go to sleep. This was a little bit annoying as we would have to wait. Sometimes, Ferry would come out after an hour or so, yawning and blood all over her face. Other times, we would have to leave her box outside one burrow, cover up the rest and the next day we would find her in her box waiting for us to come and get her. Ferry was a pet. She never once drew blood (most ferrets do) and I can remember on the back lawn at home, she would run around like a buck jumping brumby making a 'ticker, ticker' sound when let out of her cage for exercise. She was so funny to watch.