There was no doubt the afternoon was horrid, weather wise that is. It was grey and the wind had picked up with a hefty range of gusts making it challenging to keep the Jeep on the road. The little truck got blown all over the shop. We'd been out bush with the girls exploring a flooded river and spent a spell in the dense forest of the old Mt Franklin volcano. The fours girls got lost in a fantasy, pretending they were in a C.S. Lewis Narnia adventure. It was brilliant to see their little vivid imaginations at work. I couldn't help but act like a turkey and join in. As much as I got into the game, they chose Kate to be Aslan!!! I got the shaft. Go figure. The last few nights I've walked Henry down this dirt road that's loaded with rabbits. Each time I see them, I curse that my rifle isn't slung over the shoulder. Potentially SO much meat for the freezer! A missed opportunity really. And, of course, when I'm just going for a walk (unarmed), they just sit there in the paddock, still, calm. Taunting me to tramp back to the old school house, grab the rifle and get them. Instead I continue on my way, happily walking with Henry, exploring, looking at all the new spring wild flowers and bird spotting. Today however was different. I'd made up my mind that as soon as we were back from the road trip I'd grab the rifle and walk down that rabbit laden track and get some for the pot.
Just a few kilometres from the old school house it started to rain like hell. The wind made the wet stuff come in sideways. My anticipated casual stroll down the track seemed a futile pursuit. Twenty minutes past, I got a fire roaring in the school room, and Kate had the kids settled watching the original Wizard of Oz. I checked outside, it looked like the worst had past. I could handle a bit of cold and rain, it is the Central Highlands after all. It's all part and parcel of the territory this time of year.
I grabbed the CZ, a belt of rounds and my old Barbor field jacket just in case it went nasty again. Henry and I walked out with a sense of anticipation. Down the road we tramped, with a few cars passing us while we walked the bitumen, but once we turned off and hit the dirt track it was free of cars. We walked into the paddocks of old Bill's place, the farmer who'd given me permission to shoot on his land and I spotted the first rabbit, lined it up, fired, and missed. These things happen. It was 50km gusts after all (excuses, excuses!). I often miss the first rabbit of the night. I'm always too eager and fire before I've really lined it up perfectly...or my breathing's off...not always, but it does happen from time to time. I'm not perfect.
The crack of the CZ sent them scurrying. In the blackberry bushes, they darted, left, right and centre. So many that had been well camouflaged in the bush and grass, now gave their position away in the wake of the gunshot. We walked on, I missed another and another. Was it going to be one of those nights? I really wanted to get one for Henry more so than for me really. I'm training him to associate the loud sound of the gun with food, as they're is nothing more useless than a gun-shy bird hunting dog. So I told myself "Ro...concentrate mate, this one's important". I spotted a young bunny and fired. Got it. Down it went like a sack of potatoes. Henry and I went over, grabbed the rabbit. Boy did that dog have a feed. He finally realised what those little smelly things were good for, and what that loud bang could do. Food. I cut out the legs off for him, along with the back strap. He breathed them in. Fresh meat for a hungry pup, at hunting school.
It was just about then that she came on down. I'd been so fixated on the hunt that I'd not kept my eye to the West. Not far out there was black and grey. It was upon us like hipsters at a tight pants sale. We got nailed with the initial dump of rain. Yes, more of the sideways stuff. But this time it was so fierce that it would sting pain on any exposed skin. I was thankful that Barbor make a decent jacket, but my hands and face were exposed to billy-o. My hat got drenched but at least it kept a little bit of rain off my head.
We were too far from home to do anything but persevere. Poor little Henry looked pretty pissed off at me. It's not like I can control the weather dude! One more paddock to walk then we'd trundle off home to the warm fire at the old house. Just at that moment I spotted a nice rabbit, rested the rifle on a gate and go a clean shot. Down she went. A nice doe. This one was for the pot, not Henry's stomach. In the bag she went and we headed off. Not before we got a good coin cover from another little cell from hell. The wind gusts had to be over 60km per hour. Stinging rain, and the cold wind so strong my head ached. Seriously ached. I should have worn a beanie.
On the way home, a pair of mountain ducks flew over my head. Their distinctive call sang as they passed overhead. I wished them well for a nice clutch of young this season. And maybe by next March I'd be able to bag some for the pot once again. There is so much food here. It's just a matter of having eyes wide open and a willingness to do what it takes to get it from feathered or furred to cleaned meat.
Wet, cold and hanging for a cold beer (the irony)...I laid my boots and the dog in front of the fire. I skinned and gutted the rabbit. And finally cracked open that cold beer. This weekend the kids will eat rabbit pizza.