Lady With A Gun
Written by: Melissa Murray
I suppose the best way to start is by introducing myself. I am a 35 year old woman living with an amazingly supportive partner and I have had many different careers and hobbies in my life so far. I have been a receptionist, secretary, data entry officer and much more. I have a Diploma of Beauty Therapy and have worked at one of WA’s elite day spa. My working life took a different turn when I decided to study for a Bachelor of Nursing degree, which I am halfway through. I have bred and shown dogs for the best part of 11 years, and still show them occasionally. Whilst undertaking my degree I have worked in a nursing home as a carer. I suppose what I am trying to put forward is that I am a normal, average person leading a normal, average life. A normal, average person who happens to like firearms. In fact, after being introduced to my partner 4 years ago, we found we had a common interest in guns and between us we now own five rifles and a shotgun.
I started shooting in 2004 and have never looked back. I used to be of the mindset that people who shot animals were cruel, uncaring and probably had some sort of mental instability. But after moving to a country town and getting to know a few of the local farmers, I quickly realized my thinking was way off the mark. These were people trying to protect the local economy against pests that would otherwise undermine their livelihoods and destroy the environment. Granted, these pests are just trying to do the same; feed themselves and live, but we’re not talking about Australian native wildlife, we are talking about foxes, rabbits, camels, pigs, wild dogs, feral cats and much more. Foxes half eat lambs as their mothers are literally giving birth. They eat the tongues out of new born calves rendering them unable to suckle. Feral cats eat wild birds and native marsupials. Wild dogs attack sheep and cattle. Pigs dig up huge amounts of crop each season. Likewise, rabbits devastate vast amounts of grain. Farmers need each and every head of livestock and they need every tonne of their harvest; it’s the only way they make enough money to keep the farm going and preserve an income. After getting to know a few farmers and being allowed onto their properties to see the devastation vermin caused, I started to change my way of thinking. These pests are foreign to our landscape and they have made themselves far too comfortable.
My parents had a few sheep, just to keep the grass down on their small property. After a few years I started to see first-hand the devastation caused by foxes. A couple of our ewes were due to give birth, so we were keeping an eye out for new lambs. After a few days one of the ewes came into our line of sight and we could see that she had given birth, but had no lamb with her. We hiked up to the back of the property only to find tragedy. Her lamb was half eaten. Just the back half was left and not far from that body we found one of the other ewes dead with three quarters of a lamb partially hanging out and her nose and throat eaten. What a tragic way to die, and what a tragedy to stumble across. We were devastated to say the least, and then it hit me and it hit me hard that many farmers have to go through this every time lambing or calving season comes around. Not only do they say goodbye to money each time they find a dead calf or lamb, but they also have to euthanize the young beasts that are still alive after being fatally mauled but not quite dead.
As it happened, the moment I picked up a shotgun my passion for shooting grew and I decided that I would do everything I could to help rid (or at least greatly reduce) Australia of these feral pests. I also decided that each and every time I took a shot it would be properly thought out and well-placed before I pulled the trigger. I decided to be as accurate with my last shot of the night as I was with my first. I also decided that I would understand the ins and outs of my chosen firearm and that I would understand how to safely operate, store and look after my guns.
What annoys me most is that because I have chosen to hunt I am automatically labelled an uneducated, murdering Bogan; likely to snap at any moment and become a menace. Rather ironic, considering I’m studying a profession built on helping people. I have been called a murderer, a disrespectful red neck, a cold hearted bitch, a torturer and many, many worse names. Not too many people want to hear the reasons behind my decision to start hunting. Not one of those people has seen the devastation that feral pests cause, or the sadness when a farmer has to euthanize a calf with no tongue, or look at his crop upturned by pigs.
I think people should take a moment to ponder upon the fact that the animals such as foxes, rabbits, pigs, goats, camels, donkeys and even brumbies which we hunt are a menace to this country’s environment and economy. I don’t like hurting animals and I will always stand up for animal welfare, but I am also a realist. The fact is food is produced on farms with growers battling invasive species. If the number of pests expanded without control we would no longer be able to cultivate, which would have a devastating flow on effect for Australia and the rest of the world generally.
All I ask is that the next time you meet a hunter take the time to listen to their story and allow yourself to be enlightened. We are not poachers or bloodthirsty killers. We are licensed shooters who have gone through rigorous checks and jumped through many hoops and we take the time to learn about our responsibilities in terms of safety and ethics before we head out into the field. I would also ask that you take the time to look at the food you are eating and think about where it comes from. Enjoy the steak or lamb chop and enjoy all the trimmings, because the chances are they came from a farm in Australia and from a farmer struggling to make ends meet.