Hunting and trapping

Newspaper ad for 'Lanes Ace' rabbit traps.Hunting rabbits was a common practice not only for landowners, but also local townsfolk. "It sounds ridiculous, I know, but it was a sort of evening's entertainment in those days, to go out and see who could catch the most rabbits!" says Lynette Gillam.

Children would trap rabbits for pocket-money. Charlie Ellery recalls: "I started off rabbit hunting when I was about twelve - I was still going to school. With traps, you just put a piece of paper over the top and cover them right over with sand. We had to go 'round the traps a couple of times at night, otherwise you'd go 'round in the morning and there'd be nothing left of them. Foxes used to eat them."

During the Depression, shooting rabbits was an expensive option, so other methods were used. Angus Forsyth recalls: "We did our hunting with spades or mattocks - to dig them out. You always had a dog with you. It was quite a thing, in our family! Not only that, we were encouraged to do it because of the damage they were doing to the crops."

Trapper George Silcock with a night's catch. (Mid 1930s) Courtesy Geraldton Historical Society / Walkaway MuseumTrappers, or 'Rabbiters' trapped rabbits commercially for their skins and their meat. This was a common practice during the 1930's and 40's. A rabbit would sell for two shillings (twenty cents) and at one stage, the rabbit pelts were worth more than sheepskins! The 'skin merchant' from Geraldton would visit Dongara every fortnight and collect the dried rabbit skins, which would be left hanging by the side of the road. Image of rabbit skin being stretched on a wire frame.

The pelts were processed into fur felt, and made into slouch hats worn by the Australian Diggers in World War II. Even today, Akubra hats are made from rabbit fur felt.

In August 1936, the Western Mail featured an article on the correct method for preparing rabbit skins for sale. "The skins are not pegged out, but 'sleeved'. A cut is made from one hind foot to the other when skinning, and the pelt is drawn off like a sleeve. The frames are best made from thick hard wire. The old heavy gauge black wire is best, as it is springy. The skin is placed on, ... being placed from belly to back. If the hind legs are tied together the skin does not shrink and lose shape when it dries. Paint with weevil paint and allow to hang in a shady place until quite dry."