Charles Ellery

Irwin District historical society

6 June 2002

I started off rabbit hunting when I was about 12 – I was still going to school. I used to set the traps at night-time, go ‘round them a couple of times at night. That was only for the skin. We used to just skin them, and we’d give the carcass to the pigs on the farm, about 4 miles out of town.


With traps - you just put a piece of paper over the top and cover them right over with sand.  We had two types of traps. Started off with a Lane’s Ace and then there was a downy that came in, and they were better than the Lane’s Ace, I thought.  They were pretty expensive. I can’t really remember how much they were. But I started off – I got all the old traps that were around the farm and fixed those a bit, and caught enough rabbits to buy a dozen Lane’s Ace, and I went from there.


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. We used to trap foxes – put two traps together, tie them together and  - we never used to peg them down. We used to have to track them – if we caught a fox…they never used to go very far. We were trapping them for the scalps. Irwin Road Board used to pay 2 and 6 a scalp – that’s 25cents. We thought it was a lot of money in those days – it was our pocket money.


Myxomatosis came in a long, long while after I was married and went to Bacarine and came home, we were working on Bonnyfield, down here. Most of the people – the farmers, used to have to catch a few rabbits and take them in – somewhere out from Geraldton. And the Agricultural Department, I suppose it was, they used to have the already infected ones there, and they used to do a swap. But somehow, old Frank Slattery who owned Bonnyfield at the time, got this little bottle of the stuff, the Myxomatosis. And we trapped our own rabbits and we had to use a bit of sandpaper or something and we would scrape the top of their eyebrow until it was red raw, and then dab this onto them and let them go. It didn’t take long until there were rabbits dying everywhere. I used to feel a bit sorry for the rabbits – you used to see them roping around in the grass, they couldn’t see where they were going, it was terrible.


Some of the fishermen around here were a bit cross about the Myxomatosis because they used to trap the rabbits for bait, and of course when the myxomatosis came in they couldn’t use them.


There was one thing about here – I’m not quite sure who used to collect them, but this was before the myxomatosis came in. They had rabbit trappers all around the place  - even young kids from school, they went trapping rabbits. And there was a truck used to come around – from Geraldton, I think it came from and pick up all the rabbits that they’d caught. They started off just sticking them on the side of the road – they used to catch the rabbits, gut them, leave the skins on and just put two of them together and hang them over a rail, and they used to pick them up and take them. They did have a depot down where the service station is.


I used to skin the rabbits and hang the skins out to dry. The skin merchant from Geraldton use to come round every fortnight or so and pick them up. You went down the back legs – down and up on the inside of the back legs, and just scraped the skin off, and pulled it straight up. It comes off like a glove, right up to their head, and then you just cut it off, around the head. Jimmy Hughes was the bloke who used to come around picking up the skins. I remember him well – he always used to come out to our place around lunch-time and have a feed!


With the fumigation, there was two or three lots. They even used the exhaust of a truck or a tractor or something – and pushed that down the burrow, and then filled all the others in. We used to leave one open until we could see the fumes coming out, and when the fumes started coming out, we’d fill it all in. And it would kill them, simple as that. 

We did one lot of cyanide, best lot I ever know was down at Meckering. We had a farm out from Meckering and there was a soak on it, and the rabbits used to drink out of it, and we poisoned that one night – went back the next morning and there were hundreds of rabbits, dead everywhere. The poison doesn’t last in the water that long - leave it for a little while and the sheep can drink out of it again.



The poison with bran and pollard, it used to go down through the poison carts – a phosphorous. Actually some of the poison carts in there [the museum] used that. It was thick stuff. We used to mix it up with bran and pollard and then you’d put it in this big container on the poison cart, push the lid to put pressure on it. Then you’d drive along and it would squeeze the stuff out of a little tiny hole down the bottom. There was a crank which would cut off bits about this long [indicates approx. 3cm]


[Charlie demonstrates the fox decoy whistle, which makes the same noise as an injured rabbit.]

We used to blow that  - go out at night time – mostly at night time with a spotlight, and blow that and the foxes used to come out and if you weren’t careful they’d run straight over you! And we used to shoot them, simple as that. They used to come right up to you, as if they were mesmerised or something! It was good.


You could sell them, but you’d never get much for them. We used to just do it for the scalp. Used to take the scalp off, and the tail.


I can remember making one of these [fox decoy whistle], myself - a bit bigger than this one.  I remember the first time I got one, I thought ‘they wont come up to that’. But they did – they’d run right over you.


I was unfortunate in that I only had a rifle, so I had to be spot on with my shots. Most people used a shotgun. We used to load our own bullets – keep the shell, melt the lead down and make another one.


We had a plier kind of thing, and you’d melt the lead down and pour it in, and it used to come out a proper bullet-lead shape. And we used to do the powder – had a powder measure, measure it in an old shell. We’d have to knock the cap out first, that’s what fires it, and put another one in. Sometimes we used to use a wax match head if we didn’t have any caps – we’d straighten the old one out, put the wax match in and put the old cap in on top of it. They used to work alright. But you had to be prepared to hold the rifle pretty steady because it never used to go off straight away. You know, you’d hold it up there for a while and suddenly it would go bang! But they worked alright.


There was another part of the plier-thing, you’d push it in and down and you’d crimp it [the shell] onto the lead. I used to load a lot of them. A lot of the old kangaroo shooters used to load their own.


And gings - I suppose they call them slingshots, but they’re not. We used to have one, we used to make them out of an old motor-tube, a strip of rubber about that long [indicates 30cm] with a cap on it, and you could just use it like that. But you could make them with a ‘v’ – a forked stick with two on it, and they were a bit stronger. They were good – we used to get around, shoot crows and all sorts of things. I used to live out on the farm old Whimpool out there, and of course it was all bush around us, and there was birds all sorts of stuff through the scrub…carpet snakes and stuff…