"You ripper"! The clock had finally dragged it's arse around to read 3 PM and after a boring week, there are few things I look forward to more than an early knock off on a Friday afternoon and a night of spotlighting with good mates. The plan was to head up to our property just on evening, have dinner and enjoy the sunset and then spend the night filling the Esky with ground mutton. And so it was that by the time we had unloaded the buggy from the trailer and stuffed our faces, the last traces of the fire in the sky were fast disappearing over the Western horizon.

     The crew consisted of the usual suspects plus the young bloke of one of the mates. With four on board, there would be a good rotation of shooters, lighters and drivers. Rabbits were the primary target, so the standard armament of a couple of .22's was a given. But this place can throw up a surprise or two and is known "Panther" territory, so there was a .243 and .223 to provide backup and a bit of reach.

The buggy, note the "red mascot" next to the bonnet scoop

     We hadn't driven far at all before I found a couple of customers with the Lightforce and like a well drilled team, the boys made short work of them with the .22's. The night was progressing well and the Rabbit tally was racking up at a good rate. Usual practice is to stop and gut once we have a bunch of them before moving on, depending on the weather. As we now had a few hanging off the hooks, I fanned the light around for a level area to park and we stopped on the saddle of two big hills.

     A quick cup of coffee and then it was all hands on deck to get the Rabbits on ice. While the boys were still washing their hands, I fired up the light and quickly found a set of intense eyes 150m out off to the side of the saddle. I quickly whispered "cat" to my mate and switched the light off. The big fella swung into action and made his freshly rebarreled .223 ready, and as he gave me the nod I flicked the light back on.

     At the sound of the shot, a healthy "thwack" confirmed a solid hit and the lights went out in the moggy's head. A few slaps on the back from an appreciative audience and the mate was sent on his way to retrieve the prize. I don't know what it is but cats & firearms have alway been such a happy mix for me. They have always provided some of the fondest moments in life and a sense of real justice in the world, and this moment was no different. A few minutes later a beaming and satisfied man was standing next to the buggy holding a very healthy example of similar cats we have taken previously from this area. Thick tail and heavy body are typical of cats on this property and this example was sporting a perfect frontal head shot too. The rebarrel job on the shot out Mod 70 .222 was money well spent  with the .223 chambering offering a little extra to boot.

     I would go as far as to say that whilst I don't much believe in the fabled Panther stories, there are some pretty big cats getting around out there and there is one big black bastard that has given us the slip a number of times. And over a 12 month period, we have only been quick enough to get two shots at him. Not good enough though as both occasions were difficult downhill shots at long range under the light, and this cat knows what's going on. The image of him flattening his body in an aggressive stance as the light hit him is burned in my memory permanently. With the mini celebration over, the gear was stowed back in the buggy, rifles reloaded and the shift was changed. Shooters now on the the light with me taking a stint behind the wheel.

Always show pride in your work

A sight to make you want to start making a peace quilt

     As we climbed higher and higher, we hit a real purple patch as the Rabbits became thicker and we were moving no more than a 100m at a time before stopping to pick up customers. This was good as the mate's son needed a bit of coaching and practice on the finer points of head shooting Rabbits. The young bloke muffed a few and had us all rolling in laughter at some of the excuses he came up with. After an obvious and very "kerrthump" gut shot, he immediately declared an unquestionable head shot. Then a little later, the same unshaken declaration following one of the best Western movie style ricochet misses I've heard. Once we got off the young bloke's case and he settled a little, he did produce some nice shooting and the tally for the night was around 50 so far. At the next rotation, I loaded my Remington 700 and parked my arse in the front seat, hoping we would tangle with something bigger than Rabbits. Unfortunately the purple patch had now degenerated into a black patch and not much was seen for well over half an hour.

     Then, one lost bunny propped under the light and I disguised my frustration at the lack of action by offering the excuse that "I'd better see if she's shooting straight".  She was, and  I saved the headless Rabbit for my dog.  Then as we coasted into a big open paddock, the man on the light cast a quick scan back towards a lonely tree around 180m out in the open, just in time to see the flash of a cat's eyes. The driver quickly threw the vehicle around to give me a good shot over the front rest of the buggy. I fed a 70 Gr Ballistic Tip from the magazine and closed the bolt.

     I steadied my breathing and was taking up the last few ounces of trigger pressure when the cat dropped out of sight.  Then as I relaxed and raised my head, he would pop up again. This game of peek a boo is fairly familiar to me and I have practiced it a few times with Fox's, so I knuckled down and almost willed the trigger to break at the right moment. The rifle barked, a healthy spurt of flame was produced  and the cat's head disappeared. There was no sound of the hit, though I called it good at the time.

     During my long walk out there, I had a giggle and thought "shit the young bloke is going to love this if I missed". After searching around the base of the tree for a few minutes, I must admit my spirits were sinking. But then, in amongst the deadfall was the camouflaged back of a fat tailed moggie! The bullet had entered centre neck, just under his chin. I believe this is called the Columbian neck tie shot. Two good moggies in 3 hours, what's there not to like?

A 14 Yr old lad for comparison of size

Australian Hunting Net 2006