Many tactics have been employed to tackle increasing rabbit populations across Victoria, including disease releasing and poison baiting. But the hordes of rabbits in areas such as Phillip Island continue to grow despite the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning’s (DELWP) efforts.
One SSAA Victoria member has turned this problem into an opportunity to combine his love of hunting, food and conservation. Ian Burns, who hails originally from the small fishing town of Rhyll, bought a unit at Phillip Island three years ago and immediately began reaching out to landowners, offering to control rabbits on their properties. “I sussed out some local properties for the opportunity of being able to thin out the rabbit population with my rimfire,” he said. “Being a member of the SSAA helped heaps. Now I have permission from various landowners on the island to shoot rabbits.”
Ian said the lack of predators - foxes, cats, eagles and hawks - on Phillip Island allowed rabbits to breed freely every spring. The many sheep and cattle farmers on the island, along with the hobby farmers, can have hundreds of the furry pests on their properties at a time.
“DELWP systematically poisons rabbits all over the island,” Ian said. “They use pindone - a poison put into oats and placed in a shallow trench. The rabbit dies very quickly. Previously, the authorities used myxomatosis - a debilitating virus, spread by fleas or mosquitoes, which slowly killed the rabbit. Mixi rabbits are easily identified by puffy eyes, slow movements and very poor condition physically.”
Ian said shooting was the most humane way to kill rabbits - and he always made sure the healthy carcasses were used. All the rabbits he shoots are eaten by himself, friends or relatives. “I cook it every which way,” he said. “And so do my friends and relatives. Rabbit is high in protein, low in fat and very tasty.”
On an average night of shooting, Ian usually takes 10 to 12 rabbits in two hours and said he could double that if he was interested in skinning them all overnight. When he began the project, he would walk through small properties at dusk, but on the bigger tracts of land he spotlights out of his car. “I leave my unit around 9pm and am in the paddocks by 9.15pm,” he said. “To keep the noise down, and neighboring properties happy, I use Winchester Subsonic ammunition in my Brno Model 2 rimfire, topped with a Simmons 4-10x42 scope. I also use my little Lithgow single-shot with a 4x Nikko scope. Both have LED lights fixed under the barrel.”
Ian said he is only putting a small dent in rabbit numbers and he encourages other SSAA Victoria members to start their own conservation projects in their respective areas. He also encourages all hunters to use the meat they take and he offers the following rabbit recipes.
- 1 large rabbit
- 2-3 leaves of silverbeet
- 2 brown onions - chopped
- 1 small carrot - chopped
- grated cheese - to taste
- 3 sticks celery - chopped
- Short and puff pastry
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- turmeric - to taste
- salt and pepper - to taste
- chilli flakes (optional)
- 2 tomatoes - sliced
- 8 eggs
Soak the rabbit in salt water and white vinegar for an hour, prior to cooking, to remove any bruising and blanch the meat slightly.
Cook the rabbit in a pressure cooker (or steam or boil, if desired) for just more than an hour or until the meat is just about falling off the bone.
Strip the meat from the bones and set aside.
Put a layer of chopped vegetables into a large pie dish, already lined with baking paper and short pastry. Put in a layer of grated cheese, then a layer of the shredded rabbit meat. Sprinkle the cumin over the meat, then a little turmeric. Season to taste and add a touch of dried chilli flakes if desired.
Add another layer of vegetable mix, a sliced tomato, another layer of shredded rabbit, a pinch of cumin and a second sliced tomato to finish off. If your mix is not near the top of the dish, add another layer of vegetable mix and more rabbit.
Whip the eggs and slowly pour over the whole pie, letting it seep through the mix.
Top the pie with the puff pastry and trim to make it look neat. Press the sides with a fork and score the top a little. Brush with whipped egg to give a golden brown finish when cooked.
Cook for 1 hour on 180-190C, until golden brown.
Any rabbit and vegetables left over can be stir-fried in a hot, oiled fry-pan. Add a dash of soy sauce, black pepper, a pinch of turmeric and sprinkle with olive oil. Whip up an egg, slowly pour in and mix together with your vegetables and rabbit. Cook for 10 minutes or so then serve with steamed rice.
- 5 livers (about 400g)
- 3-4 kidneys (if you like a stronger tasting pâté)
- 2-3 large shallots
- 500g butter
- 500g unsalted butter
- 3 cloves of garlic
- dried chilli flakes
- ½ cup brandy
Remove the little green bile duct from the livers and any sinew from the meat.
Heat about 200g of butter in a hot pan until it starts to bubble. Add the livers and kidneys, gently sear (do not cook through) and then remove from the pan.
Add the chopped shallots and smashed garlic cloves to the butter. Sprinkle with chilli flakes to taste.
Return the meat to the pan. Add the brandy, pouring carefully to avoid it catching alight. Cook for 5-6 minutes, checking the livers so you are not overcooking them. Cut on them with a knife to check.
Add more butter as you go to make sure your mix does not dry out.
Allow the mix to cool slightly then pour it into a blender and blend well. Add more butter to make a creamy texture if needed then blend until the desired consistency is reached.
Melt 200g of the unsalted butter.
Spoon the pâté mix into egg cup size containers. Pour some of the melted butter on top to seal. Sealing with the unsalted butter will make your pâté last longer when stored. It also stops oxidation and drying out.
Place the pâté containers in the fridge, until everything cools down and the butter sets.