”We don’t buy meat”

Julie Gille­spie didn’t start hunt­ing ducks un­til she turned 40, but this is no mid-life cri­sis, it is an ex­ten­sion of a long-stand­ing fam­ily tra­di­tion of sourc­ing sus­tain­able wild food.


As the South Aus­tralian Duck Sea­son draws to a close, Julie Gille­spie is mak­ing the most of the op­por­tu­nity to harvest wild duck.

While still a rel­a­tive novice, Julie is as keen as any hunter.

On this par­tic­u­lar morn­ing she is nes­tled in the reeds at Love­day, the River­land wet­land man­aged by Barmera Moorook Field & Game.

The whole fam­ily, Julie, hus­band Brad and boys Kyle and Ryan, are all mem­bers of Barmera Moorook. “I met my hus­band Brad 20 years ago and he was into hunt­ing,” she said. “We used to go pig shoot­ing but after we had chil­dren we couldn’t get out much any­more. “Three or four years ago Brad did his WIT test be­cause he had de­cided to get back into duck hunt­ing and I was cu­ri­ous, so I went clay tar­get shoot­ing to see if I could han­dle a shot­gun. “I thor­oughly en­joyed that, so I got a gun li­cence and did the WIT test so we could go hunt­ing to­gether again.”

It is a cold but clear win­ter’s morn­ing and the con­ver­sa­tion is in­ter­rupted reg­u­larly as Julie spots ducks head­ing for her de­coys. They come in twos and threes pass­ing left to right or right to left. Julie swings the shot­gun and man­ages a cou­ple for her bag but she ad­mits the search for a shot­gun she can use eas­ily is on­go­ing. “Being small in stature I am try­ing to find that per­fect shot­gun; it has been a struggle, you pick them up and they feel right un­til you bring the shot­gun up,” she said.

“From what I’ve seen, un­less you spend big dol­lars, there aren’t stocks of ladies’ shot­guns to choose from.”

How many end up in the bag isn’t too much of a con­cern. While wait­ing for the open­ing time Julie stood and lis­tened to the birds com­ing to life, soaked up the seren­ity of the sur­round­ing en­vi­ron­ment and en­joyed the sense of iso­la­tion as she watched an­other mag­nif­i­cent sun­rise. “I re­ally en­joy eat­ing duck so when I turned 40 I thought why not try to hunt them my­self. It gets Brad and I out as a cou­ple to­gether as well,” she said. “Duck hunt­ing is some­thing I never would have pic­tured my­self do­ing years ago but you get up in the early hours be­fore sun­rise and it is just to­tal peace out here watch­ing the sun come up, lis­ten­ing to the ducks and feel­ing the an­tic­i­pa­tion and wondering what you are go­ing to put on the ta­ble that night.”

Julie would like to see more women out duck hunt­ing but for the mo­ment she’s one of the few in the River­land. How­ever, Julie says her ex­pe­ri­ence in tak­ing up duck hunt­ing should pro­vide en­cour­age­ment for other women, even those who have no ex­pe­ri­ence. “I haven’t come across any bar­ri­ers yet. We do some duck hunt­ing on pri­vate prop­erty with friends and I’m the only fe­male hunter and the men around me are very en­cour­ag­ing and sup­port­ive.”

The only funny looks have come from friends and work col­leagues when Julie has re­vealed her­self as a firearm owner and ac­tive hunter. She doesn’t fit the stereo­type but that’s fine, it gives her an op­por­tu­nity to ed­u­cate the un­e­d­u­cated. “The ini­tial re­ac­tion when you say you are a hunter and firearm owner is a funny look but when you sit and ex­plain to them that it isn’t all about guns and hunt­ing but con­ser­va­tion and look­ing after where you hunt, pro­vid­ing natural food and the so­cial side of it, then they look at it a bit dif­fer­ently,” she said. “We are not go­ing out there shoot­ing some­thing just for the fun of shoot­ing some­thing; we do it to pro­vide food.”

Meals in the Gille­spie house­hold re­volve around the avail­able wild food. “We do a lot of fishing and Brad goes out and gets rab­bits as well, so be­tween the rab­bit, duck and fish and our own lamb from the farm we don’t buy a lot of meat,” Julie said. “You can’t go past a rab­bit back­strap schnitzel, that is a very pop­u­lar dish amongst our friends.”

Duck schnitzel, duck pasta, duck bolog­naise and more re­cently, duck ke­babs, have fea­tured on the house­hold menu. Julie’s phi­los­o­phy is sim­ple: any recipe is worth try­ing where you can sub­sti­tute wild har­vested food for the tra­di­tional pro­tein. “I try any­thing with wild meat us­ing duck in­stead of beef and rab­bit in­stead of chicken.”

Julie Gille­spie has be­come a reg­u­lar at Love­day

Julie gath­ers wild food for the ta­ble but is just as happy if all she sees is a sun­rise.

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