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Retiring to shooting

Retiring to shooting

When it comes to shooting Carl and Jacqui Wesley’s journey spans two continents, at least four generations and almost 70 years. The pair – who have been married half a century – shoot pistol, rifle and shotgun, have a target range on their property and regularly hunt together at home near Broadford.

Carl’s introduction to shooting occurred at his home town of Birmingham, England, when he “still had his nappies on”. “My father was a policeman who became a firearms instructor and he shot at the Queen’s Prize,” Carl said. “I think I was under 10 when my father used to take me to the range and he would allow me to have a go after everybody finished shooting.”

Following the family tradition, Carl was given his first air rifle for his 10th birthday, just like his older brother. “My favourite part of hunting when I was young was we had a close family friend, Peter Bell, who grew peas commercially,” he said. “Wood pigeons were a big pest for those products in England and we would help him control them.”

As a school boy Carl met his best friend’s sister. Jacqui grew up in England and also learnt to shoot while young. “Well my dad taught me to shoot with an air rifle but after that I didn’t really have much to do with it for many years,” she said.

The pair relocated to Australia in 1968, with plans of a successful career in agriculture. But when the 1970s downturn in agriculture came Carl lost his job and the pair, now married, moved to Melbourne. “I joined a security company and I was required to carry a firearm for personal protection,” he said. “I later became a prison guard and I always believed you should know how to use the tools of your trade, so I used to go along and practice.”

It was at this time Jacqui’s interest in shooting piqued. As an office manager for a concrete manufacturer, Jacqui was often at work or at home while Carl took the kids to the range. “Eventually I thought I would go with them,” she said. And her husband said she was a natural. “I normally start people off with a .22 calibre pistol at 10 yards,” he said. “She proceeded to put 10 bullets into the same hole.”

The Wesleys helped form the Professional Pistol League and were involved in setting up IPSC in Australia, back when only security, police and military were allowed to join the club. “I was in the first Australian team to represent the country in the second World Combat Championship in South Africa,” Carl said. “It was awesome. There were 600 shooters from all over the world doing seven days of solid shooting. To see the world’s top shooters in action was just incredible.”

While living on property at Cranbourne and competing in pistol shooting, the pair was also required to carry out pest animal eradication at home. “At Cranbourne we had a plague of rabbits,” Carl said. “We had an extensive vegetable garden and they would gravitate towards that, which did make them easier to shoot. We had chickens and we’d get rats that we had to cull. We also got foxes out there.”

Over the years the couple has been involved in the SSAA bird control program at the Yarra Valley, the Conservation and Pest Management goat control program at the You Yangs and several other programs, as well as controlling goats, rabbits and foxes on their own.

Carl also began hunting deer in the 1970s and is a shareholder at the Deerstalker’s Woods Point lodge. The Wesleys used to go on camping, fishing and shooting trips on a property in NSW when their children, Lorraine and Ian, were growing up. In more recent years the couple travelled the country and continued to hunt along the way.

“I always have a .22 and a .308 just in case and Jacqui always brings the meat grinder with her in case we get something,” Carl said. “The best meat is camel. I shot a camel in Western Australia when we were doing an Outback trip. I was standing up 6’2” and holding the huge backstrap up. It was just off the ground. There might have been 15 kg of meat and that lasted us four weeks. So Jacqui cubed it for casserole, curries, and we even made sausages in the field.”

Jacqui said it was “very satisfying to sit down to a meal which you’ve either cultivated or grown yourself”. Sharing a love of the outdoors, shooting, hunting and camping has brought the couple together, especially since their retirement 20 years ago. In Carl’s words, “couples who hunt together, stay together”.