Shot to the heart starts career as female roo shooter
Paige Donald spends her nights in deep concentration and fighting fatigue while she lines up kangaroos in the scope of a high-powered rifle.
It was love that led the 21-year-old, who believes she is the only woman macropod harvester in Charleville, south-western Queensland, into the occupation.
"I met my partner, we went on a pigging trip together, and he offered me a job to go roo shooting alongside him and it's been like that ever since" she said.
"That's kind of our date night — we go out pigging together."
Being a woman in a male-dominated industry is always a point of interest when Ms Donald tells people what she does for a living.
"It's not usually a girl thing to do, they say 'Oh wow, she's doing a man's job', so they are impressed," she said.
To become a professional, Ms Donald said she had to get a gun licence and her rifle has passed accuracy tests.
The ute she and her partner use has also been accredited by Safe Food Production Queensland.
She encourages other women to give the job a chance.
"It's an experience. Even if you do it for just a few months, it's fun and you see lots of different things," she said.
What it takes to be a roo shooter
It is a physical job that requires concentration over long periods and a lot of travel over dirt roads and open country.
Ms Donald and her partner sometimes drive up to 300 kilometres to reach a property at dusk before the night's hunting begins.
"We get up in the afternoon, get the guns ready, sharpen the knives, make sure the ute is clean, and then we head out to the place," she said.
"You shoot your roo, you bring it back to the car, hang it up, and then you go and get the next one.
"We gut them, chop the paws off, pull the guts out and tag them … and then you start again."
The harvesters must deposit the carcasses into refrigerated shipping containers, known as roo boxes, within two hours of the sun rising to avoid the meat spoiling.
From there the game is collected to be processed.
The nature of the job does impact on her relationship, but Ms Donald said working alongside her partner made them a stronger unit.
"It gets a little full-on sometimes, but he's great — he knows when I'm tired and he's like, 'It's alright, we're just tired and cranky'," she said.
We have a night off and just relax and go out to dinner or do something a bit different."
Ms Donald's income is directly related to how many kangaroos she shoots; being paid per kilogram means her pay cheque fluctuates.
"It all depends on the roo's weight. At the moment they are 75c a kilo and so if you get 20 roos for the night that might just pay for the fuel, but a load of 70 could reach over $1,000 for a night," she said.
"You might be struggling one week and you've got your rego due or some bills due and you know you've got to keep going out."
While she loves the work Ms Donald doesn't see a long-term future in the industry for her.
"Probably as I get a little bit older I'll get into something a bit more serious but while I'm young this job is good for keeping me healthy and fit," she said.
Hunter and animal lover in one
Despite her love of hunting, Ms Donald described herself as an animal lover.
She keeps dogs, horses and a goat in her backyard, but said she has an affinity with native animals as well.
"There was one [kangaroo] with its leg trapped in the fence I nudged my partner and said 'Let's let it go'," she said.
Ms Donald said she loved animals, but could still shoot and kill kangaroos.
"My mum thinks I'm crazy but my grandfather, he's happy about it. He says that's who I am — I'm a hunter."
While Ms Donald had been a roo shooter for the past five months, hunting was not a new pastime for her.
"I grew up my whole life with my grandfather who is a huge hunter," she said.
"So hunting has just been around all my life. I just love it; it's just awesome."