A shooter's bag, or a brace of wattle birds and several quail, 1860s (ALMFA, SLT)

Shooters in the bush, with carcases of both native and introduced animals hanging around them (AOT, PH30/1/2248)

Shooting arrived in Tasmania with Europeans, early colonists shooting kangaroos and other fauna for both food and sport. Target shooting and pigeon shooting (at live pigeons) were popular from the 1840s, but rifle shooting as a sport developed only in the 1860s, when defence worries prompted the government to sponsor it. Rifle clubs and ranges were set up, shooting matches were held and Tasmanian teams competed interstate. When war broke out in 1914 there were 104 clubs with 1100 members. Enthusiasm remained high afterwards, and in 1924 AC Blacklow, HF Paul and Roy Calvert were members of the Australian team which won the Empire Match at Bisley, England.

The sport declined during the Second World War, but revived afterwards, with the army range at Pontville the home of the Tasmanian Rifle Association. In 1959 the commonwealth government decided that the sport had lost its military significance, so after almost a century government subsidies ceased. Shooting continued, with Bruce Johnston and Eric Thompson high achievers, and Geoff Ayling winning the Bisley Queen's Cup in 1981. Pistol shooting, possibly initiated for all Australia in Tasmania in 1932, was also popular, with the first Australian championships held in Hobart in 1958. Meanwhile, humanitarian protest in the 1920s meant clay targets replaced live pigeons. Tasmania was to the fore in international clay target shooting in the 1970s, Sperry Marshall competing in the 1972 Olympics.

Further reading: D Young, Sporting Island, Hobart, 2005.

Alison Alexander and David Young