Donna Smigielski is an inspiring young woman. The 28-year-old beauty therapist owns her own salon – DBB Skin & Laser – and spends most of her working week administering the business and performing treatments on her loyal customers.
On any given day Donna may be answering phone inquiries, carrying out treatments on someone with severe acne, resolving skin pigmentation problems, reducing a person’s scarring or removing embarrassing and unwanted hair from their body.
But on weekends Donna’s life is a stark contrast. She regularly dons her camouflage outfit, packs her rifle in her pink gun bag and heads out hunting and camping with her dad.
“My work life is very different to my personal life,” she said. “At work, I need to be all done up and have a big focus of professionalism, both in looks and behaviour. When I’m out hunting I’m all decked-out in camo and just let my hair down. Obviously, we are very safety conscious when handling guns, but it’s a lot of fun.”
Donna’s father has hunted since he was young, and all the men in her family go on regular hunting trips. “They had a father and son trip about five or six years ago and, because my dad only has two daughters, he went without me,” she said. “I cracked it at him and said it wasn’t fair that he went on his own just because he didn’t have a son. So the next time he invited me and it went from there. Now I go out all the time.”
While she only began hunting a few years ago, Donna has always enjoys the outdoors and camping. Instead of big trips overseas or up north during school holidays, Donna and her family regularly went on 4WD holidays.
“My dad and cousin had been going to this one station in NSW for 20-something years,” she said. “Everyone used to be there and we’d go out on the quads in groups of three or four. They had pigs there but we didn’t really look for them.
“It’s not the best hunting trip but you get to go away, you’re in that kind of environment and it’s just peaceful and different.”
Donna is one of the many hunters who does her bit to help manage pest animals, which cost the country millions each year. Her main targets – feral goats, foxes and rabbits.
There are estimated to be about 2.6 million feral goats in Australia. The animals cost the livestock industry about $25 million each year, excluding their impact on the environment or pasture degradation.
The cost of rabbits to Australian primary producers is much higher – at $113 million per year in lost production and population control. With about 200 million rabbits across the country, they have a huge impact on crops, pastures, revegetation and forestry seedlings, and contribute to soil erosion.
But, perhaps the worst pest of all, the fox has the greatest impact on our native species. Several species have become extinct due to foxes. The animals can kill up to 20 per cent of lambs born and cost the sheep industry about $100 million each year.
Donna and her family do more than just help manage the pests, they often cook when that harvest. “We eat rabbits and goat,” she said. “We usually put rabbit in the slow cooker and finish it in the oven, like a stew.”
Despite knowing she is helping the primary production industry and enjoying the outdoors, sometimes Donna is hesitant to tell people about her hobby. “People assume the worst,” she said. “I think people have a tendency to think guns are dangerous and if you have a gun it means you are an awful person. If I’m going away, I don’t say I’m going hunting – I just say I’m going camping.
While she is yet to come across another beauty therapist who hunts, Donna has had a few clients who share her passion. “When you have a conversation you might say certain words and another hunter will pick up that you are a hunter,” she said. “I’ve had a few clients who are into it.”
Donna said “nothing compared” to being outdoors, away from phone reception, and unwinding after a long week at work.