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Stop and smell the … gunpowder

Stop and smell the … gunpowder

Life as a meat wholesaler can be demanding. Between the phone calls to clients, abattoir visits, livestock sales, long-distance driving and bookwork, there isn’t a lot of time to ‘stop and smell the roses’.

That’s why target shooting is so important to Peter Cunningham. “I can turn off from the pressures of my job and spend a bit of time at the ranges, or at home cleaning my firearms,” he said.

Peter sells meat to retail butcher shops for work. It means he spends about three to four hours selling meat over the phone each day. Then he spends about two or three hours in the car travelling to and from abattoirs, where he carefully selects the meat from the chiller for his clients.

“Say I have a butcher shop that buys 10 lambs,” he said, “I select the ones I want for my client from the abattoir. Sometimes I will spend a couple of hours at one just choosing the right meat for the abattoirs to deliver to my clients.”

At home in West Gippsland he’s often on the phone to clients spread across the state – Sorrento, Sunshine, even Traralgon – following up on yesterday’s deliveries. “The meat industry is very competitive,” he said. “You have to go that one step further for your clients. Meat is a perishable good too, so you just have to sell it and you have to know what you’re buying and selling.”

Peter knows how to sell meat – he’s been doing it for 37 years. He was “born and bred on abattoirs” near Carrum in Melbourne’s southeast. “I was taken out of school at 15 and put on the telephone to sell meat,” he said. “I really like the selling side of the business.”

With all that time around meat every day, Peter prefers to shoot paper or clay targets in his spare time. Once a week he heads down to a clay target club in Frankston and he visits Eagle Park whenever he can.

Peter discovered Eagle Park about 15 months ago, after hearing about the facility through a friend of a friend. “I have never turned back,” he said. When he is at the range, Peter likes to zone out and enjoy the “peace and quiet” – although he sees the irony in that comment.

“Everybody just minds their own business and does their own thing,” he said. “Everyone is zoned in on what they’re doing and gets great satisfaction when they shoot straight. I like to go there on my own.”

It’s a fair drive to Eagle Park – about two hours from home – but Peter enjoys the whole experience. “I enjoy getting away and doing my own thing,” he said. After all, the kids – Andrew, 22, Briana, 20 and Sheya, 18 – are all doing their own thing now. His wife, Toni, sees plenty of him at home.

“Working from home we do spend a lot of time together,” he said. “They don’t mind me heading to the range because they know I enjoy it and I don’t do it every day of the week.”

No matter how busy things get at work or at home, Peter always finds time for his rifles. “I just have to, or I would go silly,” he said. “It’s my time out, when I don’t have to talk to anybody. I get a lot of enjoyment out of them.”