A remote pastoral station in Western Australia is attracting firearms enthusiasts from across the globe wanting to spend time in the outback shooting high-calibre rifles.
It is an unusual pastoral tourism venture, but offering the rare opportunity to shoot a 50-calibre rifle has proven to be a successful business at Ella Valla Station, south of Carnarvon on Western Australia’s Gascoyne coast, about 800 kilometres from Perth.
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Shane Aylmore and his father Spencer realised a dream when they purchased Ella Valla Station in 2010, but almost immediately had most of their feed and critical infrastructure wiped out by a large bushfire.
In a bid to generate income, they began designing a business where shooters could hire the property for a week to shoot feral animals such as goats.
“I came up with the idea that I could get recreational shooters in and value-add my goats, get them to come in, shoot them and take them away, use them as meat,” Mr Aylmore said.
“We’ve got a couple of Italian families that come and make sausages out of them, and it took off.”
High-powered rifles attract international guests
Along with Mr Aylmore’s wife Amanda, the family then turned a strip of land cleared as a firebreak into a shooting range, where visitors could shoot high-powered firearms under Mr Aylmore’s guidance as a range instructor.
“It seems to be on everybody’s bucket list. It’s what everybody wants to do, just the feeling of it, it’s indescribable. There’s just a huge blast,” he said.
“The most we’ve had on a range in a day is 370 people, down to individuals. We’ve got one client who rents the station by himself.
“I think in a year [on average] we’d have a couple hundred people come through.”
The Ella Valla range is a 2.7-kilometre straight, one of the longest non-military ranges in Australia.
The isolation of the station creates enough fallout space for high-calibre bullets to be safely shot, and tourists have travelled from as far as Singapore to shoot one of Mr Aylmore’s two 50-calibre rifles.
“The 50 BMG is pretty much the largest commercially available rifle that you can buy,” he said.
“It’s unique, it’s loud, it’s got just the right amount of recall, and shooting it over long range is very technical and very challenging.”
The Aylmores are hoping to host international long-range shooting events next year, including the well-known King of the 2 Mile.
Shooters help to build cattle herd
At 116,000 hectares, Ella Valla Station is a smaller station in the context of Western Australia’s large cattle properties.
While the Gascoyne region has a history in sheep and wool production, most properties have transitioned to cattle as historically poor prices and wild dog attacks made running sheep less appealing.
Mr Aylmore said diversifying the pastoral business with a tourism income had allowed him to develop the station’s infrastructure to be suitable for cattle and to build a Droughtmaster cattle herd.
“We’re not using great amount of lands, our range can be grazed, it’s one of the first areas that we run our stock into because we don’t want the grasses building up around our infrastructure.”
Banging heads with government
Mr Aylmore said it had been about a two-year process to get State Government approval to host the tourism business at Ella Valla.
The diversification permit, which is soon up for renewal, falls under sections 122 and 121 of the Land Administration Act.
“As soon as they get the briefing notes or I sit down with them and explain what we do, and show them the policies and procedures and how we do business, they become our best supporters.
“I think diversification is the answer, especially for the small leases, which according to the Department of Agriculture aren’t viable.
“I think they are viable; you just have to think a little outside the box.”