All’s well that ends well Part 3

John Dunn wraps up his Cobourg Peninsula adventure with a banteng bull of epic proportions

The day was a lazy one though we all had plenty to do. Rob and Caleb worked on the trophies, Gorgia was her usual busy self around camp, Larissa and Zahara talked girl talk and I did some washing and writing while John Spurr (a friend of Rob’s), Graeme, Noah and Dylan went offshore-fishing in a boat John had towed all the way from the New South Wales central coast.

The quartet returned around noon with more than enough fresh fish to feed the camp for dinner. The afternoon hunt finished early and for the first time since I’d arrived, I sat in camp and watched the sun set over the Arafura Sea. As it always does in the tropics it dropped below the horizon in a matter of minutes, almost as if it was in a hurry to be somewhere else.

Rob and Gorgia headed for Darwin before daylight the following morning to pick up fuel and supplies along with a new buggy they’d ordered months ago. Larissa was given the honorary role of camp mother for the duration and did a good job, keeping us entertained and on our toes. Gorgia would’ve been proud of her.

The two travellers arrived back about midnight after a long day so the start next morning was a tad late. The new buggy needed a service before it could go hunting, as did the ute. I went fishing with John, Noah and Zahara and while I’m not much of a boat person I really enjoyed the morning, especially seeing the youngsters catch fish. In the afternoon we again went in search of buffaloes with the buggy giving easy access to a much larger area on the flood plain and though we saw some big bulls, none could match those I’d taken on previous hunts.

Second banteng

The Fifield clan were due to go back to Darwin the following morning so we said our goodbyes early and when we heard the plane leave an hour or so later, we were down in the spring country looking for a banteng cow to convert into a flat mat. We couldn’t find one though we did see quite a few pigs, including a couple of good boars. As we turned to go back to the vehicle two wild dogs came trotting up the creek line, no doubt heading for a feed on the carcass of a bull Noah shot several days earlier. In line with the ‘shoot on sight’ policy of the traditional owners, Caleb downed the lead dog with a .500 Nitro Express double rifle he was carrying, way too much gun but devastatingly effective.

We spent most of the afternoon on the flood plains in the buggy, still looking for a big buffalo bull. They were hard to find and we were inevitably distracted by some banteng bulls way too big to ignore so, with buffaloes forgotten, we drove as close as we dared. One stood out as better than the rest so we left the buggy and moved in on foot. At a little over 200m, working off a bipod I found the bull in the scope, fired and missed with the shot flying high.

Rob shook his head in disbelief, Caleb looked at me hard and I had no excuses – it was me, not the rifle – I hadn’t held it properly and my shakes had done the rest. The bull scampered away with a bunch of other animals disturbed by the shot and though we followed him up he was soon lost within their ranks, eventually heading back into the timber. Rob pulled up in a patch of shade while I took some time to compose myself and had a much-needed drink of cold water. Then we picked up our binoculars and began to search again.

At roughly 1500m out on the plain a loose group of bulls were feeding around each other. They were all big but one of them had horns wider than anything we’d previously seen so it really was a no-brainer. Rob idled the buggy across the wind until we could move no closer and as we stopped to plan our stalk the bantengs saw us, milled nervously about and began to drift away with our boy right in the middle of the bunch. I shouldered the rifle to follow him in the scope and as the beasts began to string out along a pad the big bull was suddenly in a gap, clear of all the others. I swung the rifle a good neck-length in front of him and fired. The bull collapsed mid-stride, kicking up a cloud of dust as his erstwhile mates raced away without him.

Before us lay an outstanding banteng, huge in body, long and heavy in the horns with a tip-to-tip spread that was almost unbelievable. We took his cape and head then made our way back to camp, all three of us a little dazed over what we had. In the skinning area each horn measured more than 25^ (63.5cm), the bases 15^ (38cm) around and the spread 47^ (119.4cm). This was a very good bull indeed.

Banteng cow

The next day I missed again, shooting over a banteng cow at no more than 80m. No-one was happy, especially me, so back at camp Rob test-fired the rifle from a concrete bench. The bullet struck dead centre at 100m so we all knew what the problem was. In late afternoon we went for a last look around and on the flats near the Minimini Creek a herd of bantengs were feeding through scattered woodland. Using a dry creek line for cover we left the truck and followed them away from the road for a kilometre or so, until right on dark I finally shot a cow without fuss or complication.

Rob had said we were going to shoot a ‘pretty’ cow and there she was lying in the ash and dust with a trickle of blood on her right shoulder, looking sleek and trim and tidy in her caramel-coloured skin with dark dorsal strip. Then Rob began the long job of removing her hide.

My hunt was over. I hadn’t taken the big buffalo or black banteng bull I’d hoped for but wasn’t unhappy as there was always next year to look forward to. Both bulls I’d taken were fine trophies, the cow skin an overdue icing on the cake and as I watched Rob working by the light of his headlamp a funny thought crossed my mind. When it reaches the stage where you’re looking for a ‘pretty’ banteng cow, it’s probably time to go home.

Hunting with R&R Outfitters

R&R Outfitters Australia is owned and operated by Rob and Gorgia Tritten who hold a hunting concession on the Cobourg Peninsula where they offer arguably the best banteng hunting anywhere. There are also buffaloes and pigs available with reef fishing right on the doorstep. Hunting is spot and stalk from either a dual-cab 4WD or all-terrain buggy.

It’s a tent camp with basic facilities though everything is provided including good food and drinking water, a cold beer at the end of the day and comfortable beds (special requirements can also be accommodated). There’s plenty of water for showers and washing and, if required, a firearm suitable for hunting can be supplied to licensed shooters.

Though it’s possible to drive to the camp it’s much easier to fly in and out on a charter flight from Darwin, the cost of the charter being additional to the hunt. R&R also offers an array of deer hunting opportunities and for information regarding cost and availability of hunts Rob can be contacted on 0429 900 390. Don’t be too concerned if he doesn’t answer right away as he’s probably busy but will get back to you.

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