Memorable trophy hunts

Sam Garro shares some special moments from hunting trips over the years

At a young age when scouting in the hills of a friend’s farm on the outskirts of Melbourne and before I could carry any sort of firearm, I can recall my first trophy ‑ at least to me at the time it was a trophy worthy of collecting and mounting. It was a set of average but shiny cow horns from a sun parched, dried-up skull.

They were taken home, disinfected and mounted on a crude shield crafted in my father’s shed. I was already interested in hunting and in awe of trophies ranging from pig tusks, deer antlers, scrub bull and buffalo horns to shoulder and full body mounts and skins. While it would still be some years before I was eligible to hunt game with a firearm, to me it was the start of a lifetime of adventurous hunting. Forty-five years on, I still have those cow horns in my den among my modest collection of trophies.

Young hunter

Similarly to how I was affected as a youngster and how a young mind can be captured by a special moment in time, father Shane and son Banjo, of Darwin, went out one afternoon to hunt game along a creekline in the wilderness country of the Northern Territory. Shane sported a Sako Grizzly 9.3×62 while Banjo, under his father’s supervision and guidance, shouldered his late grandfather’s 1968 Brno ZKW 465 .22 Hornet.

They had only walked a kilometre or so when Shane spotted a boar wallowing in muddy water. For Banjo the excitement started to mount as they quietly stalked closer to within 40m. As a caring father, Shane took all precautions to enable his son to score his first pig. Guided and instructed by his father to remain calm and take up a good rest to ensure proper bullet placement, Banjo used a sapling to steady himself but found it wasn’t suitable so moved to a more substantial tree.

It had to be a head shot for the smaller calibre bullet to have the desired effect. With his father in position with his Sako rifle as back-up, Banjo settled into a comfortable shooting position, steadied the scope’s cross-hairs onto the boar’s head and squeezed the trigger. With a jolt, the boar expired where it wallowed without moving a muscle, nailed by the young hunter’s accurate bullet placement.

The elation and excitement was something special shared between father and son, particularly so for the aspiring young hunter as the boar was his very first, but it also had greater meaning as he had been guided by his father and the firearm used belonged to his late grandfather.

The special moment will live in his memory forever as he embraces more of the same adventure and matures into a responsible and experienced hunter like his father. The boiled out white skull and tusks will remain a treasured trophy and a talking point for many years to come.

Red deer, Brisbane Ranges, Queensland

As far back as I can recall one of my uppermost desires was to one day score a hard-won, magnificent antlered stag, a game animal most hunters strive for. My opportunity came in my senior years when I hunted red deer in the magnificent Brisbane Ranges, Queensland.

On the last morning of my hunt, and having already collected two reasonable trophy heads, a nice stag ranged at 500m presented itself high on a slope exposed to the warm sun. As I was scheduled to catch a flight back to Melbourne later in the afternoon, it represented my last opportunity. Trusting in my Sako A111 .30-06 topped with a Leupold VX-3 3-9×40 scope and my ability, I backed myself. At 200m the .30-06 was on the money. After estimating and suitably allowing for bullet drop, I took aim.

Holding the cross-hairs a steady 24” above the shoulder and on the vertical leg line, I squeezed the trigger. The thud of the 165gr projectile indicated a hit as the stag rapidly hobbled down the hill to stop near the basin.

On inspection, the shot had completely shattered the exposed left front knee. While the antlers looked reasonable at the distance, up close they were only 4×3 and not so spectacular, splaying out forward of its head. It didn’t matter, they were certainly memorable and worthy of mounting.

Instinct stag, Brisbane Ranges, Queensland

It was late in the third morning without sighting a representative stag in the hills, save for a couple of small bands of hinds, when my mate and I started heading back to camp. A thick scrubbed gully stretched from the base of the hill to the top, potential cover for a stag in waiting.

For the next 50m before cresting the ridge past the gully, I must have looked up at a small clearing some four or five times, but there was nothing. Then, having virtually resolved myself there was no deer presence, I glanced over my left shoulder. To my total disbelief and overwhelming surprise, a mature, deep red coated stag strolled into the clearing above the tree line. There it stood, erect and proud in all its magnificence with a tall even spread of antlers.

Not knowing if the stag would stay put, I quickly shouldered my Sako A111 .30-06 to take the shot but it was no use ‑ I couldn’t hold the cross-hairs of my Leupold scope steady enough. Hoping the deer would remain still a few seconds longer, I went into a sitting shooting position as I have often practised for such an occasion.

With a couple of deep breaths I placed the cross-hairs just behind its shoulder and squeezed the trigger. At that moment I lost sight of the stag but it appeared hit as it only took a few steps before sitting down in the tall grass. What initially was shaping up to be a disappointing hunt couldn’t have had a better end result, as I trusted my instincts to score the majestic stag.

Boar shot through tree, south of Pine Creek, NT

We were on the way out of the property heading for Darwin after a memorable and successful guided pig and boar hunt with Glenn Giffin, of Muckadilla Safaris. It was still half-light when Glenn gestured to have the rifle ready even though my day’s hunting had ended. I didn’t argue.

He slowly rolled the LandCruiser close to a feral donkey carcass and stopped to look around. In the dim light he could see nothing other than notice the carcass had been dragged out of position, so scanned the surrounding scrub in case the feasting pig lay bloated on the periphery. A moment later, his hushed voice echoed: “pig, pig.” As I quietly exited the vehicle and came around its rear with the outfitter’s 35 Whelan, I spotted what appeared to be a burnt-out log at approximately 60m obscured by low growing leafed scrub. As I was still unsure Glenn reaffirmed: “Yes, yes, that’s it.”

Through the scope its form became more recognisable as I rested the cross-hairs on where I thought its chest was, except there was a 5-6” thick tree in front. Hoping to just miss the tree I let rip with a 250gr Speer Hot-Cor projectile. On inspection and much to everyone’s surprise, the 250gr projectile had not only smashed through the chest of the boar leaving a gaping hole, but on its way, punched clear through the tree trunk in front. We pondered the moment for a while before taking photos. It was an old, battle-scarred boar noticeable by its worn-down tusks and overall poor condition, but the tusks were taken nevertheless for the incredulous moment. The shield mounted tusks are on my den wall above an A4 photo.

Boars of Murganella Floodplains, NT

Around the Murganella Floodplains I had just dropped a large mature boar departing the tall grass with my undergunned 6mm Rem when my companion Brian downed a secondary smaller-bodied pig to my left seconds later.

I was happy with my boar whose tusks measured a respectable 28 Douglas Points but Brian’s was unusually spectacular with an additional vertical set of tusks behind the first. It was a novelty for him and everyone else on the guided hunt.

A different trophy

I was on a guided hunt with Muckadilla Safaris again south of Pine Creek, NT stalking pigs in amazing, near prehistoric type country when a sizeable boar was spotted in the scrub before succumbing to a well-placed shot from a 35 Whelan rifle.

It sported worn down, knob-like tusks, but the cape was worthy as this hefty, ravaged boar was a fine representative specimen of the unique area.

These few examples give some idea how special, distinct and sometimes unbelievable hunts can be and why it’s worth the trouble and effort to retrieve and showcase trophies in the game room or your favourite place.

How well-endowed or grand trophies may be is secondary to the memories attached. I never lose the enthusiasm to ethically hunt game in a sustainable manner and respect each for what they represent and mean to the hunter, at the same time making the most of any meat recovery and trophy collection.

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