by Chris Redlich
A 30-second phone call was all it took to find out that almost two decades of hunting on a property had come to a close. The estate had undergone a change of owners who decided to conduct all feral pest control in-house. The gates were now shut to a couple of regular professional shooters and myself, a recreational hunter. I ended the phone call on good terms with the one of the new owners, hoping for a change of heart. Disappointed, I respected his decision. Although great mates with the previous owner and despite him guaranteeing my privilege there, his word wasn’t final.
In early 2014, I was invited by Greg, married to a relative of mine, to come hunting on his family’s cattle property in Western Queensland. A year and a bit later, I accepted the invite for a hunt. As it turns out, a usually very dry part of our state was experiencing large amounts of unseasonal rain. With each attempt at booking a time, my plans were foiled by more wet weather. Not to worry though, as the parched country was enjoying a drink for a change, which was a welcome relief for the farmers.
A window of time finally opened up and the heavens didn’t. A few weeks out a hunt was organised, just after Christmas 2016. Upon mentioning the plans to my son Carl, he was more excited about the hunt with Dad than Christmas. With much anticipation we loaded the ute on Boxing Day. For my son our departure could not come fast enough and before he knew it, we were travelling west to St George. Although there had been some good rainfall recently, it didn’t take long for the country to dry out again. This was evident the further we travelled closer to the property.
We arrived in mid-afternoon and caught up with our friends. They gave us a map and a few instructions and said we were welcome to hunt a goat or two. Although feral, goats are a commodity to the landowner and once a year they do a muster and transport a road train load of them to the abattoir. Good coin for very little outlay, we were told. I said we would only shoot a goat worthy of a trophy. Shoot as many pigs as you can, they said. The local wild pig population were giving the water points a hammering and muddying up the drinking supply of the cattle by using the water troughs to cool down from the heat.
We set up camp in quarters near the farmhouse and prepped our rifles for an afternoon hunt. It was close to 5pm but at this time of year we had loads of daylight left during which to hunt. We departed and a couple of paddocks later we spotted movement near a trough approximately one kilometre away. I glassed with my Golden Ring binos and discovered a massive mob of multi-coloured feral goats that began to stir upon the sound of the ute. There were some good-sized billies in the mob and the decision was made to push closer for a look. As we reached within a few hundred metres, the goats decided to do a runner. I wasn’t too worried though as they were heading for a strip of sandalwood scrub with another open paddock on the other side.
I parked the ute out of sight and we made our way through the scrub until we could see across the paddock. As per script, the goats headed into the open and we used the sandalwood for cover to gain a closer look. The goats, unaware of our presence, began to feed. We found a billy for Carl to take. He had a good set of horns and a fantastic coloured coat. I set up Carl in a comfortable firing position with the Ruger in .223 Rem approximately 80 to 100 metres from the goat. I steadied myself with the Brno .284 Win for back-up if required. I told him not to shoot until a clear broadside shot presented itself. We had the trees for cover and wind in our favour and still the goats had no idea we were there.
That made it ideal for Carl to feel relaxed for his first attempt at a trophy. He steadied himself and took up the trigger pressure. The 55-grain projectile shot from the .223 was good and, as the other goats took off, the billy dropped. It was now late in proceedings and we had a lot of work to do with the last of the day’s light.
After plenty of photos for the record I set about removing the entire skin from the goat. Anybody who has skinned an old billy before, knows that it is not an easy task. The skin had a few burrs and stunk a bit. With my son’s help it was worth the effort as it really was a beautiful skin and would make a nice floor rug. Removing the horns was relatively easy compared to the skinning, using my special hacksaw with coarse teeth to glide through the skull cap. The sun set behind the trees but the heat of the day lingered well into the night.
With what only seemed like a short reprieve from the heat, the sun was flexing its muscles again by 5am. It was time to check the water points for any pigs that might be heading back to a shady spot for the day. About 3km from the quarters was all it took to stumble across our first mob of pigs. Obviously startled by the noise of our bikes, the pigs burst from first to top gear in a second. They ran along the fence line beside us and slipped under a low spot for the safety of the melon holes and saltbush in the paddock. I helped my son find a comfortable firing position on the fence. As most pig hunters know, time is critical to nail a mob of pigs on the run. It would be fair to say that time wasn’t on our side!
As it turns out we shot the same pig at the same time. Although mostly all small-sized pigs, it was virtually the last largest, visible pig of the mob. Carl shot with a .223 Rem, and at 80 metres from the kneeling position, I shot with a .303. We had dropped this pig but as we scouted the property for a bit longer, the remaining pigs had given us the slip.
Although only one pig was dead, it was a combined effort by the two of us and we were happy. Upon reflection later, I was satisfied with how things had played out. To put my son in a safe position to fire was the main priority, not so much the timing. After all, I am here to teach him the importance of hunting safely. Personally, I wished I had taken sun safety seriously. The UV rays showed no mercy on my arms and neck. I copped probably the worst sunburn in my life and paid for it. Carl had the brains to wear a long-sleeve shirt but I had opted for a sleeveless one.
After a restless night’s sleep, we spent the morning stalking goats. Carl was successful, taking his second trophy goat. Later we stumbled across a pair of young pigs basking in a remote water trough with an audience of cattle watching. My son’s excitement was more than he could handle and he closed in fast to shoot the pigs. The pigs were startled, as if caught with their pants down, and leapt from the troughs, bolting for the safety of the bush before their modesty was further exposed. I expressed to Carl that next time to be patient and move slowly for a shot. He agreed and acknowledged another lesson learnt.
We were out at the back of the property and with the day coming to a close, we decided to hunt our way home. From gate to gate we edged closer to camp until I spotted movement in a paddock to my right. Certain it was a pig, I raised my No. 4 .303 sporter and took a sight picture. A big boar was confirmed and at 125m I shot him dead, cleanly between the eyes. As I drove into the paddock to retrieve the downed boar I noticed another big black shape crossing the fence, about 300m away. I urged Carl to hurry up closing the gate. With the other lone boar unaware of us being there, we used the fading light and favourable wind direction to close the gap on foot. Tree by tree we sneaked in on the boar. At around 80m Carl took a rest, standing off the side of a tree and fired. A 55-grain projectile to the back of the head dropped the animal dead, instantly.
We were both so excited with the end to our hunt on a new property out west. Carl had just opened up his pig hunting account with a cracking boar and I was proud to have helped him. Darkness fell quickly so we opted to set the pigs up in position to come back at sunrise for a photo shoot. With many memories made those few days we packed up and headed for home with the invitation from our friends to return.