Some time ago, I had the opportunity to start writing the back page story for South Pacific Bowhunter, a quality, slick publication of over 200 pages, devoted to bowhunting in an area about which we seldom go to or read hunting stories. The magazine is published in Australia.
From what I gather; the bowhunting there is something else. After all, they have six species of just deer! The latest issue had 19 hunting articles! So I queried Antonio Lara, the editor/publisher and gleaned some facts about hunting down there.
To start with, imagine a place with no bag limits, almost no hunting seasons and a wide variety of what to us would be exotic animals. Now before you start drooling, understand right up front, this is not a hunt you do on the cheap or without doing some homework.
Remember, their seasons are upside down. Spring here is fall there. That is a starting point. However, for sure, you want to have a local contact before you jump on a plane for Oz. And the cost to jump on that plane is not small. I suspect you can bowhunt Australia for about the gelt of a good African trip.
Okay, let us talk about available species and we can discuss where they are and then how to get there and kill one. Keep in mind, I am as lost as you are when it comes to where is what in the Land Down Under. All I know for sure is you cannot hunt any of the native species. So what? Six species of dad gum deer! And that is just a start.
Those kinda elk looking things that roars. Most of us call them Red Stag. Correctly, they are Red Deer imported to Australia a century ago. Big suckers and if I am right, they live mostly in places that are beautiful beyond belief and rather up and down. I am told Queensland is the place to start for them. They have been in the Brisbane and Mary Valleys over 100 years. That should give them a good start and judging from the pictures, they get bragging size big. I have always wanted to hunt them.
Want to kill a water buffalo? They get big in the Northwest Territories and I am told the herds are vast. I dont know that area but Antonio tells me they are found in large numbers throughout Arnhem Land and on down to the Gulf of Carpentaria. (Dont look at me. I have no idea. Look it up.) They get big, these buffs, up to a ton. Gonna need some good draw weight and a heavy arrow. Leave your soda straws at home for the target range. I understand there are plenty of guides in the area that can tailor a hunt to your needs.
I have heard of Banteng but admit I have no idea what they are. Turns out, they are a wild cattle and quite the desired game animal. I recall reading of a hunt Mr. Fred Bear went on that turned out to be a bit more challenging than he expected. You can find them in the Coburg Peninsula and are a guide only type hunt. Antonio says they are a real trophy due the difficulty in killing one with a bow. I take it they are not like Holsteins.
I have never had the least desire to kill a camel. Never even crossed my mind. Heck, I never even wanted to smoke one. I suppose if one spit on me, I might reconsider. However, if you have such a bent, they have them in the land of dingoes, which you can also hunt. I have killed a dingo. That is another story. Camels are found in the interior of Oz. Their numbers have become so out of control, the government is now culling them to prevent damage to the ecology. Probably be easy to arrange a hunt. If you are old enough, you might appreciate the fact that in Oz, it may not be necessary to walk a mile for Camel. Just couldnt resist.
I have killed an axis deer with a bow. That doesnt mean I would not like to loose the string on a bigger one. They can make for a thrilling hunt in an area such as the land around the Great Basalt Wall. That area is central Queensland and there are large herds there. Maybe that is why they are known as the Ghosts of the Basalt. The area is one that most certainly will require a guide and there are some good ones, just do some research or email Antonio at firstname.lastname@example.org. I doubt that he will mind and he might even send you a copy of the magazine if you ask nicely.
Even though there are some pigs in the area, Cape York is the place to go for the really big bruisers. I mean huge hogs. I have seen the pictures. Again, you will want a guide and they are available.
I dont know what a Rusa deer is. I have heard of them and I understand the stags make a heck of a noise when spooked. I tend to do the same. They have long tines and that is just about all I know and all I can tell you. I do know they are rewriting the record books with heads from this area. They look to me to be a cross between an elk and a whitetail. I believe I would like to stalk one. I also have no idea what the rare Hog Deer is or looks like. I looked them up. Small with high antlers, weighs about 50,000 grams, (just convert 50 Kg to pounds). They run with their heads down so their antlers can clear the brush. Hence, the name hog. You figure it out, I could not.
Okay. So in that large continent you can hunt a bunch of stuff from Sambar to Banteg to fallow deer to wide horned goats to dingoes and feral cats and all manner of things in between. The Top End of Australia, the northern portion, is a true wilderness.
It is the sort of area I daydream about hunting. In the dream, I am 45 years younger and I have two months to hunt. The only concern animal-wise is the saltwater crocodile. Care must be taken around water holes. However, dont forget your fishing rod. Remember, they are upside down. Prime hunting time is June to October. Now doesnt that just work out perfect?
Ill tell you straight. If I was young again and could still ride bucking horses and bulls, I would head for the buckjumping, (that is what they call a rodeo down there.) and I believe I could make enough to stay and hunt.
Jimmy Dix, a bareback rider from some place called West Collie, tried to get me to come, back in the 60s. I wish I had gone. But I didnt so I am content reading the pages of the magazine and dreaming.
How about you? Fancy a Sambar stalk or perhaps a boar hunt for a gagger of boar? Allow a year to plan and an understanding wife and off you go, mate.
By JOHN L. SLOAN, email@example.com