New writer Gavin Adams has a wealth of bush hunting and fishing experience and here advises on potentially dangerous situations and how to avoid them.
Fortunately in Australia, unlike Africa, we do not have to worry about being stalked by big cats when we fish or hunt, or being dragged out of a tent by a bear if we lived in the Americas. But under certain circumstances in this country we can be caught offguard and things go wrong, making us become the hunted. I am sure most hunters would have a story or two to tell. Here are some of my experiences and those of friends which come to mind over the last 50 or so years.
The morning started off as usual with my son, Paul, and I up around 5am and preparing for a five hour hunt. However my back was feeling real dusty from the previous day’s hunt so I advised him to go alone. Around 8am I heard three quick shots from his 308, approximately 3km from camp. As it happened he had dusted two good boars out of a mob of seven, with a much larger boar around 100kg escaping with a few sows. Paul then followed them for about half a kilometre to where they entered what we call Tiger Grass, about three metres high and very thick. Nothing unusual about this as we often hunt them in this dense country.
Following them in, he waited for ten minutes then two of the sows did a circle and came past within two metres of him. After shooting them both he knew the big boar was still in there with him. Having just reloaded he could hear the big fella coming through the grass on the same pad as the sows. When the boar got to within three metres of him they eyeballed each other and Paul aimed. You guessed it – the gun jammed, the boar charged and in this grass there ain’t nowhere to run, so with a jammed gun he stood his ground. The boar hit him, lifting him completely off his feet and laying him flat on his back, totally winded. The pig raked him up the leg, ripping his jeans then turned and departed, leaving an experienced hunter lying on the ground trying to get his head around what had just happened in the previous twenty seconds, realizing just how lucky he was that the boar had left him lying there defenceless. Around 11.30am Paul walked into camp, covered in dirt and grass with torn jeans and real filthy with his gun.
That afternoon we decided to go back to the site to see if we could pick up the boar. When Paul showed me where the encounter had taken place we knew he was mighty lucky that the boar didn’t hit an artery in his leg as I would never have found him. His main backup insurance against this had been accidentally left in camp – a handheld UHF which we both normally carry. Although he carried a first aid kit in his pack it may not have been enough without extra help to make it back to camp alone. The moral of this story is shit does happen, guns do jam and life can change for the worse in a matter of seconds.
I was camped out on my own once, fishing on a large freshwater empoundment. After following the dam to its headwater I left the boat as I sometimes do and walked a couple of kilometres to known waterholes, luring for barra. An hour later I decided to fish my way back to the boat. It was then I heard the barking of wild dogs in the surrounding lantana. I had heard them while fishing from the boat on a previous trip in the same area. As I got nearer the barking suddenly stopped. After picking up my scent the dogs went deathly quiet. I continued fishing but the old sixth sense was working overtime. Then I heard noises in the lantana and caught a glimpse of one dog approximately thirty metres away. As I walked and fished it became obvious they were stalking me, whether through curiosity or bad intent I will never know.
With only a knife on me, I grabbed a large stick and made my way back to the boat, keeping close to the water’s edge in case I needed to use the water as an escape route. At one stage they approached to about twenty metres from me, but no closer. I estimated there were five dogs, but only fully saw one, which appeared to be an Alsatian cross. They followed me to within forty metres of the boat then vanished in the undergrowth. I have not been back there since but if I do return I can assure you I will be carrying more than just a knife. As with all dogs, they seem to be at their worst when in packs, which I guess is nature’s way – the bigger the pack, the better chance of a kill.
I recall when working on a cattle station in the 60’s we were camped out running scrubbers, five of us on horseback. This particular morning we broke camp before sunrise and after riding about five kilometres we split up, each rider going his separate way looking for cattle sign while one stayed behind with the coachers. Half an hour later I crested a ridge and, looking down on the open flat, saw a pack of dingoes running, jumping, frolicking about and generally having a good time. I counted twenty-three in this pack, mainly grown and half-grown with some big male dogs among them. Most were black and tan with a few ginger ones also. After watching them for a few minutes I decided to press on towards them. They displayed no fear of me and when I was within 100 metres the pack casually left the scene. That was the largest pack I have witnessed and I have little doubt that had I become separated from my horse for some reason and ended up on foot I may not be writing about it today.
Having seen over the years the remains of calves, foals, sheep, roos, emus, pigs and domestic working dogs after being torn to pieces by wild dogs, a man on his own would not stand a chance. Recent figures show that with the increase in numbers of wild dogs in Australia the annual damage bill for livestock now stands at $67 million and is on the increase due to good breeding seasons over the past three years.
Many years ago a friend was pig hunting with his mate adjacent to a major freshwater river system in central Qld. It was midsummer and around noon when they decided to stop for a break. My friend decided to lay up in the shade for a while longer so his mate went on to check out a swamp half an hour away. While his mate was away he decided to have a swim in the river. He swam to the other bank and was sitting under a tree when a station worker rode up on horseback and asked where he had come from. He had permission to hunt on the property so that was not a problem. After telling the ringer his gear was on the opposite bank because he had swum across to cool off, the stockman told him in no uncertain terms what a dickhead he was to swim there. Apparently that stretch of deep water was home to two saltwater crocs both estimated to be over four metres in length. My friend had to swim back so the ringer stayed, covering him with the 30.30 he carried in a scabbard on his saddle. He later told me that if they had been doing time trials for the Olympics that day and had a stopwatch on him he would have bolted in. He said he went so fast that had a croc caught him, the croc would only have ended up with his shorts and shit. He reckoned there was no better feeling than running up that bank. People do disappear undetected in the bush and this story could have been an example of how these situations occur. Even going to the water’s edge to fill a water bottle in unfamiliar waters could turn a great day’s hunting into a disastrous one.
While on the subject of water, I was saltwater fly fishing on foot in a north Queensland river one year. The tide was slowly making and I was standing on a sand bank with water beneath my knees when I noticed what looked like a stick pointing upwards coming in on the tide. The stick circled a couple of times then made a beeline toward where I was standing. I quickly left the water and the stick turned out to be a medium size stingray, very agitated and thrashing his barb about in the same spot I had been standing. I was certain that had I not exited the water he would have lanced me.
A mate in Darwin had a similar experience, only he continued fishing when he saw the ray approaching. Without warning, it drove the barb into his leg. He said the pain was indescribable and he was on the point of passing out when people in a boat transported him to medical help. Five years on, he says the leg still troubles him. A simple day’s fishing turned into one he will never forget. After forty years of recreational fishing and at times being surrounded by stingrays, these two experiences make me give them a lot more respect these days, especially as we Queenslanders lost a favourite icon to one of these creatures.
Back around 2001 a mate, Ken, and I were fishing a gulf river system and our camp was situated on the bank of a very small saltwater creek which only held water on the bigger tides. By putting the boat in there on those tides you had access to a larger creek system where you moored the boat. At the end of a day’s fishing it was a 1.5 km walk back to camp over a wet salt pan. After about three days the salt pan would dry out so you could drive to and from the boat, but for the first few days you walked the salt pan. Now this country is known for its population of wild cattle and on the last day’s walk back to camp I noticed fresh cattle tracks in the middle of the saltpan. I mentioned to Ken that this walk could turn really ugly if an old scrubber bull should appear on the scene, especially with the 30.30 back in the vehicle.
The next morning we threw our gear in the 4×4 and drove out. As we reached the middle of the saltpan, sure enough old mate was standing there in all his glory – a huge scrub bull with a massive set of horns, head held high and smelling the wind. As we slowly approached him he seemed calm enough but then he decided that the saltpan wasn’t big enough for both of us, so he lifted his head and charged the vehicle head-on. Reaching the vehicle, he stopped inches from the bullbar and blew snot all over the windscreen. We quickly got out of there while the vehicle was still in one piece. The beast stood his ground and was going nowhere. I guess it’s another example of how a good day’s fishing could have turned nasty had he appeared the day before when we were walking the saltpan.
Catch up with Gavin’s conclusion to this story in the next issue where he concentrates on venemous snakes.