For the prospective goat hunter, finding a property to hunt on in South Australia is pretty tough. For many landowners feral goats are seen more as a source of income than a nuisance, despite the damage they cause to the environment. There is a place however, where responsible shooters can gain access to one of the most beautiful and rugged areas of the Flinders Ranges – Warraweena Private Conservation Park.
Located 560 km north of Adelaide, Warraweena Private Conservation Park is 35,500 hectares of breath taking mountain ranges and is a working example of true conservation. This former sheep station now plays an active role in the Flinders Ranges ëBounceback’ project which involves the removal of introduced plants and animals to allow native plant and animal species (notably colonies of the Yellow Footed Rock Wallaby) to ìbounce backî, with hunters being an integral part of the park’s feral animal control. This includes goats, rabbits, foxes, feral cats and occasionally dingoes. Funds raised from hunting fees help to offset the day to day running expenses of the park, while providing hunters with opportunities to explore and enjoy this unique landscape.
You won’t find Warraweena hunting advertised anywhere; it’s only through word of mouth and articles such as this one (written in conjunction with the manager, Stony Steiner) that hunters are made aware of this secluded hunting area. With the park’s main clients being campers, bushwalkers and four-wheel drive enthusiasts, hunters operate with relative anonymity.
Hunting and Biodiversity
Apart from the fact that hunters have the opportunity to shoot feral animals, they have a rather large area (40 – 80 square kilometers) of the most scenic and pristine part of the Flinders Ranges for their own exclusive use. Hunters play a key role in keeping the number of feral animals low which is an ongoing essential task. Warraweena boasts a very high biodiversity due to its relatively high altitude, diverse landforms and intact habitats. Along with Warraweena, some neighbouring landholders are part of the Bounceback program which includes continuing on-ground works. Despite the ongoing drought several colonies of the vulnerable Yellow Footed Rock Wallabies on Warraweena and surrounding properties show promising signs of recovery. This is a long-term indicator that Warraweena’s approach to feral animal control is working. For the Rock Wallabies goats in high numbers are a merciless competitor for food and habitat.
Several areas are available to hunters and all hunting is done behind locked gates. You are given a key, map and a sign to hang on the gate to your hunting ground that reads ìDANGER, NO ENTRY, GOAT CONTROL IN PROGRESSî. Some areas are only 20 minutes drive from the homestead whereas others will take you an hour or more. In any case a high clearance four-wheel drive vehicle and experience in driving on steep and rugged tracks are essential. The more remote hunting areas each have a small hut to camp in at the foot of the ranges. My own personal preference is to stay in one of the huts as it puts me right in the goats’ territory from the time I get up in the morning. For the past ten years, from my favorite hut goats could be seen each morning and evening making their way along the cliff top of a nearby range.
The mountain ranges are mostly comprised of long, steep sided ridges with spurs leading down to the many creek beds. While generally dry, some creeks are fed by springs which allow the goats to remain in their stony fortresses without having to travel in view of the station tracks. Hidden gorges and caves feature throughout the ranges while rocky outcrops and sheer cliffs are common along the ridge tops. Vegetation varies greatly with some slopes being quite bare, whereas others have stands of acacia bush and native pines. Acacia bush is a favorite with goats as they feed on the protein-rich seed pods. Spinifex covers much of the hill sides.
Shooting ranges can vary a great deal depending on the terrain. Goats feeding on the open slopes may need to be engaged from 200m. Sneak up on a mob amongst the outcrops along the ridge tops and the range could be 30m or less.
Looking for Goats
Generally the majority of goats will leave their ridge-top beds at sunrise and casually feed down into the lower hills, retreating in the late afternoon. Often others will stay behind on the cliff tops all day. Success requires some physical effort on the hunter’s part; climb to the top of the ranges and you’re bound to find goats in the myriad of steep gullies and rocky ledges. By heading for the high ground I’ve found it quite common to begin stalking a distant mob and then bump into others on the way. They may be tucked away in a gully previously hidden from view or just casually wander out from behind a rocky outcrop when you least expect it.
Warraweena has been my goat hunting ground since 1997 and I have always had success by setting out for the ridge-tops, I’ve never come back empty handed. While I’ll stop short of ìguaranteeingî you’ll find goats, I will mention my most recent trip as an example. In May 2009 I took my three sons aged 10, 13 and 17 on a two day hunt on Warraweena. With a bit of encouragement and a lot of effort, even my 10 year old lad managed to scale the ranges and over the two days we spotted six mobs. The goats are certainly there but you won’t find them by sitting around camp.
Hunting pressure is light due to a number of factors. For starters, the vastness of the park and the nature of the terrain means there are so many places for the goats to live and hide. Part of one patch that comes to mind is a six square kilometer section which takes three days to cover – that’s a small percentage of 35,500 hectares! Other factors include the closure of the park during the summer months and the relatively small number of hunters that presently come to Warraweena. Warraweena is a private conservation park and while hunting plays an important part in feral animal control, tourism takes precedence over hunting during school holidays and long weekends.
Visitors are offered three alternatives in accommodation – bush camping (tent/swag), bush hut campsites or staying at the renovated shearers’ quarters (certainly a lot different from when I worked there as a shearer years ago) and original homestead.
The bush hut campsites are complete with concrete floor, verandah, rain water tank, long-drop toilet (located a good hundred meters away) and a few gate beds. At the shearers’ quarters and the original homestead you have all the modern conveniences like 240v power, fridge, stove, hot showers, laundry, flushing toilets, comfortable beds and a magnificent view of the surrounding ranges. A large camp fire area is located at the end of the shearers’ quarters – a great place to sit back and relax after a hard day’s hunting and relive the day’s events.
There are a few basic requirements for hunting on Warraweena. Apart from a good pair of boots you will need:
– A current Hunting Permit
– A rifle of sufficient caliber – minimum of 6mm for goats
– A high clearance 4wd and experience to operate in steep terrain
– Good bush and navigation skills
– Reasonable level of fitness
A hand held UHF is also handy if you have one. The repeater station at Leigh Creek can be reached from most high points on Channel 2.
Warraweena – more than hunting
Warraweena offers more than the opportunity to hunt in this unique environment.
Sliding Rock Mine – For the historically minded, there’s the Sliding Rock copper mine which operated between 1870 and 1877. Much of the structure remains intact including the chimneys from the smelter. The nearby ruins of Cadnia (a town of over 400 in its day) are testament to the pioneering spirit of the day in what was a very remote place in the late 1800’s.
Mt Hack – Mt Hack stands at 1086m and is the highest point in the Northern Flinders Ranges. The drive out to Mt Hack is spectacular in itself.
4X4 Tracks – Responsible four-wheel drive enthusiasts and motorbike riders are catered for with a number of tracks of various degrees of difficulty; the more challenging ones like the Mt Gill track (over 900 meters above sea level) are for experienced drivers only. This track is the highest accessible track in the Northern Flinders Ranges with 360 degree eagle views over Lake Torrens, Wilpena Pound in the south and the Gammon Ranges in the north. 250km of tracks are available with some winding their way through neighboring properties.
The Copper track and the Old Coach Road are historic routes with well preserved stone work and great lookouts.
Camping, Bushwalking, Mountain-biking, Photography, Painting – There are numerous campsites throughout Warraweena with some of the more impressive spots located in areas unavailable for hunting, such as Black Range Spring, Mt Hack, Sliding Rock and Nantiburry Spring. Photographic opportunities are endless as the colours of the ranges change throughout the day, making a special display at sunrise and sunset. Painters and photographers alike have been inspired by the breathtaking and overwhelming landscapes and colour regimes of Warraweena.
Travelling to Warraweena is easy – it’s all bitumen except the last 35 km. Head north from Adelaide to Port Augusta. From there you travel to Quorn, Hawker and Parachilna before turning off the highway at the Beltana Roadhouse. The Roadhouse opens every day from 8 am to 5 pm and is the last opportunity to fuel up. The dirt road to Warraweena is well sign posted from the roadhouse and takes you through the historic township of Beltana. Follow the sign from Beltana and you really can’t get lost, just stay on the main road and you’ll arrive at the homestead. From Adelaide the trip will take you 6-7 hours, depending on how often you like to stop.
For bookings and more information, phone Stony Steiner on (08) 8675 2770 or e-mail to email@example.com.
Warraweena is a property of Wetlands and Wildlife, a non-profit public company, listed on the Commonwealth register of environmental organisations.