Crawling out of my swag as the first light of dawn hit our camp I stopped for a moment to take it all in. A fiery red sun was rising through a haze and the blue wing kookaburras were making a racket out in the hot dry scrub. It was October and I was back in Cape York for the fourth time soaking up the sights, sounds and smells of the dry season. Hunting the Cape is an annual pilgrimage for me like the fallow and red deer rut draws me into the hills each April. So here I was with good mate Steve experiencing some of the best pig hunting Australia has to offer. With us this year was Steve’s daughter Chloe and her boyfriend Connor.
We use quad bikes as it allows us to cover large amounts of ground and push into the rougher areas areas and Steve has refined his set up to the point where we can carry enough food, beer and fuel for a comfortable 10 days out. So we aren’t restricted to a base camp and can simply set up camp where we find ourselves at the end of each day.
By day two we found a couple of creeks that held good water and hopefully pigs. We had shot some good boars out of these creeks before, so the anticipation was high as we paired up and headed off. After racking up a few miles on foot we started putting up the odd boar that was bedded up in the creek escaping the scorching heat and a few wildfires that were burning all around us. The first few eluded us but then one young boar made the mistake of stopping for a look back at 45m. I was already at full draw with an arrow on the string and an arrow through the heart had him on the deck within seconds and we had the first pig of the trip.
Further up the creek I noticed a black shape in the reed grass about 40m ahead. I picked up a flick of an ear and confirmed it was a boar; sneaking another ten metres closer I worked out which way he was standing and put an arrow through his shoulders. The boar made about 80m in his death run and I found him piled up in a waterhole; this pig was more like what we were after with close to three inches of ivory hanging out of his jaw.
We were nearly back to camp when Connor who was hunting the other side of the creek to me spotted a young boar bedded up in a cave in the creek bank and took him out with a good shot from 10m to top off an awesome day’s hunting. Steve and Chloe were already back at camp as they hadn’t had much luck on the pigs, but Steve had shot two big scrub bulls.
The next morning Steve and I wanted to check out a swampy area at the head of a spring fed creek, pushing through the dry scrub we eventually hit our mark on the GPS and the landscape changed into an oasis of lush green reeds, paperbarks and crystal clear spring water welling up from the ground. It looked like pig heaven and sure enough we had only been hunting a couple of minutes when I spotted a big black boar rooting around in the mud and reeds on my side of the creek. With soft ground underfoot I easily closed the gap to under 20m and when the boar turned and gave me a quartering away angle I took my chance. Drawing back I settled the aim of my X-Force compound on the back of his ribcage and released the arrow which punched clean through and out his opposite shoulder. The boar gave a roar and spun around chomping his tusks before the effects of a razor sharp broadhead took hold and he passed out. I was pretty stoked with the hooks on this bloke, he later scored 29 6/8 Douglas points.
The next couple of days we camped down on the river and experienced some awesome freshwater fishing action with barra, saratoga, sooty grunter and catfish all fighting over our lures.
Steve and I had spent a bit of time looking over the maps and had pinpointed half a dozen likely looking lagoons within a days ride and decided the next day we would pack the quads and set off on a bit of a mission. It was a big day on the bikes pushing through some pretty thick country and navigating creek crossings and washouts but it payed off big time when we hit the water. The first waterhole held a big mob of sows and a couple of lone boars feeding around the waters edge, Steve blew a stalk on a cracker of boar feeding on lilies out in the water then I got lucky and spotted the flick of an ear of a sleeping boar lying beside a log just off the water. The way the boar was lying meant I had to stalk to within about six or seven meters before I could sneak an arrow over the log and up into the boars chest to put him down within metres. Only a young boar but a cool stalk and shot.
Well, the rest of that day proved our map recon’ paid off big time. We hunted quite a few waterholes right up until dark and scored some cracker boars in the process. The last hunt of the day resumes.
The old boar was lying half submerged in a muddy wallow on the water’s edge amongst the tangled braches of a fallen paperbark, I couldn’t see enough of him to make a good clean shot so I needed to get closer. Edging forward at a snail’s pace I reached a spot where I had a narrow gap in the trees about a foot square all the way through to the boar’s chest. Working out that he was lying facing slightly away and with his back towards me I knew I had to put my arrow about halfway back just under the spine to angle it out the front of his chest.
The arrow flew true and struck the boar right where I wanted it, and as the boar jumped to his feet chomping his tusks I realised he was at least 100kg if not more with the ivory to match. Fortunately the boar had no idea I was standing quietly just 15m away and within seconds the arrow did its job and the boar collapsed back into his wallow never to move again.
I was stoked to take this cracker of an old swamp monster and that night in camp was a good one as we celebrated the end of a long, tough but ultimately rewarding day’s hunting. The next morning I was hunting with Steve and on the walk back to camp we came across a scrub bull, Steve had already taken a couple of bulls earlier in the trip so offered me the stalk.
He was an old red bull with both horns broomed off and seemed to be pretty worked up, stopping to paw the dirt and bellow on a regular basis. There were other cattle lowing out further in the scrub so I’m guessing there were a couple more bulls in the area showing their dominance and this guy wasn’t happy. Keeping a few trees between me and the bull I moved in fast and soon got to within 30 metres. With my heart pounding I waited until he looked away before I drew back and settled my pin behind his shoulder. The fletches of my arrow disappeared completely into the bulls chest and after a short run he went down.
The bull was down but not out so I quickly moved in for a finishing arrow but in all the excitement I drew back and fired my bow without an arrow on the string! Fortunately the bull breathed his last shortly after as my bow was now a useless wreck of buckled cams and splintered limbs. It was a lesson learned the hard way only halfway through the trip but fortunately Steve had brought his Sako .30-06 along so I wasn’t out of the hunting just yet. (There’s a big lesson for young bowhunters here, Folks – Ed)
Back at camp we rolled our swags and packed the quads for another big day in the saddle, the lagoon was the sort of place where you could spend a whole week but there were lots more creeks, swamps and lagoons to visit over the next five days and we knew there was plenty of good hunting still to come.