Scrub bulls are big, tough and potentially dangerous game that offer a unique hunting experience. They may be cattle (Bos taurus), but not just any cattle. These wild cattle are whole, ie, not castrated, and can be very aggressive.
To hunt these animals you need to be an experienced hunter or have a good guide.
Scrub bulls are hunted because they are trouble. Cattle stations want to keep selected herd bulls to service their managed breeding programs. Scrubbers are young males who’ve avoided being mustered and castrated, and they become hard to manage and dangerous.
They will fight, damage fences and cause inbreeding. Station owners want them removed.
Average weight of our wild scrub bulls can vary from 450kg up to 900kg. They seldom become any heavier than that, but there’s always the chance of a real monster.
Most are usually a bit on the lean side and I would hazard to say the average weight would be around 700kg or a less.
A large bull can stand nearly six foot high (183cm). The average colour is often what we call a red bull, as a lot come from interbreeding with the Peninsular reds, but depending on breeding they could be virtually any colours at all, as often other cattle have gone wild and spread their genes into the system.
Wild bulls can be found in many states — in fact, in virtually any state of Australia — but most are distributed across the northern parts of Queensland and the Northern Territory. There are scrubbers further south in mountainous and wild country, from stock that has been lost and has run wild for years.
SIGNS AND SEASONS
Cattle droppings are easy to see, as are their hoof marks or tracks and they do tend to rub trees. They often roll in sandy spots, too.
Bedding spots in the southern areas are higher, usually on the saddle of a hill, where it’s warm and the sun will hit first up in the mornings. In the more tropical areas, they will bed down not far from water.
Bulls really are a lot like other animals we hunt: you will find them anywhere as they are wanderers and usually get into some of the most unlikely spots.
There are no hunting seasons for scrubbers, though the weather patterns of northern Australia often dictate the practicalities of hunting them. As long as you can get around the countryside, bulls can be hunted year-round with permission from the landholder.
There are many ways to hunt wild scrubbers. Some like to drive a vehicle or quad, so as to cover heaps of territory, as cattle can travel 10km or more in a day. One day they can be at a certain water hole where you think you will find them the next day, but instead they’ll be many kilometres away at a different spot.
Having a guide who knows the country is the best way to go, as they know the most successful ways to find them. At Mitchell Cape York Adventures, bulls are often the intended prey and the guides there have a very good idea where to find that massive scrub bull you want.
Using a vehicle to find them, you can cover much ground and hopefully, if not disturbed, you can park the vehicle and complete the hunt on foot.
TOOLS FOR THE HUNT
Using a rifle, you need to have a decent, hard-hitting calibre from the .308 upwards, to whatever large rifle you can handle well.
You also need to use decent projectiles. I have found that most of the mono-type projectiles like Barnes, Atomic 29, Hornady GMX and others are the best. You need a projectile that smashes bone and penetrates deeply, holding together well, but it also must expand well, to give a massive wound channel.
If stalking with the bow and arrow, a reasonable weight bow with good, strong broadheads of a reasonable weight will do the job. One of my sons recommends the two-blade broadheads, while the other son, who hunts nearly exclusively with the bow, uses the three-bladed stainless or titanium RAD broadheads that he imports from America for his business, Primal Hunting and Outdoors. They are great, leaving massive wound channels that will bleed the animal out quickly.
Both types will get the job done well, so long as you aim for the right place. Probably one of the best shots with the bow is the lung shot. It’s a large area and easier to hit. The heart, which is hidden behind the large leg bone, needs either a front-on or quartering shot to get the broadhead in there.
RISK OF BEING CHARGED
I have hunted many wild scrub bulls and years ago I used to guide people onto them. They can never be taken too lightly, as they are a large, sometime aggressive animal.
Often a bull that has taken a bad hit will charge you. A few words of advice: If charged, never turn and run, as you will get horned for sure. If there’s a guide, he will back you up. If not, just aim as carefully as you can and shoot again and again until the bull is down.
Then when it is down, never walk straight up to it as many hunters have been injured by so-called dead bulls. Come in from behind with your rifle loaded and cocked and touch the eyeball. If there’s no movement, you are good to go.
Not many bulls will charge but it pays to always be prepared. I have only ever been charged once by a bull that wasn’t first shot, but that’s another story. Many bulls that have been shot will try to get you if they can, but if they’re down with broken shoulders or such, then you’re not going to have much of a problem.
Contact an outfitter or property owner who has wild cattle on the place. Good hunting and good luck. I hope you get a really great trophy bull.