Darwin Australia June 2006

Tuesday, June 24, 2008
An interesting date to start out on a big hunt. I hope that it does not bode ill for me. Dropped off at the airport at 5:30PM by Sarah and kids. Dinner at Chili's Too at MSP airport.
I am seated next to an interesting fellow who is a home developer from the Twin cities area. He is 43, single, dresses like a 20 year old and is a part time world traveling Saved Christian preacher. He travels to exotic locations such as Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, and Micronesia in June and December annually for the last 7 years. He lives on beaches, backpacking, canoeing, diving etc. and staying at youth hostels to spread the Word to young people. We visit about creation science research, scripture, Revelations, and the Left Behind/ Rapture book series. He has done a few homes in Eagan near the high school and across Cliff Road from Mom's old house. He had an office with the Parrantos in Cedarvale. His name is Frances. He collects and studies scripture literature and considers the considerable expense of his library and travel a form of acceptable tithing. The flight is over in a quick 4.5 hours with good company and conversation.
Arrive at LAX 9:40 local, and rush to find the transfer terminal for Quantas. Wait in line for an hour and find out there is a spelling error on my Visa, but a kind woman remedies this with a quick phone call to Australian Immigration where luckily it is mid morning. Only 10 minutes delay and I'm off to wait for the next flight. I had better look a little closer next time to avoid a real problem with an uncooperative government official in some backwater region of the lesser known world. Shoes, watch, belt, vest removed and run through the x-ray machine again.... and again. No feeling better than having your pants fall down in front of a bunch of strangers while a minimum wage rent-a-guard carefully scrutinizes your documentation. I am sure that a potential terrorist would find this manner of treatment unacceptable and complain to the ACLU, probably win a settlement and help to finance another devastating attack on our homeland.
The flight is on a huge double deck 747-400 called the Spirit of Australia , with a red tail and a kangaroo emblem. Fully loaded it will take nearly 450 passengers crammed in like sardines. We leave 30 minutes late because getting 450 excited travelers to take their seats, pack their bags into the overhead bin, and buckle their seatbelts takes a bit of time. I am lucky enough to get an aisle seat, but get stuck next to a skinny geek wearing a big straw cowboy hat who snickers and giggles constantly at his laptop. The crew is quite efficient and soon after takeoff the two thin 50 year old stewards begin to serve dinner to the cabin passengers. It is a pretty good dinner considering the circumstances. Chicken with lemon sauce and broccoli/ cauliflower mixed vegetables smells delicious, but the dexterity required to open the flatware packages, salt, pepper, butter and actually consume the food within the rather limited elbowroom space is considerable. Two hours into the flight at 0200 LA time the lights dim and most everyone tries to sleep. My seat neighbor seems not to need to sleep though and continues to watch movies on his laptop for most of the flight, interrupted about every 45 minutes or so for a restroom break. This made my rest a bit fragmented to say the least. Qantas has a nice individual entertainment center with 20-30 movies, TV shows, games and so on to try to keep yourself busy. It is better than nothing. I try to read, beat the hard level at computer chess a couple times, and watch a CSI Las Vegas rerun. Maybe manage 5-6 hours of sleep after the geek tires out. Woken up for hot towels, fruit, and a nice hot breakfast. A 15 hour flight in close quarters is pretty rough. First class would be nice, but then Sarah couldn't get her kitchen redone for a couple more years. A 1/2 hour before landing we see daylight outside and I find out that my neighbor's name is Jacob Jarvis from Salt Lake City, Utah and you guessed it , he is a computer programmer. He works on modifying military computer games to provide interactive full scale team based simulations for training units in combined force warfare exercises. He is currently reporting for duty in Sydney for a 10 week contract to work with a team of programmers to develop simulated training aids for the Australia/New Zealand Defense Forces. He claims to also have worked in the Czech Republic, Egypt, Japan and some other Eastern European countries newly accepted to the NATO alliance. He is about 23 or so and must be pretty good at what he does. I wish I had engaged in conversation with him earlier. His work seems very interesting and he was not at all shy about sharing details of it.
As we descend further toward Sydney on approach the view out the tiny porthole is of the Pacific waters. There are a few containers ships in the harbor and a quick glimpse of the Opera s house and bridge before touching down. at 0730 local June 8th. Wait a minute, where did June 7th disappear to? On the computer map we seemed to cross the international dateline and the equator at the same time. I looked out the window, but didn't see either one. I was pretty dark down there, but on the globe they stand out so well I thought I would give it a try. Yes, the toilet does flush the other way, just like Professor Ding said it would in freshman physics when studying the coriolis effect. I do not really remember anything else about the coriolis effect except the toilet thing and that it is kind of a neat word.
I deplane and race for the customs declaration line. Large signs warn not to try to import any type of food because Australia is an agricultural quarantine zone, and I guess some of the Asian people bring some pretty weird stuff some times that the Aussies do not intend to have take over their island like all of the stuff the English brought over years ago that seem to be so much more successful than the native fauna and flora. Customs is a breeze, with the exception that the officer I meet has never dealt with archery equipment before and is not sure if paperwork is required to import it or not. We take a couple short walks and visit with a couple other officials who do not know either until a young female officer points out that the form listing weapons that need permits for importation does not include archery equipment so it must be ok. She has never heard of a Power Bar though but figures it should be ok and sends me on my way.
My first stop once free on my 5th continent is the Krispy Kreme donuts stand. I order two cream filled chocolate delights and am surprised by the fact that unlike North Americans, the Aussies are intelligent enough to include sales tax in the listed price of all their goods for sale, so the price you see is actually the price you pay. Next stop is the currency exchange where I sign over 5 $100 American Express Travelers checks and receive $630 Australian . The currency is color coded and of different sizes according to value. This could not possibly be a logical way to do things. Money is supposed to all be green and the same size right? Also the Australians have figured out that pennies and nickels are not really worth very much, so they do not have any. In the US it costs 1.4 pennies to produce a penny and 6.4 pennies to produce a nickel, so it makes a lot of sense for us to continue to fill our change jars with them.
I follow the signs that direct toward the domestic transfer desk and check in for my 8PM flight to Darwin NT. This leaves me with nearly 12 hours to either sit around the airport or explore Sydney. I decide to study a tourism brochure on Sydney and then take a taxi to see some of the sights. I am dressed in shorts and a t-shirt which draws some strange looks from the locals who are all bundled up in boots, parkas and stocking hats for the 55F bitter cold snap. I find that the harbor cruises and attractions in the harbor area are all closed for the cold season. I see the skyline and the facade of the opera house before heading back to the airport. I have breakfast at Hungry Jack's, which is called Burger King in the US and notice that what I thought was McDonalds is actually called Mackers by the locals.
I resign myself to a long boring day at the airport. I look around the several shops and pick up some Australiana books and maps for future reference. The people have a definite British look to them. Long drawn faces, bad teeth and large pointy noses. The young people look the same all over, but the Australians actually wear clothing that is patriotic to their own nation instead of seeming to be embarrassed about where they come from. All of them seem to think that having their hair gelled into the bed head style is the in thing.
I stumble upon a Qantas flight museum at one end of the terminal on the upper floor and spend an hour or so examining the exhibits. It is really quite interesting. Qantas was founded in the early 1920s by a couple blokes wanting to enter a Trans Australia air race but their sponsor died before he could deliver the promised funding. They scraped together enough money to buy a small single engine aircraft and began to deliver mail and newspapers to outlying locations. People were delighted to receive newspapers that were only a few days old instead of weeks or months. Soon they began flying around a doctor to provide emergency services. The fellows invested in new aircraft and soon were transporting passengers all across the vast Northern Territory, Queensland, and New South Wales. Qantas actually is an acronym for Queensland and the Northern Territory Air Service. It is also the oldest continuously operated airline in the world and has a very enviable safety record. Obviously these fellows were good businessmen as well as good pilots. since the airline is going quite strong with a huge fleet of aircraft from regional turboprops to 747 jumbos and currently has a large number of the massive new super intercontinental Airbus A380s on order. The red tail with the kangaroo emblem now has a bit more meaning for me.
Finally after hours of wandering, looking through all the terminal shops, writing out and sending postcards home, and reading, it is time to board the flight to Darwin, NT. Tried to phone home several times on cellular, but after trying many combinations of country codes and long distance codes, I give up and eventually find out at the ranch that I would have had to change the roam function on my phone to work there. The sat phone does not work int he airport either, because of the enclosed structure. I am exhausted and hope for a seat by myself, but a large short man settles in next to me. I try to fall asleep right away, but shortly after takeoff they serve a very tasty chicken dinner. After that I am out for 3 hours or so. I wake up as we begin to descend. I notice many huge bush fires down below glowing orange cleaning up the outback. I find out that the fellow next to me is a concrete contractor from Sydney out for a long weekend vacation up North in Darwin for some fishing and shopping with his wife and two other couples. He has been here numerous times and has a brother who lives on a ranch near Darwin. He is reading a Greek travel book and I find out that he is of Greek heritage and is planning a trip to Greece to trace his family roots. He has used the internet to locate some distant relatives and plans on looking them up while he is there.
The airport is extremely small and only has about 3-4 flights in and out daily. Even at the late hour of 12AM June 9, 2006. There are lots of people around who were expecting the flight. Most of the travelers are tourists on vacation to escape the cold winter temperature plaguing the South at this time of year. I have no trouble locating my bow case amidst the assorted oversize baggage. I walk over to get in a taxi. The night is warm and a bit muggy. Probably around 75F. My hotel is 20 minutes away from the airport right on the beach. The driver is from Sri Lanka and never seen snow before. He can not understand how anyone could live with such cold temperatures, snow and ice as we have in Minnesota. Can't believe that you can drive cars on the water and sit on lakes, drill holes in the ice and catch fish through them. Doesn't the water in the pipes freeze? What do you do all winter? How can you go outside? How do people get around? He has never heard of snowmobiles, snowplows, frost, snowmen. He also is virtually useless for information about the area, as he never has really left the city, knows nothing of the wildlife and certainly nothing about hunting. If you want a great nightclub he is the man though. I arrive at the hotel and give the driver his money with no tip. In Australia tipping is not standard and not expected. I was not aware of this , but it is pretty nice. No added tax or tips makes every thing seem cheaper. Most places I have traveled before the people expect tips for nearly everything and there are fistfights about which porter gets your bag or holds the door for you, not to mention the special taxes and fees all the time.
At the hotel desk I am expected and checked in efficiently by a young desk clerk who would obviously rather be elsewhere. I ask if the beach is right in front of the hotel. I can't tell because it is so dark. He informs me that indeed the beach is only 50 yards away, but I had better stay away from it due to the large reptilians lurking in the shallows looking for an easy meal. These beaches are fenced off and not for swimming, but there is a nice pool in the courtyard. I go up to my 6th floor room in the old Holiday Inn. It is the same as most rooms everywhere. I open the deck door and leave the screen closed letting in the Indian Ocean air. It is a bit humid, but I am so tired that after a quick rearranging of my gear and a shower, I am out for the rest of the night.
Friday June 9, 2006
The phone rings for my wakeup call at 0530 just like I had requested. 4 hours of sleep in a real bed helps a little to make up for 3.5 days and 40 hours of continuous travel. A long hot shower helps some too. I head downstairs at 6AM to try out the breakfast buffet. It is still dark out so I can't appreciate the view yet There is an outstanding array of hot and cold foods. Bacon, sausage, scrambled eggs, fried eggs, poached eggs, hard boiled eggs, cooked tomatoes, fruits and melons, juices, coffee, yogurt, cereal and many other fine foods. There is however no milk to be had. I have been without my staple beverage for 4 days now and had been looking forward to a glass of cold milk. No such luck, so I wash down about three pounds of salty meats, fruit, eggs and tomatoes with assorted fruit juices. The dining room has begun to fill up with lots of older tourists who are obviously eager to see each other and talk about their plans for the day. I feel conspicuously young in this crowd. Satisfied with a full stomach to face the day ahead of me I return to my room and ready my gear for the trip to camp. Binoculars , camera, laser, bug juice, and sun lotion fill my day pack. I plan on waiting a couple hours for the phone to ring telling me that my guide is in the lobby to pick me up. The view out to the Indian Ocean and the Timor Sea is superb.
A slight breeze ripples the curtain as I sit on the deck. I see a large 150 foot cruiser yacht heading into the harbor and an oil rig tender heading out to sea. Across the bay to the South is a huge fuel depot. To the North is a naval coast guard facility with 4 grey cutters tied up to the quay. They are patrol craft mostly used to intercept illegal Indonesian fishing vessels operating in Australian waters. As I watch one leaves the dock and heads to sea. It starts out low in the water, but rises up out of the water onto hydrofoils. It must be going 70mph or so. It quickly disappears over the horizon.
I notice many loud colorful birds in the tropical palms below. It is really amazing to wake up and realize that I am 12,000 miles from home. I can not get any further from home without starting to get closer again. I decide to check out and wait in the lobby. I was told to expect to be picked up around 9AM. I wait until 10 and make a call to the ranch. No one answers. I decide to leave a message for my contact at the desk and take my daypack to go out for a walk towards the beach. There are a lot of black skinned aboriginal bums hanging around the beach , which is fenced off and covered with 40 foot tall palms trees. A cobblestone path winds along the scenic 20 foot cliffs. At an overlook I peer down trying to see if there are any crocs, but do not spot any.
There is a large 5-inch naval gun as a memorial nearby. It is a salvaged relic from the wreck of the destroyer USS Peary. During WWII the Darwin area was a significant base of operations for the Allied forces. There was a very large fuel depot that was attacked many times by Japanese bombers. During one such attack the USS Peary was sunk a mile offshore with the loss of 92 American lives. There are several old Royal Australian Air Forces and American Army Air Force bases in the area. A brochure in the hotel lobby tells that after several Japanese attempts against the fuel depot, huge caves were constructed underground to hide the stores and keep them safer. Unfortunately during the wet season of high tides and heavy precipitation, the caves flooded and were of no use. Tours of the caves are conducted daily.
For a major outpost community, there is strangely little activity for a weekday morning. There are numerous large and small tour busses and commuters with the odd commercial vehicle, but still relatively little traffic. After an hour or so I return to the hotel expecting one of the Toyota Landcruisers with snorkels and safari racks to be waiting for me. Alas this is not the case. I have the brain dead looking desk clerk call the ranch again for me and he tells me that there has been a vehicle dispatched to pick me up.
I wait another hour and finally a frazzled looking man drives up to the lobby and hops out of a Landcruiser. He is obviously here for me and quite relieved to find me. We grab my bag and bowcase while he explains he had been looking for me all morning. He had called the hotel and been informed that I was not a guest there. He checked several other hotels and even called my shop back in the States. He was a bit worried about me he says. Finally he called Qantas who confirmed that I had come in on the flight the night before, so he decided to come to the hotel anyway. During the two times he called and spoke to the desk clerk I had been sitting in the lobby waiting.
Kevin Gleeson sarcastically explains that NT stands for not today, not tomorrow, not Tuesday, not Thursday. The pace of life is pretty slow up this way. I am not in the least upset and just happy to be on track. I hop into the left seat of the cruiser and we are off for the shopping market to pick up supplies. The downtown area is full of vacationing backpackers and tourists who are finally rolling out of bed around noon. Apparently the nightlife is pretty intense and late mornings are the norm. At the Woolworth's department and grocery store a couple laps around are required to locate Kevin's wife Carol who is busy loading up a cart with groceries and supplies for a couple weeks at the remote station. She is a very energetic friendly woman who scolds her husband for having so much trouble finding me and sends us away while she picks out a few more things. Kevin heads to the liquor store to pick up some other necessities like smokes and a couple cases of MID Bitter beer. I look all over for Fosters in the small shop and am informed that Fosters is virtually unavailable in Australia. It is an Australian beer for export and nobody seems to drink it locally. We drop off our purchases in the truck and check out a shopping plaza. I study some beautiful pearl jewelry in a window while Kevin grabs some other supplies at a pharmacy shop. He laughs and asks if I am shopping for my wife. The pearls are pretty, but most strands are in the neighborhood of $8000 up to $150,000. A bit much for a souvenir and Sarah doesn't like pearls anyway. He tells me that on more than one occasion clients have been unlucky enough to have their wives discover this very store while on a shopping expedition to town. We sit near a fountain for a little bit and he apologizes again for the confusion. He asks a how the trip was and a few questions about my hunting experiences in the past. He says we have a 3-4 hour drive ahead of us and Carol had better get moving because there are a lot of stops left. Soon she appears pushing a cart laden with cooking supplies and food. We load up the truck which has a large refrigerated 12V cooler and head out of town. Kevin runs several red lights and Carol heckles him about the traffic enforcement photo tickets he receives on frequent occasion. On the way Carol needs to stop for an iced coffee, apparently a very popular refreshment in these parts. I spot a Subway and order a 12" Spicy Italian just like at home. Even at the end of the earth, there are a great many American companies represented. One more stop at a Polaris dealership for parts and we are finally off.
The traffic is pretty light other than the occasional massive 4 trailer road train and the landscape quickly gives way to scrubby bush. There are lots of spindly paperbark trees, beautiful purple blossomed turkey bushes, and ground palms called cycads. We see the occasional vehicle, but move along rather quickly. Kevin drives at first and we talk a lot about hunting in different areas and a little about hunting buffalo, but not much. He says he will leave all the details of hunting methods to Scott McClain who will be my guide. After a couple hours we pull into a roadside campground gas station to use the restroom and change drivers. In the bar area is a huge water buffalo called Charlie from the Crocodile Dundee movies who was trained and very tame. He died a few years back and was mounted to preserve his memory. He was around 22 years old at his death.
Carol takes over driving while Kevin takes a snooze. The landscape changes little as we head further to the southeast. The road is good and we fly along. Conversation with Carol is easy and she tells a lot about her family. Her daughter is an ex-professional body board surfer from the Sydney area who is now married to an American and lives in California. They have blessed the Gleesons with their first grandchild, a girl who is now about 2 years old. The Gleesons have two sons, one of whom was just accepted to a professional football team in New South Wales. Unfortunately none of the children hunts or is remotely interested in station life. Carol and Kevin moved up to NT after several years in the Ostrich farming business in the Southeast of Australia. They were rather successful in this venture and since Kevin's main passion is hunting, they decided to make the move. Kevin has been hunting all his life, starting very young pursuing deer and boar. He later became a PH for an outfitter in the Sydney area and also was a guide in BC and Alberta. He hunted and guided in Canada for about 5 seasons and took mountain goat, moose, whitetail, mule deer, black bear, elk and antelope. A few years back he also had an opportunity to visit an acquaintance and hunt South Africa. There he took springbok, kudu, and gemsbok. Kevin has hunted buffalo, banteng, boar and crocodile in the NT. He started a pretty successful operation raising Moluccan Rusa, Javan Rusa, Scimitar Horned Oryx, Addax, Eland, Axis Deer, Hog Deer, Sambar and Blackbuck antelope for hunters to pursue in a high fenced 10,000 acre enclosure.
I am tremendously excited to be here and ask tons of questions, hoping to remember the answers to some of them. We run out of time before I run out of questions regarding the animals, bush, weather and history of the area. We come to a small mining town called Pine Creek. It has a general store, gas station and post office, but not much more. Carol runs in to pick up the mail. The town started for gold mining and was very busy during the boom years of the 1880s and 1910s, but the easy pickings ran out and the price crashed. Pine Creek declined with its major revenue source and became a ghost town. There are wrecks of steam engines, tractors, cranes, and mine shaft heads all over. With the dramatic rise of gold prices recently, there is talk of reopening the area to prospectors and maybe renewing production at some of the ancient sites. Another aspect of the town is the annual rodeo that is coming in a couple weeks. Local cowboys show up to compete mainly for pride and bragging rights while breaking wild horses, roping, steer wrestling and all manner of causing themselves serious physical harm. An abandoned rail line goes through town, but has not been used in decades. Several pieces of decrepit rolling stock and an old 2-4-2 Steam engine sit rusting in a yard that once was used to transport cattle to market in the Darwin area.
The main highway is in pretty good shape , but it is often underwater for long periods of time, leaving vast areas of land cutoff other than by air. There are signs along the road at every low spot that indicate the water depth up to 1.4 meters. Many trucks and Landcruisers are equipped with snorkels capable of fording standing water up to 1.2 m deep. Often this is required year round as I soon find out when we make the turn off to Mary River Station. The main road is usually accessible other than at the peak of the wet season, but side roads are just dirt paths carved out of the bush by dozers and cross swamps, rivers and low spots everywhere. The driveway to Mary River Station is roughly 20 miles long and entails 3 river crossings. We are in up to the doors at this time of year which is pretty dry already. During the wet it would be over the hood, and sometimes not passable at all. 4wd is a necessity and often a tractor or dozer is required to help large trucks through the crossings. All goes well, but if the truck were to stop or get stuck it could be a mess. By the way, all water is potential habitat for saltwater crocodiles. Don't see any from the truck, but they are there just out of sight I am told. Wading across on foot would be a tricky proposition to say the least. We pass through several cattle gates and enter the productive area of the ranch. I have my binoculars glued to my face and see wallabies, walleroos, wild horses, deer, antelope and oryx all over. It is amazing. At one point I spot a pair of buffalo bulls 80 yards off the road and stop to get some pictures. The animals cooperate, but Kevin advises me to move quickly if they come our way as they will charge the truck and have the potential to cause severe damage. I am extremely excited to see my quarry, but Kevin assures me there will be plenty more and much larger as well. These two fellows look pretty huge to me and plenty tough. Finally I give in and get back in the truck for the remainder of the ride to camp.
The current Mary River Station is nearly 350,000 acres bordering Kakadu National Park along the Mary River in the Northeast for 10-15 miles and has an additional 150-200,000 acres available for hunting across the main highway. The neighboring station is over 20 miles away. Originally the area was called Esmerelda Station and was nearly 5 times as big but has subsequently been split into three stations, Mary River South, Mary River and Esmerelda stations. Cattle, Asian Water Buffalo, and Southeast Asian Banteng were introduced here in the 1830s and 1840s by the English colonists on the Coburg peninsula 300 mile to the North. The settlers planned to use the cattle to provide fresh meat for English ships coming across the Indian Ocean from Capetown and bound for Sydney. The settlers had established first contact with the aboriginals in the early 1600s but they did not plan very well. They built large thick brick walled houses with fireplaces in a town arrangement such as they had done in England and many other colonies around the world. The aboriginals, however, were better suited with their nomadic lifestyle to moving to higher ground or totally out of the area during the wet season. Settlers' homes were flooded, they contracted all manner of tropical diseases, their cattle either drown or starved and they had no way of growing crops during the wet season. Then to compound the situation, during the Dry without rain for up to 6 months, they could not grow food, there was nothing for their cattle to eat and the dust and heat drive the colonists mad. They eventually died or left the area. Later they returned, built on better ground and had a better idea of how to survive. Perhaps they actually listened to what the natives told them this time. In any case, the cattle and buffalo went wild and have been so in this area for between 150 and 350 years. Esmerelda was started around the time of the Gold rush in Pine Creek almost 120 years ago and has operated continuously over that period of time. In the 1920s and 1930s, commercial hunters came to shoot buffalo for hides and shot tons of them, but there were not many hunters, the land was huge and rugged and the buffalo survived. After the 1940's they were mostly left to themselves and the population grew to be very large. In the 1970s and 1980s, there was evidence to suggest that feral cattle, banteng, and water buffalo were spreading the dreaded cattle diseases Tuberculosis and Brucellosis. An eradication program ensued to wipe out the entire population of feral bovids, but again the wily creatures survived the efforts and repopulated to fill the ecosystem.
We pass an airstrip for the ranch that is roughly a mile long and 150 yards wide cleared out of the paperbark and scrub brush. This is the only way in and out for several weeks during the height of the wet. A corrugated tin hangar houses a 2 seat ultra light aircraft for ranch use. In an emergency situation the airstrip would be used by a flying doctor to get in and provide assistance in case of injury, snakebite or any other calamity that may befall an unfortunate individual.
Just around the corner the outbuildings of the station appear. There is a stockyard, a hayshed, two vehicle sheds, a generator building, several small cabins, and the main lodge. I learn that the lodge is less than a year old. The last one was rather rudimentary and burned down due to an electrical fire in the middle of the night. No one was hurt, but lots of possessions were burned up. Insurance is very expensive for these operations, so there was none. Kevin had previously had a stint in the building trades and being rather handy designed the new lodge. It is roughly 100 feet long and 60 feet wide. There is a large kitchen, dining room, bar/ television area with huge flat screen satellite TV, a swimming pool, office, private quarters for Kevin and Carol and three large hunters' rooms. A very large portion of the roof can open up over the pool, convertible style to enjoy the nice weather . During the 6 month period of dry, dusty, hot weather the pool would be super. Kevin luckily did not have his trophy collection at the old lodge. It was at his other home near Sydney and he moved it to the new lodge to display and enjoy it. There are 20-25 mounts of North American, South African, and South Pacific animals, including a monster buffalo measuring over 120 inches shot by my guide Scott McClain during a cull meat hunt 5 years earlier on aboriginal land.
It is almost 6PM and I rush to set up some arrows and broadheads to get in a little practice before hunting tomorrow morning. Kevin uses a large farm tractor to position a hay bale for me and I shoot a few arrows at 70 and 80 yards. I am exhausted but also quite hungry again. I meet Camille McClain and her husband Scott. She is 8.5 months pregnant with her first child. She does the cooking, cleaning, laundry and shuttles clients to town, makes arrangements for tours and takes hunters ' wives shopping. She is a very pleasant girl, 26 years old. Scott is a tall thin wiry black haired fellow 35 years old. He is interested to ask me a few questions about my equipment and shooting preferences and how I like to hunt. He is pleased to hear that I enjoy walking much more than riding in a truck and that I am not a measuring tape hunter. I am adamant about telling him that I want an archery trophy with no bullet holes in it unless it is a matter of safety. He understands and respects my telling him this.
There is a large group of small dogs roaming around the camp including several Jack Russells and lots of mutts. Nearly a dozen in all. They fight and scrap and tear all over the place. Also there are tons of birds in the trees around the camp.. Mainly there are 50 or so pink headed cockatoos that make a tremendous racket every time they decide to fly around to another tree. Chickens, a rooster and a large turkey are wandering about as well. Two broken wild horses and a donkey complete the complement of animals.
Kevin takes me over to the workshop shed to show me the skinning area, meat processing, repair shop and guide quarters. There are 20-30 sets of horns on the wall with measurements written on them for comparison purposes. They all look pretty good to me, even the smallest ones are a lot bigger than what I have ever seen before.
We watch a rugby football match and have a drink at the bar before enjoying a steak dinner prepared by Carol and Camille. Dinner conversation mainly revolves around the rugby match as both Kevin and Carol are rabid fans of opposing teams. Kevin played professionally for one of the two teams in the late 1960s. He says he suffers for it now every day with bad knees, back and hips. The game is really quite violent, confusing and nothing at all like American football that I am used to. When dinner is over they all migrate back to the television to watch the conclusion of the match. I beg off and head to bed. My room is quite large with a double bed and twin bed as well as an in room toilet and shower which I decide to try out. The entire lodge is screened but has no solid windows. I read a little bit and do some writing. They warn me that the generator goes off at about midnight, but since it gets dark at 7pm I have plenty of time to fall asleep before worrying about losing power. I am delighted to be here, have such nice accommodations and good people to share time with. Sleep comes easily and I am very comfortable in the big bed.
June 10, 2006 Saturday
I wake up in darkness and silence to use the bathroom, then back to lay down until I hear some activity. It doesn't take long. As soon as the sun appears, there is an eruption of cacophony from the birds squawking, rooster crowing, dogs barking and generator starting. I am up now and take a quick shower and dress in hunting clothes for the day ahead. Everyone appears for breakfast of bacon, eggs toast and orange juice. We plan to take a ride on the ATVs then walk for a few hours in an area that has a chance for us to encounter both Banteng and Buffalo. During the previous several weeks, it has been very hard hunting due to high water, mud and hard to find game. There have been few Banteng sightings lately, so we will concentrate on finding them first if possible. The ATVs are 2005 and 2006 Polaris Sportsman 500HOs just like I have at home. I get to ride one myself which is a real joy compared to having to ride double with a guide on the last few adventures. We head out of the camp to the northwest past the calf holding area and a dozen or so recently born calves. They scatter as we approach and pass through a gate out into the wild. The Mary River is only 100 yards away to the east. We ride for 20 minutes or so to get away from the camp and then set out on foot .
The vegetation is thick and very dry. Grass stands up 6 feet high and is tough and woody. There are many cycolac bushes 3-6 feet high like miniature palms. Also there are 8-10 ft high turkey bushes covered in beautiful pink flowers. Paperbark trees are all around towering overhead 20-30 feet, with thick fire resistant bark. Also there are occasional ironwood trees , very dense tall trees harvested for lumber and used by aboriginals to construct weapons and tools in the past. There are scattered huge colonies of ants or termites that have built massive monolithic structures to live in up to 16 feet high and 8 ft diameter. These anthills are as hard as concrete and built to help the colony survive floods, drought, raiding enemies and searing heat.. There are ant/termite heaps and colonies in certain areas. Some are up to 16 feet high. There are a few large ones and hundreds of 1-3 ft high piles. These heaps are like solid concrete from the outside, but inside they are a complex array of tunnels, chambers, food, cooling areas, storage, living quarters etc. Areas several hundred yards across are filled with these structures and hundreds of smaller outposts 1-2 ft high. Another native plant we encounter is called rosellia, bush tucker, a red rose-like plant 1-4 ft high with dark red flowers interspersed along a main stalk. There may be from as few as 3-4 buds or as many as 12-15. Scott encourages me to try one and I wait until he has put one in his mouth first before I try one as well. I remember very well the trick played on me a couple years back in S. Africa where my PH convinced me to try a taste of aloe sap. It was awful and the taste stayed in my tongue for hours. The rosellia, however, was bitter, but not unpleasant. I often chewed on a bud or two during my week and a half of hunting. Apparently there are hundreds of different plants that can be eaten in the outback , but this was the only one identified for me.
As we walk carefully through the bush, I am very careful to watch where I am stepping with the intention of avoiding a nasty encounter with some local wildlife. We come upon several banteng bulls and execute 5 stalks. We are able to get within 30 yards all five times and even 8 yards once, but a good shot does not present itself yet. The brush is very thick and the chance of an arrow deflection would be very high. It is extremely exciting to see so many animals so soon. These banteng are large feral cattle. They resemble long horn rodeo bulls in size and horn structure. Their hide is very dark, almost black in the older bulls and brown in the cows and younger bulls. Their legs are long and have white "socks" on each foot. These animals are not tremendously wary and because they are herd animals with no natural predators you seem to be able to get away with a little noise, but you had better watch the wind. Once they have a smell of you they will be off. Staying out of sight is not too difficult in the thick long grass, but moving across an open area for a clear shot is another matter. If one of the herd animals spots the hunter, the whole group will turn to face the threat and put their noses in the air to get a smell and once you are spotted, you may as well turn around and leave. We see 10 banteng, a group of 4 cows and a calf water buffalo and a lone bull in the 85 inch range. We trail the bull to get a good look so I will have a better idea on judging horn size. He is not big enough to shoot yet. Also, a small black pig stands broadside in the clear at 20 yards. The young boar is very lucky to not have any teeth showing or he would be dead. When he finally sees us and trots off into a thicket it would have been much too late for him.
On the walk back to the ATVs I spot a couple walleroos that look like small kangaroos hopping quickly and effortlessly along. These little creatures are rock wallabees that stand roughly 2 feet high and are a grey brown color. Also see lots of birds. Scavenging Kites circle the sky on thermals watching for their next meals. There are green parakeets, yellow sulfur crested cockatoos that make a terrible racket and several types of parrots. We return for a quick lunch and I am ecstatic to have already gotten so close to my quarry and seen so many interesting things. After lunch I take an hour nap, as mid day is not too good for hunting due to the animals lying in the shade to shelter from the hot sun. It is about 85F. Not too hot, but the sun is pretty intense. I am glad to have used sunscreen and sunglasses.
At lunch I learn that Camille is the best and most qualified ultra light pilot on the ranch at present. They had an instructor come to the ranch for the lessons. Kevin, Carol and Scott all participated, but Camille was the only one to make ten good landings which was the test qualification. The instructor will return after hunting season to continue lessons for the rest of the group to advance. Scott is also studying to be a helicopter pilot. So far he has taken several stages of ground school and theory. Later 20 hours of flight time with an instructor are required. At 350-400/hr this is a healthy investment. He hopes to become qualified in the Robinson 22, Hughes 300, and another craft. He will then try to find work as a pilot after 100 hrs of time mustering cattle for stations around the NT. Later there is a possibility of trying for the Robinson 44 and maybe a Jet Ranger, but these are much more expensive and not used much for cattle. The Robinson 22 is most prevalent, using only 20 liters of fuel an hour with two seats. These aircraft can cut the time to round up several thousand head of cattle in rough terrain from several weeks to just a couple days. There is a cost for using the aircraft, but manpower is much reduced, and very few head of cattle are missed. Scott has a bit of experience in the stock business, so he thinks he will have no trouble moving into the mustering trade.
After lunch we ride our ATVs south for a ways and walk around a swampy area in search of water buffalo. It is pretty warm. We do not see any game, but I do spot a 4 foot long slender gray snake slither quickly across our path. Later after inspecting a snake book we identify it as a black whip snake. It is a venomous snake, but considered not dangerous or aggressive. We see several rock wallabees, pigs and later 3 large antillepine wallabees. These are large heavily muscled 5 feet tall orange colored fellows. They watch us at a distance, but then hop off at high speed. They are not very curious and are eager to leave us behind. The ground is often muddy with hoof prints sinking up to a foot deep in the mud, making for hard walking. There are also areas of hard dried mud and burned out grass areas where fresh green grass is returning. Although we see no game, this is a good spot to return to another time as it is an active water hole. We leave after a couple hours and move to another location that is a bit drier. We approach a water hole from up wind and spot a group of 6 buffalo. We stalk toward them, but they are grazing away from us into the wind and due to deteriorating daylight we decide to break off the pursuit. On the way back to the lodge on the quads, the sun sets. It cools down in a real hurry. Sweaty from walking, I am actually cold on the ride. The sun sets extremely quickly. At home we have light for up to an hour after sunset, but here BOOM once the sun sets, it is dark.
I shower and cleanup for dinner of Coby and Jew fish caught by Carol and banana cream pie for dessert. Great news, there are several banana trees in the yard, so bananas will be on the table for every meal. I decide that I will just go along with it and try to enjoy, even though bananas are one of my least favorite foods to eat. Actually after a super awesome day of walking through the bush it tastes just fine. Only just getting started and on the first day I had 6 stalks, saw a bunch of amazing things and had a great day. I am tired, but not exhausted. I quickly drift off to sleep with dreams of what tomorrow will show me.
Sunday June 11, 2006
Up at 6:30AM, for a quick breakfast. Slept real well. It was a cool night and not too many bugs crawling around in my bed. Not much of a chance to sleep in with the rapid sunrise and the effect of the screeching birds. The moment they see the sun they are leaving their roosts and flying around announcing the new day to all within hearing distance.
We head north to the area where we saw so many banteng yesterday morning. Cooler weather. Around 70F, but still drink 2L of water in 3hrs of hiking. Did a stalk on a group of buffalo, 2 cows a calf and a nice bull. Got to within 35 yards and ready to draw but then the wind switched and the bull whirled around and took off in a real hurry. No luck this time, but pretty close. 1/2 hour later we circle around a nice banteng bull and got very close. He grazed to within 20 yards. This was to be a fatal mistake for him. He is huge and not really paying a lot of attention to his surroundings. There is a lot of brush for cover and the wind cooperates this time. The brush is thick woody grass stalks and 10 foot tall scrubby trees. I wait for him to get to a shooting lane I have picked and he turns broadside for a shot. He is 18 yards from me showing his right side. I draw and carefully align the 20 yard sight pin with his forward chest cavity. He takes another step forward and I let go a Big Game 100 tipped with an Ironhead 100 at 330fps from my 95lb draw Matthews Black Max 2. I am expecting something other than what happens however. The hit seems perfect with a pass thru shot at the top of the heart and bottom of the lungs. He snorts and turns to sniff the air in our direction. He has no idea what hit him and where it came from. He jogs a few steps back and I stand up in a clear lane to take a 35 yard follow up shot. The arrow hits him, but he was quartering to me and brush deflected the fast arrow. It passed thru his ear and grazed his shoulder doing no damage, but pissing him off. This time he sees me and turns to run. We sprint after him thru the thick brush so we do not lose track of him. There is a lot of blood from the first arrow. It is dark red and thick. The blood is coming out of both sides and not gushing, but really running freely. He lays down after 100 yards or so and we give him a chance to bleed a little more before closing in. After watching him with binoculars for 20 minutes we see that he is still moving around a little but hurting real bad. If it had been an aorta shot he would be dead by now, but a lung shot would have left pink bubbly traces of blood, not dark red. Hmm? We can not see his sides, just his head and e top of his back. We approach to 30 yards and he whips up his head and stands wobbly facing right at us. If he could charge, he would run us down now and gore us. Scott has his .416 Rigby ready and I have an arrow nocked to try another shot. I heard that Rob Commers who was here last June had a wounded Buffalo charge him and he held his ground and took a shot to stop it. His arrow glanced off the beast's forehead, but Scott's .416 dropped him dead at Rob's feet. I have no intention of repeating this show of bravery, but given the opportunity I will try another shot. While I would certainly prefer not to have a bullet hole in my trophy, it is better than being gored, stomped and smashed by a rodeo bull size wild bovid wounded and looking for some payback.
In what seems an hour , but is really only seconds, the bull decides to run away again rather than come after the strange smelly two legged creatures that are chasing it. It gets away from our sight this time, but we do not hear much brush breaking. We find the blood trail is still very heavy so he should be faint from blood loss, but obviously he has other plans. In thick brush with an agitated wounded banteng conjures up some interesting thoughts. I remember several Peter Capstick stories of Cape Buffalo charging out of thick cover with no notice. I decide to stay close to the man with the gun. I get up on a large fallen log and peer in to the brush around us. Lucky for Scott, because I spot the bull with his head up listening and smelling us come at him. He is only 15 yards in from of us. I hiss a warning and Scott spots him too. He is hurt too bad or he may have had us. We back off 50 yards to wait again. In the mean time his head lolls around but he will not give up. He raises up and slowly moves away. He only gets 15 yards before keeling over, but still he is not dead. We move in again. I am ready to draw to hit him with another arrow and Scott is to my right covering me. While trying to get a clear shot he suddenly gets to his feet and lunges in our direction. I have no shot so I very rapidly get behind the .416, but the bull drops down unable to complete the charge. We wait again and I decide I have to shoot again to speed up his departure and end the suffering. I work my way around him and his head is down, but he is still breathing. I find an opening at 35 yards and shoot, but the arrow deflects and just grazes his back again. After 10 more minutes his heaving chest stops rising and falling. He has given in and lost his struggle. I throw a dirt clod at him and there is no movement. Scott hits him from 10 yards with a log and then sticks the muzzle of his rifle into the right eye. There is no reaction, so he really is dead.
I am elated. It is only the second day and I have bagged a super nice Banteng bull by bow and arrow. He is huge, over 60 inches with a very soft velvety black coat. At around 2000 lbs he is impressive to say the least. Upon inspection of his wounds we see that the first arrow hit 12 inches back from where I intended. It must have deflected as well. Lucky that it hit him in the liver and not the guts or we would have really had a long day. This marks a good lesson for me. In brush I will have to be doubly sure of a clear shot. I thought it looked good but there must have been something in the path of the arrow. His feet are all covered with white socks. He really looks just like a PBR Brahma on OLN rodeo bull riding. Hard to explain to people that he is a wild animal introduced hundreds of years ago from Southeast Asia and now virtually extinct in it's native range. This is the only huntable population of Banteng left on the planet.
Scott leaves me to go get the quads. I snap a few pictures and try out the Lion King Wet Wipes I brought along to use instead of leaves or TP. I take in the surroundings and again thank God for the opportunity to visit so many awesome places and experience the wilderness firsthand. Scott returns and we work to prepare the area by cutting down all the grass and sticks, position the head just right, wash off the blood and shoot a few dozen photos. Then we get to the hard part. Skinning and caping takes 45 minutes and I try to help out some. I probably am just in the way. I could do it, but Scott is really fast. We slice the velvet hide along the spine, and around the mid section then skin down the sides. Next we work down the legs and roll the massive beast to get around the lower chest. The head comes off by cutting between the vertebrae and we have a 60 lb package to throw on the quads to ride home with. Remove the backstraps, cut into the guts to attract attention from scavengers and head back to camp. I reflect on the research I did prior to the trip and realize how special this experience was. There have not been very many bow killed banteng. They are purported to be extremely tough and dangerous. While this one did not get a chance to gore us, I am sure he would have loved to try.
Back at the camp we grab a quick lunch and then work on skinning out the head, ears, eyelids, and lips. Scott has a fixture to hold the hide in position and scalpels for the detailed work. It still takes a couple hours.
Kevin spots a fat green brown spotted cane toad near the skinning shed. He really hates them because they are extremely poisonous. All the predators like Mulga King Brown Snakes, cats, pythons, birds, snakes and such have been dying off by the tons as this toad moved in from the south. It was introduced to control cane flies in sugar cane fields in Hawaii and the thought was that it could help to control insects in agriculture here too. It did it's job well, but killed lots of other species as well. Another lesson about not messing with God's plan. Kevin grabs a golf club and drives the toad 50 yards into the bush. I ask why he is so concerned when they seem to kill so many snakes. Kevin says that there were no snake problems before and there is a reason for snakes to be around. They are part of the plan to have everything exist in a balanced ecosystem. Anyway he hates them, but I guess I kind of like them if they kill the snakes!!
We head out in Kevin's old Landcruiser down the airstrip and across an exotic deer pen. It holds blackbuck, hog deer, addax and some other deer in an enclosure of 1000 acres of high fence. There are two fairly deep stream crossings to undertake. The cruiser easily makes it but the water is midway up the doors. Frances Creek is only 30 feet across right now and 4 feet deep, but it has lots of crocs and during the wet it rises 15 feet and becomes several hundred yards wide. Scott and I hop out to walk along the creek and hopefully run across some buffalo. Kevin has some trouble getting across the creek this time and we watch for 15 minutes while he makes a dozen attempts to cross. He is not stuck, but gets bogged while climbing the sandy bank on the opposite side. Finally he makes it up and motors off into the distance. The wind is swirling badly. Around 75F. We approach a week old banteng kill and the stench is pretty bad. A Russian hunter shot it finally after having to locate one with a helicopter. He shot it a purported 8 times. This was the only Banteng he saw in his whole hunt. I have been pretty lucky to already see several dozen. The difference is walking. Driving in a truck for me is not hunting. For my Dad it was the only way to go, but I get more satisfaction the more effort I am forced to put in. Besides I love to be surrounded by the bush and drink in as much detail as possible. While glancing over at the creek I see a huge black shape slide down the bank into the water with a tremendous splash. It was a 10 foot long croc sunning itself on the bank! Awesome! I have seen a croc in the wild now on three continents.
We resume our trek along the bank. I am constantly watching the river to try to see another huge reptile. Pass through several thickets of tangled brush that smells very nice. It is a pungent odor but very pleasant. It is dried and had lots of flowers but they are all shriveled up. I chew several Rosellia buds every half hour or so. We come to a small group of buffalo cows and calves. We stalk in to get a closer look and run into a banteng bull in no particular hurry to run off at 52 yards broadside. That is the way it goes. They are easy to find when not being hunted. We stalk past, but the wind switches and he spooks the buffalo group we were after. The wind is constantly changing direction. There were no big bulls, but there were a couple fuzzy little white calves . It is soon to be dark and we have to cross the Frances again on foot to return to camp. We carefully work down the steep bank and at the bottom Scott casually tells me not to step forward as he has just stepped over a snake!. He instructs me to go around it. It is olive green color, 1" diameter and 3 feet long. Lucky it was cold or Scott may have been in trouble. He stepped 6" from it. It stays still as we watch it 10 feet away. I think about a picture but decide that I have no where but into the river to escape if it moves at me. We cross the creek quickly in a shallow spot and are soon back at the camp. There is a beautiful full moon and hazy cloud cover. A look in the snake book reveals that it was a slate grey snake. A non-venomous extremely aggressive snake that will strike repeatedly. A 6" change to Scott's footing would have caused all of us a lot of concern.
Conversation with Scott and Camille at dinner reveals a good bit of information. I find out that Kevin played professional rugby in his early days and suffers daily form it. His back, knees and hips are pretty well shot. Scott and Camille were married in 2000. Scott worked as a CAT diesel mechanic in the mines across the Outback. He worked on dump trucks, loaders, scrapers, dozers, generators, even marine diesel power plants. One time he was with another fellow on a job and they had two days in rebuilding a truck engine. Finally when they were ready to start it back up there was a tremendous crunching noise. One side of the head was pretty well destroyed and after opening the head up and finding his partners socket wrench in one of the cylinders it was clear what had caused the noise. The wrench was flattened by the piston, but the fellows name was clearly engraved on the handle of the tool. About a $150, 000 mistake. Another time Scott hurt his hand pretty badly cutting himself on a sharp tool. He was out of work for quite a while for it to heal. Scott decided that the schedule of 3 weeks on, one off was a bit tough, although the pay was good. He began to look around and found a job on Camille's dads farm north of Perth. He did not realize he was hiring his future son in law. After getting married they traveled around Australia finding work for short stints when money got tight. They stumbled on Kevin a few years ago while on the way through Pine Creek. He had placed an ad for a station hand and PH. Kevin decided to give them a try and it seems to have worked out rather well.
Quite an awesome day. Off to sleep to prepare for more tomorrow.
6/12/06 Monday
Up at 6:30. breakfast, set up 3 more arrows. I am a bit stiff this morning, especially my shoulders from carrying the bow around for 3 days. Practice at 50 and 30 yards. Fair accuracy, but it seems that one arrow may be out of shape and flying poorly. Are the broadheads dull and flying funny? I must remember the lesson learned yesterday of brush and grass arrow deflection.
The morning is nice and cool . We take a long ATV ride southwest to a new area about 15 miles away. It is very dusty. I am glad that my allergy medication is working well or I would be miserable. The grass is very long over our heads in many places. It is too thick to hunt or shoot and even spotting buffalo would be quite difficult. We see a couple rock wallabees, buffalo cows , Rusa Deer, and Blackbuck. While walking around in the long dry woody grass we stumble upon 2 pair of nice shootable bulls, but they trot off and the wind is strong and swirling. Scott sets several fires in the grass to burn it off for better hunting later and it creates safety fire breaks for later in the season when massive bush fires become a real menace. The fires will not go very far and won't really affect the animals. They will just move off a bit and come back for the green grass in a couple weeks. The fires don't burn very well yet as there are still many pockets of moisture.
I see a couple pair of wild horses trotting across an open area ahead of us. They are beautiful and free. Sometimes they are rounded up and broken for riding like the pair that lives in the yard at the lodge, but more often they are shot and sold for pet food. We cross several creeks probably with crocodiles in them. Overall we do not see much fresh sign in this area at all. A nice long ride back to the camp. The sun is very intense, but it is not too hot. Very windy, very dusty and I am a little less sharp than I would like. A chocolate Power Bar helps me out , but I can feel the last few days of walking wearing on me. This is a beautiful place and I am glad to be walking and not just riding around in a truck. I really like it here and could see myself liking the station lifestyle. I bet Sarah would not like it one bit though!!

Long ride back on the quads. We have to stop a lot to let them cool off. The radiators are all clogged with straw grass and dust so the quads keep overheating and quitting. Must clean them when we get back with the hose. We have a very healthy salad for lunch. Todd would be proud of Camille for this one. We devour it and then wonder what the main course will be. Unfortunately that was it. Kevin and Carol are off fishing in the ocean to the north out of Dundee for a few days. It is about a 4 hour drive through Kakadu and Arhem land. They keep a 22ft dual outboard boat there. It is very windy so the sea will be rough. John and Wally have gone with them as well. John is 26 and a real beer drinker. Apparently he brags about spending a weeks pay in a couple nights at the clubs in Darwin on his off time. They will fish for Jew fish, Sharks and other reef fish. They left with a trailer and several drums of fuel for the boat as there is none available up where they will be.
After lunch a huge road train truck comes to the ranch with three trailers of hay. This will be used later in the season as forage for the cattle becomes harder to find in the brutally dry climate. Scott is tasked with unloading the truck before we can hunt again. He has a large orange Kubota tractor with a hay spike attachment. He gets to work while I tour the grounds on my Polaris. I watch the action for a while but it is quite repetitive and so I ride off down the tracks in each direction as far as I can go without passing thru any gates. I still can hardly believe where I am. I am so lucky to be here. It is great to be free to just look around on my own. For an hour or so I cruise until when crossing one of the streams coming back to the camp, my machine dies. It is not out of gas and the water is not too deep. The unit will run in idle, but has no power and dies as soon as the throttle is depressed. I am unable to drive out and I worry I will block the road for the big rig on it's way out. I climb off into the water and push . Luckily while idling in gear the machine is not too hard to push up the bank, but I am really tired from the exertion. It did not cross my mind that they told me to watch for crocs at that stream crossing until later. It seemed pretty shallow and clear and I made quite a ruckus at first entering the stream, but who knows. I really want to see the crocs, but in circumstances where I am less at risk of being lunch. I gather my gear from the quad and set out to walk back. It isn't very far and Scott is not even done with the hay yet. I get my hunting gear together and wait for him to finish. I explain the predicament and he heads off to see if he can get it to go. It seems that there is something in the carburetor that floats down in idle, but is sucked into the jet when the throttle is depressed. Scott plans to remove the jets and clean the carb out later. He tows me back with his machine and I get to use the old rattle trap 350 quad. Actually I really like it. It does not have nearly as much power as the 550HO, but it is much lighter and steers much easier.
This evening we see several groups of buffalo and a couple real nice ones in the 90 plus inch range that we are looking for, but they keep ahead of us as we try to keep the wind in our face and we are unable get close and they move off with no chance for us to catch up. These enormous animals do not have to move too fast to outdistance a man on foot in a hurry. We walk for 2 1/2 hours or so. West of the lodge on the way back we see two very large banteng bulls watch us pass at 30 yards. It is almost like they know they are safe and we are not after them. I thought that they told me the Banteng would be hard to find.. We have seen lots so far and been a little pressed for opportunities on buffalo, but there is a lot of time left. Next, nearly at the gate back into the protected yard of the lodge we see a bull buffalo about 85 inches staring us down. He is blocking our way out and seems to have no intention of moving. He is rather intimidating, weighing in well over 2500 pounds and our quads would give us no protection at all. We maintain a distance and try to get him to move. Later they tell me that the 350 quad I am on is too slow to outrun a buffalo charge at close range. I will keep that in mind next time. Too bad he was not bigger. He had cornered himself nicely and I could have worked around for a nice shot, that is if he had not charged me and run me through first. Finally he moves off without charging and we head back.
Clean up for dinner and I realize how nice the camp really is. With all the dust, wind, sun and heat it sure feels good to be able to shower twice a day. Camille has made up for lunch with a superb roast pork dinner. I steal a couple scraps while she is not looking. It is wonderful. Over by the TV I snack on sun-dried tomatoes, pickled onions, cheese and crackers until Scott arrives for dinner. It is nice to be alone with Scott and Camille tonight. Quieter and off to bed sooner. She seems to be doing remarkably well for her condition, but she must be very tired at times. Her attitude is very pleasant . I tell her I will do the dishes and clean up. She is appalled at first but then allows Scott and I to help out. She is in the Australian Defense Force Reserve. She is a truck driver instructor for Unimogs and Land Cruisers. She has served several years already and can continue to do so as long as she likes. After the baby is born she will wait a couple months and then do her service during the down time for the ranch.
I hope for better luck on buffalo and boar tomorrow. It gets very cold this night. Down to around 30F. I need to cover up with a light blanket, but Scott and Camille are freezing and are really bundled up. I sleep great. It sure beats the heat and bugs crawling all over.
I look at myself in the mirror and am startled to see what looks like a raccoon, but it is me. My face is red brown on the lower part, but white where my sunglasses and hat covered. A laugh to my self about what the kids would say. I feel great and the exercise is no strain. The soreness from carrying the bow is gone after the first few days. The training I have been doing has me in pretty good shape for flat land hunting. I wonder what I will say in mid September in the BC mountains after a few days of hiking? The gear is holding up pretty good with a few exceptions. The new gaiters are trash after a few days use. The strings and snaps are all busted, but they will get me by. I gave up shorts after the first day of hunting as the brush cut me up a little and I found myself paying too much attention to avoiding scratching my legs. What a sissy! The bow looks great, needs string wax daily, but all is tight and nothing has moved. The fibers in the sight occasionally dislocate and have to be replaced when snagged in the brush. Will have to be careful of this in the future. Leica BRF working super. Lost a lens cap. I think that I better try them with the elastic chest strap when I return home, as they flop around too much when crawling or running. The boots are well worn in and I love my silk socks for comfortable walking. My feet feel great. The Under Armor helps keep me dry and prevents any chafing. Perfect preparation and gear so far. It is so nice to have the best gear available and test it in real world hunting conditions. To hell with the catalog ads. I am finding out that having the right stuff makes things so much easier, but on weekend hunts a couple times a year for most guys it does not really matter because their stuff will never even wear in, let alone wear out.
6/13/06 Tuesday
Wow! What a day! Up early as normal. Out after practice and bacon and eggs. Another real cold night of about 40F. Cool morning. Walk about 3 hours. We see and chase a promising group of buffalo 4 times but they eventually spook. We stalk to within 25 yards, and have the herd run right at us , stop and whirl around. So close, but not close enough. Next we spot a couple nice bulls in the low 90s. We stalk them for 45 minutes thru a swampy area with long grass and deep mud. We watch for 30 minutes with them calmly eating 60 yards away, but no way to get closer. They decide to move off in the other direction an a trot. We can not keep up with them on foot.
We see lots of bird life today. An Ibis, a white, tan, and black large long legged bird with a 6- inch curved beak is spotted in a swampy area. Sulfur crested cockatoos flit about in the trees overhead. They squawk just like the pet store birds.
Again by 9:30 I need a Cookies and Cream Power Bar to keep me sharp. After 3 1/2 hours of tromping around we head back and watch a Mark Sullivan video. He is a n African PH who has a thing for big double rifles and huge charging beasts at really close range. Sausage and onions for lunch. A short nap while Scott tends to a few chores and I change to my lucky Schaffer Performance Archery black t-shirt with the fluorescent green lettering. I am not sure that camo is as important as the wind anyway, and it has worked well on 4 continents so far.
Head out again at 3pm. We see a large obstinate bull blocking the quad path. He would be on the small side to shoot, but he looks pretty big as he charges at us. By the way, the 350 Polaris really is a little too slow to outrun a charging buffalo. I spin the wheels in 6 inch deep mud that slows me down, but not the enraged bull. Scott has gotten out of the mud and has a .44 revolver out to cover me just in case things get too tight. Luckily the little quad tires find a grip and the bull feels he has taught us a lesson by running us off. I am not sure how I would have explained what happened if he had knocked me off the Quad into the mud even with 6 .44 slugs in his head.
Half an hour later we spot a bachelor group around a corner of the trail and quickly jump off the machines. We sneak up 80 yards and the wind is perfect. There is one huge bull about 96-98 inches in with 6 other bulls. The leader comes in our direction and he steps right in an opening that I have selected for a shot. I draw and wait for the instant that his left foreleg opens up his vitals. I sight on the lungs and let loose at 16 yards. There is a thud as the arrow impacts. It is a bit dicey because one of his mates is sniffing us a 8 feet away. The brush provides scant cover for stopping a buffalo charge. Scott has the .416 nearly on the intrusive fellow's forehead. I am not sure what would have happened if the wind had switched. A single brain shot probably would have dropped the one monster dead in our laps, but the other 6 would have been all over us before we could do a thing about it. By the way, a compound bow feels a little puny for stopping power against a supercharged bulldozer bearing down from only 10 feet away. Luckily the wind does not switch and the largest bull takes an arrow to the region of the chest between the top of the heart and the lungs, or so we thought. We expect he will keel over dead at any second. He hardly reacted to the hit that penetrated 2 feet into his chest. After what seems an eternity he turns and ambles 40 yards upwind but his entourage stays to check us out. It is a stand off where I feel seriously outgunned. It is like the helicopter pilot in Black Hawk Down who has run out of ammo with hundreds of skinnies closing in to tear him to shreds. The big bull stands and wavers slightly for 40 minutes, but then walks off. His crew follows and we fall in behind, They move at a rapid walking pace and the leader quickly falls to the rear limping slightly. He has lots of blood running out of his left side. The hit seemed good, but must not have been. Perhaps the arrow somehow deflected off a rib and ran along the outside of the rib cage? We are forced to sprint after the group to keep up. They are not running from us, they still don't even know we were there. After a couple miles I decide that Scott better take a shot with the gun as the buffalo are getting away from us and it is getting towards dark. We cross several ravines and rock piles but keep losing ground. The wounded bull is lagging, but not much. The group seems to accelerate as they meet another group and Scott takes a shot at the rear end of the bull. All hell breaks loose with 12 buffalo running is 3 directions. We lose track of the big bull, but see his 6 buddies circle around behind us. He is not with them. We try to look at other buffalo going different directions, but he has disappeared. Is he done? Or what? All the buffalo soon disappear but I spot 2 large feral hogs feeding on an old buffalo carcass. One is black with what appears to be yellow spots. He has pretty nice teeth protruding from his jaw line and at 30 yards I decide to try to redeem myself. I hit him right in the heart. He squeals loudly, runs 10 yards and rolls onto his back with all four limbs stretched out, dead in less than 5 seconds. We leave him for later and look for blood sign from the bull. There is none to be seen, having been obliterated by the dust and churning hooves. We jog back to the quads for a mile and a half to try to beat the light. We barely make it and then search the area with the lights from the machines. Scott runs down a group of three buffalo, but in the dark he can not really tell if our quarry is there. We drive around and around hoping to find a huge grey body, but we do not find him.
We head over to the boar finally and find that his partner is back feeding on the carcass only 20 feet from his dead friend. Not much remorse. I am excited by the huge boar. It is around 175 pounds and has 3 inch tusks. His yellow spots were actually mud. He stinks terribly. We do not bother to clean him up much as he is so filthy. Pictures in the light of the quads and full flash from the cameras. We cut the boar in half . His friend will probably eat his guts tonight. Lash the boar onto Scott's machine and head back. We drive cautiously as buffalo are prone to charge at the lights of the Polaris's in the dark. Having a huge monster charges out of the brush and flip the quad would be pretty exciting to say the least.
The night is alive with activity. Much more than during the day. Cane Toads and frogs leap and croak everywhere. Lizards scamper around and snakes slither across our path chasing each other and the frogs and toads. The mud seems alive with slithering and hopping creatures. I am glad not to be walking as I would like to finish the hunt and find my bull before having the flying doctor rush me into Darwin for anti-venom treatment for a bite from an irritated Death Adder, Mulga King or Western Brown. I am not sure what I was seeing, but it certainly had my imagination running wild as all the research on Mice Q50 tests, venom comparisons, coagulation rates and neurotoxin flooded back thru my head. Luckily Scott was paying attention though because our friend from later that afternoon was back guarding his road. Apparently we had not paid the toll last time and he was out to get us. He flew at us out of the darkness and we saw the shadow grow as we sped through the mud. I really wish I had a little faster machine, but I guess I was lucky and picked a fairly good path back through the muck. I breathed deeply and got a chance to see the stars through a break in the overcast and smoky haze. It was fleeting but beautiful. I hope one night to be able to get out for a good look at the sky. I will probably need an escort to blaze a trail through the creatures with a lawn mower first though to make it safe.
We discuss the situation when we return to the lodge. Scott feels that the hit was a good one and we should find the bull dead in the morning or at least stiffened up and lying down. I am not discouraged in the least. It was a super day. The shirt worked again. It is starting to get a little thin from washing so many times, but it seems I better keep it around for when things slow down a bit. We have dinner of fish caught by the crew on a recent trip and then watch a very important rugby match called the State of Origin All Star game between New South Wales and Queensland. After the match I head to bed and dream about the awesome day I just had. It really was a day to remember. It is a huge thrill to hunt truly dangerous game on their terms. The threat of death or injury is very real if a hunter is not extremely careful.
Wednesday 6/14/2006
Up earlier than normal, quick breakfast, out on ATVs to look for sign of the wounded bull, but after 4 1/2 hours there is no sign. We cross the Frances creek again to look for sign, but the buffalo cross regularly all up and down the banks and in no special places. There is no sign. It is thick tough tangle full of snakes and crocs in the creek. Stalked a couple bulls for a possible replacement, but it didn't work out. The wound should have stiffened up and incapacitated the bull overnight, but he could be laying anywhere. Soon in the hot weather the flies will get to him and cause the wound to fester and fill with maggots. Back for a nap while Scott does some chores. I am a little disappointed, as I would not have placed the shot any differently than I did. It went right where the chart showed the vitals to be. It must have not been quite right or the bull would be in the freezer now. A 12" section of arrow and sharp broadhead working in the wound certainly will slow him down and when some of the other guys are available they will look at buffalo from a distance to see if they spot any with a noticeable limp. There would be no blood spot left as rolling in the mud and water would obliterate it. We decide after lunch to cover a bit more ground on the other side of the creek in the Land Cruiser. We can move faster and since we have no idea which way he would have walked off, this is as good a plan as any. Walking is too slow and the quads are not ideal either. We check several water holes and dams for a couple hours during the hottest part of the day. We see a few nice bulls, but nothing spectacular in size. I am debating what to do now. I do not want to leave without being sure of having a buffalo, and not getting pictures, but the cost is pretty high for a lost and wounded bull. If we see a huge bull we will go for it, otherwise continue to look for this one. After some more thinking and studying the price sheet, I decide to go for a cow buffalo. They are pretty big also and fairly cheap. At least I will have my buffalo then and not spend twice as much as planned. Almost immediately we spot a nice size cow with a 2 year old calf following her. She has around 70" horns and will make a nice trophy. Eventually the bull will turn up as the birds will circle and scavenge the carcass. Scott assures me that they will keep looking and can get a cape from an Australian hunter who will only want a European skull mount. The cow and bull will make nice mounts side by side. The stalk up to the cow is really anticlimactic after the fiasco and standoff last night. We sneak and low crawl 200 yards and the wind is perfect. The cow never even glances toward us. The calf pays little attention even though he has looked in our direction a couple times. He could have saved his mother, but doesn't realize there is any danger. He is about to get a life lesson he should not soon forget. The calf turns away and I draw on the cow from 50 yards. She takes a step to open up the vitals and my arrow flies true, striking mid lung and passing through. She lifts her head and whirls around spinning and running 25 yards and stopping in an open area to look back at me. I shoot again at 75 yards and the arrow again hits both lungs a little higher and passes through. She bolts for 50 yards and lays down. Junior has no idea what has happened to his mother and hangs around while she lies on the ground lolling her head back and forth. The calf then decides to come towards us to investigate the strange smell. We have to wave and yell to get him to leave. We approach the downed cow and I feel a little sorry for the calf, but he is big enough to go it alone. The camp will eat this cow as she is much more tender than the old tough bulls. She is huge and I can only imagine how big the bull would have looked in her place. Her horns are thin but fairly long. I am proud of my shooting this time and the bow proved to be plenty of power for the job. We have the sun in the right spot for nice pictures and than we cape and butcher the animal. She is a bit harder to work with than the banteng. Her skin is thick and leathery, a light grey color and covered with mud as opposed to the supple velvet of the banteng. We remove the back-straps, the best quarter meat, and the tenderloins. Then we head back to the truck and camp with the head, cape and meat. I feel good, but still a little disappointed at the loss of the bull. I plan to look all day tomorrow for the bull and maybe hunt for a deer or two in the early morning or evening.
We eat spaghetti and Banteng steak for dinner. It has a good flavor, not at all like beef, but it is really tough. A day in the crock pot would do wonders for it. Hope to try the cow steak tomorrow night.
After dinner I saw a couple pythons in the yard and three western browns. The western browns are 4-6 feet long and very dangerous. Supposedly they are not very aggressive but quite shy, and that must be why they are seldom encountered in the bush. I wonder how many have been close at hand while we were stalking and crawling through the brush. Luckily we have not had any close calls with dangerous snakes. The pythons are sluggish and do not move away. They are a reticulated pattern and grey green in color. I think that it would be a bad idea to stumble around in the dark tonight looking at the stars. It is pretty hazy anyway, so I will stay in my bed where I hope it will be safe even if it is covered with bugs. It is a lot warmer tonight and I am awakened as Carol and Kevin return from their fishing expedition at 1AM. They settle down quickly, but I can't get back to sleep right away.
I think Mom would really have enjoyed the venomous snakes, bugs, poisonous spiders, crocodile, dust, heat thorns and thick brush. Yeah Right! Probably good she did not come. Most of the animals were so far off she could not have seen them. I do not think Sarah would like the hunting part, but the lodge and nature spotting would interest her I think.
Hope to see my bull tomorrow. We will use a rifle if we spot it and can't sneak close so that we do not lose it again. It will be pissed off. Getting close will not be very smart. Jack Russell terriers will run up after the shot to bay the bull so we can finish it off. At least this seems like a plan. All we have to do is find the damned thing. It is huge, how could it just wander off and disappear? A little deer hunting might be fun too. I still have a couple hunting days and a tour day left. This has been an awesome trip so far. I wish it was for longer, I 'm just getting used to it here, but 10 days is a lot longer than most people stay. 4 or 5 days is usually plenty, but with bow I wanted to be sure to have enough time. Oh well. I guess I can't stay forever, but the opportunity even to be here at all is great.
June 15, 2006 Thursday
Kevin, Carol, John and Wally are back from a successful trip up North near Dundee fishing the reefs for Coby, sharks, Jew fish and so on. The water was very rough and the guys got a little sick from it. There seemed to be a great deal of comedy revolving around the unorthodox angling techniques employed by Wally . He obviously did not know what to do, got snagged a lot and tried to stay out of the way as best as he was able. It was very windy and made for a rough ride that hurt Kevin a lot. He joined us for breakfast in his underwear and was eager to return to bed when we left. Scott and I decided to walk through the brush again in the area we shot the buffalo bull two days ago. Perhaps it holed up in a thick spot and died. I am not tremendously hopeful, but Scott is pretty sure we will find him eventually even if it is later and only a carcass the birds will find it. We have a nice walk through the bush . It is not too warm and the sky is more clear than it has been for several days. Smoke still rises from many of the fires set by Scott but they are not too big and the white smoke rises straight up instead of blowing and billowing all around.
After we reach the area where we lost track of the bull we stop to wait a little while for Kevin and John to arrive on quads. They have been combing the area on the other side of the creek and examining buffalo looking for a wounded one. Eventually they come to get us and take us across the river on their machines. They have looked over many animals, but have not yet seen any thing promising. Scott and I head back to camp on foot along the north bank of the Frances. We watch several groups of Kite birds circling around soaring the thermals. We try to see if they are circling a new carcass, but they are not. Along the way Scott warns me to not take another step forward. I quickly realize why. There is a massive spider web across the path about 15 feet diameter. In the middle of the web, a blue and white 1inch diameter bodied spider waits for unfortunate insects to become trapped in it's web. I take a look at the creature and am impressed by the efficiency of it's design. Its legs are almost 1.5 inches long each and it can probably move across the web very quickly. Scott says he does not know what kind of spider it is, but he is very sure we do not want to have anything to do with it. I have heard that there are some very nasty spiders down under that are even more deadly than the venomous snakes. Two of these are the funnel web and wolf spiders. I will do more research later and try to find out what this amazing creature is called.
As we return to the lodge, Scott gets a call on his radio. It is Kevin calling urgently, but the signal is very weak. I help Scott climb into a tree to get a better signal, but still it does not come through clearly. We quickly hike the rest of the way back to the camp and hurry to the radio room where Camille has been monitoring the situation and find out that Kevin has been following a bull that seems to have a spot on its left shoulder and be limping. It seems sluggish and does not want to run from Kevin on his quad. John rides up suddenly and confers with Scott on the status of the bull. I start to get a little excited, but Scott is not so sure. The three of us jump in the Land Cruiser and head towards Kevin's position to check out the bull. Kevin meets us as we get close and he is pretty sure that there is something wrong with the animal. He is almost positive, but Scott must make the decision to be sure. Kevin and Scott ride off on a quad while I wait with John. After 10 minutes they return and Scott is 100% satisfied that this is not the creature we are after. I am somewhat perplexed as to how we could all look so hard for an animal with a chest hit and 3 days to die, but it seems that after three days either the bull has gone a really long way or is dead somewhere and holed up in thick brush. I am quite disappointed but still retain hope that the bull will eventually be found one way or another.
At lunch time we spot a helicopter flying southeast along the border of the station following the Mary River. Scott thinks it is Kakadu Park Rangers looking things over. The chopper circles for 10 minutes and then we see the passenger fire flares out the door to start fires. Great! The sky will be dark again tonight from the brushfire smoke. It billows up thick and white rapidly igniting the dry grass. This happens on occasion to help control fires and make a break line between the Park and the station. A wild fire could jump the river in either direction and apparently has in the past, so it is a good spot to take care of early in the dry season before the danger increases. The chopper is a small 4 seat white machine. I do not recognize the type but Scott claims it is a Robinson 44 leased by the Park for observation and rescue work. A wall of inferno and white smoke follows the machine back to the northwest away from the camp.
Scott and I take some time to spot and stalk some deer. The more we get into the deer enclosure the more dubious I become. The wind is circling, the grass is dry and low, there are hundreds of eyes watching our every move, and I am not really into this kind of fenced hunting.. We make a couple stalks, but have no luck. The deer are very large with huge antlers. It is exciting to see the animals, but I do not want to hunt for these non-wild animals. Watching them through binoculars is pretty neat though. Several of the large Rusa deer have been scraping the ground and have large amounts of grass and dirt entangled in their antlers. It looks like some of them have birds nests on their heads. There is not enough cover to make any successful stalks. This is fine with me, so we drive around some more and look at more deer but I confess to Scott that this is really not for me. He understands and actually agrees, but says many of the hunters do not care, they just want to kill more animals. This is not my mentality at all. The challenge of the hunt with archery and the stalk are the reason I love it. I want to give myself a disadvantage and I respect the animals so much I can't hunt them this way. Scott is happy to hear my explanation and totally agrees with it. On the walk back to the Land Cruiser a 5 foot snake slithers across the path just ahead of us. It has a black band behind it's head. Scott is not sure of the type and I get a better look at it than he does. Later research in the books seems to indicate that this was a color phase of the Mulga King Brown Snake. It has become rare in these parts due to it's appetite for cane toads. It is one of the most dangerous snakes in the world. Kind of exciting to see it in relatively safe conditions. Wouldn't want him underfoot though.
I listen to several stories Scott has about hunting for Rusa deer in the South with a group of friends. Dogs are turned loose to chase the bucks through the woods. The hunters position themselves at likely places where the buck may emerge and try to get a shot. There is not a lot of action, but when it happens, it happens fast. More often than not the deer get by and are never seen, occasionally quickly glimpsed, but often not at all. Once in a while a lucky fellow gets the opportunity to take a shot and perhaps connects. Scott has taken a couple nice bucks. Also he has hunted self guided in New Zealand for chamois.. He and Camille were on a hiking trip and he asked the locals where he could hunt . They told him about an area and a forest ranger showed him some cabins he could stay in while hunting. The hiking was hard and the terrain very rocky. Scott had to be tough to get where he needed to go , but after several falls and a very dinged up gun from being dropped so many times , often in the water, he connected on a nice ram chamois. He was elated. He also told about hiking in Indonesia with a friend. They did not know the way over a mountain and had to hire a young boy to show them. The boy kept running ahead and actually got lost himself and did not bring any supplies. Scott had to share with the boy so he could survive. They tried to spend a night in a hut , but were kicked out in the middle of the night by fierce men armed with machetes. They left in the dark and rain with no lights. It sounded miserable, but they made it over the mountain. On another hike Scott told about being at higher altitude and encountering snow even though it was very hot out. He tried to take a swim in a mountain lake, but it was so cold he nearly got hypothermia. On one of theses Indonesian hikes his friend got very sick and they had to go to a hospital to get help. The hospital was more like a death trap and the people coming in were dying of horrible wounds, sicknesses and diseases. Sounds awful. Another time in Thailand they took a budget ferry boat ride for several days and were crammed in with thousands of natives. They were not allowed on deck for three days and the meals were a cup of rice and water. This precipitated another round of sickness for the traveling Aussies.
Scott is a fine guy. I like him a lot. He is an adventurer and I really like listening to his stories. He had planned a cougar hunt last January while in the US for the SCI show, but the outfitter had gone bankrupt and disappeared. He was left with no one to hunt with so he plans to try again with a more reputable operator next year.
Another interesting story revolves around a Russian hunter who visited last year. He was a wealthy oil and gas magnate from the new Russian capitalistic economy. He arrived on a private Gulfstream jet with a large entourage. He had an interpreter, a 20 year old model girlfriend, three musicians, three bodyguards, and a couple fellows to handle the money and other business. They came in from New Zealand where he had sent two other girls home as they no longer pleased him. The Russians had a full truck load of just luggage. Camille claimed that the interior of the jet was all finished in exotic hardwoods, leather reclining chairs and hardly looked like a plane at all, more like a conference room at a Fortune 500 company. At the Darwin airport they boarded a rented Bell Jet Ranger chopper for the trip to camp. Once there they were extremely rude and horrible to be around. This man paid the bills, but was not the kind of client that an outfitter likes to hunt with. He shot 25 animals in 5 days. Many from his seat in the chopper. He did not even get out for pictures with many of the animals. His people scrambled to keep up with him in two land vehicles while he blasted away at deer, oryx, addax ,buffalo, banteng, pigs, wallabees and just about anything else that moved. Scott said he did not listen to anything he was told. He just did whatever he pleased. After hunting for the day they would return and have a high stakes card game at the dining table. Dinner was to be served immediately following the end of the game. This made it hard to plan and the group was very rude and unpleasant to Camille for her cooking. Then the musicians played their tunes to entertain the group and there was no talking allowed except when the big boss spoke first. After 5 days he decided he was sick of the place and just left. His people scrambled to grab their stuff , paid the bill and they were off in thirty minutes. He shot 5 buffalo. All huge over 100-110 inches. He did not even want to keep the trophies. When they returned to Darwin they went shopping and the guy bought $90,000 of pearls and a $30,000 crocodile handbag for his girlfriend. Then they went for a harbor cruise on a sailboat. He smoked cigars the whole time, disobeyed the safety rules and was rude to the crew. When he was ready he simply said we are done now and demanded to be returned to the dock. Minutes later they were in their jet and gone. Good riddance. They didn't even say goodbye or thank you. The guy seemed to be in a good business, but not a very respectable person. Certainly not a hunter of any ethics at all.
Another group of Russians were suspected to be mafia. There were 4 of them and they kept to themselves mostly. Their interpreter explained that it was very important that the hunters got their buffalo sizes based on their rank. This was especially difficult because the lowest rank guy shot a huge buffalo right off the bat. The PHs had a real hard time trying to coordinate their actions and get the sizes right. It turned into a fiasco. When they played cards and drank late into the night they always let the boss man win.
When Scott and Camille worked in a store in Arnhem land, an aboriginal reservation in the Northern Territory, they also helped the blacks manage their money. Government checks were cashed at the store and they were given some cash, but mostly the aborigines just bought junk food from the store. The cash was spent on fried chicken, Coca Cola, alcohol, drugs and other wasteful things. After a couple days of fun the money was all gone and they starved for the rest of the week until the next check showed up.
Petrol sniffing has become a real problem for the indigenous population. The young people are actually sniffing gasoline fumes to get high. They suffer from terrible brain damage and can be crippled for life. Unfortunately the village elders are often in on the corruption and actually provide the drugs, gas and alcohol to the members of the community.
Aboriginals no longer seem to hunt with traditional methods of spears, boomerangs and the like. They now rely heavily on old junker automobiles and rusty surplus WWII .303 British rifles. For buffalo the hunt goes something like this. A buffalo is spotted, preferably a young calf as they are less work if it actually dies, one or two shots are fired from the moving car and the driver then races after the possibly but unlikely wounded animal cross country. Perhaps if the rifle can be reloaded another shot may be fired , but probably they do not have any more ammunition. If the buffalo gets away, it is most certainly the drivers fault and can not possibly be the fault of the outstanding marksman. Consequently there are a lot of wounded buffalo and wrecked cars scattered across the Arnhemland and the Aborigines do not eat a lot of buffalo meat. If a wounded buffalo happens to charge and injure or frighten someone, it can only be the fault of the evil white hunters who are bad shots and do not follow up the wounded game. Some of the rifles used are so old and rusty that a brick or block of wood is needed as a hammer to work the bolt and pound the cartridge into the breech. It never needs any maintenance and there is never a safety issue, however, if you or I were to try this method I am sure we would end up in the hospital or dead.
Aboriginal cooking has changed a little as well. Once these people were able to cross the vast wastelands and survive on grubs, tubers, roots, leaves, snakes and small animals. These days survival necessitates a fried chicken and beer joint every few miles.
Camille once baked a chocolate cake for Scott to take on a buffalo hunt. A local fellow tagged along for the ride. When it was time for lunch it was discovered that all the ice in the cooler had melted and waterlogged the cake. Scott had a bite or two and decided not to have any more. This fellow however, loved the treat and ate the whole cake himself. The next day several locals showed up at the store where she worked and asked if Camille would make them another chocolate cake. They offered many handmade very valuable tribal artifacts in return, boomerangs, paintings, carvings, and didgeridoos. A new industry was born. Lucrative trading ensued over the next few months and the store was able to offer quite a variety of authentic Aboriginal handmade historical artifacts for display and sale to tourists.
Back at camp Scott takes me through his home. It is a really nice cabin. I see his croc skull, chamois mount, more buffalo horns and deer antlers. Scott has done quite a lot of traveling and hunting for a common fellow. He hopes to travel to South Africa and hunt with a friend who is a PH there one of these years. He says he may even try being a PH there himself. Their backyard is the Mary River mowed down for a nice view. I wonder how I would feel about the kids running and playing in this area with snakes, spiders and crocs added to the list of dangers to keep Johnny, Reuben and Lydia safe from. It seems that the station kids survive somehow and learn to deal with the unique environment. Since there are only a couple snake bite fatalities annually and generally only a single croc fatality annually the kids must be kept safe somehow.
The day ends with a nice dinner and another rugby football game on TV. I feel like I may even be starting to understand the rules a little, but I am tired and have a lot to write about. With the days winding down I am feeling a bit bad about having to go home. I really love it here. Hope for a lucky day tomorrow. Will search most of the day for the wounded bull. I had hoped to see the stars, but the smoke has been covering the sky most of the week, and I am not sure that walking around in the dark staring up at the sky would be a very good idea with the wildlife underfoot all over the yard.
June 16, 2006 Friday
This is the last day of hunting. I slept very well despite the heat. It is at least dry so I don't sweat a lot. The bugs were all over my bed again last night, but I guess you learn to live with it. The sky is overcast. We drive around in the Toyota for 4 hours looking for signs of a limping bull or a body. It has been warm, so after 3 days the birds may have found the bloated carcass. We see several buffalo initially, and one of them is the largest we have seen on the hunt so far. This gets me thinking, as it is 50% larger than the cow I shot. I will likely not return here, and I would like for the trip to be completely successful, so maybe I better just get another big bull while I have the option. There are not many of these huge beasts roaming the streets of Eagan, MN. I tell Scott what I have decided and he is excited to be on the chase again.
We circle back around to go after the huge bull, but he and his companion have wandered off. We jump out and run up some rock piles to get a better look and see where they have gone. Incidentally I had read in my research prior to coming to Australia that rock piles are often the most snake infested areas encountered and the snakes are most likely to be aggressive here as they are near their homes among the rocks. The footing is terrible and the going very tough. At the top we see that the two bulls have wandered off to the north and are moving rapidly with no intention of stopping. The wind is wrong for us to run after them, and they are much to fast for us to catch on foot, the terrain being so rough. We let them go, but now I am excited again.
We will see the right bull sometime today. We have seen so many so far that I think today will be the day. It has to be since it is the last day. A Power Bar helps to keep me going and pumped up in the mid morning. I see a beautiful Rainbow Bee Eater bird. It is colored with all the brilliance of the rainbow as its name implies. I have never seen a bird so striking. It flits about and eventually disappears, but it was a real treat to watch it for a while. Scott says that this is the national bird for Australia, and they are found all over the country.
We return to the lodge for a Coke and a break before the afternoon session. A fuel rep stops by the camp to visit with Kevin about service by the fuel company. He is about 30 and from the city area down near Sydney. He is new to the area and the job. He apologizes for the cost, but otherwise the service is quite satisfactory. He has not had much of an opportunity to view wildlife and so he is enthralled with the station. He comments that getting out of his Toyota to open and close gates is a bit daunting due to his fear of snakes and charging buffalo.
There is time for a quick nap and then out again at 2:30. We drive in the Land Cruiser to a spot and walk along the Frances creek again. We have seen so may buffalo here that it seems a good spot to try. After 45 minutes of walking casually along the shore hoping to see a sunning croc, wallabee, pig or snake for the last time on this trip, I am surprised when Scott whispers to stop because he sees an exceptionally large buffalo bull. I am amazed. Scott estimates he is over 110 inches, nothing like I have seen yet. Much bigger. We creep closer low walking, crawling and stopping to glass with binoculars. My heart starts to pound. I had not had this happen yet on this trip, so I am glad to have not lost the excitement. The huge bull and a group of 4 others are grazing around a water hole. We get to 80 yards and the wind is perfect for us, but we can not really get much closer as the cover ends at the edge of the waterhole. Suddenly the water erupts on the far side of the pool and another huge bull emerges from the water where he was cooling off. He glistens black in the sun. His horns are not as big as the other, but he appears larger. Scott assures me that it is just the sun that makes hi m seem so big. At this point unfortunately the largest bull heads away from us leaving the wet bull and a very large companion bull. The choice is whether to try for the massive 110 inch monster and risk getting nothing if we spook them , or take one of the two remaining bulls across the pool from us. I decide to go for the largest remaining bull. He is certainly nothing to sneeze at being about 95 inches of horn on his head. I move as close to the edge of the camouflaging brush as I dare and take the range. He is broadside 57yards away. The wind is crossing 90 degrees between us and this will cause the arrow to drift to the left. I draw and carefully aim at his vitals. I then ease to the right to compensate for the wind and wait for him to open up his chest by moving his left leg forward. It seems to take forever with a 95 pound bow at full draw, but then it happens and I release the arrow. In slow motion it arcs toward the beast and there is a thud as it strikes the target. Unfortunately the wind blew it more than I expected and the shot is too far forward on the chest for a quick kill. The bull whirls around and looks for what caused him this tremendous pain. He is now 80 yards away and quartering towards me. I shoot again hitting him in the shoulder. The arrow buries itself two feet into the buffalo. This time it is a solid killing hit, but the monster whips around and begins to jog off. I ask Scott to cover me and give the bull a .416 round if necessary so we do not lose another animal. The bull runs and we sprint after it as fast as we dare. There is a ton of blood and it is a sure thing that he will go down soon. As dark is not to far away again, I have Scott shoot. The round strikes in the ass and the bull continues on, but is slowing. Scott shoots again and I angle in for another arrow at the side. He lays down, but his head remains up. He glares in our direction, and again we are in a vulnerable position for a charge. Luckily all the other members of the group have departed and he is left on his own. He struggles to his feet and tries to charge in our direction, but he is unable. He stumbles a few times but moves away again. I am able to hit him two more times in the side chest and the arrows bury themselves to the fletching. He falls again and we wait. I fire my last arrow into his side, but his massive chest continues to heave. Blood and gore are streaming out of him from 7 wounds, his mouth, nostrils and anus, but he is tough and has the will to live. It is obvious that he will not rise again, so Scott leaves me with the .416 and the last bullet. He goes back to get the truck before dark. I have only 1 chance left if he gathers the strength to charge or if other buffalo appear on the scene. I am tempted to fire once more to try to end the suffering, but doing so could potentially compromise my safety and confuse Scott about what is transpiring. I hold off and marvel at the size and will to live that the bull has. He has taken a tremendous amount of punishment and still is not dead. Nearly an hour passes before he finally lets his head drop to the ground. He tried to rise to get to me nearly 50 times, but could not do so. I toss a stick at him and he does not react, so I approach with the rifle aimed at his eye and touch him with the muzzle. He could not have no reaction when his eyeball was poked, so he is gone. I am ecstatic with the decision to take another animal.
This bull is a real mess. I try to pull out some arrows so he is safer to walk round without getting badly cut. The arrows are stuck in hard and will not come out without help from Scott. Scott returns with the truck after having worked his way around the swampy mud hole and we go to work cleaning up the buffalo. He is 50% larger than the cow in size and weight. He probably weighs around 3000 pounds and has huge horns that will score very well in the bow record book. For me it is a successful end to the hunt. The caping goes slower this time with the sheer bulk of the animal. Luckily we are able to use the winch from the truck to help out. I have Scott take lots of pictures. We then finish skinning and caping and head for the lodge. I have such respect for these animals and this can definitely be called a dangerous animal. For my first dangerous game safari I did OK. I made some mistakes, learned some lessons and accomplished my goal of adding Australia as my 4th continent to hunt and take game on. I have become more confident in my skills, equipment and weapons and have a great feeling of satisfaction at the outcome. The people were great, the facility was great, the game was abundant, and the size of the animals seen was good,. Scott was a great guide who hunted the ethical way and worked hard to help me accomplish one of my hunting goals.
As we ride back to the camp I reflect on all I have experienced in my short stay and am saddened that this is it. Tomorrow I will leave and probably never return. Now all I have is the memory, and of course the bills! One day of touring tomorrow and then back to the real world.
Scott compliments me on the way I handled myself in the ups and downs of the hunt, my ethics and hard work. He says I am the most "Fair Dinkum" hunter he has ever been with. I take this as a great compliment
Back at the camp I gather up my gear and pack it as tightly as possible for the long trip home. I visit with Kevin for a few minutes, pay my bill and eat dinner. It was an outstanding experience and well worth the cost. All the preparation paid off and I can thank Sarah again for letting me go off to the end of the world, take great risks and spend tons of money. It is more than just hanging furry animals on the wall. It is a challenge to seek out and pit myself against the game of the world. They can see better, smell better, hear better, sense better, have quicker reaction times, run faster and they know the environment. To be the predator on their turf is a real high. I can' figure how to explain it any more than that. Like they say, if you need it explained, you wouldn't understand anyway.
Dinner is rice, banana pudding, beef steak, banteng steak, buffalo steak and salad. The Coke has run out, the juice is special fresh squeezed only for breakfast, the water is not too good, the milk is stabilized for cooking only, so I try a Tookey's beer. It is awful and after a swig I can not stand any more. I will stick to Coke or water. Another game is on TV. After dinner Scott and Camille retire early.
Kevin and Carol are anxious to show me some videos of their crocodile hunting escapades. This is a real crazy situation to get into. Every so often in a year where the mangrove swamps up in the far North are real dry this type of hunting is possible. As the water recedes, the crocs become trapped in shallow pools and mud holes. They do not move around much and prepare for hibernation to await the return of the wet season to free them from the mud. The hunters stalk the swamps in search of slide marks in the mud indicating a croc has entered a pool. A long bamboo probe 12 feet or so is swished around the water to locate and infuriate the resident creature. Sometimes the croc reacts violently snapping at the pole and other times there is almost no reaction at all. The crocs know that they are trapped and out of their element. They need deep water to use their powerful tail for forward propulsion. In shallow water they are in trouble. This is why zoos have shallow water, to slow the animals down. The pole man positions the croc by prodding him and poking him to get him to move to the right spot. The shooter gets in a place where he is marginally safe from the tail, jaws and has good footing to try a brain shot at less than 10 feet. With a huge prehistoric reptile thrashing around you want the first shot to count. A couple of follow up shots ensure that the monster is not just stunned and then the real work begins. Reptiles with primitive nervous systems will thrash and twitch for hours even when dead, so being careful is a must. Handling a 15 foot 1000 pound crocodile while up to your waist in thick mud is not easy. A team of men loops a rope around the head and pulls the creature onto relatively solid ground. Again this takes some real doing. Human effort is the only available power. Skinning is also very difficult. On one of the last hunts everyone who came into contact with the croc became extremely ill from a bacterial infection. Kevin, Scott and the others were in the hospital in intensive care for a couple weeks with terrible infections. While all of this is only sort of legal, 500-600 culling permits are available each year to croc farmers who can sort of pass them out carefully to special friends. Nonresidents are not allowed to hunt or export the crocs, but this could change in the near future. If it does I would certainly love to give it a try. Why not risk my life tackling a 100 year old dinosaur in it's home swamp with bow and arrow. Kevin and Scott think it has never been done in Australia with archery. Why not be the first? Given the opportunity I would love it.
Friday June 17, 2006
I am exhausted and the memories try to flood my head, but I can't remain awake any longer. I succumb to sleep. We need to get up around 5AM for the trip tomorrow so I sleep a little light in the morning waiting for the wake up call. I dream that I hear a big diesel engine right outside and in the morning I find that indeed the huge hay road train has returned with another load of feed for the cattle. I jump out of bed eager to get under way. Breakfast is brief and we load Scott and Camille's Toyota with my gear. They comment that they have never had anyone pack so lightly. I had everything I needed and my clothes were washed when I needed them. Anything extra would have been useless. Even though I had two bows and only used one, the hunt would have been over if something happened to the primary weapon without a backup. The SKB double bow case weighs 38 pounds stuffed full of clothes and gear to protect the bows, and all I have in addition is a 20 pound carry on day pack. I could probably get by with a little less but who knew.
The ride out to the main road is a long one. It is about 20 miles and takes nearly an hour. The stream crossings are exciting and I strain for a last glimpse of the local fauna. I will really miss this place. It was a very special time that I hope to remember forever. If I come back it could ruin the memory, so I probably never will be back here again. Unless... the crocodile season opens up! But that is a different area altogether.
The morning is foggy and cool. The McClain's are bundled up and even I have on my light vest. The road is deserted and there is no sign of man or beast at all. At each low spot we come to there is a sign to show how deep the water is over the road if you need to cross and are not sure if your snorkel can cut it. Imagine I35 or I90 covered by water for up to 3 months of the year. This can be a lonely place with the only access being air or heavy truck equipped for water passage. Life must be slow in the wet season. I read a National Geographic article about it, but only being here could really convey the feeling. In addition to the snorkel signs, every pool of water and low spot has a croc warning sign. It advises not to swim in the water or clean fish there as you may be eaten by a monster reptile.
We come to the Mary River Road House, a gas station C-store just outside of Kakadu park. We use the restroom facility, but the store is not open yet to peruse the local trinkets and post cards. We come moments later to the entrance to the massive wild land park. We pause for a few pictures by the signs and then continue to the Yellow Water Billabong. . The Yellow water billabong is a tidal backwater of the Alligator River. There Camille has made reservations for a boat ride through the mangrove swamp to view wildlife. Camille and I board the pontoon boat while Scott stays in the car to study his helicopter flight manuals for an upcoming exam. The boat is packed with elderly travelers and young families. People assume we are together and congratulate us on our impending arrival. Camille thinks it is funny so she plays along. As we get started I immediately tune out the other people and drink in the wonder of the billabong. It is all swamp and the level is constantly changing based on the season, rainfall, monsoons and tidal action on the Mary River and Alligator River. The fellow who named the Alligator river was from the US and had just come from a surveying project in Florida. He assumed that the massive reptiles he saw were also alligators. No one corrected him, and since he drew the maps the name stayed.
There are dozens of crocs from 9-14 feet. They are lazy and used to the boats. They just lay on the bank or float slowly by as we pass. I get some real close up looks at the huge reptiles. I could almost touch some of them. It seems that keeping my hands in the boat is a better idea though. The plant growth is beautiful with mangrove, water lilies and many other plants I don't know. The area is lush, dense and the air is thick and humid. We see many species of birds, Snake necked fishers, Rainbow Bee Eaters, Thousands of migratory Magpie geese, Kingfishers, Jabirus, Sea Eagles, Kites and lots of others. Wild horses graze in the distance and buffalo drink from the water. I take some pictures, but they can not convey what I really saw. The boat ride is 2 hours long, but I could have stayed out all day and more.
We hurry back to the Toyota and drive to the next stop. We are taking a different route than I came in on with Kevin and Carol. It is more round about, but that is where the stuff to see is. The terrain does not change much. Apparently the park has lots to see, but we have little time. From the road it looks pretty homogeneous. All wet, green, hot, full of snakes and crocs. We see a few Kangaroos cross the road , but they do not linger. They can be a real danger for night driving, not to mention a huge buffalo. We pull into Jabiru for a quick lunch. This is the location of the Ranger Uranium Mine. There is not much to see, but we get a meat pie at the bakery to get us by.
A couple hours to the west we come to a visitor center high on a hill overlooking the vast flood plain. We stop and I wander through. there is a lot of information , mostly for kids, but history too. There are details of the farming efforts of the area including failed attempts to use convicts to grow rice. Buffalo are mostly gone due to brucellosis and TB eradication efforts of the 1980s and the land has gone back to the wild. The view is spectacular and I can see for miles. I look around at the plaques and signs, but I am becoming overwhelmed and exhausted from the trip. I wish I remembered more from this stop. Perhaps I will be able to find some of the information on the internet to add to this text.
Next we take a short drive to "The Spectacular Jumping Crocodiles Cruise". There is an 18 foot pontoon boat with a canopy to take excursions on the Mary River. While we wait for the boat to get ready under an awning I notice that there are several open top glass cases with various pythons in them. They are available to handle under supervision, but I recoil and politely decline. There are a number of photo books detailing the history of the Darwin area and crocodile lore. There was a huge croc that inhabited the area in 1914 called Sweetheart who was supposed to be over 6 meters long. It was killed after it tried to stalk people along the river bank. Many accounts of huge croc sightings, attacks on fisherman, boaters and hikers are detailed. For a period of time there were very few crocs and the water was almost safe enough to swim in. Some people tried it but eventually the crocs returned while being protected from hunting and people began to disappear. Hunters would routinely find human body parts in crocs they legally killed near public areas. With the return, the water became off limits to people again. A story told of a criminal gang killing of three Asian prostitute slaves, tying car batteries to their legs and tossing them off a bridge into the river. The perpetrators assumed that crocs would devour the evidence, but they were not in the mood for two legged food apparently as the women's bodies were found several weeks later by tourists on a croc sighting boat.
When it was time to board we all climbed excitedly into the boat. We were given unnecessary instructions to stay away from the edge of the boat. Upon leaving the moorings and starting out into the 200 yard wide river , crocs immediately began to swim towards us. The boat stopped and meat was attached to a string on a 12 foot bamboo pole. The crocs knew what to do, but had to be coaxed to jump out of the water. There is a lot of training to get them to perform this unnatural behavior. They can get 10 feet out of the water supported by their tail action. The crew can not feed them very much or they will be satisfied and not keep coming for more. A single large meal may take months to digest. If they fed them too much the cruise would be out of action. I was expecting a little more violent action, but it was definitely worth the trip.
One huge croc named Hannibal rules this stretch of the Mary River and swims over to investigate. It is rather ominous. This would be the time in a movie when they played the scary music. He is over 18 feet long. Longer than the boat which is 18 feet anyway. He is estimated to be 80-100 years old and over 1500 pounds. It is quite a sight. He is too lazy to jump, but they feed him a little anyway and are able to coax him onto the shore with some tasty buffalo ribs. He is enormous. His head is 5 feet long and 3 feet wide. There are holes in the top of his jaw where his bottom teeth have gone through. Being 2 feet from this massive armored monstrosity is a super thrill. I could have touched him or even climbed right on his back like the Croc Hunter goofball on TV. The pictures do not tell the story well enough at all.
After an hour and viewing of 20 -30 crocs feeding we return and feed kite birds in the air from the moving boat. The Kites are unique in that they swoop down, grab the meat in the air, transfer it to their beaks and swallow it in mid air. Most other raptors need to land to perform this feat. When the boat docks we head to the car and another 2 hours to Darwin. I am so tired now I can hardly sit up.

As we approach Darwin, the industrial parks, and suburbs ruin the natural beauty. It is a city just like everywhere else in the world. We head to the Crustacean on the waterfront. It was recommended by Kevin for excellent seafood. It is out on the pier, actually over the water. We sit out on the deck and the evening is cooling off nicely. There is a huge cattle boat riding at anchor waiting for a load of unfortunate beasts to bring to Indonesia or Japan. It is 500 feet long and has three huge open decks for the cattle to fill. There are a pair of rusted out hulks of illegal Indonesian fishing boats moored in the harbor as well. Some kids are water-skiing and diving off the pier. They are apparently oblivious to the danger of sharks and crocs in the area. Some sail boats head out with dinner parties on board.
I order the chili mud crab recommended by Kevin and it is awesome. It is 4-5 pounds with pincers as big as my fists. It is covered in hot chili sauce and will be a real chore to tear apart and devour. I have on nice clothes, but they provide an apron and some fiendish looking tools to crack the shell apart. I do my best and the crab could not be more delicious. It is fun to be here on the Indian Ocean staring at the brief sunset. Finally I get to see the beautiful stars in the night sky. There is the Southern Cross, Orion, and tons of others I do not know., The breeze is pleasant, cool temperature and good food. I am too busy to talk much, but I am sure they have had enough of me talking anyway. Too many questions and too much to say about everything. Oh well I was just excited.
Next stop is Mackers for a chocolate sundae for Camille. McDonalds are the same everywhere. Dropped off at the airport at 10PM and wait for the 130AM flight. I sleep almost the whole way and do not even recall the person I sat next to. Short wait at the Sydney airport for the long brutal flight home. I try to sleep almost the whole way exhausted from my adventure. I sit next to Lindsey Rogers, a pixie like 18 year old blonde girl from Sydney returning to UCLA to study theatre. She is a ditz and we have nothing in common to talk about. The flight attendants do their best, but the trip is long and cramped with 450 people on board.
LA customs is a breeze, with one officer very interested in hearing about the hunt. I am sure he likes to hear about exciting things that the travellers he sees everyday are up to in order to breakup his tedious job. I visit with him for 5 minutes and he is genuinely impressed with my adventure. I transfer to the flight to MSP, have an $11.00 Airport Whopper and try to rest on the final flight back home. Funny how it is now all over. There are a lot of angry travelers at the baggage claim when after an hour of waiting only I get my bow case. Everything else was left behind by belligerent ground personnel. At least I am lucky. Great to see Sarah and the kids, but the trip was too short. Maybe next time a couple months would be better.
PS In late June after I arrived home, Kevin hired a helicopter and pilot to round up cattle for 3 days. Several hours were devoted entirely to searching for the wounded bull. It was not located . During subsequent hunts the area was combed and no trace was found. On August 24, 2006 I received an email from Kevin indicating that the bull had been found. It was under thick brush in a ravine very near the area where we lost track of it on the night I shot it. The carcass was covered and inaccessible from the air. Dingoes had been at it. The broken arrow and broadhead were in the chest and through the ribcage. The body was pretty well mummified and all meat and organs were gone. The skin and bones remained. Though belatedly, I am glad to have found the animal. It must have holed up in the ravine under cover, stiffened up and died the night it was shot. Being in such thick cover we searched all around it, but could not see it. Funny that they never smelled it though. Whatever the case, a replacement cape, the skull and horns are USA bound in the next couple weeks. I will have quite a South Pacific display coming to the trophy room. I have since received the skulls of all the other animals and have them laid out on the floor with the other mounts. The large bull will certainly be one the most intimidating displays in the room.