Issue 31 January 2022

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Getting the Goat

Mark van den Boogart is after a Billie Down Under.

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Shooting|December 2021

Like pigs, Feral goats are the progeny of released domestic stock that have gone wild. Goats are prolific breeders and can live in just about any environment. In fact, they are so hardy that during drought, many farmers begin to muster up wild goats to sell as meat stock, rather than try to maintain large sheep herds.

Hunting goats in itself is not too difficult, it is the terrain that often proves the challenge. I have taken Goats with a variety of calibres, however as goats and pigs sometimes share the same habitat, I load for pigs when in pursuit of goats.

Simon’s success. Moving along the high side of the dry creek we suddenly heard barking and then the bleating of goats. As we were the only registered hunters in the forest we pulled up and had a good hard listen. Sure enough there was a dog about, though we didn’t know exactly what kind of dog, or if it was alone.

After giving the whole area a thorough study with our binoculars, we sat still and continued to listen. As the sounds began to wane, we assumed the dog was driving the goats away, rather than towards us.

With nothing much to see, we stayed put a until it was all quiet. It was all a bit of a mystery and as we were close to a known boundary line, we just wrote it off as one of those things that happen when you’re out hunting.

Turning into the wind we made our way up a small incline with the intention of moving up and over the hill and into another creek system. About 30 minutes later as we neared the top we encountered very fresh sign, and a good whiff of goat. With Simon to my right and Darcy and Tim to my left we were well spread out but still visible to each thanks to the blaze orange.

I couldn’t see his target, though he sure could and so I watched him fire

Coming to a small rock outcrop Simon and I moved a little more to the right, while Tim and Darcy continued on along the well-used game trail. With my attention drawn to some very fresh sign, I caught movement and saw Simon readying to fire. I couldn’t see his target, though he sure could and so I watched him fire once and then again. Almost immediately he was off, so I followed.

Not seeing anything other than rocks, trees and scrub Simon finally spoke, yelling there’s a bolter up front, however it was all just polite conversation as I was unable to see any game. I yelled back, go for it, still unable to identify a target. Just as quickly as it had started it was over and with the footfalls of Tim and Darcy behind me, we approached Simon, who was still standing with rifle pointed down.

Waving us over we immediately saw two goats on the ground. Piled almost on top of each other they were a little further to the right and below my eye line, which explained why I hadn’t spotted them.

While grinning from ear to ear Simon told us was these were the first goats he had spotted and successfully taken by himself after almost four years of hunting together, which I think was an none too gentle dig at the quick draws amongst our crew, me being the main offender.

Making the experience even more memorable for Simon was the fact he had taken the animals with his newly acquired Ruger bolt action in .44mag. With its short barrel, open sights and pistol ammo his two cleanly killed goats taken on the run amongst very thick scrub was a testament to some real first class shooting of his part. And when you consider he didn’t let on about the goats until he had two on the ground, well, he’d certainly learnt a trick or two along the way.

You mean like them goats. It was early December, and we were hunting ‘the Pilliga’ a 320,000 acre expanse of hard bit, public land paradise.

The Pilliga is tough country. The days are long, it’s hot, dusty, and dry except when it’s in flood. It’s also prone to violent Summer storms that require you to go looking for your tent after they have passed through.

Our camp was about 35 kilometres directly west of the highway, putting us right in the middle of the action. After the first couple of days we already had plenty of goat meat on ice, a good bush trophy boiling away and a heap of great hunting photos. We had even managed to locate, at least fleetingly, pigs.

it's sometimes quicker to head out to the highway and scoot along the blacktop

Because of its sheer size, you have to approach the Pilliga a little differently. For instance, if you are hunting around the centre of the forest and decide to go check out a boundary line, its sometimes quicker to head out to the highway and scoot along the blacktop to another entry point rather than cut cross country.

On one such run Darcy and I reached the highway and turned South for a quick 20 minute blast down the road towards a southern entry gate.

Along the way we passed a full, high water dam. On seeing the wet stuff Darcy said something along the lines of I reckon there are a few goats around here.

Turning to look, I thought yeah you’re probably right. Turning back about 30 seconds later I spotted one of those fantastic signs that inform you that you are travelling along a Declared Hunting Area.

The sign was set high in a tree, and looking over my eyes were drawn to the two goats grazing at the base od said tree. Casually pointing to the goats I replied to Darcy, you mean like them goats? Darcy turned to me and just shook his head. We continued on and left them well enough alone, though to this day we can’t figure out how they managed to get that sign in place without scaring them off.

A public land prize. We were cutting a track through new country and after a fruitless search decided to stop for lunch. I was hunting with Tim and soon enough Darcy and Simon joined us at a predetermined rest point. We were a long way from camp so we decided on making a slow and winding turn towards home.

Travelling in two vehicles we had a decent supply of water, which was a good thing as the heat was up and every small excursion was hard work. On one such excursion Tim caught movement about 50 metres away from the vehicles. I soon spotted it too, a couple of juvenile goats moving away from us at a good clip.

As I watched them move, I looked over and saw Tim and Darcy head off after them, while Simon turned back towards the track in case a goat or two tried to double back.

Moving a little further into the scrub I spotted a black Nannie. The goat was close and had been well camouflaged by the shadows, however it was the big Billie next to her that really got my attention. He was about to slip away and offering a classic broadside I aimed and fired.

With the Billie on the ground, it was obvious he a big animal with an impressive horn spread, though I wouldn’t know for sure until we got him back to camp.

The others, led by Tim managed to take another two goats, so we all worked together to drag all the animals back to the track. Looking over the Billie we all knew I had managed to take something special. As luck would have it, I’d forgotten my tape, so it wasn’t until the following Sunday that I managed to get a measure on him. It turned out he carried a 36inch spread, which is trophy class enough for me.

 

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Shooting|December 2021

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