Sinking a Ship of the Desert.

Stephen Barnes in pursuit of a camel.

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Shooting|August 2022

Having set a lofty goal of shooting 52 English shotgun makers in my 60th year, I also wanted to make it a memorable experience.

Previously I've been fortunate to stalk all the Deer species of Australia, hunt big game here & abroad, diverse Waterfowling, & eradication shooting. My thinking went towards bagging diversity of species rather than slaughtering great numbers of any one or two species, a CHALLENGING prospect.

So as the goal developed, my thinking was how do I measure a successful 60th year hunt with the 52 English 12bore shotgun makers?
The 2nd lofty goal was set at 52 species bagged in 52 weeks with 52 English shotgun makers, an average of one species per week if this could be achieved?

Whilst a year seems to be a long time, this gave little allowance for sickness, mechanical breakdowns, delays in shotguns arriving, or finances! In late February 2019 I started making plans to visit my Djaru friend 'Lyle' in Mulan to hunt Dromedaries AKA 'Camels' on the edges of Tanami & Great Sandy Deserts.

It's little known that Dromedaries (Camelus Dromedarius) were indigenous to Africa where they inhabited the Sahara Desert and sub Saharan regions. The Tanami Desert area is where the Canning Stock Route goes past Lake Gregory of 5,000 Sq K's of Paleolake bed, longest droving stock route in the world!

A number of people have perished in this region during my lifetime, with the best of equipment & modern four wheel drives available.
So preparations to enter this inhospitable land is CRITICAL, bog treads, compressor for reinflating tyres, Epirb, Sat phone, axe and shovel, esky with food and water, and extra water for one week!

I've subscribed for many years to the 'Boy Scouts' motto, 'Be Prepared!' I had my own bed, a swag, digital camera, a spare gun "Parker' retailed by Australian gun dealer James Rosier of Melbourne.

The drive out after Saturday morning work to Mulan was complicated by me not recognising the '3 ways' and continuing onto the Balgo Community turnoff, where I turned southwards off the Tanami dirt Hwy.

In Balgo a quick enquirey revealed the connector road to Mulan, signage in the outback is scarce & mostly non-existent.  A 20-25 minute drive saw me entering Mulan & once again an enquiry led me to Lyle's wife's (Tiffany) house at the southern end of township.
Both Lyle and I enjoy coffee, so we had coffee and a bite to eat prior to heading out into the Tanami Desert.

A resounding WHACK told of a solid hit and the bull immediately departed

We had a fruitful hunt but not on the target species of Dromedary, I did see at night 'Spinifex Hopping Mouse' for the first time in my life, it was timid but approachable with caution & I regret not photographing it. That evening at Tiffany's house we had a good feed, mainly meat from the days hunt and hit the sack early so we could have an early start Sunday morning and be into the hunting field early.

A quick breakfast/coffee and we were off into the Desert and having only travelled about 5 k's (3 miles) we came across a big Dromedary Bull in breeding mode and frothing at the mouth. I didn't have the Westley Richards 'Explorer' ready, but this was immediately rectified and I endeavoured to maneuver the Toyota nearer to get a shot in.

The Dromedary Bull being in an excited state (no cows around) kept moving OFF! We were gradually covering country and Lyle warned me that loose sand dunes were coming up soon! I changed tactics and drove at a shallow angle past the bull and he stood intently watching us until we were approx 90 metres from him.

I knew I had to take the shot offered and reluctantly carefully lined him up with the 'Explora' high behind the shoulder at the start of the hump and fired hoping to slow him down. A resounding WHACK told of a solid hit and the bull immediately departed now on the run, which we followed without chasing and after about 60 metres his legs started flicking out sideways.

Another 20 metres, about 80 metres from being shot he collapsed, and we approached quietly and testing his eye was stone dead. A 90 metre shot for one shot kill demonstrated the Explora's potential. As the Bull was on his side I used a snatchem strap to pull him upright with the Toyota Troopcarrier and Lyle took some photo's for the J. Rigby diaries.

Lyle helped me to cut the bull's head off for saving the skull, & then we cut some meat off for the dogs back in camp, during this we recovered the 735gn projectile hard on the skin of the offside.

Upon returning to camp and unloading the meat, Lyle suggested we try some of the fresh Dromedary meat, and found it to be quite GOOD!
Thinly sliced and fried in a pan with onions & tomato, it was much better than either of us had expected, so much so Lyle contemplated going back and boning the bull out.

Mid afternoon I repacked the Toyota Troopcarrier and after another coffee departed from Mulan to Halls Creek in daylight. The return trip with a hand drawn map ensured that I had a direct and uneventful journey home.

Burying the Dromedary Bull skull at home was a priority and completed that night prior to cleanup. Cleaning the guns, esky and equipment was also completed before I showered & had dinner.

My ASPIRATIONAL 52 English 12-bore shotgun shoot was turning out to be very rewarding.

Published by Vintage Guns Ltd on

Shooting|August 2022

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