I'd been having discussions for some time with my Aboriginal friend Lyle, about a desert expedition to a rarely seen "Djaru" rock art gallery. It turned into a bit of an adventure.
Planning started in early December 2021 and, with impending rains they needed to be executed quickly. So, the third week of December saw preparations already in full swing, charged-up satellite phone, solid state engine starter, mobile phone, etc, all in my emergency bag with muesli bars, chicken, salt and cigarette lighters.
We packed in 4 X 14 ply spare wheels, this region is notorious for staking tyres & Lyle insisted we needed 4 spares for security. Next, we packed in two sets of bog treads, shovel, axe, toolbox, extra water & lots of fruit. (Bushman repellent 40% DEET, doubles as engine start!)
We carry three eskies with ice in frozen two litre bottles which, once melted, is backup drinking water. With temperatures hitting 47 degrees centigrade, you NEED to drink a lot!
I also packed in my swag just in case we had to camp out due to uncontrollable circumstances, which has a mosquito net in a bed roll. In this region, Ross River & Barmah Forest viruses, plus Murray Valley encephalitis & Kunjin virus occur and are nasty diseases!
First Aid box with athletes bandage strapping for pressure binding should snake bite occur. (this grips onto itself & doesn't work loose)
Day pack with water bottles, knife kit, torch, toilet paper, rope, cigarette lighter, plastic bags, Rid repellent, athletes bandage & measuring tape also made the cut.
I carry two jacks, mechanical & hydraulic, plus a heavy duty hardwood base for jacking on sand. (Deserts are unforgiving & many have perished).
Hardware was my trusted Anschutz 22 WMR, Thomas Woodward 12 bore & Westley Richards 'Explora,' 12 bore with associated ammunition. Early rise at 2.30 Sunday morning, 19th December and we packed & departed by 3.30 driving east on the Duncan highway. (corrugated dirt road in reality).
At 4.20am we got pulled up by WA Police near Fox River for Covid19 border controls & advised NOT going over border into NT where positive cases occur. We reached Ringers Soak turnoff at sunrise and headed southwards arriving at Lyles just before 6am. After waking Lyle up and grabbing a quick coffee and feed, we were on the road to Browns Range minesite.
Once we left the Browns Range mine road we were on ungraded road for an estimated sixty kilometres of stake ridden country, tens of thousands!!! (120 k's return). Engaged the front hubs; rain the previous night had cooled the country down and this morning was overcast and comfortable traveling- although slow and often in first gear.
We had no GPS or coordinates, just a tribal warrior and a gudiya (white man) friend navigating this approx 100 year old track. (Lyle has a sense of his location and knew where to turn). Others had endeavoured this journey earlier in the year & gave up with the overgrown track where it was often easier to drive thru virgin bush.
Mid morning saw us out of the thick bush & onto the plains heading east to the "Djaru" rock art gallery, passing many scrub bull scrapes.
As we approached the range we could see wild cattle ahead & we approached them barely above idle in 2nd gear, they were unperturbed by our presence.
I saw a wild Brahman bull (typical grey) but young and Lyle wanted it left, so we drove past the bulk of herd, going up into the valley.
I was still focussed on the milling cattle on my right when Lyle said "look at that big bull on the left", one look was enough.
I stopped with engine running & exited with Explora around the rear of the Toyota troop carrier, the black Brahman bull was keen on two cows coming to the rest of herd.
He propped up about twenty metres distant and as he turned side on I shot him just behind the left shoulder joint, whereupon he broke into a run, I gave him the second barrel at about 35 metres.
His run only went about 100 metres before he bailed up. Lyle wanted a young cow for kitchen meat and we were distracted for some time looking for one, then returned to where I last saw the Brahman bull buthe was nowhere to be found. I went back & picked up his tracks going west and just as I lost the track again I heard a choking gurgle from over by the river.
Just as I abandoned the tracks & headed in that direction a crow flew into a tree on the river bank, a very good second sign the Brahman bull was near. As I broached the flat over the river bank I saw the grand old bull collapsed right on the river bank edge, he was mortally wounded and couldn't jump down.
tried a branch to move the projectile as on the previous hunt, no good as it had been pushed into the rifling!!!
I went to fire a final killing shot, and the 'Explora" went POOF again!!! A replicated firing problem and another blocked barrel!! I noted the second running shot was on the shoulder; practice makes perfect!
As the Brahman bull had expired, I tried a branch to move the projectile as on the previous hunt, no good as it had been pushed into the rifling!!! This was more serious, so I got the Toyota mechanical jack shank & wrapped the end in toilet paper to keep off the bore, removed forend & stock.
I then placed the breach end onto the leather axe cover & I held the jack shank central & Lyle gently tapped the end with the side of the axe head. It dislodged from the rifling & down the bore back to chamber and exited onto the leather, projectile, wad & unburned powder. ( I believe the projectile lubricant corrupted the powder).
We took the obligatory photo's, then started to cut-off the head but too precarious on bank edge & pulled up onto the flat using a snatchem strap with the Toyota. With the bull in shade, we finished removing the head and boned-out the meat into the 100 litre esky for dog meat.
This was the 61st species bagged in my 'English 12 bore shoot' with seventy gun makers featured thus far.
We drove as far as possible up the valley, had a 4x4 drive through three creeks and then had to walk the last kilometre to the "Djaru" rock art gallery. It was a wonderful experience to see the environment of yesterday's stone age hunters as a privileged 21st century hunter. I was so grateful.
It was so hot (47deg C +) on the walk out Lyle had to stand periodically on bunched leaves to cool his feet & avoid blistering. We had a uneventful exit from this remotest of remote desert country and arrived back into Ringers Soak without a flat tyre, REMARKABLE!
A few stats to finish the story: head wieghed in at 39kg or 83 lbs, horns 101cm or 39.75" wide, boss's 29cm or 11.375", left horn 43cm or 16.875" and right horn 42cm or 16.5".
The estimated weight of this, the best wild Brahman bull I've ever seen is around 1,100 kilo's and the hump was about 20cm or 8" tall. In closing, two lessons I've learned with the 'Explora' are:
(1) Don't aim over your target.
(2) Lead like shooting a flying bird.
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