A not-so-exotic sheep hunt.
Mike Solomon, “Solo” to his mates is a maintenance electrician who likes the Aussie bush. Through a series of coincidences, I met Solo over the telephone and was invited to his 350 acre unfenced property for a goat hunt. No monster trophies, but the opportunity for a long walk, a tough hunt and a cooler box full of meat if I did my bit right. It was also an opportunity to create opportunities – you never know what you’ll find when you get out into the bush.
I drove five hours to a tiny little town ship in the south west – 3am to 8am – and met Solo as he walked out of his cabin with a mug in hand. “You must be Dan? I’m Solo.” He shook my hand as he motioned for me to follow him back inside. “You want a coffee?”
We sat on the doorstep overlooking some rough country. Steep ranges, heavily timbered, loose shale, granite outcrops. Mike and I talked for two hours. Turns out he has a 350 acre ‘farmlet’ that was an island within an 8,500 acre property with 11 kilometres of river frontage. There was no arable land on this block. It was unfenced. The property of an absentee landholder, a wealthy fellow had bought it to create his own little nature conservancy. Turns out that with Solo as “the Gatekeeper”, hunters were allowed access to help control the not so insignificant feral animal population.
Solo drew a map in the dirt and I headed of into the hills. I would leave the Toyota on one of the saddles and then go for a walk with the .300 Weatherby. As I got my gear ready I recalled Solo’s words when I asked about what was about for a hunter: “feral goats and sheep, some pigs – and rabbits and foxes as well; there’s wild cattle getting about too. They all have to go.” I would look for a trophy, but take meat if the opportunity presented itself – and I would focus on the small mobs of feral sheep first, then look for the big herds of feral goats if I struck out this morning.
After a couple of kilometres, I spotted some movement on the opposite face. A quick look through the Steiners and I picked out a mob of some 20 feral sheep. I worked out a plan to approach along the opposite ridge and come down on the animals from above. It was all going well until they got a bit suspicious and started to move off. It had been a long stalk so I chose to press on and hoped an opportunity would present itself. I had glassed the mob on my approach and knew that this was a mixed herd of Merino and Border Leicester origin. There were no rams and some of the ewes looked massive with their enormous fleece dragging along the ground.
I followed the mob, staying well above them. Each time they stopped they would look back up the slope in my direction; they knew there was trouble about. The next time they stopped I dropped to the ground and raised the rifle across my knees. A meaty looking ewe was clear of the other animals and standing conveniently in a nice shooting alley. At 200 yards the 180gr Woodleigh protected Point knocked the animal off its feet. The ewe rolled down the hill and came to rest amongst some fallen timber. The other animals paused for a minute before bouncing off down the steep incline into the heavily timbered gullies below.
The shot was placed well behind the shoulder to minimised meat damage. With my favourite skinning knife, word down through years of sharpening to a spike some 3” long and ¼” wide, I knocked of the shoulders and hindquarters. Unfortunately the steep incline meant that the bullet had bruised the back straps heavily. I strung the meat onto a dry hardwood pole I found and started trudging up the loose slope back to the vehicle a few kilometres away.
I spent the afternoon glassing the Lachlan River and spotted 70 or so goats in various herds as well as a group of seven wild cattle. I also looked over another mob of sheep in some heavy timber, but it was too thick to have a good look at them. There has to be a good ram out in those hills...
Reckon I’ll be going back shortly.