Trophy with a twist

Chris Redlich

With words of reassurance in my wife’s ear, she prepared herself for the shot. When the chosen goat stood up she was to take it cleanly with a broadside shot through his shoulder. The mob of bedded-down goats started to stir and just as Sue-Ann began to place her finger on the trigger, the animals were off in a hurry and her shot was blocked by another goat. A few wallabies bounding in from the opposite direction was all it took to spook the goats from their sleep in the shade under a large bull oak tree.

Moments earlier we had just finished a stalk to within 100m of the goats. Myself and the family were out exploring the back blocks of a remote western Queensland property when a mob of big billy goats caught our attention. I glassed them and made the assessment they would be worth investigating. Most of the goats had above average horn size and some of trophy potential. My wife grabbed her custom Savage Weather Warrior in 7mm-08 Rem and off we went. The children made use of the shade while we took off in the direction of the goats. The billies appeared to be on a mission and weren’t hanging around for introductions. We used the tree line near the ute to our advantage before we advanced over approximately 400m of open ground.

It was mid-afternoon and we were well lit by the afternoon sun. We kept a low profile, walking in and out of deep melon holes and using the odd dead tree for cover until we made our way to a long strip of pulled timber. Thankfully, we arrived undetected and used the timber to close the gap towards the direction of the unsuspecting goats. We found a comfortable firing position along a log with another to sit on. Using the binos to assess the billies’ trophy potential, we discovered an unusual goat in the mob, worth a closer look. After some careful glassing, my wife made her mind up that a big billy with a full curl on his right-hand horn, like a Merino ram, was a unique trophy worth taking, especially for a first.

Well, the wallabies succeeded in blowing the hunt that afternoon and although we attempted to follow the goats for some distance we just couldn’t work our way to within a safe shooting range. We had come so close but it wasn’t to be. Back to the ute and back to the drawing board. My wife was now bitten by the trophy bug and she wanted that goat for taxidermy. This was day one of our western hunt on the September school holidays and little did we know at the time how elusive this billy was going to become. With the last of the day’s light beginning to disappear, we took the long way home via a few water points to possibly catch another glimpse of the big billy goat’s whereabouts to no avail.

Sue-Ann and Rachel spent some mother and daughter time on day two, unsuccessfully attempting to track down the Merino lookalike. The bulky billy had left an impression on Sue-Ann and she really wanted to find it. After a few hours of spotting, stalking and glassing they returned empty-handed. The following day, Carl and I explored a long section of dry bore drain, known for holding some pigs. Although we saw plenty of sign, we didn’t spy a single pig.

The next morning Carl and I departed bright and early on bikes, to ease our sore feet. We explored the reverse of our travels the day before along the bore drain and to our surprise stirred a large black boar from his bed. He took off before we could drop him. A little later a mob of goats caught our attention as we rounded the bend on approach to a remote water trough. I raised my trusty Leupolds and within a few seconds picked out Sue-Ann’s billy.

With the goat now located, we returned to tell Sue-Ann the good news. She didn’t need to be told twice and we all departed in the ute. Due to the lay of the land I decided to approach the water point from a different direction with high ground advantage to glass from. The ute was kept out of sight under the shade of a tree, as we glassed the water trough. No goats! They had vanished in such a short space of time. This big billy was really giving us the slip but we departed from the vehicle for a hunt on foot. I couldn’t make out the direction of the goats’ footprints as they had been coming and going from all over the place and any signs of scat had soon dried up in the heat. Back to the Hilux and off we travelled for a vehicle mounted look. We searched slowly and quietly along many of the cattle trails and maintenance tracks and although plenty of goats were sighted, they were not the mob we were chasing.

The day was coming to a close and we began heading for home. Remaining vigilant with our travels, we spotted movement among the scrub. There were some big goats in this mob and although we didn’t find the Merino billy, we spotted a goat worthy of a trophy for Sue-Ann to hunt. She grabbed her 7mm-08 Rem and I brought my .284 Win for back up. The scrub was perfect to mask our advances and the wind was well and truly in our favour. As we closed the gap to the mob, straight away, I noticed a nice billy with a great skin to stalk. They were on the move and we did all we could to stay close enough to them for a comfortable shot. Just as we rested behind a tree branch they took off again until stopping momentarily under the shade of a large Sandalwood.

From about 100m, Sue-Ann steadied her rifle and fired at the goat. He fell in an instant to a single shot of a 140-grain Nosler Ballistic Tip to the heart. The others dispersed and we made our way over to my wife’s first trophy. Just as we arrived at the fallen goat, we noticed another mob making its way through the scrub towards us, unaware of the shot just fired. Without even picking up the binos we spotted the twisted horn billy in the mob. At a distance, no more than 100m, they moved ‘in and out’ of cover. We prepared ourselves behind a log for another shot but they became spooked and departed the area.

We would need to follow them at a safe distance but stay out of sight. They entered a heavily timbered patch of scrub but I could make out their position by the small cloud of dust overhead. We broke out of the tree line and the goats were still on the move and not slowing down.

We closed the gap enough for Sue-Ann to take a shot. Before the goats could disappear from us again she fired at the moving billy at 125m. The shot was true as the goat dropped from a double lung shot. With that, the excitement of her hard-won, unique representative billy overtook the pain of her exhaustion. She was excited, but now as the sun was setting, we had a lot of work to do. After many photos to capture the moment we caped the goat and removed the horns in the dark. The children pitched in and helped by holding the torches.

Before we left I bagged a curious fox with my .284 Win, as the pest was keen on cleaning up the remains. Later that night we laughed at the antics during the hunt but also reflected on how hard we really hunted the goat. It took us four days, but persistence paid off in the end. We were rewarded with a wonderful trophy for Sue-Ann that she will never forget. “That’s what real hunting is all about,” I said.

To our disappointment we couldn’t find the first billy of the afternoon’s hunt in the dark and had to wait until morning. The next day we found him but had lost the opportunity to take his beautiful skin. The horns didn’t go to waste and we removed them for a shield mount. This was our last day at the property and we packed up for home. The property owner remarked how they had never before seen such a curled set of goat horns. Upon our departure they said we were welcome back again whenever we would like. We gratefully accepted and pointed the ute for home with great memories of our few days away as a family.

Read the full second edition of Australian Women’s Shooter here:

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