Old Boys Rendezvous

By David Luxford

First printed in The Australian Archery Journal, Edition No 12 1993 © Australian Bowhunters Journal Pty Limited

Most hunts I look forward to with a fair degree of excitement. Not to the extent of my earlier years when the night before would be a haunting experience filled with dreams and anticipation of record class Most hunts I look forward to with a fair degree of excitement. Not to the extent of my earlier years when the night before would be a haunting experience filled with dreams and anticipation of record class trophies by the score, but I knew this hunt would be one of my most enjoyable.

"The old boys rendezvous" was one trip that couldn't fail, game or not, rain, sunshine or blizzard, it would be of no consequence. Bill Baker and I had organised a farewell hunt in the mountains dividing N.S.W. from the Mexican elements before he headed North for an indefinite time.

Bill Baker giving the thumbs up
after he finally got his trophy goat.

I had waited for an hour at the turn off, admiring the scenery across Mt. Feather Top when a cloud of dust appeared on the horizon and eventually from it emerged Bill's familiar figure and his warm handshake.

Bill had selected the campsite beside a crystal clear mountain river of unspoilt and ageless beauty. If only it could stay as it is. We discussed the possibility of this scenario for some time and both came to the conclusion that as self appointed caretakers we would endeavour to make annual inspections and conduct studies of the Flora and Fauna in this area.

From our camp we could see well into the gorge and as the last of the daylight rays vanished we scanned in haste hoping for a positive start for the morning. From previous experience we knew the ascent to the top of the gorge was more than a trying experience and could only hope for a cool start to the day.

As it turned out it was not and by the time we had crossed the river and climbed the first terrace both our hats were off and our eyes burning with sweat indicating that we were both in peak condition. By the time our estimated hour climb moved into two hours and we crossed the top we were both in need of a good spell. As the terrain flattened our enthusiasm increased in the hope of locating some poor unsuspecting goat feeding below in one of the many patches of briar and blackberries.

We moved along for sometime having a quite chat about where we expected to see some visible sign of goats. After three feed stops and what seemed like hours of glassing, Bill suggested an assault on a long gully. The head of which vanished into the blue haze of the mountains. It was defiantly a spot that looked interesting, however I felt Bill was more interested to see if it held any Sambar.

By the time we moved from our high vantage point down into the gully then saddled along and crossed a small spur and into the head of this superb gully I was totally out of go. I sat beside a small almost stagnant creek, brushed the slime to one side and moistened my lips and immersed my head. I was exhausted, worn out, pooped.

To revitalise and re-energise is an important aspect of hunting, I have found if you neglect your condition to long, "drink it till it hurts" coke.

Whilst sitting thinking of my dilemma Bill had began to whistle for a fox. He was positioned only a yard or two in front of me. My energy system was out cold and as I sat and watched this woodsman. I felt guilty for not picking up my bow and showing some enthusiasm. When bugger me dead a fox scampered down amongst the tussocks to the left side of Bill and sat eyes fixed as Bill moved his bow the fox slowly bounded over these silvery grasses, quiet and undisturbed by our presences. Coming to draw and leading the fox Bill drove an arrow with Persian accuracy straight onto a large woody butt tree, such a shot.

With the minor distraction our minds and bodies were in fine spirits to investigate the head of Bills sambar gully. I went up while Bill fossicked for a sign amongst the tree ferns. The gully was unique to the area, open timber and lush tussocks and tree ferns and it was not difficult to imagine two Red Stags parallelling their challenge before engaging in combat. We moved up and up till eventually crossing a saddle that would take us right into the backwoods of another gully. Bill was keen to investigate.

The expectations of finding what we were looking for on crossing to the other side was soon dismissed as we battled to find direction in 20 metres of Dogwood, and once free stood silently on one of the most arid, God forsaken ridges I had been on for sometime.

David is most please with the cape of this large billy.

As we poked along I felt Bill had lost a bit of heart and hope of finding these critters. I had moved down crossing the dry creek and up another spur agreeing to meet Bill further down the creek but the further I went up the thought of returning to the bottom lost all its appeal. I coo-eed a couple of times hoping to indicate to Bill my intentions.

On reaching my way to the top I sat and pondered my route down through the gorge to camp and a can of coke. As I picked my way down I saw on he other side some white dots. We had walked right past them in the morning. I sat and watched and there was nothing of value lower hoping there may be more below, amongst the cascades of briars and Blackberries.

The occasional bleat is a dead give away and I moved into see what was available, but was distracted by movement and trees thrashing around. Three good Billies were standing by themselves on a rock face amongst some wattle. I backed off moving in high above them praying for the wind to remain constant. The largest of the group was staring to feed down directly below me at about 35-40 metres. I must get closer was my first reaction, then my mind seemed clear, I can take him out from where I stand I thought. I pulled back, aimed centre of his back, released and watched the flight of the arrow disappear behind his right shoulder angling down. As I sat down I was more the satisfied that the shot would be fatal in minutes and quite confident this trophy was mine. Although determined not to get cocky as I have lost game before that I thought I had on the wall.

I am now a strong believer of an ancient Scottish hunting ritual that guarantees ownership of game. By carefully removing the scrotum with testicles enclosed then throwing them over your left shoulder whilst saying out loud in a strong Scottish voice" Aye ya won't be needing these no more."

I had deliberately refrained from saying too much attention to his horns it was clear to see they where more than reasonable. My concern had turned to the amount of blood loss and lack of apparent penetration from the four blade Bear Grizzly. He seemed content to lay down and stumbled badly twice on trying to get up. I was sure he was out, but after an hour he got up, staggered towards me. A rush of panic was coming over me, my confident state of mind had fallen through my boots and into the sewer. Hell it couldn't be, my worst nightmare was happening. As he approached my position of concealment I was shaking like a leaf, I stepped out to take him in a quartering away shot but as I stepped out was confronted by a goat watching me as well as an armful of obstructions. I had blown the most important shot.

He bolted as fast as his would allow and then stood directly below me at 35 metres in an identical position to the previous shot. Amongst the panic I took steady aim, fired and watched the arrow fly directly over his head, the line was good but my concentration had been distracted as the goat was throwing its head from side to side. As the arrow whistled passed its ear by no more than an inch and rattled on the rocks below my trophy found a suitable escape route.

I felt sick, called myself every conceivable name possible and thought this is not happening please don't let it happen. I scrambled high above the direction in which my goat had moved trying to keep aim in sight while staying concealed myself.

I doubted the goat was aware of my presence until a twig snapped under my foot turning the goats attention to me. From then he appeared to develop a third power and although unsteady on his feet powered off contouring and picking his way down the gorge. At this stage I gave myself a 10% chance recovering my trophy.

I was curious as to what damage the broad head was doing with every step the goat took. He had struggled down and tried to power over a small out crop, but collapsed mid stream, sat up and regained his composure. Light was fading fast and I had been on the trail for about two and a half hours and had no more than 20 minutes to secure the trophy. I travelled down as quick as possible throwing some caution to the wind in an effort to close the gap. The wild animals will to live should never be underestimated and although the goats health was deteriorating with every step he was determined to keep going.

We played our cat and mouse game until I was determined only to take a good clear final shot as a miss would defiantly mean good bye trophy. He started to slowly go round a small out crop of rock, it was my only opportunity I ran as quick and as quiet as possible in the hope of intercepting him. I came out right on top of him. He was looking down, light had fallen away to nothing, I could make out his shape laying down about 40 -50 metres in front of me amongst some foliage. There was no choice, I had to take the shot now. I steadied and fired, I couldn't see any arrow flight but heard the sounds of good placement. He rolled 5 metres amongst some rock and briar, stone cold. The caping out job was my quickest on record. After packing the cape and organising myself I broke up over the top of the gorge and back to an easy trail, as I marched along in the moonlight a drift of camp fire smoke told of Bill's presence back at base.

My return was the definition of mateship and our plan and assault for the following morning was under way Bill shouted the round after measuring my head at 34 and a half spread. Douglas score 11 3/8". A record class goat. Bill was re-energised. We ate, drank and talked until late. The morning arrived as most do, too soon. Bill was full of song and raring to go, he had selected a broad head from his special box. This box had already accounted for two stags of different species and a record class goat, so I felt Bill was more than confident of finding game. Then he pointed to the far side of the gorge right at the top. Goat like figures were visible but only to someone with a keen eye like Bills. It took me ages to see them.

The aching bones and sore feet were forgotten, our packs shouldered. The river crossed and the first terrace conquered without a hint of sweat. We were rowing ring our way up through the face. Our objective, to climb above the goats before they began to feed down and across in the direction we were heading.

Our plan was working out satisfactorily, we were almost at the top of the gorge and could still see goats to our right although a number of them had moved down. Bill was in front and I was following in his every step. The higher we got the thicker the Dogwood and briar was. Bill paused, there were goats close. A small group of nannies and some billies, but not the ones we wanted.

We back tracked and continued up so they would not cross our scent. Bill was edging up a steep rock and as I was close my head was inches from his rear. He stopped, through the binoculars up and I noticed his eyes growing larger than the front lenses of the binoculars. A horn of a goat was proceeding from behind a tree. It was huge. We were both in a frozen state watching this massive horn when the combination of last nights beer fuelled by a feed of beans rattled directly in my face for what seemed an eternity. I looked up at Bill, he had nothing more than a smirk on his face. We continued on our way discussing the embarrassing problems that could be experienced whilst guiding women.

By passing two more groups of nannies and some small billies put us in a favourably position at the top of the gorge over looking a group of billies that contained more than a reasonable head or two. The wind draft and position perfect. Light cover, a few rocks and a big fallen tree separated us from the goats that had changed feeding direction and were approaching totally unaware of our presence.

During the last two days I had been carrying a compact video camera and had been concentrating on obtaining some good footage of our hunt and what was approaching was certainly worth filming.

David with a large stinker taken in
rugged terrain.

Bill was to my left doing his best to blend in with the foliage, three large goats had fed in towards him at about 15 - 25 metres. One had swept back horns similar to the big one I shot a few months prior. One was a huge Angora with dropped curled horns and the other was good.

While I was busy filming and guessing which one of these goats Bill had decided to take out, I glanced towards Bill, " Are you going to take one?" he questioned. I hadn't really thought about it, I put down the camera and peered over the log, there was a top trophy class goat about 15 metres from me, it had sneaked in unnoticed by either of us.

I came full draw waiting for Bill to shoot for it was his turn. The release and impact of his arrow spooked my goat, it turned and bolted standing back side to me at 30 metres. I fired, watching the arrow fly passed its bum by an inch. By this time Bill was all smiles, thumbs up and slowly working his way down to pick up his arrow that had passed cleanly through the big Angora which by this time was laying in some tree fall.

It wasn't long before we both sat beside this grand father of a goat and congratulated ourselves on another good hunt. The old boys returned triumphantly from the boarder with a record and trophy class goat giving the young lads something to aim for.