Tuesday, 9 October 2012

When hunting trips go wrong

My little ones are napping on a cool but sunny Sunday arvo. The missus is having a bit of a lie-down readying herself for a big week with the girls while I spend too much time at work, so I have have a few moments of silence before dinner/bath/story/teeth/bedtime hits us. With a cider in hand I've been "surfing" and found what I thought was a very good post by forum member 'Win88' over at shooting.com.au. Here it is:

"When hunting trips go wrong

I'm over reading about other peoples successful trips. Judging from every article I've ever read, we've got some of the worlds most competent hunters and shooters: no one ever screws up on a trip!  I want to have a laugh at other peoples trips that turn into unmitigated, but comical disasters due to poor planning, weather, mechanical malfunction etc."

Fear not Win88, while I'm sure the hunting community at large has a few sad stories to share and I've had a few unsuccessful hunts in my time, there is one particular trip with my good mate Steve in January of 2008 that just screams "dumb-arse". Even with the best intentions that two mates could muster for a short getaway, a mistake followed by another and yet another turned what should have been a productive hunt into a disaster. Enjoy my friend, it's really not that funny...

Steve and I had driven over 1,000 kilometres from our home in Sydney to the block we would be hunting for the next few days in south west Queensland. We had left the day before, driven through the night and pulled up early in the morning. We caught up with the cocky then unpacked our gear and headed out for a look around.

Last time I visited in 2006 the place was in a terrible drought and water was pretty hard to come by; today the place had vast flooded plains. We hadn't gone far when we spotted a smallish pig feeding in the shallows of a flood.  I hopped out and sent a shot across the flat. Hit hard, the pig made a short dash before piling up in the water.

I got most of my gear off as a fall would mean a soggy, smelly afternoon and left my boots behind as I figured there'd be some fairly slimy mud to get through. This was mistake #1. I was plowing through the water and not far from the hog when I felt a stabbing pain in my left foot; I grimaced but took the last few steps towards the pig, grabbing him by his back legs so I could drag him to dry land. 

Pausing to check my foot out, I was quite shocked when I raised it out of the water and saw 2" of stick poking out of the top of my foot, "that's not good..." I thought. With a firm grip on the pig I continued the drag back to dry ground - that was mistake #2. At the water's edge there was quite a bit of grass and I felt the stick in my foot snap as it got caught up in the tangle of wet grass. Perfect.

Steve could see I was in distress as I hobbled over to the Hilux.  I grabbed the first aid kit from under the seat and asked Steve to have a look.  There was clearly a puncture wound on the top of my foot and we could see the dark shadow of a stick running down the side of my foot, not quite breaking through the arch. I won't be typing any of the colourful language so you'll have to imagine the stress and the pain which was by now starting to set in.  I could feel the top of the stick with my tweezers but couldn't get a grip - Steve wouldn't try.  Next I loaded a new blade into my scalpel and asked my friend to hold my foot while I opened up the top of the incision to get a better grip with the tweezers.  This isn't sounding too bad; I cut a 1/4" incision but could see that it was just too deep and there was no way I was going to be splitting my foot open today! 

"Back to the house" I stated, "Neville and Beryl will have to help me out on this one." 

A couple of band-aids over the now extended wound to keep the dust out and we were off. We scooted along following the edge of the flood back towards the house. It was a 14 kilometre drive. As we rounded a bend we found ourselves looking over a large flat with quite a few goats feeding, watering and generally hanging out.  I looked at Steve and said what we were both thinking - "our hunt is probably over so why don't we get some meat to take home?" And that dear readers, was mistake #3.

With my .300 Weatherby in hand and Steve carrying his .243 Winchester we set off at a not-so-cracking-pace as I limped along in my sandals. Steve knocked over a couple of young goats and after taking a few photos of the action I lined up a meat animal with very nice pelage as a mob trotted across the flat.  They paused for a moment and that was when the Woodleigh 180gr Protected Point smashed through the goat's neck at 264 yards. Nice.

The walk hadn't helped with the stick embedded in my foot; as I walked and the muscles did there thing the stick was pulled further into my foot and was now in a vice grip, that little sucker wasn't going anywhere.  We dressed the goats and headed back to the house.

Thankfully Beryl is a retired nurse and knows her way around a first aid box. The nearest Medical Chest was at the neighbour's place some 85 kilometres away so Beryl thought it would be wise to just deal with the situation with what she had on hand; the likelihood of infection was very high given the years of death that was floating in the waters. Beryl's daughter Julie was home for the Christmas break and she joined us in the lounge.

With my foot across an old poof with a neat '70s print, Julie put a hand across my toes and another across my ankle and leaned into it. I was given a leather belt to bite down on as Beryl sat beside me with a pair of sterilised tweezers.

I could feel the metal of the tweezers clipping the twig and the metallic snip as they slipped.  There were short moments of that weird sensation, the dreaded visit to the dentist, a pulling feeling when she managed to get a grip on my foot's intruder. Hard as I tried a couple of involuntary tears rolled into my beard.  I bit down on Neville's belt. Beryl persisted with a sweat on her brow. Julie was looking away but still applying a steady pressure to my foot. And still Beryl dug into the arch of my foot. I bit down some more.

"No good Dagga, you're gonna have to go to hospital." While I appreciated the effort, I was most relieved that it was over. City boys can be soft.

We said our goodbyes to the family after throwing our gear into the Hilux and raced to the hospital. It was a three hour run from the farm into town over some fairly rough roads and we got there just before dusk. The steel side step and rail had collected six 'roos on the run into town, all coming in from the thick mulga on the left side

In the examination room I met Doctor Ruby.  Ruby was over from New Zealand on a sort of medical exchange program.  She was a lovely lady and very good with the local anesthetic.  A quick incision and a few deft movements with scalpel and tweezers and the offending stick was out and in a specimen container.  I love souvenirs.  Once the anesthetic had worn off, my foot was hot and throbbing for remainder of our 13 hour drive home. In Sydney we went straight to the medical centre near home for a solid dose of antibiotics.

Everyone makes mistakes, but compounding those mistakes with short sighted moves is just dumb-arse! Lesson learned: self preservation is more important than feral pigs and goats.


  1. I did get the pig and was very happy to bring home a cooler box full of chevon, but the trip to the hospital, the extended infection and the drama that could have come to pass would have been a heavy price for a bucket of meat. Point taken though, I did get the pig and in the lean times I might trade a few stitches or a successful pig hunt! Cheers lulwut.

  2. I thought I was rough - You took the biscuit. Congratulations on the kill; Good sport. Do it again; as Dayne said 24hrs ago - "You win some, you lose some - that's hunting"... You did it like a man.