(Editor’s note: Author Bill Swan and family went on an extended pair of safaris to Australia and New Caledonia, where they took a variety of game while also taking in a host of local attractions ranging from photographing city lights to viewing ancient rock art.)
“Nothing is more important than family. As each day passes, I become aware that hunting is more about the experience with family and friends and much less about the killing”
Part 1: Australia
It was a grueling long flight from Nashville to Sydney, but it was worth it. Vicki and I were taking our family hunting in Australia and New Caledonia.
Our group included grandsons Parker and Mason; daughter-in-law DeAnn and son Bill III. We were hunting buffalo and boar in Australia; and turkeys, boar and Rusa deer in New Caledonia. Caledonia turkeys were stocked from Mexico and are the Goulds variety.
Relaxing in Sydney, Vicki treated us to an awesome nighttime private photographic safari with a private instructor where we learned to take night street scenes and were treated to the colorful lights in Sydney harbor. The next day was spent taking a Blue Mountain tour prior to flying north to Darwin for our hunt with Aaron Corbett of Australian Outback Safaris.
It was a treat and honor to enter the 2.5 million acres of Aboriginal land Aaron had leased. We were treated to sights of buffalo, donkeys, boar and all types of birds before entering camp.
Our home for the next five days consisted of high wall tents complete with beds, sheets and pillows. And best of all, we had flush toilets and a hot shower in this middle of nowhere.
To cover as much ground as possible, we hunted from Toyota Hilux vehicles. Day One saw Mason taking a nice wild boar and one of the famous outback dingo/wild dogs crossbreed making a 100-yard running shot.
Hunting there is not a “get up at the crack of dawn adventure.” After a leisurely breakfast and hot shower, we were out in the outback exploring new areas while seeing scattered herds of buffalo with no shooters to be had. The next day saw Parker hunting with us. He was able to take a boar at close quarters.
Apparently, it’s a big deal to shoot a piebald as I later found out after playing a game of hide-and-seek with a bull 80 yards across the swamp. Three shots from my Kimber Montana .325 WSM did the trick and the bull was down.
He had solid white front legs, tail and forehead. Vicki was able to watch the entire episode and thanked us for being able to witness the adventure. The other guide in camp had been trying for one with white markings for many years to no avail. We had fun giving him grief about it.
Parker, Mason and Billy were able to complete their harvests the next two days. Mason had quite the adventure, having to make his second shot, hitting the running bull. Then he was running with the guide into close range, making his final shot that caused the caked mud on the bull to crest a dust storm. Mason had his bull on the ground.
The next day allowed us a glimpse of the past when Aaron took us to a 60,000-year-old sacred site containing a myriad of Aboriginal petroglyphs. Wading through waist-deep water after climbing down large rock stair steps, we were treated to colorful drawings showing kangaroos, birds and other scenes. We went back in time and relived the ancient hunters’ testament to their success like we now do with our photographs. The quality of these paintings was amazing, moving and the highlight of our trip
Since DeAnn and I had birthdays while in camp, Aaron setup an awning tent our last day beside a stream on a sandy beach and treated us to crackers, cheese and a bottle of champagne. It was a wonderful way to relax and finish the first half of our family trip down under.
Part 2: New Caledonia
After our flight back to Sydney and overnight stay near the airport, it was off to New Caledonia and our next adventure. We were met at the airport by John and Shane, who carried us on a 45-minute drive to Hotel Banu in Nouma where we would be housed in French style bungalows.
The accompanying restaurant and bar were a short two-minute walk from our rooms. Our meals consisted of French cuisine prepared by their chef, and it was fabulous. We also enjoyed their sidewalk bar, relaxing after each evening’s hunt while Mason called his girlfriend back home. Oh, the days of young love were still alive.
Once we arrived and unpacked, John and Shane wasted no time taking us out scouting for the next morning’s hunt. Right at dark we spotted a 30-inch-wide stag disappearing into the thick brush. We quietly backed out and prepared for the next day’s adventure over drinks and dinner.
Daylight saw John, Mason and me watching the same big, wide, non-typical Rusa spotted the previous evening. One shot and I had our first deer on the ground just as the sun was peeking over the horizon. In my book, if you see a trophy you are happy with in the first hour, there is no need to wait.
The island abounds with deer, turkeys and the occasional wild boar, which is typically much smaller than we are accustomed to seeing in the U.S. and in other countries. If I had to guess, the average weight would be around 35-40 pounds for an adult pig. And turkeys, they were everywhere we went. John promised us that he would let us borrow his shotguns and ammo for a gobbler hunt later in the week.
Next to score was Mason with one shot from my .325 WSM Kimber Montana, taking a nice mature Rusa. The area we hunted was pretty much wide open, and the cover was just sufficient enough for the animals to disappear in a heartbeat, which we found much to our chagrin. Mason had to play cat-and-mouse with his quarry before finally being able to anchor it with a single shot.
We hunted many different parts of the island, sometimes driving more than an hour from our stay. John had property leased all over the island. It was not uncommon to walk and stalk several miles each day in search of the “perfect specimen.” Sometimes we were able to spot a trophy a thousand yards or more away and find it had vanished when we finally got into position. It took Parker and Billy three to four days to finally score.
While we were exploring a new area and looking at a single-engine aircraft that had crashed, Parker, John and I spotted a massive Rusa on a far hillside. The pilot of the airplane had been watching deer and stalled out. He was unhurt, but John would not let him remove the plane until after hunting season.
Our stalk towards the stag carried us within 500-600 yards across a lagoon. Much to our surprise, the stag we had been stalking got up and started chasing a doe along the shoreline towards us. We ran at full speed down the hill; I was breathing hard and Parker hardly broke a sweat.
Hurriedly, I set up the shooting sticks for Parker as the stag was running through a gap in the trees. One shot and we had another on the ground. While we were getting ready to take photos of Parker’s trophy, we spotted another heavy-horned deer, which I took. That same day Billy got the largest typical Rusa of the trip. We were able to take a family group shot with our three stags.
Now, it was time to hunt turkey and wild boar. John spoke very little English and kept repeating: “Turkeys, Boom Boom.” And he was correct; it was turkeys boom boom. Each of us was able to harvest a beautiful Gould’s gobbler and a couple of pigs.
Dinner that evening consisted of wild turkey with a cream sauce. It was a fitting end to a perfect family trip. This was our last day to hunt and plans were made to return to Sydney for an overnight stay before returning to the U.S. Our biggest regret is that we did not get to experience the magnificent offshore fishing for marlin and other fish.
Taking a firearm to New Caledonia is very easy and extremely difficult to Australia.
The airlines in Australia don’t even want to carry them, and you need an import permit and export permit each time you enter and leave the country. If we were to go again, we would use a firearm provided by the outfitter. The people in both countries were very friendly and welcoming, which I have found to be the case in almost every foreign country where we have hunted. After being gone for almost three weeks, it was great to return home and begin preparing for our next great adventure.–Bill Swan