The Camel. There is a lot to be said for this even-toed ungulate. (Un-gu-late: a single toed mammal.According to Wikipedia).This hump-backed ship of the desert is largely responsible for opening up the great unexplored and inhospitable expanses of central Australia in the late 19th century, along with their Afghan camel drivers.
Certain physiological adaptations made this particular mammal a suitable candidate for the monstrous task of carrying food, furniture, railway materials, water, mail and medicine to the pastoralists and mining ventures in the red dusty heart of Australia. The most renowned physical attribute, of course, are the “humps” on its back (which incidentally are watery fatty deposits, not water tanks as often thought). Other equally useful traits include having oval shaped red blood cells that can continue to flow freely during dehydration, an ability to drink and store 200 litres in 3 minutes, and long legs to keep its body well above the heated ground. These adaptations have allowed the Camel to adapt very well to the Aussie Outback, and there are now millions of Camels roaming free in central Australia, causing massive destruction to the natural and agricultural environment.
Wit the help of some friendly folk in the hunting circles, I arranged a trip to Alice Springs in the Northern Territory with the aim of bowshooting one of these tough animals. I metwith Alice Springs resident Andrew, and his friend Chris, who offered us the use of his Traditional Arrernte country for the hunt, as well as the company of himself and his family. The many sets of keen, sharp eyes and boundless energy soon proved invaluable, as Chris (and many little dark hands protruding from the troopy windows) excitedly pointed out an old Bull trotting along the track about 300 metres ahead of the vehicles. Andrew and Chris waited in the vehicles while I headed into the scrub for cover, and in a desperate attempt not to lose sight of the surprisingly well-‘camel-flagued’ and fast moving beast, I began a fast walk, into a clumsy gallop, until finally, with sore calves and drenched in sweat, I caught up with him as he slowed to a walk.
My attire for the trip included the Hunters Elelement Long-sleeved shirt. I felt the long sleeve to be of high importance to protect myself from the baking desert sun. Also of importance was good footwear. I was wearing the Hunters Element Foxtrot boots. In hindsight, this was a good decision. Andrew later took great delight in informing me that the car odometer shows I had hunted the first camel bull for 7 kilometres! The BT-50 also informed us that the outside temperature was a 38 degrees Celsius, which Andrew states translates to a ground temp of 57 degrees. With a storm brewing in the background the humidity was ripe.
I hot-footed through the baking sand and stalked into bow range. Unable to find an opening in the gnarled branches of a small tree in front of him, I attempted to get into a better position, just as he was alerted by the sound of the vehicles approaching in the distance, and started trotting away again. I followed for another couple of hundred metres but the camel would not let me get any closer than 60 yards, nor would he stop for long enough to take a shot. Knowing that the boys would be concerned for my welfare I headed back to the track to let them catch up with me on the road, have a drink and replan our approach.
Further up the track Chris’ pointed out that the bulls one-toed prints showed he had deviated from the track, onto a game trail heading into the thick Mulga. Cheryl added that she saw he had caught up with a lady camel. Proving once again the value of local knowledge, Chris advised us of a road veering off to the right, and suggested we could overtake them in the vehicles, and I could then hunt back toward them. It was a great plan, but unfortunately despite scouring the expanse of scrub to the right of the track, they appeared to have given me the slip. I began to head back to the vehicles, disappointed but not defeated, but before getting there it occurred to me that the camel’s wariness of the vehicles as we drove parallel to them would have pushed them across the creek to seek shelter in the taller, thicker mulga on the other side. Crossing the dry creek bed, I soon found the tracks of the lovers and followed them until I stumbled across them, peering over a mulga bush toward me. On thorn-pricked hands and burning knees I closed the gap to 40 yards, then took aim from a kneeling position to stay hidden and clear some branches. The Bloodsport arrow hit the bull perfectly and both camels disappeared into the scrub. I caught up with the female camel shortly after while searching for the shot bull. She wheeled around, and now at 20 yards come trotting toward me. Not keen to be trampled by a heartbroken lady camel, I ducked behind a tree, and luckily she changed direction, and headed back across the creek to where Andrew and Chris were waiting at the cars. When I caught up with Andrew, Chris and Cheryl they assured me that had not seen the bull emerge from the scrub, only the female, so we went back in and Andrew soon spotted him deceased not too far from where I had taken the shot.
Two pieces of pizza and about 1 litre of warm water later, I had recovered from the most physically demanding hunts I had ever conducted on flat ground, reminding me about the importance of match fitness and preparation. Although a fairly small brained mammal, this particular hunt was by no means a walk in the park. Although abundant, camels can be surprisingly elusive, thus finding the target presents the biggest challenge. Their wariness, speed and height can make for a tricky stalk, compounded by the challenges presented by the harsh environment they are being hunted in. These factors made for a very challenging hunt, and I went away with full respect for these amazing creatures and memories to last a lifetime. Such a hunt remnds me of the importance of thorough preparation and the correct gear. For someone who is outdoors a lot, I am conscious of the importance of sun protection, especially with the harmful UV rays in Australia. Thus, covering as much skin as possible serves dual imporatnce, for both camoflague and prevention of sunburn and skin cancer. Although I was always going to swelter in such a climate, the moisture wicking Fuse Mesh fabric dried quickly and allowed the breeze through to my skin on the rare occassion where there was one. The Foxtrot boots were essential for navigating the stony, and ogten prickly, ground, and importantly provided a insulating layer against the immense ground temperature of the hot sand. With sufficient ankle support, I was able to concentrate more on the hunt and less on keeping my footing!
I sincerely thank the traditional Arrernte people, particularly Chris, Cheryl and their family for welcoming me onto their country and sharing the day. The Arrernte (Ah-runda) people are the original indigenous inhabitants of the land occupied by the Alice Springs township, extending to Wallace Rock Hole to the East, Watarrka (Kings Canyon) to the west, and the Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park.
Thankyou to Andrew for his abundant local knowledge, logistical arrangements and sharing this monumental hunting experience with me. A big shout out goes to Joey Barber for the lend of his Turbo Diesel Mazda BT-50, which performed exceptionally with it’s abundant features including, of course, air conditioning!
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