Blake Hjorth has followed his brother Reid into hunting and he had a blast on goats in this, his first story.
My mate Alex and I were catching up on one of our weekly chats and, as usual, we were discussing his latest hunts. Fair dinkum, the bloke’s a machine – he’s in the hills at every opportunity. He was telling me about a big black billy that he’d seen on a couple of different occasions but never got close enough with his bow to have a crack at. We hadn’t been for a hunt for a while and it was soon decided that Alex, my brother Reid and I would head out to that goat block and see what we could rustle up.
The weekend arrived and soon enough we were cruising down the dirt roads in the pre dawn darkness ready for what the day had in store for us. Once at the property, Alex guided us to a spot that he’d been frequenting, in the hope that we might bump into a pig feeding on a carcass or coming off the nearby dam. The dam showed little action and we soon headed over to where Alex had arrowed a goat not too long ago. Well, the pigs had been there all right, but beaten us by a few days, by the looks of things. We found some hair on the ground and that was it. It still baffles me that bones, hoofs and horns can just vanish from a carcass like it was never there.
Alex knows this block well, and we were soon headed up and over a hill into a big valley that always holds goats. The wind was blowing strongly, but the direction worked in our favour as we walked along, frequently stopping to glass the distant hills for goats. As often happens, when you’re looking into the distance, game tends to pop up closer than expected. A small band of goats were feeding just over the lip of the hill, sheltered from the wind. Reid and I hung back as Alex quickly nocked an arrow and stalked in for a shot. Alex quickly closed the distance and as he got to about 20 metres, the goats got a bit edgy. Alex sent an arrow on its way and the young goat showed signs of a hit. As the arrow went crashing through the undergrowth, three goats ran straight back to where Reid and I were waiting, stopped and looked back to where Alex was. They were only about 35 metres away when 30 seconds later, three goats were on the deck as Reid finished any conversation as to whether we should let them go or not. Three 55gn pills from a .223 into three brains tends to do that. It was good, quick shooting and the farmer would be happy to see three more goats off his land. As we inspected the downed goats, we could see that Alex’s initial arrow had literally zipped open the back of one of the goats as it must have sliced over it on it’s way past. It was a good choice of Reid’s to quickly finish him off.
A few photos were taken after a quick drink, and we started to sidle around the hill deeper into the valley. We were now purely focussed on finding a band of billies that Alex had seen recently from a distance and put our efforts into finding them. Again the binos were out and sure enough, a big mob of goats was soon spotted starting to wander through the trees and onto the open grass flats way down on the valley floor. We got out of sight by slipping back over the hill and headed in their direction. Our detour brought us out in the middle of some good scrub, just where we wanted to be as it would give us a bit of elevation and cover in order to really get a good look at the goats before deciding how we’d make our final stalk.
By the time we had made it to the cover, more and more goats were heading our way and starting to feed up the valley floor from right to left. In all, there would have been close to 30 goats feeding and milling about in separate groups, and spread over a distance of 200 metres. The wind was in our favour, we had good cover and the goats were unalarmed and content to go about their day. More and more billies started to come over the distant hill towards us and Alex was telling us about how the billies often emit a chimp like noise when there’s a nanny on heat. Not five minutes later, what sounded like a group of chimpanzees started grunting and carrying on down to our right about 100 metres away. We could not see them yet, but could certainly tell that there must be a few billies down there chasing some poor nanny around.
We kept glassing the valley floor and opposite hill, when we spotted what looked to be a nice billy with horns that seemed to flare out and upwards. This was going to be the one we’d focus on and we were hoping that he’d continue to feed our way like the majority of the mob was doing. Of course he decided to trot off up the hill away from us and into a dense copse of trees chasing other billies that were chasing a nanny. Occasionally we could see him filtering through the trees and after 20 minutes or so, realised that we’d only get a crack at him if he ventured our way again. Alex was madly looking for the big black billy that he’d seen previously and sure enough, Alex and I spotted him at the same time. I had never seen this billy before but knew straight away that this goat must be the one. Alex almost sounded like one of the chimpanzee goats in his enthusiasm of seeing this goat again. I love how excited he gets with his hunting – it’s contagious!
We now found ourselves in a bit of a dilemma. The big black billy was way down the valley and the front runners of the mob were getting closer and closer to us as they continued to meander up the valley to our left. Added to this, the original billy I had my sights on had also come back out of the trees and was presenting a shot at about 150 metres. I wriggled down the hill a bit and set myself up over a tree branch. It felt good, and with Reid and Alex urging me to have a crack, I hit him with the Tikka .270. He was hit hard and was going down, and as the remaining goats exploded into action, the three of us were frantically looking for the black billy. The goats were running up towards us, and we got glimpses of the big fella in amongst the mob. I was trying to give Alex my rifle in exchange for his bow, as this was a goat that he’d been chasing and I wanted him to get him. In true Alex form, he’d have none of it and was keen for me to get him.
The mob was onto us now and wheeled around to our right and across the hill face that we were on. The scrub that had been such good cover was now a hindrance as it was hard to pinpoint goats through the trees. As they took off around the hill, I set off in the same direction but also upwards in an effort to get some height. I could tell that the mob was headed around to the next gully and was hoping to get a look as they were going up the opposite hill as there was little chance of me keeping pace with them. I could hear the main mob moving through the rocky gully but was getting hung up by some of the stragglers who kept looking back my way. I was doing my best to scamper over the rocks and stay out of view while also doing it as quickly as I could, as I knew the goats would soon be up and out of the gully.
Just when I needed it, I’d made it to a vantage point that I could see the mob running up the opposite hillside. There were more goats there than we’d originally seen and it was an awesome sight to see 50-odd goats running up the hill so quickly. All the time, individual goats and small groups would swing around to look back for danger before quickly running further up hill. My problem now was to find the black billy in amongst so many goats but also not be seen. I’d slithered into a big clump of “black boys” and had my rifle over my knees scanning the group. The lead goats were topping out over the ridge and I was losing hope, when over to the left, away from the main mob, the black billy was making a back door exit.
I was quickly onto him and as he was about to go behind a fallen log, never to be seen again, I whacked him behind the shoulder with a 130gn Federal from my .270. He took two steps and fell to the ground. What an exciting and fulfilling shot to end my hunt for the day. Alex and Reid were back at my first billy when I returned and were rapt that I’d been successful. We took the heads and set off back up the steep hills for the long walk back to the car knowing we’d had a good day. A big thanks to Alex who selflessly let me shoot the black beauty, my biggest billy to date.