Jason Spencer authored “Hunt, Catch, Cook” a few years back. Now he's harvesting buckets of camel meat to cook and help outback graziers out.
Test and images by Jason Spencer
It wasn’t the first time I’d ventured after this elusive beast but this time was different. Like anything we do the “6P” method always helps with results (prior preparation prevents piss-poor performance).
I had organized time off and would fly into regional WA where my good mate Kiel would pick me up and from there ventured to 3 different stations over a 4 day period hunting Camel.
The set up was his brand-new Ford Ranger Ute and in tow Polaris off road buggy capable of carrying both us plus hunting gear and rifles.
Kiel would be using his .300 Winchester Magnum built on a custom chassis and I would be using my marlin .45/70, more than enough power to stop these feral beasts in their tracks. Butchering equipment, esky is and knives would also be accompanying us as this trip was as much about taking meat from camels as well as culling and reducing numbers on the station for the owner and the local community.
They had been having real problems over the past months with big bull camels destroying water points and bores and massive herd numbers drinking areas dry.
The plane touched down on time and before long we were packed with supplies, safety equipment, spare fuel and on our way for the 200km trip to the first of three stations. By dusk we had made the front gate and with fading light it was another 80km to the Homestead and our camping area for the night. Slow going and rough roads made for a perfect way to spot game and it wasn’t long after descending a ridge that a massive bull camel ran onto the road some 200m ahead of us. Without haste Kiel skidded to a halt as the bull casually walked off into the scrub.
The .45/70 barked into action sending a 300gn hollow point straight into the bulls engine room, dropping it within a few steps.
On arrival at the homestead the owner was glad to hear that this 600kg monster was taken out.
That night saw us camped near a local Billabong enjoying a teriyaki camel steak stir-fry and a few cold beers around the campfire after a long day on the road.
Day two saw us wake to the screech of pink and grey galahs and after a quick breakfast we loaded the Polaris buggy. After four hours of hard going and a damaged buggy we had only made it 2 km into the heart of the station when the UHF radio came to life with word from the mustering helicopter pilot.
They had just shot a mob of 22 camels from the air and not far from the direction we were heading and with that news we decided to cut our losses and try to make the next station by nightfall.
We dropped the buggy back to town as the next station was over 100km away and we would be pushed for time to get to a good vantage point around a windmill before dark.
We arrived well into the evening and decided to turn in for an early night after setting up the rifles on a rest in preparation to dispatch any ferals that came for a drink at first light.
Day three saw us up and out of the swags at a cold sparrow’s fart only to find a lifeless windmill with not a creature in sight. We'd heard camels roar throughout the night from a distance, so with that we packed camp and hit the track with the decision to stop when the belly started rumbling. That decision was made for us when we staked a rear tire, so sticking to our designated tasks Kiel changed the tire and I cooked the trackside breakfast. Packed away and bellies full in no time we were back on the track.
Kiel and I were just discussing how hard it is to spot animals through the window height tall scrub when we came onto a low lying spinifex plain. Immediately I spotted two young bull camels to the right of the vehicle and Kiel pulled up to swing into action.
Dropping the tailgate of the Ute Kiel set up his custom built .300 Win. Mag., cycling a 165 grain Nosler Ballistic Tip round into the chamber, then adjusting the Leupold MK 4 scope for the 200m shot.
While Kiel got comfortable I had set up the Marlin .45/70 the 100m shot on the closer camel. As I counted back from three the Spinifex plane erupted and the two young bulls hit the red dirt.
In the hot sun we wasted no time butchering the animals and as Kiel cut and bagged the meat I walked it back to the esky to get it chilled as this was prime quality meat for the table.
As we walked back with the last of the meat and the rifles we noticed a cloud of red dust from an approaching vehicle. After a quick introduction it turned out to be Stuart from a local indigenous community and he couldn’t resist our offer of fresh camel to take back to his family. After yarn and a few quick photos we sent a now happy Stuart on his way back home and we repacked the Ute and hit the track to make good time for the next station and to set up camp.
The hot sun had well gone as we stalked on to the waterhole of the last station, but there was nothing there, although Kiel had seen good numbers here in the past.
That night after a few celebration beers we laid in the swags watching the sky show and discussing tomorrow’s game plan. The morning couldn’t come quick enough and before the sunrise we were packed, fed and ready to go. The bore run on this part of the station consisted of six windmills with a high population of feral donkeys and scattered numbers of camels in very dense scrub, making it harder to spot the shorter animals like donkeys.
We hit the first bore with anticipation, speed and ultimately disappointment, which continued throughout the day. It was quite late in the day when we had just rounded a long bend into open country and a large bull camel was spied exiting the stockyards for the scrub; Kiel set up his rifle with a sense of urgency, leaning it straight across the swags, sending the 165 grain pill with deadly accuracy, dropping the bull to its knees as it stopped to glance back at us. A quick follow-up shot insured it never smashed another water point on the station.
After congratulations and photos we packed up the Ute for the long dusty trip back to town.
With over 800km travelled for the four days and four great camels taken for the trip, that night a few celebratory drinks were consumed as we cut our meat well into the night in preparation for the long trip back to Perth.
Another successful hunt, catch, cook harvest.
Camel Piri Piri Sausage Recipe
Per 1 kg camel meat
25% or 250 G pork fat
2 tablespoons rock salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
1 teaspoon cardamom powder
2 teaspoons of brown sugar
1 teaspoon ginger powder
1 tablespoon paprika (hot)
1 tablespoon of lemon pepper
1 tablespoon of garlic powder
1 tablespoon of oregano
2 teaspoons of chilli flakes (optional)
juice of one lemon
lemon rind of one lemon
Cube all camel meat into 20 mm chunks input through the mincer using a medium 6 mm plate.
Mince fat from pork and combine with camel mince. Add all remaining ingredients and combine well with hands until all mixed. Remove the small palm size handful of mince and fry in pan to check for flavour, make any adjustments if required. Using a sausage stuffer, stuff skins and tie off making links before refrigerating 24 hours letting flavours develop.
Camel Hunting Tips
Like any hunting trip “good preparation will end in good results”. Although there are nearly 1 million feral camels in Australia, logistically they are very hard to get to and require extensive planning.
September – March the best times of the year as the hotter and drier the better. Camels stay close to bores and waterholes in the hotter months and tend to head out into the desert for the wet season however the hotter months make any movement throughout the day very hard on the hunter as temperatures can reach 40+.
Spare fuel, water and good communications are essential when travelling in remote Australia. Reliable transport with the knowledge and tools to fix it can be the difference between life and death as some station water points really get checked for weeks.
Good facilities to keep cool can be beneficial on camel hunting trips as each animal can potentially harvest 50 – 80 kg of meat. We used a large Esky. Ice went out of the station and returned to town every few days to drop meat back to base.
There are many different areas throughout regional Australia and W.A. that hold good access to camel numbers, but leave yourself enough time to get there. The closest town to where we were going to hunt was 12 hours drive from the capital city then another two – three hours just to get to the station.
Prior knowledge of bushcraft and outback survival is a great insurance policy. It’s kind of one of those things you think you will never need but thank yourself when you do. Be prepared.