I had heard nothing but great things about Kayuga Adventures in Cape York from countless people, so when offered the chance to experience it myself, I was beyond excited. This would be not only an epic road trip but also the opportunity to learn about bowhunting pigs, which I hadn’t done much of prior to this trip.
This was the furthest north I had ever traveled in Australia and I was captivated by the ever changing landscapes as we made our way up through Tropical North Queensland. As we edged closer to our destination, we traded bitumen for red dirt and the excitement of the adventure ahead really peaked as we approached the iconic “Strathburn Station” sign placed at the entrance to the 52km driveway to the homestead.
Once we got to the homestead, we met with the Kayuga Adventures crew and the other hunters. This place is a hunter’s dream camp. The house is basic but with full amenities and has an expansive outdoor area that is the central hub for cooking, eating, drinking and spinning yarns of each day’s adventures. Timber beams were lined with monster boar skulls and the huge table full of archery gear served as a reminder of why we were here.
The meals were one of the highlights of the trip as every dinner was an opportunity to connect with the people around you and enjoy the delicious food prepared fresh each day by Dani and the guides. Considering how remote we were and the lack of readily available resources, I was blown away at how good the meals were.
The first day started off with some 3D target shooting and bow tuning, thankfully we did this as my bow needed a few adjustments. Having one of the most knowledgeable bow technicians in Australia (Ian Summers) in camp really has it advantages. We managed to also fit in a quick walk that day with our first guide of the trip, Brad Smith. We saw a few dingoes but no pigs and no opportunities to let an arrow fly.
The next day was a day was we were guided by Owen and after looking at a few waterholes, we stalked along a dry creek bed and bumped into a family mob of pigs. I had an opportunity on a decent boar but due to panic in the moment, I wasn’t able to place an arrow where I wanted to and the boar got away from us.
We eventually managed to locate that mob again and had a number of encounters with them. It seemed that the heat of the day was a little too much for them and they didn’t have it in them to run off away from the water source near by.
After a few failed attempts due to swirling winds, Owen ushered me to take one last final approach on the mob by myself and after a quick brief of “do’s and don’ts”, I managed to close the gap on some stragglers and successfully got an arrow into a sow at 25m. This marked my first Cape York pig and considering it was within the first few hours of my first full day of hunting, I was stoked!
While the morning started off successfully, this wouldn’t be the case for the rest of the day unfortunately. I had plenty of good opportunities present themselves to me but nothing came of them for the rest of the day due to a mix of personal error, swirling winds and low light conditions.
It wasn’t all bad however, these made for great teaching moments and having Shaun & Owen there to talk me through what went wrong and how I could be be better next time was really helpful and made the rest of the trip a little bit easier as I knew how to better handle some situations/opportunities.
That next morning it was Shaun’s turn to take down some pigs, this was an awesome opportunity for me as I had hunted with Shaun for almost 2 years at that point and had yet to be there while he shot something.
Owen took us for a walk along the edge of the swamp to see if we could spot something from the other side and as we made our way around the left side, we spotted a bedded pig in the waist high grass. Shaun slowly crept his way in but due to the long grass, couldn’t clearly see the vital area to get a shot away. He made it 5m from the pig when the wind switched and a boar bolted off with no hesitation. It turned out there there was a boar and sow laid up head to toe of each other and in the confusion of the moment, Shaun managed to send an arrow straight into the engine room of the sow. It was a perfect shot and she was down within 5 metres.
Not long after this encounter, on our way to the next water hole, we crossed paths with a mob on the road, we pulled up a few hundred metres up the road in hopes to intercept them. We managed to find them as they were settling into a small cut out in a creek bank. Shaun crept in and managed to arrow a young boar who succumbed to the shot after a quick 20m death run.
The next day of hunting we would be taking a new approach of leapfrogging along a creek system with Brad Smith and his 2 hunters. The plan was to have 2 hunters on either side of the creek and the guide in the creek bed, this would give us a better chance to spot the likely bedded pigs and provide an easier approach for the hunter who was in the best position to take the shot.
Within the first 150m, Owen spotted a bedded pig that had its back to us, since I had the easiest approach down into the creek bed, Owen had me come down and meet him in the creek, I kicked off my boots and crept my way into 15m, due to the way the pig was laying I had to put my pin just above her hip/underneath the ribs to send the arrow into the vitals which hit it’s mark perfectly. This would result in me successfully taking my 2nd Cape York Sow.
Our second last day would prove to be the most eventful day of hunting for me yet, it would also be my first day hunting with Ian Summers. The plan was to start the day hunting a water course, the 3.6km walk would see us hopping from water source to water source in hope of finding some boars.
As we came to our first body of water, we spooked a fresh water croc who seemed to have been sunning itself on the bank we happened to come in from, as it entered the water it made a great loud splash, this encounter left our guard down as we figured if there were any pigs near by they surely would’ve spooked due to the commotion. As Ian and I approached the end of the body of water, Shaun started whistling to get our attention - he and Paul, another hunter with us - had spotted a boar on the opposite side of the waterhole.
The old boar stood broadside at 25m on the opposing bank staring, trying to get sight on what was causing the commotion that alerted him from his bed, his curiosity allowed me the time to nock an arrow and centre the space between my 20 & 30 pin on his vitals and send the arrow.
The shot blew through the engine room and out his opposing leg, shearing the bone in half and removing his ability to run away. Ian and I closed the distance and I took my second shot on him from 7m. The old boar had a lot of fight in him and for the rest of my life I’ll never forget this encounter and the amount of respect I had for this animal in his last moments.
After taking photos and removing the skull, we continued on with a few encounters and missed shots throughout the day. Our final walk in the evening was to a small dam that led to an encounter with a boar bedded in his wallow. He was quartering towards us, so I nocked an arrow and made my way to Ian who guided me in to within 12m of the sleeping boar.
I drew back, centred my pin and released the arrow hitting him perfectly. It felt like time slowed down as I watched the boar stand up, take a few steps and arch his back like a scared cat in a cartoon, his bristles stood thick and tall and looked bloody unreal. The moment lasted a few short seconds before the boar turned and sprinted off over the ridge behind him. Ian broke out into a sprint and I followed closely by. We ran a total of 50m until we caught up to the boar who had collapsed by a termite mound as he drew his last breath.
I was beyond stoked.
While Ian went to grab the rest of the group, I had the chance to take in the events of that day and how fortunate I was to have such a successful day of bowhunting. In just the few days we had spent hunting I felt like I had gained years of experience as we had so many opportunities to make mistakes, learn from them and then implement new approaches which would eventually lead to success.
After an epic week of adventure, I realised that the value of this trip wasn’t so much in the trophies but rather in the lessons you can learn, the wild encounters you get to experience and the awesome people you get to spend time with.
I can’t say enough good things about Kayuga Adventures. I’ve now been bitten by the bug and look forward to returning to the Cape every chance I can.