« back       further »

Phill the kangaroo hunter

Pindathuna-Camp — 2000-08-11

Phill arrives in our camp again at 11:00 a.m. ‘Hi, how ya goin?’ he greets us. ‘Last night I was standing under the hot shower and wondered if you two’d like to enjoy this luxury too?’ Tanja and I glance at one another and cry as one ‘Oh yes! Great! We’d love to!’ After a cup of coffee, Phill takes Tanja and a big sack of washing with him, while I stand watch at camp, write and give a few interviews with radio stations as usual. Three hours later, Tanja returns with a big grin on her face ‘Oh, it was wonderful to take a shower again after three weeks! Phill helped me to wash all our clothes in his machine, and we even scrubbed those that didn’t fit in by hand!’ she cries happily, stretching the camel’s leg ropes from tree to tree so that she may hang the clothes out to dry, while I ready myself for the trip to Phill’s shower. A few minutes later I am sitting on a very uncomfortable seat in Phill’s Toyota Jeep, my gaze falling immediately on the gun strapped across the dashboard. Right next to the steering wheel is a slim box full of bullets and above me a satellite navigation system with small monitor. My eyes must tell a thousand tales, as Phill turns to me with a chuckle, ‘That gun is my bread and butter. I’m a kangaroo hunter.’ ‘Can you make a living doing that?’ I ask curiously, sliding off the hard object jutting into my backside. ‘Yes, if you do it right’ Phill answers, at the same time pulling another gun out from under my seat so it’s more comfortable for me. I stare at him in astonishment, but Phill continues our discussion without a hitch, ‘Unfortunately, the price of petrol continues to climb and pretty soon it wont make any sense more. It costs me about 35 dollars a day, to keep the generator running on my cool house, and the same again for the bus (Australian bush dialect for Jeep). And besides that, it’s a hard job, but I like it. There’s nothing better than living out here. I love the bush, the red earth, the stars and most of all the hunt. I work 365 days a year and haven’t had one break my whole life. That’s probably why I’ve never been sick, besides the crook leg of course. Every day, just before sunset, I sit in my bus and go hunting’ the roughly 55 year old tells me in a friendly and comfortable voice. The Australian accent has changed slightly over the last two or three hundred kilometres, and I must stop him every now and then in order to keep up with his conversation. ‘How many kangaroos do you shoot every night?’ ‘Oh, on average about 30. I’m happy with 20 in winter. On bad nights like this, when the moon is full and lights everything up, the animals hide themselves behind the bushes. Then I’m lucky to get 15 and am happy if I cover my costs. I get an average of 15 dollars per roo, that means 50 cents per kilo. Where you’re going there’s not as much vegetation and some roo shooters land up to 120 kangaroos per night. They make a lot of money. I can’t go too far away, because of my house in Geraldton. I want to sell it now, then I’ll be free’ ‘Don’t you think that the heavy hunting could wipe the kangaroos out?’ I ask, shocked by the numbers. ‘What! We’re far too few hunters to ever shoot the amount allowed by the government. As far as I know, they allow us to shoot 750.000 kangaroos per year, and we only manage about half that amount. Of course there’s always a few idiots that load the ute up with beer and drive into the bush just to shoot for fun. I can’t even guess how many there are. I despise these kind of people, then a lot of the kangaroos are just wounded and I believe that if you hunt then you should do it right. An animal shouldn’t suffer and that can only be guaranteed with a shot in the head.’ ‘What is the kangaroo meat used for?’ I ask and search his weather beaten face. ‘Years ago I used to shoot for dog food, but today the meat is sent to all the corners of the world as delicatessen in expensive restaurants. Just imagine, the man I sell to in Perth gets 18 dollars per kilo. Unbelievable.’ ‘I heard that a lot of kangaroos have worms in them. Is that true?’ he nods in answer to my question and I am thankful for his directness. ‘If a horse had worms it would die, but the kangaroos need theirs to live. It must have something to do with their digestive system. I have to gut the kangaroos before loading them onto my bus, and almost all of them have worms in their entails. The meat is worm free though, and can be eaten without a worry. It tastes great by the way.’ ‘I know, Tanja and I have enjoyed it often, but that was before we got to know little Shiron.’ I tell him about the little joey that Tanja raised as her own child and who lived with us for almost a year. After listening to Phill for a while, I’m glad that we left Shiron with our friend Mary Jane. If we had set him free in the wild, as originally planned, then we would have ground to worry now.

‘Right, here we are’ Phill says and turns in to a farm on which a few sheds, huts and barns stand scattered about. ‘I live here’ he says, pulling up in front of a rough shed of corrugated iron. Phill leads me inside and shows me his home. ‘It used to be a completely rotten sheep sheering shed. I’ve worked on her a bit, run a few cables in and now it’s quite cosy,’ he says into the very sparse room in the corner of which one rickety old bed stands. I think of our luxurious tent in which we have been sleeping this past year while looking around at the walls of rusty corrugated iron and the holes in them through which I can see outside. ‘Last summer I had temperatures in here at midnight of 36 degrees C. It’s not too well insulated but I’m working on it,’ he says with a grin. ‘Here is the shower. If you turn the tap on the left then some wonderfully hot water will come. But don’t burn yourself!’ Phill calls and leaves me alone. Surrounded by corrugated iron, I stand beneath a truly wonderful ray of warm water and clean my tortured body. I rub every inch of my skin with the brush until I am fire red. I am once again struck by the fact that we can find such joy in the simple things, out here in the bush. ‘Everything okay?’ Phill calls from the next room ‘Fantastic, paradise couldn’t beat this!’ I splutter back. When I am ready to dry myself, I must discover that I’ve forgotten to bring a towel. The winter sun of the late afternoon has lost her strength and I jibber around, looking for a way to dry myself. I find two pieces of toilet paper in our toilet bag and rub my breast and face dry with them. Then I slip quickly back into my clothes and join Phill once more. ‘I’ll show you my cool house,’ Phill say and leads me behind his house. Here stands a container with an inner temperature of around zero degrees. A generator rumbles the whole day and keeps the temperature correct. An unexplained sadness grips me as I spy the kangaroo carcasses hanging from the hooks above, 6 tonnes of meat ready to be shipped around the world.

Phill then drives me back to our camp and stays to enjoy a cup of coffee with us, before heading out to hunt as every night. We talk about anything and everything and he would like to stay with us a while longer, but on Sunday the truck is coming from Perth to pick the kangaroos up. ‘I have to go, unfortunately. They want 6 tonnes of kangaroo meat and I need another 30 roos at least. I’ll drop by tomorrow and see how you both are!’ he says. He limps to his jeep and disappears into the setting sun.

Day: 92

We are happy about comments!