As the farm called Arthur’s Leigh Badgery Station that was to serve as our quarter during the hunting expedition is 34 km away from Moss Vale, the journey of the whole party was undertaken in wagons. Unfortunately we no longer had access to Mr. Mack’s excellent horses. To the contrary we had to make do with some nags tired of life so that the journey which could have been completed in one and a half hours took more than four of them.
The weather was favorable, the temperature low. We passed through the small town of Moss Vale which has a population of 1240 inhabitants. Its villas extend far out into the land and it contains a country retreat put at our disposition by the governor of Sydney who usually stays there during the hot months. Following the road that leads across this hilly terrain we passed through a number of smaller villages built in the already familiar „Australian“ style of corrugated iron and wood and passed by isolated farms. In between scrawny mighty eucalyptus trunk alternate with overgrown pasture land. Under the trees colorful parrots were flying around. I bagged multiple specimens of crimson rosellae (Platycercus elegans), a splendid sight with their crimson feathers with sky blue wings and tail. After about 13 km we entered into a forest, the bush that still had, despite being much cleared by the farmer’s axe, tall beautiful trees, mostly eucalyptus again mixed with pinewood.
In one spot of the forest Mr. Badgery pointed out one tree whose branches extended wide over the road. I looked up and saw a larger animal hang from a branch in the cowering manner of a sloth.
Without being certain about the species this animal might be part of, I shot at it with strong grain. The shot had little effect despite much fur fell out of the dense gray skin which showed that I had apparently hit it quite well. The animal continued to cling with its arms even harder to the branch and seemed only have perished due to the third shot, without making any noticeable move. We just wanted to climb the tree when the animal suddenly crashed down onto the road and I recognized the so called Australian bear (Phascolarctus cinereus). It is part of the group of marsupials and resembles a small bear in its exterior. The grown animal barely reaches a height of one meter in length, the body is compactly built and covered in a very dense and smooth fur that is gray on the back an white on the belly but the interior sides of the extremities is white. The head is round like a bullet. The tails is flattened. The ears have bushels and extend upright. The five toes of the front leg are divided into two groups, the rear legs are marked by a fusion of the second and third toe. The thumb is most important for climbing, the rear legs do not have nails. The animal I had killed had a child that had fallen out of the pouch during the fall.
A peculiarity of the Australian bear is its indolence and apathy. Its only skill is climbing which it executes astonishingly slowly. We tried some time afterwards to make a koala hanging on a tree flee or at least climb faster by shouting and making noises. Only it did not take notice for a long time, finally coolly turned its head and looked at us, climber a few centimeters higher and again remained quiet hanging from the branch out of which I finally shot it down.
The Australian bear seldom descends down to the ground but lives almost exclusively on trees. It tends to stay on the same trunk until it has eaten all the leaves, its only food source. Having eaten everything, it moves to another it likes and stays there until the quest for new food forces it so seek a new location. Its phlegmatic way of life makes it game that is easy to track. It is usually not hunted much as its fur has little value — fortunately, as otherwise this strange animal would have been soon extinct. The koala’s distribution is said to be limited to a fairly small area and extends only to a few regions in New South Wales, especially the forests in the South-west of Sydney.
During the remaining drive through the bush which took quite some time due to the quality of the horses and the many obstacles in the terrain, we eagerly watched out for Australian bears that are however not easy to spot as they are difficult to identify on the branches and trunks as their coloring almost completely matches those of the fur. Still I managed to bag seven pieces whereas I was each time surprised about the passivity of these animals in regard to the shots. One hits the lazy fellow naturally with the first shot but often ir required a number of shots until the dead bear still holding on with its arms and claws tumbled down from the tree.
In a deeply cut valley we crossed the Wollondilly River with its very stony bed in a ford. The first two wagons crossed the obstacle successfully but the third one on which were Hodek, our hunters and part of the baggage bogged down in the middle of the water as the wheels got stuck between the rocks and the horses were unable to draw the vehicle out. Due to a jolt a small bag fell into the water and happily drifted off in the river until it could finally be recovered quite a distance from the crossing. To lessen the weight of the wagon, the occupants had finally to decide to dismount and wade through the water — a tragicomic view as they understandably were not happy about this and dove only with hesitation into the cold water. Still only with the assistance of gathered helpers was it possible to move the wagon and get it out of the river and up the steep ledge of the shore.
Finally we arrived at the farm of Badgery Station, a small low-rise single storey building surrounded by barns and primitive estate buildings in the middle of cleared land. Here we were received by Mr. Badgery’s brother who usually lives in Moss Vale but would serve as our hunting guide during the next days. Our arrival was delayed only towards 1 o’clock due to the low performance of the horses, the bear hunting undertaken during the journey and the time-consuming crossing of the river, so that a breakfast could not be avoided. Still, our host announced a hunt for kangaroos and wallabies during the remainder of the day.
After riding horses had been caught from the meadow, a cavalcade of 25 riders moved out to the forest nearby. Here the mounted drivers split off while we assumed our positions alongside a dry stream. In front of us was a hilly terrain covered mostly with blue rubber trees where the first hunt was to take place. Hardly arrived in our position we already spotted wallabies appear everywhere between the bushes. The whole line of shooters opened fire but not always with the desired effect as some of the shooters were very lacking in marksmanship. I was not in a good position, though I saw quite many animals I could only rarely shoot as the game was fearful of a deep gorge and preferred to escape between my fellow shooters. The mounted drivers performed their duty well and did not blindly ride around as those use during the hunts of Mr. Mack. They rode at a walk and drove the game with shouts and cracking whips towards the position. The result of the drive was 15 pieces.
The wallabies bagged here — the name used by the English to designate all smaller kangaroo species — differ from the large kangaroo that we had hitherto hunted by a more vivid color of the fur which is more brownish. The bagged pieces were stripped in place after the hunt and the hides hung onto the saddles. In the evening they were handed over to the taxidermist. The removal of the hides is done with astonishing skill and speed revealing a practised hand in this procedure.
The next hunt took place at the foot of a hill up the ledge without me getting a chance to fire. The other shooters could show off five wallabies. In numerous hares that I saw I greeted the representatives of our European Lepus timidus that had been introduced a while ago and seems to like its new homeland very well.
Even though the sun was already setting, another drive was undertaken. It resulted in 15 wallabies and two kangaroos. As much as I could observe the wallabies are more timid and more prudent than the kangaroos as they already start to flee when the driver becomes even a little visible and they always crouch after only a few jumps to watch out all around. If they notice any movement of the shooter they immediately turn or jump madly out of shooting distance. . Sometimes the wallabies hide on the ground if the are driven into a corner by the drivers and only jump at the last moment. Some of the bagged females carried young ones in various development stages in their pouches.
After the conclusion of this very successful hunt we returned to the farm to dine quickly as a night opossum hunting expedition had been promised in the case the moon was visible. What is called „opossum“ here is a common brushtail possum (Phalangista vulpina), while the true opossums (Didelphys) are living in America and consist of various species of marsupials. In fact Luna was lighting in full clarity towards 8 o’clock so that we could march out led by two Australians experienced in hunting opossums. First we hunted at the edge of a forest. The unusual night hunt in moonshine was interesting and exciting.
On the order of the hunting experts we formed an open line and advanced quite loudly to get the opossums feeding on the ground to stand up. We had barely advanced a few hundred paces when one of the hunting masters indicated with a whistle that he had discovered an opossum. He pointed a strong branch out to me on which the game should be hiding itself but I failed to see it for quite some time. Only when I moved my back to the moonlight shining on the branch I could distinguish the contours of an opossum which pressed itself motionless against he branch like a marten. After the shot, the dead animal dropped from the tree.
The body of the common brushtail possum is about half a meter long with a very dense woolen fur. The tail is bushy like that of a fox. The head which has two black running strings resembles with its pointed muzzle that of a marten. The eyes are large and beautiful. The ears stand out erect. The animal makes a very delicate impression in build and figure. During the day it is not visible as it hides in caves and tree holes and only emerges at the start of the night. It is mostly a herbivore and grazes at the edge of the forest. It is thus found mostly near sheep pastures with large trees. The common brushtail possum is not lazy like the koala but rather quite agile. Only after it has fled onto a tree it clings motionless to a branch. This animal is often hunted for its excellent and valuable fur as well as it is guilty of raiding the chicken coop. It must be counted among the rarer animals.
It is strange how quickly the eye gets accustomed to see animals in the dim moon light that appear only as small dark blurs on the tall eucalyptus trees. We hunted in the gorgeous cool moon night for about another two hours and then returned home after I had bagged six possums and one Australian bear.