I stepped off the plane in Barcaldine,
Australia, after 18 hours of flight time into a scene from a movie.
In one direction there was the Australian
outback, as far as I could see. In the other direction there was a tiny building consisting of a cement room for luggage delivery and two restrooms that made up the Barcaldine airport, and
an older, weathered gentleman in his early 70s dressed in faded jeans, a baseball cap and a safari-style shirt that read “Australian Outback Outfitters.”
That man was Mike Mackay, our host for the
week and one of the most unusual and interesting characters I’ve met in all my adventuring.
This adventure actually began almost a year
earlier when I was approached by a newcomer to the optics world — Riton Optics — to use and evaluate their new dangerous game rifle scope. We would be hunting on Mackay’s Hotspur
“station,” (what Australians call a ranch) of approximately 15,000 hectares as well as his brother’s station, Rosedale, that measured just over 122,000 hectares. Our entire hunting area was 20 by 25
miles of private land.
Mackay’s family homesteaded 22,000 hectares in
a very wild Australia in 1835. Mackay’s grandfather was one of the original settlers to Queensland, and over the course of a decade, they lost almost 15,000 sheep and 14 of 17 of the men who settled
with him to attacks from the native aboriginals.
If that alone didn’t make Mackay an
interesting fellow, he also left the family farm for several years and had one of the largest saw mills in Tasmania, made and lost $1 million American, then decided it was time for him to “find some
adventure.” That took him to the U.S. frontier of Alaska in his mid-40s to guide brown bear hunters for renowned Alaskan master guide Butch King.
After almost two decades, Mackay returned home
to take over the family farm and quickly realized he could add some income to his ranch using his newly acquired guiding skills.
Australia has some rather strict gun laws that
require permitting for import of any firearms into the country. My original choice of firearm, a lever-action .45-70, was too troublesome and expensive to import. Instead, I mounted my Riton scope on
one of the camp guns, a Winchester Model 70 chambered in .375 H&H magnum — the preferred minimum caliber for chasing scrub bulls.
The Riton RTSMod 7 1-8x rifle scope comes in
two configurations — one for tactical and one for dangerous game hunting. The RT-S Mod 7 1-8x28IR-H hunting optic was developed in cooperation with noted big-game hunter, journalist and shooter Craig
Boddington as a short- to medium-range hunting scope that can be used for any hunting situation — including dangerous game. This scope, complete with the Riton German #4 Mod 1 illuminated reticle, is
capable of fitting any caliber of weapon, while providing quick target acquisition at low magnification and precise targeting at increased magnification levels.
The tactical model was also developed in
conjunction with a true expert in the field, Charlie Melton, a former Navy Seal team sniper and trainer. The RT-S Mod 7 1-8x28IR has a first focal plane illuminated reticle for a true one-power
magnification similar to a red-dot sight, where both eyes are open for quick target engagement in close-quarters combat.
I was told I would be the first hunter to use the scope on dangerous game.
To explain a scrub bull requires a bit of a
Most folks are not aware that the only
non-marsupial or “placental” mammals native to Australia are bats, rats and mice. All other native mammals on the continent are marsupials. Every other mammal species on the island has been
introduced over the years. In the late 1700s, Australia was a penal colony for Great Britain. As part of the transfer of people to the area, they brought with them various mammals such as
goats and cattle for milk and meat, cats and dogs for pets and pest control and rabbits as part of a farmed meat supply. Later on, different species of deer were also imported for sport and
The new citizens of the continent were mostly
minor criminals — many of whom were city people who had no experience with animals of any kind. Needless to say, some of those animals escaped and, with unlimited land, resources and zero predators,
they established wild populations that have grown mostly unchecked for the past century.
Fast-forward 175 years or so and these feral
oxen have populated their habitats with completely wild herds of cattle. These “scrub bulls” are seen as somewhat of a pest. A 1,500-pound bull can easily jump a 5-foot fence to get to domestic
cows and will often get into corrals despite the best efforts of farmers. The real problem occurs when the scrub bull figures out he doesn’t need to jump over a fence, he can go right through
There were several violators on Mackay’s hit
Spotting the Herd
If you would have told me prior to
experiencing it that it would be so difficult to find and then close the distance on what looked like a domestic bovine, I wouldn’t have believed you.
We spent three days driving and hiking all
over the property to locate the herd of wild and domestic cattle the bulls had been hanging around with.
We located the herd on the fourth day, but
they had other ideas than letting us put an effective stalk on them. No sooner did we jump out of the hunting vehicle than the entire herd stampeded away into brush too thick for us to chase
after. Fortunately, they didn’t move far and we were able to get on them early the next morning.
“These buggers are smart and rather cheeky,”
Mackay told us. “They like to feed out in the open where they can see danger coming, but close enough to the brush where they can make a quick getaway. Fortunately, there’s a tree line that should
get us within 50 or 60 meters of them as long as everything stays in our favor.”In order to ensure a favorable breeze, we hiked approximately a quarter-mile downwind, circling up behind the herd and
rather quickly got to within 200 yards of them.
Almost an hour later, we hadn’t closed any
distance and we had to decide whether to make our move or wait and hope. The herd made up our mind as it began feeding back towards us.
We then took some decisive action, but we were
quickly running out of cover. I let Mackay know that with the Riton’s 8X magnification and the .375, I could easily take one of the two bulls we were looking at broadside from where we were
— about 100 yards. He let me know that tracking was something that we did not want to do with a wounded bull in thick cover, so he preferred to get within 50.
At 75, we caught the attention of two cows we
hadn’t seen. At that point the young bulls started moving toward us, and Mike and I began to get nervous.
There were two target bulls in this herd
— one jet black with horns that went almost straight up, and another “painted” with horns that went almost straight out.Surprisingly, both bulls moved towards us with the rest of the herd, as
they couldn’t quite make us out in the brush
I took a half step to my left, rested the
Model 70 against the bark of a tree trunk and took a bead on the black bull. He immediately turned and faced me head on. The other bull, 20 yards closer, turned full broadside to my right. I swung on
him, the RTS reticle and bright red dot lining up immediately behind his shoulder. As I pulled the trigger he turned slightly, putting my first shot about 10 inches behind where I wanted it. The
entire herd stampeded to our right, and as my bull passed an opening in the tree line at 40 yards, I fired another round that rolled him so hard he plowed up dirt as he fell.
He had been the “herd” bull and we watched as
the entire herd milled about in confusion for about a minute. Then, something odd happened … three or four other bulls went to the downed bull and began to maul him with their horns. We were so
concerned they would seriously damage both trophy and meat that we ran up shouting to chase them away.
I was both ecstatic at the culmination of this
hunt and surprised at the size of the animal on the ground.
There is a lot to like about the Riton RTS
MOD- 7 1-8H, not including the mouthful that is its name, and not the least of which is crystal clear glass and a reticle specifically designed for fast target acquisition.
You will love or hate the 34mm tube that
allows for a ton of MOA adjustment but, with its extra-thick tube makes the scope a bit more bulky than others in this class and can make finding a quality pair of rings more of a challenge. For this
project I chose and continue to choose Warne rings. They’re made to exceptionally tight tolerances, tough as nails and available in a wide variety of configurations.
You will never hurt this scope,
though. That’s the biggest advantage. Riton offers one of the best lifetime guarantees in the business — lifetime, 100% full replacement — but you’ll likely never have to use it. That’s the
best warranty you can get.
Finally, as a business owner, you’ll love the
fact that Riton is not only one of the least expensive optics in its class, it has exceptional margins and enforces MAP pricing on all of its products.
RT-S MOD 7 1-8X28IR-H
- Capped elevation and windage turrets with zero reset
- Parallax setting: Fixed at 100 yards
- Tube diameter: 34 mm
- Objective lens diameter: 28 mm
- Focal lens position: Second focal plane
- Illuminated reticle with six daylight-bright illumination settings
- Field of View at 100 yards: 142 feet @ 1x, 17.5 feet @ 8x
- Material: 6061-T6 Aircraft Grade Aluminum
- Weight: 24 ounces
- Length: 10.9 inches
- Eye Relief: 4 inches
- Click Value at 100 yards: ½ inch
- Adjustment Range: 175 MOA
- Mounting Length: 7.3 inches