A first wild boar
I have long held a fascination for wild boar. The only time I have attempted to shoot one was on a driven shoot in Germany nearly 20 years ago and the only one I saw (alive) was going flat out about 200 yards away. I shot a fox that day safe in the knowledge it was the only thing I couldn’t cock up and get landed with a fine!
I have never seen one in the wild in the UK, although where I stalk in Galloway there is the odd sign up the road the local opinion is, as there are so few to let them build up in numbers. I have a great mate who livesin East Sussex and he has had a good population of boar on the places he looks after for about 20 years now. He has never used NV as he believes it is unsporting (his arguments makes sense to me too). He feels NV has allowed overshooting with his local population. He reckons that, due to overshooting/shooting pressure the local population is down 75% over the past 3-4 years, where he used to see sounders of 20 he will now see 4 or 5. He now never shoots breeding sows and actually culls very few each year, he has always stuck to Nov-Feb as a season also. Those he does are taken very selectively, really only where they are doing specific damage the landowner finds unacceptable. In the first instance he will sometimes use electric fencing before shooting to keep them off a small vulnerable area such as orchards during harvest time. When he does cull one himself now he will only stalk them on foot during the day in the woods.
Last year I travelled down on a full moon but the cloud came down and the mist up so that scuppered it. This Tuesday, the day of the fullest moon I had another go. I arrived at about 3.30pm and my mate took me to see the place we would be sitting up. The field was sheep pasture but the boar had been trashing the fence and rooting up the grass, the farmer needed the ground for when the ewes were put to grass with their lambs shortly and understandably asked for something to be done . As there was a steep bank there was no need for a high seat so he’d erected a hide with hessian sides that would also keep the bitterly cold wind out! My mate reckoned looking at the tracks in the snow there was 4-5 pigs visiting with a couple of them a decent size. The hide had been in place for 3 weeks, he'd been feeding for a week the scene was set! Below you can see where they have been routing up the ground where he has been feeding them (buried wheat with a bit of molasses) with the hide in the background.
Although I have a .308 as I went by train I was going to borrow my pal’s rifle so it was off to the target for 3 shots that, after the first one (getting used to the trigger which was ½ high) were clover-leafing nicely. He took me through the shot placement on an old head (between the eye and the ear), at these short ranges and from a hide or seat he prefers the head shot. We then put on as many clothes as you could move in (him a North Sea flotation suit!) and headed back to the hide. He explained that it would be the boar doing the fence damage and so he would be the prime target tonight. If he wasn’t there then one of the smaller young could be taken but not a large sow. I was worried that I wouldn’tbe able to tell the difference at night but he explained that the shape of theboar with its, higher, arched back was quite distinct. The conditions were perfect, with the fullmoon, clear sky and snow on the ground it was hardly getting dark even thoughit was 4.45pm. The field is only a few hundred yards behind some houses and anoisy yard but, as we got out of the truck I was amazed to see 4, now wait… 5shapes in the field 300 yards away. My heart rate when through the roof, I hadn’thad ‘buck fever’ for years! They were excitedly running around the field rooting about.
I said ‘how about we try and stalk them?’ but was put right as the snow was at its most crunchy. My mate said, ‘don’t worry we will nonchalantly take the route the dogwalker does (past them), double back and get in the hide - they will scatter but will come back’ I was worried and as we got to within 100 yards said ‘shallI have a go off your shoulder?’ Anyway thankfully they made my mind up for meas I looked through the scope one pig was head-on then looked at us and theyscarpered back in to the wood. There was a medium size, lightish boar, a sow of about the same size and 3 youngsters who were about 2/3 the size of the adults.My guide was right as I could make out the boar by his shape. He said ‘try and take the boar, if not a young one. Just take one animal.’
We got in the hide and my excitement turned to worry, whatif they don’t return and I have missed my only chance? My blood was up havingseen them so even though it was absolutely freezing I was determined to sit all night if need be. My mate must have sensed my fear as he said ‘don’t worry, with the snow, the frozen ground and being Februarythey will be hungry, they’ll be back.
We settled in for the wait. I lost track of time (but itwasn’t very long) and was brought to my senses by my guide saying ‘look throughyour binos and you can see a light shape on the edge of the wood 150yds away,that is the boar.’ He hung around on the edge of the wood and suddenly theother 4 came charging in to the field towards us. Heartbeat and rifle up again…‘wait for the boar’ a whisper on my left said. Lo and behold after a couple ofminutes the boar joined the other animals, the young especially charging aroundbetween the bait points ‘you have plenty of time’ the next whisper said. However being more used to deer I wanted tonot hang around in case they winded us (the wind was being a bit fickle) so,after making sure it was definitely the boar and the others had moved well awayfrom him I gently took the safety off. He was broadside, 65 yards away and downhis head went for a good root around. I lined up between his ear and his eyeand gently squeezed. Crack and then…thwack., a very satisfying sound like hitting a stag in the shoulder but even more solid. (mods are great for hearing the impact I find.) He wentstraight down and the others ran back to the wood. I kept the scope on him and watchedhis legs twitch but he looked dead. ‘Good shot, he’s down, well done, what arelief, all that planning’ my guide said. The other boar ran off with just one of the young ones looking around before entering the wood. We only wanted to take one so let them be.
Below is a wallow and rubbing post inside the wood.
After a few minutes we left the hide and me with rifle at the ready (thinking of the all of the stories of wounded boar goring people!) wewent up to him. No reaction to the eye test so we bled him out. Fantastic, he was a decent, medium sized, sandyish coloured boar – he had looked bigger inthe snow as often animals do, with not huge but visible tusks, I was made up. The shot entered at the base of the right ear, through the brain and exited below the far ear. As my pal had done hisback in it was a solo drag across the deep snow , luckily we had brought one ofthe kids’ sledges so we rolled him on to it and off I set. Progress was slow, it was up hill all the wayand at times I felt like Scott of the Antarctic but eventually, after about 45minutes we go him to the top by the truck where I started the gralloch. With my mate guiding me I managed to do it, it’s not dissimilar to deer but tougherskin and a lot more cutting than pulling needed to free the organs. Back atbase we hung him up in the shed (it was too cold outside in the barn) and retired to the pub for a lot of back slapping!
The next morning after some photos we loaded him up and took him to the butchers (who do the Trichinella tests) – the butcher kindly took the cheeks out for me to take home to eat and the front of the jaw so I could keep the tusks. He said ‘boil them for 2 hours and it will fall apart, you can just pull them out then. They weren’t huge tusks and he had lost one of his bottom ones but they were enough for me to put on a round shield as a memory of a great evening, a fantastic first and an exciting experience.
The set up was a Remington 700 in .308 with an S&B 8x56scope, Wildcat Mod and Sako 150 grain rounds.Inside the wood is a wallow and rubbing post.