I wanted to put down some thoughts on a pledge I won in the recent Help for Heroes auction. It was really great to see so many pledges for this charity, a good friend of mine has been treated at Hedley Court, so I know that money raised for Help for Heroes directly benefits our service men and women. So a big thank you to everyone who pledged to the auction and to those responsible for setting it up.
The pledge I won was for a morning stalking fallow and a night after wild boar donated by Wayne Davies and his friend Andy. Wayne got in contact with me quickly and was anxious to get me on to the boar as soon as possible last October because they were hitting a farm he looks after. As it was I was unable to get away from work until November, he said the success rate on the Boar was approximately one in four. I met Wayne at his home prior to our first evening in November and having shot a group though his 30-06 Blaser we set out. The spot we would be sitting over was a approximately twenty five acres of crop forming rides running up and down the field, at the top of the field sat a wooded hill. The plan was that we would see the boar through binos, get ourselves set up before using a lamp to take the shot. Given the fact that Wayne was restricted to this one field he was anxious that the first shot should anchor the boar, the last thing we wanted was one charging off wounded on to someone else’s property – fair one.
On the way to the location we met up with a mate of Wayne’s who had just shot a large boar. Wayne had offered to have its teeth graded and properly mounted. The teeth were big, possibly slightly bigger, Wayne confessed though gritted teeth than his own Gold medal boar. You may have seen this chap in some of the shooting press recently – his boar’s teeth are indeed the largest taken so far in the UK. Having taken a look at a photo of it hanging up it was certainly a massive animal and it left me wondering whether I wouldn’t rather be sitting behind Wayne’s .375 rather than the .30-06.
That first night we sat well into the dark gibbering before taking a walk around the field, shining the lamp up and down the “rides” of crop plants. We saw some boar sign, we saw badgers, we saw a roe doe, and we saw rabbits, but no boar.
Once we left I was expecting that to have been my lot, after all the pledge was for an outing after boar, there was no guarantee that the boar would actually turn up and give me a nice thirty second 50 yard broadside! Wayne was kind enough to ask me to come back and have another go however.
My on my next visit to Wayne we combined an evening after fallow followed by another sit in the high seat. We went to another property for the fallow – an area of mixed crop and pasture interspersed with woodland. This was the first time I got to see Wayne’s dog work – he’s a German Short Haired Pointer called Max, an awesome looking dog, he is huge! Its always impressive to see a good working dog in action and Max was no exception, very well disciplined.
At first light we moved towards a group of fallow grazing on a woodland edge we had glassed at about 800 yards, myself, Wayne and Max. When we were still a good distance from the deer Wayne dropped off Max and we continued alone – unfortunately before we got to a shootable distance the deer had moved back into the safety of the woodline. Perhaps they had seen us, I became very aware of my large frame being skylined where Wayne was managing to keep himself lower, must try harder!
Wayne decided to change tactics and having approached another woodline deposited me at the base of a hedge with a clear view of some 250 yards of woodline. I would sit in wait while he and Max would take a walk, he gave me a clear left and right of arc so I was happy with where it was, and was not, safe to shoot. After just over an hour of waiting Wayne shot a fallow buck on the other side of the woodland I was watching and this caused a group of fallow to break cover from the woodline and start to move uphill towards another woodline some 500 yards distant. Unfortunately for me they emerged outside my comfortable range, so I just spent a happy few minutes watching them cover the ground.
Once Wayne picked me up we sauntered back up the hill towards where we had left the quad so that we could go and pick up his buck. We had moved around 150 yards when Wayne froze and indicated ahead, a group of four fallow including what looked like a really good buck where moving downhill on the opposite side of the field some 200 yards off. We had surprised each other and for a few seconds we just stared at one another before Wayne and I sunk to a prone position and the deer moved on. The deer were walking along a barbed wire fence separating two fields and their natural progression down hill would bring them parallel to us, shortening the distance, provided that they didn’t jump the fence.
Wayne indicated that I could take any of the deer that presented a shot, but that I should wait until they were as close as possible. Those few seconds took an age as they moved down hill against the fence, surely they would stop for another look at us soon, should we give them a whistle to stop them? They didn’t stop though and instead hopped the fence and headed directly away from us. Perhaps there was a moment when I could have taken a hind as it waited its turn to jump the fence, but it would have taken greater confidence than I had at that moment and I let the chance pass. I was worried Wayne would be annoyed I hadn’t fired, but he seemed happy that I’d done the right thing.
That finished our first outing after the fallow and that evening saw us back in the high seat waiting for boar, but again to no avail – Deer and Boar 3 – me 0.
It was December before I was able to go out with Wayne again. This time we were accompanied by Wayne’s buddy Andy. Andy would take me for an early evening walk round for a fallow hind, before a drive to the farm for boar.
Andy and I set ourselves up sitting at the base of the woodline. We lay on the edge of a gentle bowl so anything that came along the woodline and into the bowl in front of us would be a safe shot. Wayne would take a walk and have a look for a sick or injured fawn that had been seen. I had some time to get myself nice and comfy, Andy ranged several features along the woodland edge up to 150 yards and I spent some time cutting stickets and flattening the grass in front of me so that I’d have good muzzle clearance from prone. We sat and waited for dark. After an hour or so and with only a few minutes before it would be impossible to shoot, a group of fallow hinds emerged from the woodline and commenced to feed at approximately 200 yards – too far for a shot given the light Andy advised.
We could see that the deer were moving in our direction, browsing as they went, but they were moving far too slowly to get to a shootable distance before it was dark. The light was dropping every minute now and as the deer progressed they passed the 150 yard point, at which I would have happily taken a shot only 30 minutes before. Just as I was starting to curse my luck the lead hind broke into a canter and came on towards us at speed, the others following in her wake. I’ve no idea what made them move towards us but the grey shapes were rapidly getting larger in the sight picture of Wayne’s 8x56. They slowed down at about 70 yards but continued to move at a steady pace towards us. Andy has given me the nod to take one as soon as a shot was presented, but even at this distance I was having trouble acquiring a target. The deer were rarely stopping and if one did there always seemed to be another deer directly behind it. As they got closer I had a new problem, the deer were getting too big in the scope and I was having to move the rifle to scan around the deer to decide whether I had got a single deer in front of the crosshairs.
At some point they must have caught our scent. The deer knew something was wrong now and we could see them turning their heads to try and locate us, one moved away from the woodline into the field still looking in our direction, this was all the chance I needed. At the shot the hind ran then staggered, it made about 40 yards before it expired. Its always nice to see deer drop where you hit them, but you could tell immediately this one wasn’t going far. I had finally fired at about 30 yards, it would have been easier with open sights at that distance!
Wayne was as pleased as me that I’d taken one and once we had loaded it we headed off to see if we could find some boar.
When we arrived at the farm it was baltic and I was glad when Wayne opted to forgo sitting in the highseat and go straight into a walk round the field. We went straight into the now familiar walk around the perimeter of the field, periodically shining the lamp down each of the rides. We were about two thirds round when we heard a low guttural grunt. I pride myself on being pretty relaxed and methodical when I’m shooting but the sound of what was very obviously a pig, seemingly right in front of us gave me the shakes something awful.
Andy pulled me into position and set up the sticks and once Wayne was happy we were ready he stuck on the lamp. We were met with a good sized pig at around fifty yards. The beast stood broadside for me for a few seconds as it decided what to make of us, we could hear other boar moving out of the lamp light and very soon our one would choose to follow them. I think someone shouted “shoot” at this point, I was obviously taking too long! I got in a good engine room shot before it jumped out of the lamp light and it fell with a thump in the next ride. Thank god for that – it wasn’t a hard shot by anyone’s standards, but when you can feel your heartbeat and your body shaking accuracy slips – I was really relieved it went down with a single shot.
We then looked further up the field and I got the cross hairs on another boar, this one obviously larger, much larger. It wasn’t a safe shot though as it was skylined and on penetrating the round would have left the property we were on.
On approaching the pig we shot we found a mature sow, much larger than I expected. The 180 grn round had really done the job and had clearly had the time to open up in the larger body of the pig.
We were all pretty elated at this point – my third time out with Wayne and a double success, he and Andy had worked very hard to put me in the right place at the right time – I’ve reproduced some of the trophy shots we took, please excuse me masking my face, you wouldn’t appreciate my mug anyway.
Many thanks to Wayne and Andy for donating this fantastic pledge to the Help for Heroes auction and for going the extra mile to get a great result. I’ve hunted boar or pigs all over the world and its great to have had the chance to take one in England – its not an experience I’ll forget in a hurry.