bit of a long one this, so I've cut it in two. Part one tonight, and if I don't get told to shut up by too many of you guys I'll post the rest+ some more pictures when I've typed it up.
Friday 18th January.
Check in at Heathrow 08.00, as I have been warned that it can take some time to get through with a rifle. True to form security are called, and take 45minutes to arrive. There seems to be utter confusion over whether the ammunition has to be in it’s steel box within my suitcase or separate. Eventually it is decided that my bolt and ammo should go in their little steel box down the conveyer belt. The staff do their best to convince me that firearms NEVER go astray, as it causes so many headaches and form filling for them.
The rifle numbers are then checked against my licence and that too disappears with the security guard. By now I have met up with Christopher who is hunting with me. We make the gate with just enough time for Chris to get a bottle of single malt, “phew that was close!”
Arrive at Warsaw and both rifles and ammo boxes arrive as promised, hooray!! Cursory glance at series numbers on rifles and papers, and we are off. We meet the translator Chris has hired, who thankfully is good company, female and easy on the eye. Our driver Andrew travels at close to the speed of a 223 all the way to our hotel, almost four hours away. It would seem that the highway code here is a bit different to ours. A double white line in the middle of the road means once you have crossed it it is a crime to get back on your own side of the road. Only after an oncoming motorist has hooted twice are you allowed back. We tested this law to the limit and it certainly seems to work in Poland. We are based in Gruszki (pears) which is a few Kilometres from Belarus in deep forest. After introductions to our hunting guides ( Andreov and Bogdan) we sit down to a cold supper of ham and cheese with the obligatory gherkins. Early to bed and read my new copy of Sporting Rifle till midnight. (Always worth mentioning, as you just never know who is reading and what good might come of it, ha ha ha).
Saturday 19th January.
7.00 start with Andreov, and his trusty VW golf. We converse in German, I think we are at about the same level of ability, and it turns out his wife teaches history and German at the local school. Andreov takes care of 2000 hectares of prime forest. He has a mixture of Scots pine, Norway spruce and mixed broadleaf. Unlike so many of our forests which have straight lines of trees, out here everything is, or at least looks natural, with haphazard planting. A percentage of fallen trees are left to decompose naturally to increase biodiversity (learned that in the museum). We see lots of huge roe and reds but no boar. Chris sees a bison (zubr) at around 350 yards, and comes back buzzing with excitement. These beasts weigh up to 1000kg and can jump a 2meter fence. Take note, never camp next to a fence in Poland! Breakfast is the same fare as supper but with the addition of jam and coffee.
15.00 out again in the melting snow and light rain. We spy a pair of red hinds, but they are too big for us. Only calves can be shot after 15th of January. I wound the scope up to 9x for a better look. They are as big as cows, I mean huge. We wait 3-4 minutes and another large hind joins them at the end of the ride. I move just a bit and they spook and run. Last to cross the ride is a calf but too late and too fast to give a shot. We move to another area which the foresters feed with maize to encourage the boar to stay. There is normally a high seat overlooking these feeding places. There are 8-9 boar feeding here and Andreov puts out the sticks. My new Sauer 7x64 is about to be tested to see if we will become lifetime friends. I have read so much about plastic and stainless rifles, but for me it had to be wood and lots of it. Anyhow the stutzen fore end slides nicely along the hazel sticks. I get the boar in the scope in the fast failing light. Against the boar the cross hairs almost vanish. One of the boar separates from the group and I line up and ask “ist gut?” In a whisper Andreov replies “ja ja ist gut” I’m not looking for a Keiler, as they are well out of my pocket, and they all look huge. The Sauer trigger is superb, and the shot takes me by surprise. Big muzzle flash and I reload on auto pilot. When my sight clears I think I can see movement from the boar on the ground so I get back on the scope for another look, and possibly a follow up shot. A well meant slap on the back tells me it’s all over, and Andreov is delighted. We approach and find my shot was good, at 40yds there was not really any excuse for bad shooting. Except perhaps that this was my first boar shot at night, in a group that were milling about. Andreov performs the last bite, and leaves me with the boar, to say goodbye and thanks. The boar was later weighed at 23kg clean. He returns and after cleaning the animal we load it into the car and head off. I’m asked if I would like to look for another. We do see several. But by now I’m tired and the light is gone completely. I planned the trip to coincide with the full moon, sadly tonight there is thick cloud, so as the saying goes “The best laid plans……………….”
We retire to Andreovs’ house to celebrate with home made vodka, (bimba) salami, a kind of black pudding and pickles. All home made, which makes the feast even better. Back at the hotel I find that although he saw many boar, Andrew has shot nothing. I do hope his luck is better tomorrow. The fresh liver is cooked by the beautiful hotelier, Renatta, and is eaten heartily by the guides and guests together. Tired but very happy I retire, shower, and dream of the many boar we are sure to see tomorrow.
Sunday 20th January.
06.30 start, temp-2 degrees C. Very cold and crisp this morning. Layer of snow with an ice crust (just perfect for creeping quietly about!) We see lots of huge roe. The does are not hunted here as there is ample wolf and lynx predation to keep the numbers in check. As a result they seem quite willing to stand and watch us, but never long enough to get the camera out and switched on. The morning slips by and just as we start to switch off the hunting radar in our brains we simultaneously spot a group of reds in the trees 30yds to our left. We stop, and so does the red hatch back coming the other way. (At this point it is worth mentioning we had not seen a car on this track/road for two hours, so this was the worst kind of luck).
The herd of about 25-30 deer exit stage left like ghosts into the forest. Adreov quickly turns the car around and we drive quickly around and down wind to where he thinks they will be headed. We debus and walk as quietly as we can into the wood. The sound is amazing, like stamping on open packets of cornflakes. We do our best to avoid the snowy areas, by moving under the canopy of trees. All this does in fact is change the tone of sound rather than reducing the volume. Now we are picking our way amongst the fallen branches and twigs on the forest floor. We spy the herd about 90 yards through the trees. At that very moment I feel a wisp of breeze on the back of my neck. So disoriented have I become that I had lost sense of the wind direction. What was amazing was to witness the deer respond about ten or fifteen seconds later. It obviously took that long for my pungent human scent to carry the 90 yards to them. Again like forest ghosts they were gone.
We return to our hotel for scrambled eggs and smoked cooked ham, superb! Chris has this morning seen his first European bison, (zubr, pronounced schuber) and is ecstatic as would I have been.
14.30 We are out again. We visit two different high seats but see nothing. We move to another area and as we approach a high seat we can see two groups of boar squabbling over the maize. A minor war breaks out between the two families and there is much grunting and squealing. I then hear another kind of sound completely. It is a very deep but quiet grunt/roar. Andreov explained later that this is a warning of imminent danger. Had I been a more experienced hunter this would have indicated to me that if I had a target I must shoot quickly. Needless to say I’m not, and I didn’t. The family to the left raced away crashing through the undergrowth. The remaining family thought their luck was in as they now had first pickings on the food. I single out the smallest one I can, but the light is almost gone. Again the crispness of the Sauer trigger gives no sense of creep, and the 170 grain Sako round is on it’s way before I knew it. Moderators are illegal in Poland so I’m immediately blinded by the muzzle flash. I chamber another round, but there is nothing there to shoot at. Andeov asks if it was good? I think so but it flashed away to my right I think. He now walks back for the car while I wait in the gloom. As he walks away he flippantly says he thinks I might have hit the keiler. This sends a shiver down my spine, as they are eye wateringly expensive, as would be the divorce which would no doubt result from so costly a mistake as this. We find a few drops of blood then some more but no piggy. I express my fear of having shot a heavily tusked keiler, and Andreov just roars with laughter. When we find the pig I see why. It is very small, and probably ill as it only weighed in at 18kg. The keiler comment was only meant as a joke, but it was lost on me at that precise moment!
Notice the skin on the belly of this boar doesn't look right. That and the poor body weight mamke us worried that this was not a well piggy.
We collect Andreov’s wife Larrisa and I am honoured to be taken to a friends house. For the purpose of ease of spelling I shall call them Mike and Chris. I spend a most enjoyable evening in their company. The translation of my poor German into Polish and back into German by Larrisa and Andreov seems to be seamless. It never ceases to amaze me how hunters the world over can all understand each other completely, or was it the local brewed vodka just making it feel that way? These people had next to nothing. They were not surprisingly the most generous and welcoming people you could wish to meet. I had the foresight to arrive with a bottle of good whisky, which despite being a bit weak at 70 percent proof was well accepted by my hosts, and we certainly made a large dent in both Polish and Scottish spirits. I feel I must tell you a joke that was made by Mike, who is of substantial proportions.
We were discussing the good fresh liver dish, sausages, and salamis that his wife had put in front of us. I joked that my rather ample middle was due to the fact I was expecting my third child soon. Quick as a flash Mike said he too was expecting a young one, but his was definitely an elephant. He went on to say he knew this for sure, as the trunk had already emerged, and standing up and reaching for his fly asked if we would like to see? Again this sounded much funnier after a few whodkas and viskeys!
Just like Mr. Ben in the children’s program I found myself back in my room, just like magic, showered and hit the sack.
More to tell, but please tell me if you've had enough of my waffle.