At 2am last Monday I was wide awake and heading for heathrow for an early flight to Germany for my first experience of overseas hunting, in this case, driven hunts for boar and deer....
This was a swap hunt with the now infamous on SD 'Wildboar1973' having hosted him on the Reds during the rut, now was his turn to fulfil his side of the bargain.....(no pressure Michael....).
There was myself and an old friend Alex who will no doubt provide his own account of the following five days both meeting with our host at Düsseldorf airport, and once greetings (and a couple of hilarious quips due to my 'movember' effort) had been exchanged, we loaded up and hit the road for our week of hunting.
first stop, shooting cinema a couple of hours down the road.
We were offered a choice of weapons for the week, I chose the Mauser 98 in 8x57, while Alex favoured the Blaser R93 in .308 (enough said me thinks), and Michael insisted he kept his Mauser 9.3 as his confidence in our shooting ability was sufficiently low that he didn't want to waste the more expensive ammo down range!
I've never fired as many shots in such close succession, I think we each fired around 80 shots, now that was an experience, the rifles all needed 3 cooling down periods between firings, but it really got our eyes in on the quarry, although there were a few kidney and haunch shots being had so I for one certainly wasn't feeling cocky at this point.
on the road again we headed for our first overnight stop, a tiny little B&B to the north west of Berlin, which took us a further 3 hours to reach, and when we finally got there, we did a swif about turn and out to find somewhere to get some supper......German style.....!
Ok. So this was an experience, and one I think Michael would prefer us not to report on, but hey, so picture a grand crescent shaped huge building, proper massive presence, in England this would have been a five star luxury hotel..... We walked in the door and, well it was like we'd entered the hotel California..... It was as if it had its own population of strange inbred folk who enjoyed playing bingo in what can only be described as an indoor market square, complete with living trees, small cafés and some strange perimeter walls..... Something vaguely resembling a pizza was presented to us, which filled a hole, oh, and and a very annoying bingo caller, it was like hi-de-hi only worse!
Needless to say, we didn't satay long, and an early night was called for!
Up at 6 for a hearty breakfast and a swift exit to the hunting ground for our first days driven hunt.
after establishing which shooting group we were in, a lengthy safety briefing ensued (I don't speak a word of German, so this was all duly translated by Michael), then we were allocated shooting stands and promptly left in convoy into the military playground that was to be our shoot for the day.
on arrival at my stand, whilst still in the truck a small group of fallow ran away from us.....promising start.....
i was shown to my stand and told where was safe to shoot etc, then that was it......left on my own, ready to experience my first driven hunt.
not 20 mins had passed when what I imagine were the afore mentioned fallow returned, on quite a mission, clearly having been pushed by the dogs, they passed my stand within 60m but I hesitated, (first lesson learned), and before I knew it they were gone, but I had really hoped to see boar so I was happy I didn't spoil my chances by making unnecessary noise on a fallow......no such luck, that was me done for the day, and two hours later when the drive finished, the fallow remained the only quarry species I'd seen, although I was treated to some lovely views of red squirrels.....
both Michael and Alex had shot a mixture of fallow and reds, and there was a palpable sense of concern from Michael that I hadn't had a shot, but I assured him I could have but made the choice not to, nevertheless it was a cracking start to the trip, and the ceremony that followed was fantastic, as it turned out, quite a lot was seen and shot, over 20 fallow about a dozen boar and a fair few reds too, oh and two raccoons......
i couldnt believe how how friendly and welcoming the people were at this place, so many interested and excited people wanted to know how we had done, and congratulated those who had been fruitful, a very warm welcome.
so that was day one almost over, but not before a 3 hour drive to the diagonal opposite side of Berlin, to the South east by about an hour, and a check in to our hotel for the next three nights.
for the next three days we would be hunting in the same place, on three separate blocks of forestry, this appeared to be a very formal shoot, very organised, with a lot of guns and beaters.
this place took the safety briefing to a new level, it went on and on and was repeated verbatim every day before the shoot started....
stands and teams allocated we loaded into tractor drawn trailers and headed for the forest, Alex and I had been separated from Michael on this occasion so no translator for us.....good job I checked what 17 was in German, otherwise I'd never have known when to disembark!
alex and I were duly deposited at our respective stands, and the pressure was on, I wanted to break my duck and get something, anything on the ground today.....I wanted to get my little bit of spruce bow at the ceremony later.....!
So this stand was good, although I had a road behind me some 80m away, and I really thought Sod's law would mean something would appear in this direction and I wouldn't be able to shoot!
I neednt have worried..... About 20 minutes in and the dogs were going mad, I could hear one very determined bark coming my way, and then some crashing in the bracken........ My heart was thumping!
Then there it was, the first boar I'd ever clapped eyes on, a pale 2 year old überlaüfer with mottled blotchy patches, it was so pale, I had to do a double take as I thought it might have been a dog! But no, it was boar, and this was confirmed by the fact the dog was hot on its tail......unfortunately for me, just too hot on its tail, and only a few feet separated it from th pig, so there wasn't a safe shot, even though it passed less than 30m fro my stand, I didn't want my first memory of shooting in Germany to be that of shooting a dog! (I didn't want to start a war or anything after all.....sh-t, mustn't mention the war....)
about five minutes later and a lone roe doe appeared along the same path as the boar, and I knew, this was my chance to get things going. True to form, the deer stopped momentarily as it got to the ride, and dropped on the spot to a shot from the Mauser.
But as with the previous day, the action was short lived, and that was the last I saw of anything for the duration of the days shooting, despite a lot of commotion from a wounded boar not far from my stand whihc had come to bay surrounded by 6 dogs, and after about half an hour of constant barking bit no action, a dog handler turned up to dispatch the boar, and retrieve the dogs, two of which were injured as a result, stark reminder of the damage those tusks, however small can do.
Alex had more luck than me with a red and two roe. So we both took part in the ceremony later on back at the base, and I was pleased to see that someone had been more fortunate that me with the coloured pig, as it was in the back of one of the game carts waiting to be hung in the chiller.
a celebratory beer, and a bowl of soup, and that was day two........
safety brief (far from brief) complete, off to our stands for the morning.......this looked promising, the views from my stand were great (photos will follow) but I had a really good feeling today, and I wasn't wrong.
about half an hour passed before I saw my first quarry of the day, a red hind and calf, but I elected not to shoot, for various reasons, but mainly because I was determined I was going to get a boar today!
an hour or so passed, and I was beginning to think I'd made the same mistake as day one, and not shooting the only thing I would see, but I was being entertained by a black woodpecker which was in the tree next to me, quite a site to behold, and being serenaded by crested tits and gold crests so I wasn't unhappy, but then, there they were, coming right towards me!
A sounder of boar, lead sow, and a bunch of youngsters of mixed ages........12 in total I think...here we go!
as they came through the trees in front of me some 60m off, I let the first two shots off, neither of which connected, but I suspect hit trees as there was hardly any time between the trees to get clear shots, but as they broke into the ride in front of me, the first one dropped, swiftly followed by the second. I'd shot my first wild boar!!!!!!!
now, I'd better explain before Alex comes along and does it for me......
but what followed requires explanation. Neither boar was a clean kill. One had crawled on to approximately 110m and was floundering on the ground only lifting its head occasionally....the other had come to rest beind a clump of trees and was also only showing a small mount of head.
I was shaking by this point, understandable I think givens the circumstances, and it became very apparent at this point that there's a reason I use an 8x scope in the UK for shots at 100m+....
In total 9 shots finally put pay to both animals. The closer pig was in such a position that I had to shoot it left handed as I couldnt see it off my right shoulder, and even then I had to lean so far out of the high tower it wasn't exactly comfortable shooting but hey, enough excuses!
Only one additional shot for each animal actually made contact, so they weren't perforated, but I did get a fair ribbing from my so called friends.
Anyway. I had bagged my first, and second boar, that was me done, I was ecstatic! And sod the hunting at this point, I lit a cigar and sat back in my high seat to celebrate with a tot of sloe gin..... And wait for the drive to finish. (I figured after what sounded like the battle of the Somme, nothing else would dare come near me....... Balls, I just mentioned the war again.......)
so I had shot a yearling and to my pleasant surprise a nice überlaüfer, both were boys, and the überlaüfer had a nice set of tusks too........ So there were lots of handshakes and congratulations once back at the ceremony.
i think a further day or two of hunting followed, but it's all a bit vague to be honest, I shot another two roe taking my total for the week to 3 roe and 2 boar, Alex connected with a young sow on our final day, which had quite a funny story but he can tell that one, I think his total for the week was 8 deer and a boar.
what can I say, a fantastic week, an excellent host some amazing hunting, memories which will last a lifetime, and plenty of new friends to boot. Hats off to Michael, you really surpassed yourself my friend, I look forward to many more hunting adventures with you in the years to come..... Africa next I think!