My first driven boar hunt


Write up with pics

When I got the invite for my first driven boar hunt from my good friend Max from Austria I was very excited and started planning my trip immediately. Max was going to drive from Austria to Croatia and I was going to fly from Leeds to Zagreb on Friday, the day before the hunt.

The preparation.
Because this was my first driven boar hunt, the choice of clothes and weapon were essential for me for this hunt. It is the first time for me and I wanted to make sure I’ll get it right. 2 days in the forest at any weather conditions can be challenging and I didn’t want to get caught out. I already have the Harkila Pro Hunter X jacket and added the hunting trousers and cap to it. This completed my outfit and waterproofed me. For shoes I decided to take the Meindl Winter boots. I didn’t want to take my Le Chameau wellies because of their bulkiness. I only wanted to take hand luggage and they would have taken most of the space, I also didn’t want to have to wear them and walk around with them during the flight and transfer in Amsterdam.
An important aspect of a hunt is the gun. I decided to take my Benelli Super Black Eagle II semi-automatic shotgun with Aimpoint S1 using Rothweil Exact 32g Cal.12 slugs, an excellent combination for a driven hunt in Croatia. All Croatian hunting videos I watched and the areal map of the hunt suggested short distance, dynamic, fast shots, ideal for a shogun hunter. This turned out to be absolutely true for each and every drive. No successful shot further away than 15 m.
Travelling with a gun requires an European Weapons pass, which is easily available from your firearms department, they simply print one off and post it to you free of charge. I booked KLM from Leeds that take guns. The flight included a transfer in Amsterdam and the second leg of the journey from Amsterdam to Zagreb by Croatian Airlines, which also takes guns. A great solution and I rang each airline to make sure the gun is booked for each leg of the flight. Full of optimism, I checked-in my gun in Leeds, which went smoothly and after filling in a form and having someone check over the gun’s serial number, all was done. Arriving in Zagreb was less joyful because the gun didn’t make it into the flight to Zagreb. It stayed in Amsterdam and was booked onto the next flight, arriving in Saturday at 13.00, while the hunt was already in full flow. I was disappointed because of all the effort and training that went into my preparation with my gun and I knew that I had to borrow an unfamiliar gun for the hunt. According to Miljenko, the hunting organiser, and my mate Max, it happens a lot that the gun arrives with the next flight. None of them were under the illusion that the transfer would be smoothly. Looking back, I should have factored in an extra day for arrival.

Max picked me up from the airport and the adventure was set to start. Our first stop was CineLov, a shooting cinema near the airport in Zagreb, where we put 60 training shoots through Max’s Steyr Mannlicher .30-06 with Swarovski 3-12x42 scope. Even though the gun was completely unfamiliar to me, I hit very well. Max struggled a bit and had some flyers that were well off the target. This was shot standing onto a cinema screen with the gun in position, looking through the scope at 3x magnification. As a shotgun shooter the balance is very odd and the weight of the heavy scope is weird.
My high shooting score was encouraging and I felt ready for the hunt.
We then drove to Novska while it was lightly snowing. About 5cm snow was had already fallen, with more snow predicted for the next 24h. We arrived at the hunting lodge with the rest of the shooting party of 30 hunters, mainly from Germany and Austria. After a drink and general Hallo we were shown our accommodation, Restoran Babić in Novska, a 10min drive from the hunting lodge. This BnB had been given 2-Star and was clean but very basic and old. Not more than a bed for the night and by no means better than the most basic hostel. The info sheet in the room said that it cost 200 kr (£24) per night for 2 twin room which can only be considered too expensive for this place.

After a change of clothes we drove back to the shooting lodge for dinner, which was marinated chicken, pork and Cevapcici with cabbage salad, Ajvar and beer. Heavy, archery clogging grub for real hunters. Many hunters in our party were very overweight and drinking beer and brandy at every opportunity. I had serious doubt about their ability to shoot dynamically, or even last the day in the forest. I was later reassured, when I saw hat they all had their comfy fishing-chairs and got chauffeured to their peg.

Our excitement for the next morning lead Max and me straight to bed, leaving the shooting party behind, drinking and telling each-other their favourite hunting stories. The hunting experiences and shared interests brings many people from different walks of life together and onto common ground.

I had a wonderful night sleep because I brought my sleep ear plugs with me, but everyone else was woken up at 4am by the neighbour's noisy cockerel. I’m surprised no one opened the window and took care of the shouty bugger, giving everyone was heavily armed.

Day 1
We met at 6.45 to drive to Breakfast which was organised in a different restaurant in Novska, called Pivnica, but shifting 30 hungover hunters can take time and there was a lot of waiting around. We got picked up in a very old and borderline legal people carrier van, squeezing 15 people and equipment into a very small space. The breakfast was entirely protein based, consisting of ham and eggs, chipolatas and boiled eggs. The 6 litres of juice also didn’t go very far and the bartender struggled to make espressos and put the food out at the same time. Though unhealthy it was tasty and set me up for the day. One of the hunter there had been to the hunt before and brought his own breakfast, wise man. The obesity crew loved it and got their fill.
It was still snowing in the morning and more snow had fallen over night. By now about 15 cm were already on the ground. It looked very picturesque but everyone knew that it would be a challenging day for everyone.
After the shooting party had been shifted to the hunting lodge here was unfortunately more admin to be done. Croatian hunting licences were issued and Miljenko started the payment procedure, something that could have been done the day or weeks before. Some hunters were on the spirits again and toasted to a good day's shooting.
At around 9am we got a move on and drove into the forest. Excitement was in the air. There was no apparent structure on who was positioned where, as no numbers were pulled. Some people were assigned based on their ability to walk or sit, others were driven to their stand by Miljenko himself, not that anyone shot anything anyway, but there was some apparent favouritism with pushy and long standing hunting clients. I really didn't like it and would have hoped for a more transparent process.

First drive:
Under snowy conditions we made to our pegs in the east end of the forest. Each hunter was stood about 50m apart along roads or paths, pointing into the forest where the beaters came from. Because of the snow it was easy to see the contrasts on the floor and any animal would have been easily visible.
My peg was quite a walk from the car at the east end of the hunt. I was on a slight hill looking down into the shrubs. My visibility was about 5 to 10 meters. I was gutted that I didn’t have my shotgun with Aimpoint, but instead a heavy rifle for long distance shooting. Max was to my right but I couldn’t see him as he was behind a big tree. I saw the hunter to my left who brought his seat which was very smart. It was a very long drive and totally quiet for over 1 h. Then we heard the dogs coming closer. I never heard working pig dogs but it was obvious to me that they were on the trail of a boar. I heard 3 different barks, between high pitch yells to deep barks. I could hear them coming closer and they couldn’t have been further away than 20 meters in the thick shrubs. I had my run in position, waiting, any second anticipating to see anything appear in my vision. Then boom. The hunter to the left fired a shot straight in front of him. The dogs went totally quiet. It was eerie. Had he shot a dog? If he shot a pig, the dogs would have kept on it. He kept looking into the shrubs to where he shot but I had no indication if he had shot anything. The dogs kept running back and forth but had lost their trail. They were quiet and trying to pick up scent again, but without success.
After 2.5 h the drive was over and I was eager to talk to my neighbour and find out what happened, so close to me. He explained that he saw a boar being chased by dogs and fired at it though the branches. The boar run off and he didn’t think he hit it. Exciting for me that a pig got so close and it could have easily been my chance to shoot.
For the first drive I counted 6 shots, but only one small pig got shot, by Miljenko himself. Most people hadn’t seen anything and there were long faces all-round.
We went to the hunting lodge for tea and brandy, then off to the next drive at 13.00.
Second drive
The second drive went to the north of the hunting ground and we were positioned in a line on a road at the starting line of the drive where the beaters set off. The drive was over quickly and I didn’t hear a shot. The faces of the frozen hunters got longer.
Third drive
At 14.30 we got into position for the next drive and I had a peg on a small forest track near a feeding place for the pigs.

The dogs came closer and the excitement was big but I didn’t see anything.
A few hunters saw a jackal, a slender long-legged wild dog, and one got shot.
At this point you could tell that the hunters were really ****ed off. Many had expected that 15+ pigs were down by this point.

First day evening
After a change and hot shower we had dinner in the hunting lodge, which was pork, cooked on the bone with paprika sauce and cabbage salad, washed down with 2 frustration-beers.
The hunt organiser’s excuse was that because this was the first snow of the year, the pigs have dug themselves into the undergrowth and stayed put until the are hungry. The dogs can’t pick up their scent and flush them because the snow has covered all tracks and scent.
The hope was that the boar would come out at night to feed and the dogs could pick up the scent better the following day. Max and many other hunters wondered if it was worth going out again the following day or just go home. Max mentioned that I hadn't been there, he would have left.
Many hunter washed down their sorrows with beer and brandy and I wondered how they would get up for the next morning.

Day 2
I had an amazing sleep after all that fresh air and the 4am cockerel didn’t disturb me at all.
The same breakfast routine and menu was presented but there was more sense of urgency to get the hunt started. At 8.45 we were all in position for the first drive. To my surprise all hunters looked fresh and keen with little signs of a hangover.
Day 2. 1st drive

We were positioned along a forest road looking into the woods with little undergrowth. The visibility into the woods was about 15 m. There were plenty of wild boar tracks from the night before. I was at a peg where a big boar had gone into the forest in front of me and I saw a patch of dug-up snow behind me. I was excited and hopeful that something would happen at my stand. Wild boar had clearly been here during the night.
To my left was a very overweight hunter on a raised hide, who just about managed to make it up the ladder. He had the best spot and he was clearly put there by the hunting guide as a special favour, which I found annoying and felt uneasy about. I’m just glad that he neither saw not shot anything. I stood on the ground and because he was on a raised stand, it also meant that I had a wider range to shoot safely, should anything bolt out of the forest and across the path to my left.

About 1 h in and with no dogs or shooting noises, I looked to my right, where Max had his peg, 2 down from me, about 100 m away. He must have been cold and started to do push-ups which amused me. As I looked into his direction I saw about 500m down the path 3 pigs bolting across the path at an area where no hunters were lined up. An amazing sight that got me excited and hopefully that something would come at our stands soon. A short while afterwards I looked to my neighbour who was crouched into his comfy 4-leg camping seat. I thought he was one of the ****-heads from the night before and had fallen asleep when I suddenly heard “boom” …a single shot fired. He shot a boar right in front of him, maybe 10 m. It came without dogs or any noise and because of the snow it was perfectly visible. It collapsed in the shot.
Only a few moments later Max fired a shot, right in front of him and shot a Jackal at close range. The heavy .30-06 turned the animals guts inside out. The dogs were just behind the Jackal and when they got close the Jackal still gave them a good fight and bit one of them. The dogs ran off and the Jackal followed a few steps and then collapsed dead. An amazingly tough animal with fighting spirit through and through.Looking down the line of hunters after all the shenanigans and 300m down the path, where the 3 boar crossed earlier, 2 red deer crossed calmly and gracefully, then stopped and looked at us, well knowing that there were save today.
5th and last drive
After some lunch we went out for the last drive at 12.30 to the south end of the hunt. By now several hunters had left the shoot because they were ****ed off and didn’t think this hunting trip could be saved. They cut their losses and at least got home sooner.
I was on my first raised hide overlooking some 2 meter tall growth with the back to the forest. Max was next to me along the road, also on a raised hide. The sun had just come out and although a blistery wind blew us in our necks it was the setting I was hoping for when I dreamed about this hunting trip.

I was stood up again and my shoulders were aching from holing the heavy gun all weekend.
The drive started quite far away from our peg and it was a while before we heard the first shots and dogs barking. Some dogs were barking from the same spots for ages without moving which indicated that the boar were dug in and couldn't be moved from their hiding places. A great sight were the white-tailed eagle circling above our heads during the drive.
After about 2 hours when the beaters and dogs came closer I had a sense that I could hear something in the undergrowth in front of me. I gripped my gun with both hands and my senses were in high alert. Then, a boar ran out of the shrubs on the left. I turned, raised the gun and had the boar in my scope and squeezed the trigger. Immediately did I realise that I had missed, but you don't get a second chance. The boar run off into the forest and was gone for good. An exciting split second experience that got my juices flowing. I was grateful that I had a chance, much better than most in our hunting party, and annoyed that I missed. The distance was no more than 40m. Could I have hit it with my gun? Could I have placed a second shot with my semi-automatic? We'll never know, but the excitement of the experience and the chance of a shot was amazing. The what if, is that keeps you going and makes you go back, again and again. More luck next time, more training for next time, better gun next time. The thoughts and mind games don't stop.

The final bag of 6 boar and 4 jackal was embarrassing and Miljenko felt very uncomfortable, trying to explain what went wrong and they tried their best to make this a good a hunt as possible.
He offered to give a free hunt to me and Max for that night and we took him up on the opportunity. If was free to go out but we would have to pay a discounted list price for anything we shot. I wanted to see if I could get a jackal or fox and Max wanted to shoot a boar. We were driven to different areas of the hunt and too our place on one of the fully enclosed raised hides, with silently openable windows. I had the Blaser R8 again, but this time with thermal vision scope. A great set-up but I saw nothing at my spot in the 2.5 hours that I waited there.
Max had his normal scope and because of the half-moon and snow a night-vision or thermal scope was not necessary. After about 1 hour I heard a shot and Max shot a 100 kg young male boar, which cost him €250. A great finish to an otherwise disappointing hunting trip.

On the way back to the airport we dreamed about our next hunting adventure and hunting trip we'll do together, ranging from Islandic goose hunting to UK rabbit shooting.
Good hunting and waidmanns heil.

Wild boar hunt 2018.
15 - 16 Dec. Novska, Croatia

Bag: 6 wild boar and 4 jackal

Gun: Blaser R8, synthetic stock, 9.3x62.
Scope: Swarovski 1.7x10-42 Z6i
Ammunition: Lutz Möller

Wishful equipment:
Hunting backpack with seat.
Motorola T80 Extreme for better communication between Max and me.
There was mobile reception, but because of the cold the battery died very quickly.