We take a look at some of the symptoms of wild boar fever!
Whatever type of hunting you enjoy, it is often what happens before you take the shot that builds the excitement. Squeezing the trigger is a mere instant in what can be a long chain of events. Naturally the hopeful conclusion of a hunt is to take a successful and memorable shot, but it is the anticipation and participation in a hunt that derives the most enjoyable experience.
Whether waiting on the foreshore for a flight, sitting in a pigeon hide, rough shooting with your dog or out stalking, you never know what’s going to happen next and that is part of the thrill. Different times of the year, different weather conditions, morning or evening, all add to the mix, but the biggest unknown factor is usually the quarry being hunted.
Each hunter has their own background, experiences and ambitions, but for many rifle hunters the pinnacle surely has to be hunting driven wild boar. In the past this type of hunting was quite restricted and most UK hunters could only ever dream of taking part in a high quality driven hunt in Europe, but changes in the past 30 years or so have made travel to and participation in driven hunts to countries such as Hungary and Germany far easier.
Each country has its own traditions and practices and so will do things slightly differently, but the basic format of a driven hunt remains much the same. Hunters are usually placed on their posts in advance of the beaters and dogs driving the game towards them. Once the hunter has been placed by his guide, he is usually left on his own and it doesn’t take long for the forest to settle down.
At this stage in the proceedings the forest can be totally silent and apparently devoid of wildlife, but experience teaches us to expect the unexpected at any moment. The quarry being hunted may turn up at anytime, maybe even before the drive has started properly, or maybe not at all…. The hunter must keep his wits about him for the complete duration of the drive, otherwise the only potential opportunity may be squandered. Sitting there patiently, quietly, not moving, just taking in your surroundings, looking and listening, and then a bark, a faint noise in the distance, but definitely a bark. A dog is on a scent, maybe a deer, but hopefully a boar. The heart starts to beat a little faster and all senses go on red alert.
This is the first symptom of wild boar fever. And it probably won’t be the last. Once the drive is in full swing, there is more chance that an animal might come your way, but that is not to say that an animal can’t appear at any stage of the drive and from any direction, regardless of the location and direction of the beating line. As the beaters approach and the dogs pursue their intended quarry, the noise level within the forest increases and it becomes virtually impossible not to get excited. The slightest movement, a small bird flicking from branch to branch or a leaf falling carelessly down to the ground, has the hunter twitching and ready to spring into action at a moment’s notice. The heart beat grows stronger and louder and no boar has been seen yet and then, a loud crack as a branch is broken or the rumbling sound of animals moving over frozen ground, and the black beasts are there bursting out of cover and approaching at speed. Although not moving outwardly, the hunter’s chest is close to exploding as he controls himself in preparation for taking the shot.
This is the moment that the hunter has been waiting for, but he needs to control his wild boar fever and remain calm. There is usually a great deal of waiting on a driven boar hunt prior to any action and when it comes it is normally over in a matter of seconds. The adrenalin may be pumping, but control is required in order to make the most of any opportunity that presents itself. The hunter must not move until the right time and then he needs to be quick and decisive. Quick to select the correct animal to shoot and then, hopefully having despatched the first animal, move on to a second suitable animal if it is presented.
When the action is over and if it hasn’t happened already, the hunter will be fully gripped by wild boar fever and completely enveloped in what has just happened. The fever may subside after a while, but it will return time and time again as the action within the forest ebbs and flows. Whether the shot was successful or otherwise, the all encompassing feeling when possessed with wild boar fever is hard to explain, but once experienced it leaves a craving for more.
Returning home and going back to ‘day to day’ stuff helps relieve the symptoms to a degree, but the fever lurks within and will resurface well before the autumn, drawing all addicted boar hunters back to their favourite hunting territories once again.
In the first of our series of articles, we consider whether driven boar shooting is safe…
First and foremost it is important to consider the safety aspects of driven boar hunting.
Like most activities there is an element of risk, but this can be managed to ensure safe, enjoyable hunting.
To those that have not yet experienced the wonders and excitement of a driven boar hunt, it may appear quite alien to use beaters and dogs to drive large, powerful and potentially dangerous wild animals towards a number of hunters armed with high velocity rifles, but this is exactly what happens on many hunts throughout Europe mainly without incident.
Shooting a wild boar or other animal during a driven hunt is not just a question of hitting a moving target and putting the bullet in the right place. There are a great number of factors to take into consideration at any one time, but the overriding issue at all times must be safety. Each hunter is responsible for safety, for themselves and of others, and should not squeeze the trigger unless prepared to accept the consequences.
During a driven hunt of large game in Europe, there is a fairly standard protocol for managing safety and ensuring everyone experiences an enjoyable hunt. On the first night when the hunting party arrives at the hunting accommodation, it is customary for the chief of the hunting ground or agent to meet the group and brief them on the format of the hunting over the next few days. An overview is given to cover timings, number of drives per day, what can and can’t be shot, how pegs will be drawn, etc. and to answer any of the hunters’ questions.
On the first hunting morning a more detailed briefing will be given to the hunters by the chief of the hunting ground and, if necessary, with an interpreter present to translate as required. This is the time to ask any unanswered questions or to clarify anything as, once out in the woods on your peg you will be a long way from anyone and not allowed to move until the end of the drive.
When out on the ground, hunters are normally positioned by their driver or a local hunting guide, whose grasp of English may be quite poor, but you must ensure through sign language or whatever means that you have a grasp on the following vital information before he leaves you:
- The location of your neighbours.
- Directions in which it is forbidden to shoot.
- Start and end of the drive and how, if at all, these will be indicated.
- The direction the beaters will take during the drive and approximately when they will arrive at your post.
- From which direction he will return to collect you
- Once on your peg, get settled quickly and quietly.
- Take in your surroundings, work out where you can and can’t shoot safely.
- Where you think the animals might approach from and your most likely kill zones. Being next to a tree is usually good practice as it will provide cover, a potential rest for longer range shooting and, in the most unlikely event that a boar charges you, a barrier.
Hunters being charged by a wild boar during a driven hunt is very rare. Like most animals when facing danger, in this case from the beaters and their dogs, they tend to flee. However, if a wild boar is wounded, cornered or protecting its young, it may well charge. Generally it is the beaters and the dogs that are more at risk as they are literally at the sharp end. The old adage with boar is to keep shooting until they are dead and then keep an eye on them, just to make sure, because you never know…..
Each country in Europe has their own traditions and unique way of doing things, though many principles are similar. More often than not, hunters are placed at ground level, sometimes in raised platforms about 4 feet above ground level and less often in high seats or towers. Everyone taking part in a driven hunt should wear as much high visibility clothing as possible, for obvious reasons, and this applies equally when being placed in a tower.
Some countries such as Poland and France will place hunters quite close together, typically 50m to 100m apart, and usually in a line. It is very important that everyone stays on the line and doesn’t move away from it, either putting themselves at risk or preventing a neighbour from taking a safe shot. In Hungary, for example, hunters tend to be placed much further apart as the drives are typically much larger, so it is very important that you can see your neighbour at a glance, hence the high visibility clothing. Arm and head bands are accepted, but barely good enough in most experienced hunters’ eyes. Make sure to wear arm bands on both arms at all times and not to take off your hat!!
Given that you cannot always see your neighbours and no two drives are ever the same, the driven boar hunter needs to be constantly alert to a dynamic environment. The accepted safe angle between a potential target and a neighbour in France is a minimum of 30 degrees, but bullets can and do deflect on bones, trees, stones, etc, so ideally work on more angle rather than less. There is a lot to take in when a boar or, if you are lucky, a sounder of boar approaches you, but the process of determining when and where to take a safe shot becomes easier with experience.