Bushpigs & Prickley Pears, A PH Reflects

TokkieM

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There are two popular ways of hunting bush-pig in the Eastern Cape, one is the good old bait and the other is by means of dogs, although I doubt I will ever consider the later method ever again! If you hunt with the "gentleman" that runs a pack of dogs you will quickly realize that you have the same chance of survival as the pig you are pursuing. If the heat and running does not kill you, then you have survived phase one, but there is a reason they have two packs of dogs on a hunt like this, simply because on a given day they will run a dog until it lies down and refuses to carry on, you do not have that option. Another point brought home to me very clearly during a break in a hunt like this was that you may not leave there in the same condition you arrived in. Two of the "gentleman" were very happy to show me their scars from bullet wounds received during their bush-pig hunting career, one through the stomach and another through the Achilles heel.

I settled on the safer method of hunting push-pig over bait, and although it seems a simple thing to do, it is a battle of wits and strategy often won by the bush-pig. Getting a pig on bait is one thing, shooting a pig on bait in the Eastern Cape is quite another. The following is from an actual hunt that took place and I can honestly say at the time I found non of it humorous, time seems to have enlighten me slightly. I was just starting out as PH and my client was an old hand in the PH game, lets just call him Pete, nice and neutral name, unless your name is really Pete!!!!

Pete and I agreed that he would meet me around 10pm that evening, I had checked the bait area during the morning and it was clear the pigs were coming in and staying until early morning. Pete being a old hand in the game was not going to pay me, payment would be in the form of sharing his knowledge, kind of like a mentor. He had on previous occasions elaborated greatly on his experience with hunting the bush-pig even in very close quarters, making him the kind of guy you want to have around when things go pear shaped. Pete arrived half an hour late, it is common for an old hand to make a inexperienced PH wait, it shows maturity Pete said, no need rushing into things. I parked the hunting truck a far bit away from the bait, but there being a nice moon I could make out the road pretty well, I carried the shooting light and a few other essential pieces of equipment, Pete had told me I would have no need for a rifle as he can shoot and it would also indicate I do not trust his ability and great many years of experience, so I left my rifle at home. We had gone about half way to the bait when Pete called a stop, he was grunting like the pigs we were about to hunt and even in the cool night air I could detect a bead of sweat running down the side of his head. After a good rest we finally arrived at the entrance of the pathway leading to the bait area, I had setup chairs and cleaned the footpath that morning so we could slip in silently, I preferred to sneak in when the pigs were already on the bait and have been feeding for a while. I told Pete this would be a good time to have his last smoke before we go in, while he had his smoke I sneaked into the bait area and sure enough I could just make out a pig grunting in the undergrowth on the opposite side of the bait area. I went to go fetch Pete and we sneaked back in to the bait area, he had to hold on to the shooting stick to follow me through the dark passage in the undergrowth that surrounded the bait area. I got him seated and his rifle setup on the sticks, now it was just a waiting game. I was seated slightly to the side and behind Pete, the evening breeze blowing gently into my face and the smell of rotten meat ( we used carcasses to bait the pigs, for some reason they would not eat the usual concoction of maize and other vegetables or fruits) mixed with the distinct smell of Rum drifted into my nostrils, Pete had surely had a bit of "encouragement"with his smoke. The boar came in pretty quickly and I held off on switching on the light for a few minuets until he settled down to feed. I gently pressed Pete's shoulder twice ( the sign that he must get ready to shoot), I gave him a second or two and then threw the switch on the light, it lit up the boar and he froze long enough for me to hear the gunshot and to see him go down kicking, I turned the light off again and we waited silently for him to die. It got pretty quite and I switched the light back on focusing on the are the boar had gone down in, he was back up and trotting away into the thick undergrowth before Pete could shoot again, the rifle lying next to his chair empty did not help.

I was not happy that we had wounded the boar, but I was very happy to have a man like Pete with me, his experience would surely make this an easy follow up even in the thick Eastern Cape coastal bush. I wasted no time in picking up the blood trail, Pete following right behind me, I crawled through the bush, there is no space to stand, and followed a well worn path that the bush-pigs had tunneled through the thick stuff. I was sure Pete was right behind me. After about an hour I finally came into a little clearing were I could stand up, Pete was about six meters behind me when I shouted that I have the boar! It was lying under a small prickly pair tree, with that two things happened, one the boar jumped up and started to run, two Pete now realized how close we were to the boar and in what I can only describe as a feat quite amazing for a man his age, size and physical ability, he doubled the distance on the boar with one smooth jump, we were lucky the bush was so thick otherwise Pete may have made it back to the truck before I could stop him. Shouting for Pete to stop, I still focused on the boar and ran right after him, I was gaining ground on the boar, but not enough to stop him before he would reach the bush on the other side of the clearing. I did the only thing I could and I clipped the boars back leg with my foot, both of us going at top speed, it had the most dramatic effect on the boar as he came crashing down in a shower of leaves and twigs, rolling ass over head a few time. Before the boar could get up I grabbed his rear leg with my one hand and tried to hold him long enough for Pete to shoot him again, my other hand was holding the light and I guess it made a pretty disturbing picture as the boar and I danced around each other with the light flashing then up then down then left the right. I can therefore not blame Pete for being a bit confused and not shooting immediately, I was getting tired and the boar seemed to be getting closer and closer to my legs and arm with his snapping jaws, I finally looked away from the boar and focused on Pete to see why he had not taken the shot yet, turns out Pete had lost his rifle in the undergrowth somehow. I had no option but to let go of the boar as I also noticed the spot light was starting to dim at a rapid rate. I marked the area as best i could and Pete and I headed back to the truck, we arranged to meet again in the early morning to follow up on the boar.

By 7 am Pete had not arrived yet and I headed out alone, it looked like there was some lite rain in the early hours of the morning and I knew it was going to be pretty hard to track this boar. By midday I had not yet found the boar, I was tracking on sign alone as I had long since lost any sign of blood. I headed back to the truck after marking the last place I found sign, my hands and knees were hurting from crawling around in the pig tunnels that criss cross the bush, there was just no place to stand up, the canopy of the bush was no higher than 2 or 3 meters, but even sunlight failed to penetrate some places, the smell of rotten vegetation and damp earth hung heavily in the air. As I got to the truck Pete and a tracker was waiting for me, Pete said this tracker was the best in the area, I was happy to have him lead. I took them back to the last place I marked the sign I found and the tracker started from there. It became clear to me that the tracker was having a hard time finding anything and I started to focus on the tracking job again myself. A few hours later I we came across what was clearly the spot the boar had bedded down in for the night, there was a hollowed out spot in the ground with some blood in it and what made it even harder to follow him was that it seemed he had joined with another pig, the blood track was not going to be any help as the boar had clearly shook off the previous nights rain, the water and blood had mixed and when he shook his body dry, the mixture has splattered all over the place, leaves and scrub was covered in the blood and water mixture for at least 2 meters around his bed. Pete and his tracker followed what they believed to be the right track and i took the one I believed was the right track, based on some information,sign and experience I was gaining very fast. After another hour or so Pete and the tracker gave up on their track and followed behind me, at around 3pm I found two drops of blood that was extremely fresh and I told Pete we were very close to the boar. My words were not cold yet when not more than two meters ahead of me I could see the boar lying with his back towards me, he was still breathing, I screamed for Pete to shoot, nothing happend, I drew my handgun at the same time the boar lifted his head, the 357 bullet caught him between the eyes and finished a long and hard follow up. I turned back to look at Pete and found him and the tracker hanging from the low scrub, they could not have been more than a meter off the ground, but once again Pete surprised me with his agility.

I left it to Pete and the tracker to drag the boar to the truck through the undergrowth, I purposely took the long way around. Once the boar was loaded and the back slapping done Pete lit a smoke and asked me how i knew which track to follow. I told him that I had noticed the boar was sticking to a certain route, he would travel from one large prickly pear tree to the next one in line, this was probably due to them eating under the prickly pear trees when the fruits dropped in season, the tunnels were well used and rub marks against the base of the trees confirmed this. The boar had also started splaying his left front hoof and that was the track I was searching for if I could not find blood, if I could not find a track or blood I would head for the next prickly pear tree and sure enough I would find something again. Pete then said "You are welcome to have hunted with me, looks like you learned a few things"!!!!

So to every "Pete" out there, thanks guys, you keep it interesting to say the least(y)

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BRICKBURN

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Cheers to "encouragement" and "agility".
 

Nyati

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You should be thankful to have guys like PETE around, to show you the tricks of the trade :ROFLMAO:
 

AB2506

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Nice tale! Thanks for the good read.
 

enysse

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Cool story, nice bushpig!
 

BnC 04

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Very nice now its time for a BBQ.(y)
 

IvW

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Cool story thanks
 

mark-hunter

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I know too much of those "petes", unfortunatley... Good story. Thanks for sharing!
 

Nevada Wapati

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Good Ole Uncle Pete. Didn't know that he trained you also.
 

IvW

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You also get "Pete" clients...
 

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