The Hills to Shore, To Battle A Boar
Updated: Jun 9, 2021
By Clay Tall Stories
Both of us were in ultra-high spirits so much in fact, that 18-year-old Jody felt little resistance from the dead weight. The large, black carcass of an animal my dogs caught the eve before, slew with the knife was tied behind his slim waist with a rope fixed to the boars' jaw as he dug in dragging it up a steep washed-out track. Our laughter rang out above the dawn chorus cracking jokes that would only be funny to us as we hauled our backsides home after the first successful hunt in months with my dogs. I was oblivious to the extra weight in my pack of the boned-out pork of the first young boar my dog Pace had caught the day before plus the extra burden of Jody’s pack & rifle strapped to my belly. I was just too high on life to feel it as anything other than a blessing. The spirit of the forest had rewarded us with fresh organic free-range meat to bring home for nourishing our loved ones and selves.
A Hunter views things in the wild with keen observation aware of all the elements and exactly what they are doing. The wind on their back means that animals hidden in the bush in front of them will be long gone before they even arrive at their hunt zone. The hunter sees every mark on the forest floor knowing what specific species left its stamp there. They know the difference between a goat or a deer hoof in the mud and also know generally how fresh it is. The tell-tale signs of where a stag has rubbed the bark off a tree, or a boar has stood on his hind legs to scratch right through to the cadmium layer with his razor-sharp tusks advertising to other boars of his size. Then there is the boar smell itself. Pig hunters know this smell intimately and I am yet to meet a pig hunter who does not love it!
It was no surprise when Jody and I both spotted a reasonably fresh boar mark on the track at the same time. Our heads had been pointed down forever scanning the leaf litter seeking out the small patches of bare mud here and there that may have caught an animal's print. Even with the absence of its due claw in the leaf litter, it was clearly the mark of a boar that we had not on seen on the track the day before coming in. The rounded toe print suggested a boar that had done a lot of roaming in search of hogging sows or new feeding grounds. The size and depth gave promise to an animal well over 100lb on the hook. We both knew that this mark meant only one thing. We had to come back!
3 Days Later
Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.
I always remember seeing this quote on a small sign screwed to the wall in a boxing gym I use to frequent in my youth, and I have tried with limited success to apply it to my hunting and fishing missions over the years. The boar mark was high up in the hills and it would take two days away in the scrub if we were to hit it that high again which meant packing for an overnight hunt. The heavy hunting pressure we had put on the hunt zone just days earlier could have either driven the boar higher backcountry or, he may have dropped down closer to the coast which would be much more ideal for us. He also may have roamed 20 to 30 km away from the zone altogether in the last few days.
14-year-old Spencer is one of the young men who I have been looking after for the last year. He has the weekends hunting with me and the other boys staying at the farm for 4 nights in the old house truck, also taking Monday & Tuesday off school for work experience. I consider hunting to be an important part of a young man's right of passage to maturity so consequently, sometimes Spencer’s work experience is also hunting of which he naturally enjoys a lot more than weeding my garden or learning to use a rotary hoe, etc. This hunt was to fall on Monday and Tuesday. Spencer spent Sunday night readying his pack, sleeping bag, tucker, head torch, knife plus getting all the GPS tracking gear sorted for the dogs. He is good with the dogs and loves Pace. Four weeks earlier I had trusted Spencer with Pace and my tracking gear where he embarked on his own solo mission bringing home a nice 80-pound-sow.
Monday morning found Jody, Spencer, and myself all up early and on the road before the sun was up. 4 fit healthy hunting dogs’ all bred for one thing. Hunting wild pig. They had hunted that weekend previously but were still busting to go bush once again. Collars & units were all charged, and each man had his own GPS Alpha100 with a bit of string around his neck to keep the valuable tracker secured to them. A cheap pair of 2 watt 2-way-radios meant we could all keep in contact with each other should we be parted. Two of us carrying PBLs and all the rest would be in the hands of the forest and the elements.
The cool morning air was fresh and importantly it was blowing in our faces giving the dogs a chance to wind scent anything in front of us before it scented us. We kept all the dogs on a rope as we made our way along the public track. The occasional hiker started to pass on the track as we drew further into the native bush. Spencer & Jody went up a side gully for a quick look just in case the boar had ventured down it but there was no fresh sign. The dogs all investigated it thoroughly, but nothing had passed through.
We all re-connected back up again and began to break away from the main track in anticipation to start climbing much higher. My Garmin Alpha100 was not sitting well around my neck and the string was worn. A unit costing $900.00 needs to be well secured but right at this moment when I glanced at it, I noticed that Pace was 540 meters away heading to the beach below moving at a hell of a rate. Clearly, he was chasing and not just tracking an animal. Could this be our boar already in just the first hour? With our packs all still on our backs, the three of us accelerated sprinting back down the track towards the sea. I opted to keep my pack on to save time and get there faster while the two young men decided to take their packs off and ditch them to move easier.
We all made critical mistakes at this point.
1. I had not secured my Alpha 100 properly and while sprinting down the public track the worn string broke and I lost it on the way only about 20 meters into my run without knowing.
2. Spencer dropped his knife belt with his pack in all the excitement and started charging down the track without it.
3. Jody decided to take a shortcut but left the magazine of his rifle behind and his stick knife in his pack.
None of us were as well prepared as we thought we were for what was about to unfold on that cool June Morning. I got within 40 meters above the pig and went to check my GPS to find it was gone from my neck. I cursed out loud with frustration and had to make a split-second decision to either abandon the $900 unit on the track for some hiker to possibly take while I went down to the pig, or run back and retrieve it. Knowing Jody would be there any moment and hearing the dogs secure the pig I made the decision to run back up the track to find my GPS before someone picked it up because I just could not afford to lose it. As I sprinted back up the track young Spencer came charging down towards me like a bull out of a gate with a big red face and I noted he had no knife on his hip. I shouted to him, ‘’where’s ya bloody knife?’’ and he had to also turn around and run back up to fetch it. After the hell sprint still with my pack on my back I found my GPS unit on the track and snatched it up as fast as I could then smashed my way back down to the pig through the scrub. I was fighting self-doubt if I had made the right decision abandoning the dogs and boar to rescue my Garmin Alpha 100. My doubts were quickly put at ease when that adolescent high-pitched voice of Jody’s rung out, ‘’it’s a bloody big boar! “Jody was there, and I knew he had his rifle and knife…or at least I assumed he did. ''Assumption is the mother of all stuff-ups'', and this one had the real potential to be the mother of them all! The boar broke coming from above down towards Jody shaking off all the dogs except Po who was firmly locked onto her favorite ear, the left ear and she was not giving it up for anything in this world. 100% full commitment. Jody had neither his ammo nor stick knife and was wrestling this pissed-off pig down to the shoreline with my 4 dogs all doing their best to contain it. Swearing and cursing he was wondering where the hell everyone else was while holding onto the boar's back legs like a runaway wheelbarrow with 3 bags of cement. Smashing my way down through the native bush I became concerned because I could hear the genuine panic in Jody’s voice now. Jody is braver than most in the face of danger. If it is a downhill race on his mountain bike he is fearless to the point that he has broken bones multiple times. If it is a big nasty boar trying to kill the dogs to save its own bacon Jody is in there without hesitation. He loves it! This time something was wrong. He was screaming like a teenage groupie at a Justin Bieber concert. The top weight distribution of my pack caught me as I tripped on a dead Punga tree, driving me headfirst into the hard wet ground, my legs ungracefully flying over behind me down the hill in front of my crumpled body. I was lucky I did not break my spine. At the time I felt nothing other than a rush of heat go through my neck and jaw. I picked myself up and checked I could still turn my head from side to side then up and down. With a rush of adrenalin kept charging down to Jody. (Days later sitting here in my houseboat typing you this story it is very evident that I need to get it straightened out. My eyes are having problems focusing, my jaw hurts to move and the headaches are keeping me from sleeping)
Arriving just seconds after Jody had stuck the Boris with nothing more than a sad excuse for a butter knife, we both let out that insuppressible yahoo that many of you hunters will of at some time expressed directly after doing battle with a beast of the forest. A feeling of exhaustion combined with exhilaration. The same feeling you get finishing a marathon, or a bout in the boxing ring, a hard game of rugby, or planning for days to bag a boar and then executing it. Doing the hard yards is really the only way to get that incredible buzz and those who constantly choose to take the easy road in life seldom experience it. The euphoric rush of pushing body & mind hard outside of our comfort zone.
Jody told us that when he had arrived at the boar with four dogs swinging off it, he naturally was expecting both Spencer and me to be there. When no one came, he manhandled the raging boar through the gorse and over a dodgy bank down onto the seashore below where he finally managed to flip the pig in between two rocks. With the dogs still holding it and no sticking knife on his hip, he took a spare tiny knife out of his pouch and went at the boars’ heart through its brisket sticking it multiple times like a sowing machine needle killing it surprisingly fast. No dogs were injured, and we each learned something valuable from our mistakes. With our adrenaline still pumping we shook hands half fighting to keep the smiles off our silly jubilant faces, but the laughter and jokes still came flooding out while each of us recounted our own version of what had just gone down in the native bush on this incredible hunt. Jody’s version was by far the best as he had tangled with the boar assisted by the dogs, and he had done it perfectly against stacked odds. He had battled the boar from the hills to the shore. Never once letting the boar's back legs go even as he had slid over the bank in what was a terrifying moment for him. The number one rule once you engage with a boar is you do not let it go. Secure the back legs, and hang on tight, and only then draw your knife once you have the beast contained.
I thought the pig was about 100 pounds and as it was on a flat beach a good one for young Spencer to test his strength on the classic pig hunters ''carry out". After we had dropped the guts out and fed all the dogs fresh boar heart for their reward, I got out the cable ties and we made the boar into the typical backpack set up with each rear and front hock tethered firmly together by running the knife between the trotters and linking two cable ties on each pair of legs. Poor Spencer only went about 30 meters before his young legs buckled under the weight of the dead weight and I started wondering if it was maybe bigger than just a hundred pounds?
14-year-old Spencer braces him self for his first big carry'.
Jody slung it on his back with not too much drama and humped it up the hill. Spencer had another crack at carrying it but that was brief. I was dead keen to feel the weight of the pig on my back and against all my surgeons’ instructions of carrying no more than 15 kg my curiosity got the better of me. Casting common sense aside I lifted the dead animal on my back. The warmth still resided in the boars body against my me. Some blood escaped from the gut and anus cavity trickling down my lower back cold and wet. The strong smell of boar filled my senses giving me power from something very primitive with in. The bounty was locked into me perfectly for carrying. It felt good for many reasons to carry that pig. I kept my core tight and enjoyed the old feeling of once again working hard to bring home the bacon. Jody who was concerned about me displayed real empathy of which I was enormously proud of him for when he refused to let me carry it up the steep parts. I made a poor show of trying to argue with him when I was just quietly relieved for him to take up the load again from my shoulders. What a great young man! On the public track walking out, we came across a Scotts man with his wife. They stopped for photos and chat. Even though I could hardly understand a word the Scotts man spoke I knew he and his wife enjoyed the encounter with us. This had been a great hunt with good vibes from the public. The main public track out was in tip top condition making it easy with all our gear and boar to make quick time back to the truck.
The weight of a wild boar is important to a pig hunter. This obsession with a pig’s weight was most likely born years ago ever since pigs have been weighed in at local hunting competitions all around the country as they still are today here in NZ. My mate Simon had some electric scales and a cooler at his home. We were pleasantly surprised when we got our pig on his hook to see it go 116.4 pounds which for around this part of the country is a respectable pig. It also made me feel a bit bad for getting young Spencer to carry it as this was too much for his young developing bones.
Spencer gets a photo for his social media at Simon house after the weigh in.
After hanging the pig in Simons’ chiller, he came home from work and the four of us went back into the bush to hunt once more that same day. There was little sign found, but I was confident that everyone had given it their 100% best effort. It was 1 am the next day before the boys came out of the bush and 2 am before we all got to bed.
I woke up early the next morning and I drove down to my houseboat in the dark. I got the fire going and boiled the billing. Drinking black coffee in the pre-dawn watching the golden glow of the sun below the horizon in the East trying to crank start the new day I reflected over all the events of the hunt the day before. I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude for everything while enjoying the solitude and quietness which was soon broken by the dawn chorus. A mix of native & introduced birds filling the stillness with song. I watched a kingfisher drop down from a dead pine tree plucking a baby flounder out of the shallows. The water quietly lapped against the houseboats hull as I finished my coffee, cleaned down the decks, and secured the ropes on her mooring, then went back to the farm to find Spencer still fast asleep. I gave him the day off.
The next day the bush got the better of me and my son Jona and I did a massive walk back up into the hills. Pace caught a 40 lb boar from which I took some meat.
Two days later Spencer and I took just Po and Pace out and went hunting with Simon and his two dogs. Pace quickly caught a 50 lb sow then he tracked a boar of which we had been after for some time. That one is a story for another day, but I will share with you that we got the boar, and with it came a $990 vet bill which was very reasonable considering both Pace and Po got ripped up with Po having multiple rips. It was the biggest boar Simon and I have caught together to date. Video and maybe story pending. Po & Pace had their drains out today and I also got my neck straightened by Adam, my chiropractor. A few more visits and I will be fine.
Last night I cooked our ‘’Hills to Shore’’ boar’s shoulder and back straps in the camp oven over the fire outside. I went to bed with the fire burning and my son came home late. I heard him lift the lid off the camp oven and the next morning he had made quite a hole in the feed I had cooked us. After doing all my early morning chores I took some of the pork stew in a small camp Billy and went back down to the houseboat where I reheated it and finished this story.
The full video “Hills To Shore To Battle A Boar’’ will be posted to my Patreon where all my other private hunting videos are to view in June 2021. https://www.patreon.com/join/ClayTallStories?
Currently, Po and Pace are healing up well. I just got a call from a mate who has pigs destroying his little farm in Murchison so I can already feel a new hunting adventure in the wind.
Clay, June 2021