Issue 27 September 2021

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Public Land Pigging

In search of wild bacon in the outback.

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Shooting|December 2020

The vast majority of my hunting has taken place on public land, that is state owned land designated for legal hunting activities. Public land hunting essentially means you are on your own. No advice, my guidance, no local owner pointing you towards game. All you get is a permission slip, a map and maybe a clearing amongst the trees to make camp. You take everything else with you, including water and fuel and some time later you leave, hopefully with a cold box full of game meat.

I’ve been lucky enough to experience both adventure, and misadventure while pursuing my personal game trifecta of Pigs, Feral Goats and Deer on public land, be it amongst the coastal ranges, or the dry, dusty marginal country west of Great Dividing Range.

Now, I haven’t done it alone, and it’s worth pointing out that a significant part of my hunting life has been spent with trusted hunting companions. The friendships I have made through hunting bridge continents and time zones, and the camaraderie I have shared during a driven pheasant hunt in Yorkshire is the same as around a campfire during a dry, dusty summer

Australian. Pigs, or wild Boar to my European friend are a staple of Australian hunting. Regarded as vermin, they are commercially shot on sight, though they manage to hang on and reproduce in numbers that appear to outweigh the efforts to remove them from the landscape.

...both Boar and Sow will charge.

Hunting pig on foot can be a challenging exercise, as they are smart and will become essentially nocturnal in response to hunting pressure. There is an obvious the element of danger to hunting pigs, as both Boar and Sow will charge.

There is also something of an aura around their ability to absorb punishment. I think this is mainly due to the dried mud that covers their body after a wallow, so for me a .308Win or .30-06 Springfield is perfect pig medicine.

Amongst the pines. Having travelled about 5 kilometres from camp Tim turned off the main track, he even indicated, and then drove his small sedan as far off road as the suspension would allow. Soon we were on foot and hunting a huge expanse of public land in the New
England region of New South Wales.

After initially cutting through the native undergrowth, we approached the plantation pine. About 50 metres away a small mob of Wallabies were enjoying the native pick, and the cover provided by the imposing tree line. Giving them a wide birth, we stepped past that clear line of demarcation and immediately entered another world.

With a distinct drop in temperature, and only a breath of breeze we moved down the dim rows of pine. Soon came to a huge pig digging, littered with the remains of incredibly bright red mushrooms. We tried to make sense of all the upturned dirt, pine needles and mushroom flesh, however it was so expansive that we couldn’t find a start or finish or even identify which way the pigs had gone. With no clear direction to follow, we turned into a very slight breeze and moved on.

Reaching the high side of an old forestry track we stayed under cover and glassed into the next patch of timber. A little to our right we spotted a clear cut slide down the steep bank. It was obviously caused by the pigs and led towards a small fern gully. Following the newly
discovered game trail we crossed the track, and then made our way through the ferns. Coming out of the gulley we re-entered the line of trees and began to move up a short rise. Just a little above us were the pigs.

Spotting them, I dropped down to crouch, an action mimicked by Tim. Ahead we could see a small black sow and larger black juvenile boar with white socks. Oblivious of our presence they slowly moved further to our left, all the while continuing to snout up chunks of forest
floor in search of food.

Taking my time, I stood up and put the cross hairs a little behind the foreleg and fired, hitting the smaller sow squarely with a 150gr soft point from my .30-06. I watched it drop like a stone, so I cycled the bolt and aimed up on white socks. Hitting him with a similar shot, I had
a pigeon pair on the ground.

Unfortunately, I had completely missed the larger pig which burst from cover and disappeared into the forest gloom. Walking over I chastised myself a little for focusing on what was right in front of me, however I was still happy with my two little pigs.

Paying for the privilege.
In 2010 Tim and I decided to try our luck with a guided hunt. With a 1500 kilometre drive in front of us, we were powered by the promise of burnt out barrels, sore shoulders and monster hogs.

What followed was seven long, 12-hour days spent bouncing around in the back of a 4WD in search of bacon. As the week progressed and our overall pig total remained zero, we adopted an attitude that it was better to laugh, so we began each new day with the cry of TAKE ME TO THE PIGS. I’m sure it soon worn thin on our guide, but hey it’s not like we were asking for much.

On our last day we found ourselves quietly checking out the shade along a creek. To say creek is a little misleading as it really was a wet season river. Now dry, the channel was covered with mostly pumpkin sized rocks and the odd gigantic boulder, banked on the northern side by an enormous cliff.

We had been hunting with the best pigs dogs in the country and after about 20 minutes we heard the first howl of the week. Having been schooled to listen up for the dogs I immediately thought finally, here we go, pigs.

As the racket continued, I bolted forward, though soon realised it was a wild dog moving along the top of the cliff face opposite that was making all the noise. Wild dogs, a mongrel mix of introduced dog and native dingo are a declared pest, and as we were hunting on
private land, we were obliged to shoot any and all cattle killers.

Tim coolly called down that the Dog was deader than Elvis.

With all eyes up we followed the dog as it moved along the skyline. Having nothing better to do I decided to try a howl. Making a sound that only a kind-hearted friend might describe as a dog howl, to my surprise I got a response. It was all a bit of fun until Tim shut me up with the boom of his .30-06 followed by a call of got ‘im. Now by my estimate he’d just made a 250+ metre shot with about 60 metres of elevation on a moving target, so I was pretty impressed with his confident call.

Marking the point where we last saw the Dog, Tim and I crossed the dry creek bed and began a mad scramble up the cliff. Reaching the top before me, Tim coolly called down that the Dog was deader than Elvis.

Climbing over the edge I saw one of those things I will likely never forget. Davy Crockett had managed to land a close enough to dead centre headshot on a moving target. It was, and still is, the best hunting shot I’ve ever seen.

And how did our first foray into the world of monster hogs end up, well we didn’t even see a pig, and if you don’t believe me, I have 192 pigless photos to prove it.

 

Mark van den Boogart

Published by Vintage Guns Ltd on

Shooting|December 2020

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