The dark, silent, exhilarating panic – the suspense and frenzied excitement of Scottish boar hunting.
Having devoted a column to wild boar in Galloway last year, a recent close encounter has given me a whole new perspective. We’ve had boar living in the forests around home for the past 10 or 15 years, and while I have heard them at night many times, I had never clapped eyes on one. These are extremely secretive beasts, and they keep themselves to themselves with incredible efficiency.
Several local stalkers have turned their attentions to boar over the last few years, and some with great success. I mentioned that I had never seen a boar in Galloway in passing to one of these aficionados and was kindly offered the chance to spend an evening at an active feeding station that same night.
Up in the high seat, I peered through the scope at a hopper of wheat 70 yards away. This was the most obvious sign of feeding, but there were several sources of food scattered around, including a pile of apples and a “pig pipe” – a thick-diameter drainage pipe drilled
In a moment I will probably never forget, two big black shapes crossed the grassy ride beneath.
with holes and filled with maize so that it would slowly be released as the boar shifted it around. Everything was laden with chains and clanking metal so as to give us some warning, and wheat had been carefully scattered under big boulders to make their foraging hard, slow and noisy.
Bit by bit, the darkness came on. We were under a canopy of spruce and so stayed relatively dry as rain pattered down on the vegetation all around. From the outset, every drip and clatter of wind or rain was electrifying, but soon these noises were filtered out and time began to pass in a series of cramps and midge bites.
All of a sudden, there was a tiny crack to my right and behind me. It was a small sound, more like a badger than anything big and porky, but then there was another and the sound of something else besides. For three or four seconds, the gentle crackle suggested a number of “things” moving in the dripping gloom, then in a moment I will probably never forget, two big black shapes crossed the grassy ride beneath us, 30 yards away and in total silence. I felt them more by the displacement of air than by hearing – ambiguous black shapes like silk against the deep blue grass. One paused and the other glided over into cover again, heading towards the feeders. I blinked, and when I looked again, the other was gone. These were my first Galloway boar – the first hard, tangible evidence for me that they really existed.
The wind was swirling on the edge of the wood and I spent the next few minutes in an agony of suspense. They were within 50 yards, but so invisible as to be on the dark side of the moon. Silence. Had they caught our scent and vanished? I didn’t realise that my friend hadn’t seen or heard anything until this point. He had been dozing, but I thought he was playing it cool – ice cool in the face of my frenzied excitement – but he certainly came alive when we heard a soft rumble up towards the feeders. They were on the wheat and the game was afoot.
The moment of truth had come. It was too dark to shoot without a light, and the torch came out. We would have a second or two to fire before the pigs scarpered, and I tried to steady my breathing.
The torch clicked on – it seemed absurdly weak and pathetic in the hanging darkness. I felt a surge of panic that there was nothing to see at the feeders, but a shift of the beam revealed two black shapes a few feet further left. I chose one and placed the crosshairs on a shoulder, pulling the trigger in a single movement. The .308 cracked in the gloom, and there was the sound of a square, hard impact before darkness swallowed the light again and we were blind.
I heard some gentle kicking in the long grass, then silence. I had not only seen my first boar, but I had shot one too. We walked over to the body, which had fallen without a moment’s struggle, struck through the top of the heart. I couldn’t have done it better on the range, and I breathed a sigh of relief. He was a yearling boar and later weighed in at 35kg on the hook, but I was stunned to silence by his shining, waxy form, which smelled of roots and tree sap. It was a moment like no other, and having written dismissively about British boar in the past, I was suddenly hooked.