PA­TRICK LAU­RIE

The dark, silent, ex­hil­a­rat­ing panic – the sus­pense and fren­zied ex­cite­ment of Scot­tish boar hunt­ing.

Shooting Gazette - - High-Seat 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.

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