THE PIG THAT GOT ME MARRIED
Sometimes a hunt can change your life in more ways than one.
They called him Knoppe because of his big warts; he had a cut in one ear, his head was a silvery white and his long body hair black... He was big and although many have tried to bag him, nobody could do so over a period of three years. Knoppe was the real deal!
I started hunting Knoppe after I made a deal with my then girlfriend, Lizarie, in 2011. Earlier that year I told her that if she gave me free rein to hunt bushpig at every opportunity and if I succeed in shooting five big boars within twelve months, all with bow and arrow, I would ask her to marry me. She agreed – the deal was on!
In November 2011 I received a call from my friend Cobus Pretorius from Sedgefield. “I think it’s Knoppe,” he said about a big bushpig one of his trail cameras had captured at a feeding spot. Later he confirmed that it was definitely Knoppe. This bushpig was very skittish and cunning. He would avoid a bait for up to two weeks after becoming aware of the rheostat light (a rheostat is used to turn up the brightness of the light gradually to avoid the pigs from getting a scare). He would usually circle the bait and surroundings in order to sniff out any threads. Knoppe was a true master. Even Cobus, who is an expert bow hunter, having successfully hunted about one hundred bushpigs, warned me that it would be almost impossible to bag this pig.
I had a plan though. Shortly before I made the engagement deal with Lizarie, I had developed a night vision setup for modern compound bows, which enabled me to shoot in total darkness without using a light. It was quite a challenge to put everything together. I used the adjustable housing of a bow fishing laser sight to hold a bright infrared laser and an infrared torch
so I can get a clear view of my quarry. Although invisible to the naked eye both the laser and torch are visible when using night vision equipment.
After many tests and changes, I finally had my setup tuned and sighted. Using my night vision goggles I was able to hit a target in the dark at a fixed distance (20yds) with no anchor point. The reason I went to all this trouble is because of my limited success rate with a bow on bushpig over a six year period. I learned some hard lessons and had many sleepless nights, thinking the whole thing through, making new plans to outwit these incredible pigs. Many of my previous attempts failed because of lights, wires and switches. With my new setup I hoped my luck would change and I believed that it would help me get Knoppe.
By the time I was preparing to hunt Knoppe, I had already shot nine bushpigs throughout the year (four of which were big boars). All were taken by using my night vision setup. I was ready to have a go at Knoppe but I was also nervous, knowing full well what I was up against and being down to only one boar before I had to pop the big question.
Lizarie and I flew down to George to meet with Cobus and his wife Elana for a week-long visit and also to hunt bushpigs. Unfortunately the weather was bad during the first three days and more than 100mm of rain fell. Everything was soaking wet and our hopes were really low. Upon checking the camera we discovered that Knoppe came to the feeding spot only once over the past three days and the mealies underneath the feeder was covered by water overflowing from a nearby creek.
Thankfully, the rain stopped and the water level slowly subsided. So, on the night of 27 November 2011 we decided that it’s time!
Two weeks earlier Cobus had set up a pop-up blind. It was placed downwind from the feeding spot and about 18yds away, across a creek right next to a very tight fence that borders some green pastures. A very nice setup indeed! The feeder was hung in an oak tree, and set to dispense food at 19:00. If Knoppe wanted to circle us to get downwind of the blind, he would need to cross the creek, which was about ten metres wide and flowing at the time, and pass through that very tight fence. I was confident that we had a good chance if the wind remained steady.
Before I continue, just a quick word on my bow setup. I used a Bowtech Invasion, set at 68# (87ft/lbs KE) and Carbon Express Maxima hunter 350 arrows (total weight with the broadhead was 452gr). I also used a Nockturnal lighted nock and my 100gr broadhead was a Rage 2-blade.
And to give you a better understanding of bushpig hunting, here is some additional information:
The vital organs of a bushpig go a little bit further back than those of a warthog, therefore a safe aiming spot when the pig is standing broadside, is a couple of inches (about two) behind the shoulder. However, a slight quartering-away shot is still the safest. Your chance of success is greater when shooting a bushpig a little too far back instead of a little too far forward.
It is advisable to use a large cutting diameter broadhead, within the limitations of the kinetic energy (KE) of your bow, to ensure a good blood trail for tracking at night.
The KE needed for a bushpig »
» is any well-placed arrow that carries 40ft/lbs or more. (It is best to shoot a fixed-blade broadhead between 40-50ft/lbs, especially on big boars.)
Sometimes it is difficult to pick an aiming spot because of limited light or the long hair on some bushpigs. A safe aiming point is exactly halfway between the tip of the nose and the tail of the pig, so make sure that the animal is standing broadside and then aim for the middle of the middle.
BACK TO THE HUNT
Cobus and Elana dropped us off and went to one of the other feeding spots to sit for a pig as well. Lizarie and I got into the popup at about 18:00. Space was limited and as darkness fell I positioned my bow and all my stuff in such a way that I could get to it easily in the dark. And then the long, silent wait began.
At about 20:00 I spotted a dark blob that looked a little out of place, so I slowly put on my night vision goggles and sure enough there was definitely something there. It appeared to be too big for a bushpig and since it did not move for the next 10 minutes I began to think that I was imagining things... But then suddenly the dark object moved to the left and disappeared without a sound! Twenty minutes passed by and then I suddenly I heard a noise that sounded like a deep sigh... right at the feeding spot. Again I slowly put on my goggles and as my vision became sharp, I saw a monster of a bushpig standing broadside at the bait. My heart was pounding so hard I was scared he might hear it! As I reached for my bow the boar suddenly darted off into the thickets for no apparent reason. The wind was perfect, we were dead quiet – what in hell went wrong?
After two more hours of silence, I had to make a decision: Stay or go? I decided to stay and hats off to Lizarie who stayed with me. We waited for another two very long hours. It was so quiet that one could almost ‘hear’ the silence. The temperature drop- ped sharply and we got soaking wet from the dew. It was increasingly difficult to stay positive about Knoppe returning to the bait. Did a sixth sense warn him we were waiting in the blind?
Suddenly, just after midnight, I heard a single “tunk” noise. It sounded like the hoof of an animal hitting a chunk of wood as it walked along. The hair on my arms and the back of my neck stood up and I could feel my blood pumping. Was Knoppe approaching the bait again? I slowly reached for my night vision again, and there he was! I could hardly breathe at this stage. Many thoughts ran through my mind; what if this and what if that? I switched on my infrared torch and then on came the bright infrared laser. Knoppe did not move... When I was at full draw, he was still standing almost broadside so I planted the green laser dot behind his shoulder and squeezed the trigger while my heart was pounding and my brain was screaming to shoot! In the next few seconds, events played out as if in slow motion. Through the night vision goggles the trail of light, left by the lighted nock looked like bright green liquid hanging in mid air for a moment before disappearing behind the pig’s shoulder. Knoppe took off like a rocket!
I was shaking so badly that I could not text Cobus to tell him the news, so I phoned him. They were still waiting in the car by the main road because it was too wet to get to their blind. They joined us and using torch lights we started tracking. Straight away we found a good blood spoor and then, there he was, only 60yds away. I was ecstatic! My dream had come true! Knoppe weighed 107kg and had 6.25” tusks. I have great memories about this hunt and always recall them whenever I tell the story.
The next month Cobus and Elana joined us on holiday in Mozambique. I knew that they were dying to know whether I kept my part of the deal. Yes, I did, and she said yes... again!
To be continued...
An ecstatic DP Bierman (left) and Cobus Pretorius with Knoppe, the huge bushpig that DP successfully hunted by using his night vision setup which he developed for bows.
Knoppe as he was captured at a feeding spot by one of Cobus’s trail cameras.
DP Bierman with the bushpig that changed his life. Known as Knoppe, this pig weighed 107kg and had 6.25” tusks.