Pigs in Poland
One of my favourite pastimes is shooting pigs, wild boar that is. I have shot pig in Poland, Croatia, France, Africa and Australia so far. I have yet to shoot them here, or in the States, but I look forward to doing so. Down under was my first experience, some twenty or more years back. You may have heard the story, but I cannot resist the temptation of telling it again. I had gone to Oz to marry off an old Army mate, Dickie Horton, who was marrying a local girl. His new in-laws had a serious cattle station in the outback. With the newlyweds happily off on their honeymoon to a tropical island, I got into Richards V8 Holden and steamed off to it. Boomi was well off the beat and track, in fact somewhere near the far end of the middle of nowhere, and there was a warm greeting.
"We hear you're a shootin’ man, Michael." "Yes" "Would you like to shoot a piggie". "Sounds good to me." "Well, we'll get some tucker in you and have a go." An hour later, I bouncing down a bush track in a 'ute' (utility vehicle). We eventually stopped near a dried up river bed. "You see the lignum thicket there (thorn bush) – the piggies tunnel through it down to the river...Take the Winchester (an old semi-auto with no forend), take the torch and crawl down the tunnel." "No way?" "No, straight up – take the Winchester, take the torch, shine it in the pig’s face and shoot him." "You're kidding. Let's assume I find the pig." "That's it, That's it!" "I shine the torch in his eyes." "You've got it, you've got it." "And that old Winchester jams...what happens then". "Well, your f--%ed then!" "Did you ever try it." "No, but we persuaded one fella to do it."
I did, eventually, shoot a pig in the long grass with a .270. It was quite exciting enough. More recently, I have had much more comfortable pig shooting experiences in Poland with Bob Kwisiuk of Poland Hunting (www.polandhunting.co.uk) and in Croatia with Bogdan Srejic. In fact, as I wrote this, Bogdan has just rung to tell me that he has some really good late deals on offer for this season because the Croatians have lowered prices very significantly because of the rise in the value of the Euro. This is not BS, they are keen to develop Croatia as a hunting destination and don’t want this to be spolit by fluctuations in the currency market. So, if you fancy trying boar, this just might be the year to do it. Bogdan is available on 07868317787 (or, firstname.lastname@example.org ) and he will send you a DVD about boar in Croatia on request. [ps. Bogdan, my apologies for publishing the wrong number previously!]
Equipping yourself for boar
Selecting your kit for pig shooting is a serious business, your life may depend on it. It is my opinion, that people sometimes take boar hunting too lightly. Don’t. You must select the right gun in a suitable calibre, with a suitable action. You must zero it well. And, beyond that, you must become proficient in its use. Choice may be restricted by destination. In Turkey, for example, you must use a shotgun. My experience, however, is that shotguns are definitely second best – use a rifle if you can.
Briefly, the calibres that work include .308, 30-06, .30 Blaser, 300 Win Mag, 300 WSM, .338 Win Mag and .338 Federal. 8mm is another good choice. There seems consensus on using heavy bullet weights in the mid calibre bolt action guns (for example, the 200 or 220 grain bullet in a 30-06). The 30 calibres and above will all work provided you select a decent bullet. .270s can be pushed into service, but it would not be anyone’s first choice. Ideal calibres for the task are the 8x57 Mauser, 8x57jrs, and the 9.3x74 R (rimmed). .338 Win Mag and .375 Holland & Holland Magnum have the disadvantage of requiring long actions. The the new .370 Sako works in a standard length action, as does the .375 Ruger. They would both be good for boar, especially if one was expecting big beasts. They both pack a considerable punch, similar to a .375 H&H.
Considering action type, let me note that I once shot a boar with a single-barrelled 7mm Rem Mag made in Austria. It was a beautiful, accurate, rifle, but I will NEVER go pig shooting with a single shot weapon again. Moments after the first shot, I came face to face with a much larger, indeed, a vast, angry boar. It was a difficult potentially encounter. We chatted at a range of five yards or thereabouts."I just might get a round into this thing, if not I'm up that tree. Make your move." There was a pregnant pause. I think he saw I was determined if foolhardy. He grunted his annoyance, and trotted off. Thank God for that.
No, I will not be using a single shot again, one needs a reliable repeater, that creates a lot of options – conventional bolts and straight pulls being most popular. Some people will tell you a double gun is the ideal pig shooting tool because it offers an instant second shot. I can’t argue with that, but two shots can go very quickly in a surprise encounter. My preference is for a controlled feed (Mauser 98 style) bolt gun. I also have a special affection for lever rifles. I have a geared lever action .308 Sako Finnwolf (long out of production) which is the quickest lever gun I have ever encountered. In .338 Federal with a 6 or 10 shot magazine conversion, it would be ideal. Next year’s project!
A Winchester or Marlin in .444 or .45-70 might also make an excellent pig gun. They throw big, slowish, bullets, with plenty of knock-down power. The newer .450 Marlin might be even better. If I went for a lever gun, I would not go for a short barrelled one. The mass of a longer barrel helps to smooth out the swing. A ‘cowboy’ Marlin with 24” octagonal barrel handles especially well. I have not mentioned straight pulls much, they are a little modernistic for me, but the Blaser, is, of course, the market leader.
Vintage rifle enthusiasts might use their black powder doubles – 450-400s and similar for pigs. A .303 double might be near ideal too. I would have to say that my inclination would be for a hammerless gun with conventional top-lever – if things get messy one does not want to cock hammers and cope with rotary underlevers. The old, big-bore, double guns throw large lumps of lead and don’t recoil too badly. I am not sure if I would bet my life on one though.
A 12 bore Paradox as recently re-developed by Holland & Holland would be an intriguing choice. This of course, in a 12 bore that has a short rifled section at the muzzles to improve accuracy with solid ammunition. If automatic rifles had not been banned, I might have considered a semi-automatic shotgun style action with a rifled barrel. A smooth-bore semi is still the best of the shotgun option in my opinion (but I stress that any shotgun is a distinct handicap compared to a good rifle).
Having considered guns and ammunition, lets move to sights – a very important subject in this context. Well conceived open sights work well on a boar rifle – many experienced hunters would argue in their favour. They give you visibility of beast and ground. Choose a large, bright, front sight teamed with a shallow V to the rear. Modern high visibility sights provided they are tough might be employed. It is not a nice feeling – and I have had it – to be deep in the woods with the sun going down and sights which are increasingly invisible. As far as scopes are concerned, my practical preference is for a low power, illuminated, type. Variables are deservedly popular today, 1.1-4 and 1 1/2-6 are much in vogue. On low settings, these may be used instinctively, the higher power is available for longer shots. I have found the Swarovksi Z6 1-6 x 24 to be absolutely fantastic (I believe it saved my life during a elephant charge last year in Botswana), the Schmidt and Bender 1.1-4x24 'Flashdot' is also excellent. There are many red dot sights on the market which may or may not offer some magnification. These include the compact and clever holographics as made by Bushnell and Doctor Optic. These are more precise than cheaper red dots – their displays have less blead from the dot. This is a particular issue at longer ranges where some red dot scopes are quite impractical – the dot covers most of the beast.
What else does one need? A good seat can come in very handy. I also like to wear good boots and gloves. My choice for the former is Dubarry (I have been lucky enough to win no less than two pairs at CLA clay shoots). I am also a believer, as are most Continental hunters, in carrying a large knife for emergencies. I usually have a 10” bladed bowie in my right boot when boar hunting. This may seem a bit OTT, but imagine your gun jams, or you get knocked over. What do you do next? If you are down, boar, if they stay and fight (usually, they don’t), will open you up, typically attacking your thigh with their fighting tusk). I hope I never have to try it, but, I would much prefer to have a knife that might be plunged into the pig’s vitals than nothing at all. Some people are brave enough to go pig hunting without a gun – with knife or spear. This is a big sport in New Zealand, and, increasingly, in the States. Good luck to them (and to their dogs who, typically, bring the beasts to bay and take most of the stick). Anyone who does this regularly deserves respect and a bigger wheel-barrow.
My thanks to Paul Roberts, John Resteghini, GMK, Christine Percy, Pat Murphy, Bob Kwisiuk, and Bogdan Srejic.