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Hunting Sugar Cane and the Wet Tropics - Gord

Sugar cane hunting and the wet tropics in general for hunting pigs is a difficult task. I find the most difficult being finding the right hunting dog to suit the area to be the hardest. Except for winter which isnít so cold in the north, the rest of the yearís climate really knocks the dogs around up here. The rainforest is thick in most parts of it and 9 times out of 10 if the pigs know they are being prowled upon they head for the thick stuff. That of coarse being a trait for all pigs Australia wide almost and unfortunately we have every bit of cover, Steep hill, hot humid weather and anything else a pig can utilise for an escape.

Rainforest National parks are no go zones for hunters but there are plenty of private property rainforests attached to farming properties and also regrowth scrubs in cattle pastures and around other primary production areaís. This combination of cane, bananaís, cattle pasture, scrub and the intense heat and humidity mixed together strains a hunters physical and mental well being when out to catch that elusive pig. In saying that there are times when you do nothing right to plan and you easily catch a nice boar but that doesnít happen often enough.

Of all the crops in NQ that I have hunted, sugar cane is by far the worst. Hundreds of acres and rows and rows of cane , tangled in a mess like a wall of giant grass is the only way I can describe it.

At different stages of caneís growth and harvesting stages, this can determine the hunt. At full growth and sugar sweetness it is at its messiest but it is the time when pigs just canít refuse a feed of it. Young cane the pigs cover more acreage because of lack of sticked cane so what seems fresh to the eye and nose could put you to a pig a kilometre away. Half way through the harvest is the best as you see pigs exciting paddocks, crossing cut cane or newly planted paddocks heading for cover but unless you have a fresh dog with good legs forget it too.

If it is summer the heat inside the cane is a few degrees more and few levels higher on the humidity scale. Pigs love cane and the cane feeds pigs into some awesome looking boars and also makes them cunning.

Sugar cane is also very noisy. The cane leaf as it grows drops down and dries out so a dog moving through it sounds like a rake continuously stirring up a pile of dried out leaves. It alerts pigs and dogs keep running to each other because of that noise and suspicion of it being a pig. Soon you end up with exhausted dogs that have been chasing each other around the paddock and it always seems to be at that time your dog comes back with a very long tongue and a side walk and you see a huge boar passing off up a headland or off in an open paddock.

Taking this all into account, I am going to try and get back to a Bully Cattle X, a Bully Boxer X as a pair of hunting dogs for the cane itself. Scenting for pigs in cane isnít a major issue as the scent lingers in cane. A pair of dogs you can rotate for the hunting part, that can have a good lash at a pig, good enough to find, agile but aggressive, and not cook itself in 10 minutes. I donít see a need for a long range scenting dog. That sort of dog can have you waiting for hours on a big cane property and also run you the risk of losing them in the scrub for a good period or full stop. To me there is nothing worse then missing a pig as there is getting onto pigs first thing in the morning and waiting till the arvo for the dogs to return or not even find them till the next day. If I miss out I would rather find a creek let the dogs have a rest while I drink a cuppa from the flask and move on to another paddock to try again.

To cover the last angle I would have a fast leggy dog that can bail hard or lug up hard. Cane paddock headlands donít go in a straight line to where you see a pig cutting across an open. Farmers do not appreciate a 4wd flying across there paddocks so a fast dog can do the trick. If it is going to plan you will have one in the cane, One running flat strap across to a pig and one in the cage as you work your way around in the vehicle. In the cane if the dog has struck a pig you can let one or two go depending on what sort of struggle you are hearing. A second Hunter at the ute may bag you another pig while you go in and he keeps an eye outside. Two utes and a few hunters and more dogs is handy as it is not uncommon to see a dozen pigs filing out. I like to be with a mate and his and my dogs only if I go with someone else. I have seen a dozen a few times like many cane hunters and we have all seen a nil result.

My whole theory is from experience only and I can happily point out that cane has out done me plenty of times but mainly through not using common sense and not being patient. I enjoy it for the hunt and the challenge.

An area where I hunt in Tully. At a guess there would be 10 000 acres of cane that pigs eat in . I have permission to hunt around 2000 acres of it. It is the only place I have locally where I need a ute finding dog as it is to big an area to walk and the general idea is to drive around letting the dogs find fresh pigs and then walk. Often, if the dogs donít pull a pig up straight away the pigs keep crossing drains and creeks into another paddock and so the whole hunt has come back to base one. It is better to put the dogs up and go look for new pigs that you never disturbed.

This cane hunting ground has creeks and thick rain forest tree lines dividing the area and lowland swamp creek beds. These beds make it possible to hunt anytime of the day in this area. Again tho if the dogs donít stop the pig they sometimes head into a nearby cane field and it can be all over.

One way to catch a pig out of cane is shoot it on the way out. Obviously the firearm has to be used safely with a person who is conscious that there are dogs, other hunters, and perhaps the farmer and some of his domestic stock in the range of the bullet. Usually a shot gun with buckshot or a 3030 is what we carried. Like in this picture a slug slowed this pig down long enough for the dogs to get hold of it.

This cane pig tipped 318 pound. He was caught by my brother and his mates and their dogs. This pig chased me and my then wife up a tree one night at the same paddock. My dogs couldnít get him and he shook me up so I was a bit worried about chasing him again. I told them and they got him 2 weeks later after a long chase with a foxhound x that didnít want him to get away.
I was happy to catch this pig but got a dog killed in the process. A mate of mine, Marco Defaveri who in his family his dad and brother were famous in this area for catching quality boars , told me this pig had killed two of his dogs. He was the meanest pig I had witnessed fighting dogs off and trying to get at me. He dropped my dog with a hit between his legs after a battle out in the open as I was trying to get there and watching the scene at the same time. I shot him with one small dog attached, tucked in under his throat. A one tusk pig and a proper rainforest mountain pig.
A good pig the dogs got themselves was this boar. Dressed of all contents 135kg. One of the best Iíve had something to do with. One of my dogs found him one night near my home. At around midnight one dog started on him and another dog of mine joined later. 6 in the morning . The 2 dogs kept bailing after my 3rd dog got belted and crawled and I went down and shot him in the forehead for an instant kill.
My brother Louie with a big tusky rainforest boar that had been raiding banana crops and cane. A kelpie boxer I remember Louie bringing home many big boars when I was a kid. He retired from hunting 10 years ago or more but still gives me some good hunting tips I haven't learnt yet.
I caught a few pigs I thought were huge when I was younger but this pig was the first pig I caught over a ton dressed. He was bailed by my brothers Kelpie boxer after a chase from bananaís to scrub and back down a hill into open cattle pastureís. The 2 other dogs were a pure Shepard bitch and a mastiff male x. The young mastiff x got thrown clean over the pig 3 times before he realised he had to give in and bark luckily for him. A mate shot him. I guessed him well over the hundred dress.
 
A massive sow my older brother Louie and his mates caught in cane in the eighties. Gave them a good run through cattle pasture and cane. She had hooks and put up a good fight. A classic pig hunt at night to catch her. She weighed 394 pound whole.
If you cant beat em join em. As the pigs do use those hills and get away, another way to get closer to them is in the middle of the day or not the normal hunting times. You can sometimes find them down there just resting or playing in the mud. This pic is at the bottom of the hill in the pastures just off the creek.
 
Banana farm hunting in the immediate area where I live is tough going. The area is hilly and the pigs use the hills gullies and creeks for there escape. This picture shows the bananaís in right hand side top and the open pastures on a steep slope leading down to a creek where I have seen pigs motoring down and away from the dogs to make their escape complete at the bottom in the creek.
This boar was caught by myself and a good mate, Robert Luxford. Rob has much more experience then me on the cane hunting and together this night our dogs managed this pig. Copper, Robs dog was an ace dog in all terrain and he found this pig in the middle of a cane paddock in the pitch black and started bailing. Waiting for my dog to join was us listening to the bail and Copper, and the other dog was coppers son. Shortly a hell of a melee broke out and continued on and off across the paddock. We arrived to find the 2 dogs lugged up to this goody.

 

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