How to Hunt
Blackberry - Ian Colley.
I donít know the full history of how the Blackberry
arrived in Australia, but I assume it would be something to
do with our English forebears missing Grandmaís blackberry
pies. But for sure and certain the pest has adapted to life
in Australia and has established itself over vast areas.
Classified as a noxious weed, considerable amounts of money
are spent each year trying to reclaim large areas of country
rendered virtually useless by this plant.
The bushes themselves grow to varying heights with the
highest being around the 4 meter mark, and continue to
spread out each year by new shoots emerging from the
existing root system via suckers and new plants germinating
from fallen fruit. If left unchecked, they eventually cover
huge areas completely and are virtually impenetrable to
stock and people. The bushes are similar to the common rose
bush and unfortunately have the thorns to match.
My association with this pest goes back to my childhood days
spending hours picking fruit for Nanís pies. However my
obsession for hunting pigs soon gave me an entirely
different reason to renew my acquaintances with this plant.
When hunting for property access to hunt pigs a local told
me of a property that held large numbers of feral pigs. When
I suggested that the only thing that property supported in
large numbers was blackberry bushes his reply was ďjust
throw a rock into one of them and see what comes outĒ.
Access to the property was duly arranged and he was dead on.
The blackberry provided the cover needed to make the local
swine population comfortable when camping up during the day,
offering both shelter from the elements and most importantly
being concealed from prying eyes. Over the next 30 years the
numbers of pigs I caught in blackberry would number in the
So, how do you hunt blackberry?
What to look for:
To work out if there are pigs in the area, all the normal
indicators apply, the cocky has been seeing them, rooting,
tracks, wallows etc. Once you know pigs are living in the
area how do you know if they are camping in the bushes? The
easiest way is to look for tunnels, or runs going into the
bushes. If they are being frequently used you will be able
to see the tracks if the soil is soft, or trampled grass etc
will give away all current activity.
Once these signs have been found it is just a matter of
letting the dogs do their thing. Bushes with large dead logs
in them or trees growing through them are favourite spots,
allowing the pigs the extra benefits of something to scratch
themselves on while being completely concealed. In the
summer, bushes in deep gullies with water laid on are also
favourites. In the winter however, when Jack Frost pays a
nightly visit these low lying bushes are to cold, the pigs
then prefer a bush thatís gets the sun during the day and
shelters them from any cold wind.
But, as with most pig hunters the big old cunning boars are
the primary targets. The low lying bushes in gullies etc are
normally occupied by mob pigs, with the large boars being in
attendance only when the sows are in season, but as always
there are a few exceptions to the rule. I have found that
the majority of, not only large boars, but the real old
cunning buggers, like to camp up high on the ridges or just
on the lip of the ridges. Concentrating on the gullies will
pay off, especially if hunting pressure is light and feed is
handy, but if youíre looking for the big old rough fellas a
higher success rate is to do a bit of lung busting and get
to the tops of the ridges and hills. Blackberry bushes
growing right on top or near the top of these ridges and
hills should be checked thoroughly.
Probably the most important part of hunting blackberry is a
good team of dogs. Some pigs will not leave the sanctuary of
the bushes regardless of what you try and it will be
necessary for the dogs to actually get into the bushes to
flush them out or catch them in the bush for you. Everyone
that hunts blackberry regularly will have their favourite
breeds, but my preference is a medium sized dog that will
have no trouble accessing the pig runs. You will find larger
dogs get caught and tangled in the bushes making it much
more difficult for them to catch a fleeing porker.
I always tend to hunt one or two finder/bailers and a hard
dog to hold. The finders should be of the busy type, and I
would recommend a dog that will check through each bush
without you having to throw rocks etc into the bush to try
and get the dog to go into them. If you are running all hard
dogs you will find that in most cases you will only catch
one pig, mostly in the middle of the bushes, and it will be
necessary to get the dogs off the hard way if you want them
to run on after the mob. If the pig happens to be in a large
bush, this takes a bit of time and the other pigs are long
gone. A good bailer that can be called off with a quick
verbal command or whistle will greatly increase your chances
in catching more than one pig from a mob. Another good way
to get those runners is having one or two dogs on leads to
be let go when the pigs break from the cover of the bush. If
you use a rifle when hunting with dogs you will get lots of
opportunities to pop off a few as they break from the cover
of the bushes.
One problem you may encounter with inexperienced blackberry
dogs is that some dogs donít like going into the bushes
because of the thorns. Be patient with these types of dogs,
they will soon get the idea that if they want to catch the
pigs; in the bushes is where they need to be.
Getting the pigs out:
This is when the fun starts and will test the faith you have
in your holders. I find that wearing overalls is the best
protection I can get from the thorns. The weave helps
prevent the thorns catching the material, and makes progress
easier, not much easier in some cases though. As a
comparison say, if wearing track pants you will spend most
of your time untangling the thorns from the material and
digging the thorns out of your legs. Also a good pair of
leather gardening gloves will help protect your hands if you
think it necessary.
One of the easiest ways to get to the pigs is to crawl into
the tunnel either on your hands and knees or on your
stomach. Be prepared though, when the pig spots you they
normally lose all interest in the dogs and focus their
attention on you. It is advisable to wait until the pig is
facing away from you and then grabbing the back leg and
hanging on. This gets very interesting sometimes especially
when lying on your stomach trying to hold 80kgs of irate
pork. This is when holders should hold no matter what, the
time for powdering has long since passed.
The other way to get to the pig is over the top of the bush.
A large branch is used to knock the bush down until the pig
is reached. This can get frustrating at times with the pig
moving around once it sees or hears you coming. I have also
tried machetes a few times trying to cut my way into the
bushes similar to the branch theory, but finally gave them
away. The canes on the bushes tend to move away from the
machete with each slash and you will knock up quickly
without making much progress. If using this method make sure
the machete is sharp, this will make the job a lot easier.
I have also driven a four wheel drive into a bush to clear a
path. If using this technique, make sure that you know where
your dogs are so you donít run over them. Secondly try and
make sure there are no large gullies or logs in the bush
that you canít see, you can do some major damage if not
The best time of the year to hunt:
If pigs frequent the area most times of the year is a good
time, but if you are limited to hunting once or twice a
year, when the fruit is on would be the optimum time. The
old hogs canít resist a good feed of blackberry and any
examination of their droppings at this time of year will
prove the point.
You will find in areas where pigs travel a lot they will
always turn up when the Blackberries are ripe no matter
where they range. The added bonus when hunting during this
period is you can grab a feed yourself. In my particular
area of the New England in NSW the bushes bear fruit around
late January through February.
Now, all you need to do is find a good patch of blackberry,
occupied by a couple of pigs and you are in business. If you
are lucky enough to live in an area with no blackberry, all
I can say is half your luck, but everyone should try it at
least once to find out exactly what you are missing out on.
Well used pig tunnel
A sows nest.