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The Blackberry Boar.

ONE of the advantages of hunting pigs in the New England area of New South Wales is the blackberries. The bushes themselves are a pain in the neck but in late summer these tangles of vine and thorn produce kilos of sweet fruit for those prepared to make the effort. They can also produce a few kilos of pork as well...

Quincy Adams and I decided to take advantage of the longer afternoons to head for a spot about 30 minutes from town in the hope of spooking a pig or two. It was typical western New England country. Hills, a mix of timber and cleared country, big granite outcrops...and blackberry bushes. As a weed the blackberry is a problem but from a porcine point of view the plant represents a safe haven, a cool protected spot to push into and set up camp. To us the bushes represented the potential for pigs.

We'd stopped the truck at the head of a gully that stretched away to the south and carried blackberries of varying sizes along its entire length. The property manager had seen a decent sized boar working in the area but it had always managed to slip away into this gully before he could get a bead on it. Bad news for him but good news for us.

We set off down the slope with Sailor (a foxhound x mastiff/bully bred by the late Doug Mummery) and Bob a hard little bully type (out of Sandy by Souphound). Sailor could find them, no problem, and Bob had a ton of guts so we felt fairly confident that if there was a hog in the area, we'd all meet up for a chat.

From bush to bush and out into the long Darby's oats Sailor quartered back and forth. Nose to the ground, nose in the air it made no difference. Nothing stirred. Mobs of roos watched us pass before hopping away into the timber. Bloody roos. Why couldn't they be pigs. Dry runs are a part of pig chasing but they are never much fun.

We reached a branch of the gully and turned in. It was a spot I hadn't been before and I thought I'd walked almost all the 50,000 acres to which I had access. More promising bushes and more disappointment. We had to face it. It had been a pleasant stroll but not much of a pig hunt. Oh well, at least the dogs had had a bit of exercise and we'd been able to spend the afternoon in the bush. And, of course, there were the blackberries.

The bushes groaned under the weight of ripe, sweet fruit so Quincy and I decided to cut our losses and have a feed. Dodging the thorns as best we could we were quickly purple from the juice and filling up on vitamin C.

Bob was lying down under a tree and Sailor was at my feet as Quincy and I tried to outdo one another in the glutton stakes. Sailor was relaxed. Like a big Labrador he lolled around soaking up the late afternoon sun.

And then things changed. They changed really fast.

Sailor was an excellent finder but even the good dogs have strange moments and this was one of them. It was as though something dawned on him and he rolled upright and looked into the blackberry bush over which I was trying to reach. Weird, I thought. He hasn't reacted all afternoon and now he's staring into an empty bush. Is it empty? I got onto the balls of me feet and shifted my weight away from the bush and then the place erupted. A big black and white boar charged straight out of the bush hitting Sailor in the mid-section, in turn, driving him into my legs. I moved backwards so fast I must have looked like a spider on speed.

The big bastard drove harder into Sailor who slipped off the pig's face and grabbed an ear as Quincy screamed for Bob. Of course, Bob was already on the way and hit the hog hard on the nose. Quincy and I flew in almost knocking one another over to get to the thing's back legs. And with that we had a knife in him and he'd had it. 

He was a beauty. In fact that's him on the Ned page on this website with me and Sailor (Second Photo). The fact that Sailor is dead now, killed on the Cape York Peninsula via snake bite and I have hair in the photo dates this little adventure fairly badly but it remains one of my most interesting memories of chasing hogs and one of only two times that I have been properly charged in 24 years in the game.

It was a sobering experience but did nothing to curb my love of getting after the pigs with a handy dog or two. And, boy, do I still love eating those blackberries.

Quincy with Sam and Bob (see another photo on Ned's page)

It's a Knockout

IF you read the forum page on boardogs.com you'll see that some strange things can happen when you chase pigs. There are so many variables that every now and then the game throws up something you just couldn't have predicted. There are scary spooks, freak weather conditions and bizarre blokes. But I haven't come across much stranger than the Boomi boar whose most dangerous weapon were not his tusks...but his tail.

We were on the river near Boomi on the northern plains of NSW working a heap of lignum country that held its fair share of pigs. I was running a Butters bred wolfhound x mastiff bully type called Tom. A son of Wal, a frighteningly hard finder whose chest was so scarred it looked like red corduroy cloth, Tom was rough haired, gap toothed and as tough as nails. He had also inherited his father's nose. Teamed with Tom was a dog I picked up in Rockhampton called Strike, a bully x greyhound/coonhound. He too could find, had plenty of ticker and was lightning fast

I had a mate with me running a little bully x which I considered a passenger but he loved it, so it was thrown in the mix. We already had a few pigs in a crate back at the camp and to be fair to the little bully, it had gone onto them all but had yet to set the world on fire with its brains or its speed.

We decided to drive out with the spotlight for a final run before heading back to Moree and the chiller. The country was a mix of cultivation and river grazing country dotted with lignum bushes and the odd patch of regrowth scrub. Almost immediately we picked up a little black and white boar coming off a sheep carcase. He was only 45kgs but put his punches together beautifully. He tuned up the two bigger dogs for a couple of seconds before they could pull him up.

It didn't look good as we ran in, in the dark with bobbing torchlight illuminating a path through the lignum, however, our worst fears weren't realised.  Still, we thought it might be better to cut our losses and aim for the camp and later, town.

It was on the way back that things got interesting. Tom jumped and flew into a patch of regrowth about an acre in size. If he went like that, it was definitely a pig and probably a good'un. Strike and the bully x had missed the initial jump but quickly got with the program and dived off into the dark with my mate and I trying to find them with the spottie. The regrowth was thick and the light was useless so we grabbed our torches and did our best to keep up.

And then we heard Tom hit. It was a good boar and Tom had hit it hard. There was a hell of a noise, a mix of growls, grunts...and then a bark. "What the..." Tom never barked. This didn't look good. Then we heard Strike hit the hog and the din went up a few decibels. It was bedlam. Running through the regrowth was like something I later saw on the Blair Witch Project. Unpleasant country full of unpleasant goings on. Running hard while trying not to lose an eye we came to a little clearing with the torches shining on a big boar, which was spinning like a washing machine and throwing off Tom and Strike like they were toys. "Jesus Christ," I said to my mate, "keep your bloody wits about you, this is the big time.

It was then we saw the little bully. It was lying on the edge of the clearing stretched out and lifeless. My mate's heart was broken and he headed for his dog. "Fuck that, help me here or we'll have two more dead in a second." This snapped him out of his state and we both closed on the fight.

The bloody pig had no ears, and he'd learnt a thing or two from that incident as well. Tom and Strike would fly in and grab him and be shouldered off as the big bastard spun. These were hard-core dogs and this boar was belting them like pups.

It was now or never. I was pretty well freaked but had no choice. I dropped my torch in front of the boar to distract him as the dogs hit again. He spun slightly away from me and in I went. I grabbed his tail and hung on as he realised the game was up and stepped around in an attempt to get rid of this latest tormentor. There was no way he was going to get that chance. I grabbed a hind leg and then a second, lifting them before dropping them sharply while crossing his legs and flipping him on his side. The dogs were furious and it took a little to convince these normally well mannered hounds that they were now not allowed to square up with the pig while he was pinned on the deck.

My mate took the opportunity to head for his dog. It was time to mourn his loss in the way most of us have at one time or another. He was upset and angry and frustrated so you can imagine his surprise when the dog lifted its head. "Shit, he's still alive." I had the pig tied and ran to the bully. Not only was he alive but he was unmarked. He had been unconscious, but why, how?

Back to the pig and the answer was obvious. When I'd grabbed the tail I was in such a committed state I had failed to notice something I had never seen before, nor since. This boar, like all boars, loved to wallow and through the years he had picked up the usual coating of dried black mud that can cause so many shooters, so many problems. What was unusual, however, was his tail. At the very end of his tail the mud from a hundred wallows had collected into a dry, hard ball of about a kilogram (just more than two pounds) weight. As the boar spun his tail had collected the hapless bully and knocked him clean out.

Back at the chiller we unloaded seven pigs from 24kgs to 63. The big boar went 86kgs dressed and we picked up the cheque although at least part of it was under false pretences. At least one kilo of the weight was in the knockout ball on the tail but we figured we deserved the extra cash for the wear and tear on the dogs with Tom and Strike nursing a bunch of rips and punctures and heading for the vet while the bully nursed a headache and a bit of injured pride.

A Morning To Remember

Despite recent good rain New South Wales is still in the grip of what many say is the worst drought in memory. But there was another big one from about 1979 to 1982 and that’s when this story is set.

In 1979 I was 19 and fairly green on this pig hunting business. I had a semi-useful little bully cross (my first pig dog Duke) and a good dog, Sailor, I’d picked up from Doug Mummery via Ian Colley. I was in my home town of Inverell in the New England area and madly trying to secure good country. I’d had a few wins but nothing too significant until a bloke I was playing football with said his cousin had been talking about a place just south of town.

The cousin, Chris, had told my mate Robbie (see the Boora Page on boardogs) about a fox shooter who was seeing heaps of pigs, and big ones too. At that stage pig chasers weren’t as numerous as they are today but some landholders had already made up their minds that they didn’t want much to do with our lot. Too many dickheads would sneak onto properties without even bothering to ask. And some fox shooters were prepared to shoot cattle to attract their quarry, whose skins were worth around $50 apiece at the time. However, like most blokes in the bush, many of these landholders would respond well to a straight up attitude and an understanding of the rules of country life. Armed with just that we made our approach through a mutual acquaintance and were given permission to try our luck.

The hunting area was a conglomeration of properties totalling about 50,000 acres in the New England/slopes and plains area. There was some steep country and some cultivation. There were also lots of blackberry bushes. Our hopes were high that we’d catch a couple. The big initiation was set for the Anzac Day weekend in April ’79. We’d camp on the place and explore with a handful of dogs to see what it held. The drought was biting hard and the property manager said they were seeing more pigs because the feed and water way back in the scrub had disappeared and the hogs were forced to look for their tucker out in the open country. The scrub country ran for about 20 miles so we hoped that meant there were a few pigs to be had.

We set off at lunchtime on the first day full of enthusiasm but mindful that some people’s idea of “a lot of pigs” could very well mean the same10 pigs seen a few days in a row. We decided we’d keep our expectations in check until we’d done some scouting. So with that plan in mind we crossed the cattle grid into our country. It was dusty and open where we were but we soon approached a creek crossing on what was still public road. We went down the rise into the creek and all our thoughts about staying cool, calm and collected went straight out the window when about 10 pigs flew out of the grass and took off up the creek and across the cultivation.

There was dust and dogs and dazed pig chasers going everywhere. The dogs caught two and Boora caught three little ones on his own (in barefeet too…) It was a dramatic beginning to what was to become a great weekend.

We finally made it to our camp spot, a high point with an abandoned hut that overlooked an open paddock bounded by scrub and a permanent creek. We’d had a drive around and developed a bit of a plan so we set up camp and waited for the morning. We were full of anticipation that night. We already had a few pigs in the crate and thought we might pick up a few more. As it turned out we had no idea what was in store.

We stirred just before dawn, trying to make as little noise as possible and keeping the dogs in check. They seemed to be as excited as us. Just picking up on our anticipation we thought. The dogs were already collared the night before so there wasn’t much to do but pull on our boots and walk into the bush. It was cool but not yet as cold as winters in the New England can be as we crossed a five wire fence onto a ridge overlooking what we had been told would be a good paddock. It was about 600 acres of open country with a permanent creek on one side and surrounded by timbered ridges. As we came through the timber, the open country below us began to come into view. The dogs were already keen, pulling on their leads and whimpering to be let off but we thought we’d take advantage of our height to survey the situation before they were unleashed. At the edge of the timber and with the light slowly improving we waited.

I’m not sure who saw them first but it didn’t take long for all of us to see the mob of about 10 big pigs digging around in the open about 900 metres from us. The light was getting better and better as we planned our attack on the mob. The dogs were very toey. We were surprised because we weren’t sure they could even see the little dots. They must be just picking up on our interest…

We were just about to move off when something else caught our eye. It was another mob. About 200 metres from the first, there were another six big pigs feeding in the gully. This was too good. Another quick plan and we were ready to go. But wait. It was another mob on its own. Eight more big pigs and a few little blokes. We were stumped. Where do we go? What mob do we hit? How do we get past the suckers to the bigger one further out. We stood there and took stock. And we started to count.

With the light intensifying all the time we started to notice other pigs scattered around. In the end we counted 152 pigs in various mobs. Some of them were monsters. But as exciting as it was to see so many pigs, especially in the hills, we didn’t know what to do about it. After a couple of minutes more we decided we’d just go for the closest mob and see what happened after that. We set off down the ridge with the dogs pulling on the leads and mad to get into it. It still seemed a bit unusual because we weren’t convinced they could see anything.

And then it made sense. Coming out of the timber and into the grass we ran straight into a mob of thirty-odd climbing up to meet us. That’s why the dogs had been keen. These things had been feeding quietly about 60 metres in front of us in the dark. The pigs went up hill past us and so did the dogs. We grabbed four of the grunters and stuck the lot, in a hurry to get back to the big ones in the open. Breathing hard and very excited we scrambled back to our vantage point…and the paddock was bare. They’d melted into the bush and the spectacle was over.

Never before and never since have I seen pig numbers like that in the hills. We ended up with 32 for the two days and that same paddock yielded 15 boars over 100kgs dressed weight in the first year but nothing ever compared to that first realisation that more than 150 wild pigs were standing out in the open at dawn ready for action. If I wasn’t hooked before that, I was then.

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