Photo: Damian Tapper

Bows & Boars

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I never get tired of venturing into remote area’s chasing feral game! There’s something about walking through the Australian bush with bow in hand and a quiver full of arrows that really arouses the senses.

Carrying a traditional bow and wooden arrows amps the experience, knowing that you are pitting your skills against your quarry (once practised thousands of years ago by ancestors). The fact they did it for survival, while we usually participate in the hunt for pleasure these days) doesn’t alleviate the fact that humans still enjoy the hunt as much as our fore bearers did. Apart from some modern conveniences like GPS, Camelbaks and binoculars, the hunt still remains the same.

By successfully harvesting your quarry with traditional style bows still requires the same skill as it did thousands of years ago.

I had finished making some arrows from timber and was keen to pit them against some tough Territory ferals all in the name of staying in tune with my ancestral customs, practices and rights. There’s no denying the fact that regardless of culture, colour or creed; one’s fore bearers would have hunted to survive and my drive to hunt is as strong and attuned as it would have been in my ancient roots.

As I moved through the scrub, I was looking around for any sign that would point me in the direction of my chosen quarry and it wasn’t long before hoof prints in the soft mud let me know I was close. I slowed down to reduce noise and also to hear anything subtle that would give away the position of this cunning animal. Brushing the scrub aside, I moved further into the undergrowth where the dappled shade blanketed the cool sand providing an ideal habitat for swine to bed down during the heat of the day.

Edging forward making sure to roll heal to toe with each step and mimicking the natural movement and sound of an animal, I gazed down into a slight depression no more than ten metres away. The heaving chest with its coarse black bristles was like a magnet to my eyes and an instant spike of adrenaline coursed through my veins. The boar lay there with no idea that a hunter with thousands of years of ancestral instinct was closing in with predatory stealth. Closing the distance to within metres, the bow was raised, drawn and arrow released in one smooth fluid motion sending the razor sharp broad-head between the ribs and into the vitals.

He was startled and jumped to hoof, which triggered bright red frothy blood to spew from the entry wound of the broad-head as his heart rate increased. He spun around gnashing his glistening tusks looking with his hereditary bad eye sight for the giver of his inflicted pain. Unable to make out the location, he resigned himself to stagger off across the flat in a somewhat unorthodox trot. Remaining a good distance behind, I followed the blood trail of thick red globulins of congealing blood from the right places to allow my enthusiastic follow up. The blood trail led me to a small patch of unburned spear grass.

The grass patch was two metres squared, but remained impenetrable to the human eye. Edging in closer, an overwhelming sense of anxiety swept through me, mixed with heightened adrenalin. It was a mix of emotions that one feels not through instinct alone, but the knowledge and experience that can only be gained through active participation of this sport. My body was on high alert, knowing that there was possibly a wounded and potentially dangerous wild boar harboured inside this grass just waiting for the right moment to deliver a charge. After several minutes of circling, looking and listening for any sign of the boar, human curiosity got the better of me to locate my quarry; an instinct that has put many others in harm’s way. I knew the shot was good as the blood-trail was thick, there was silence within and my gut told me the boar was deceased in the grass.

Pushing the grass aside with my bow, the first glimpse of the boar’s chest was revealed deep in the shadows. It was motionless as I edged forward to finally reveal my success. I stood their elated with a sense of pride that naturally comes with a successful, humane and ethically taken game animal; a feeling all too common to those who choose to hunt with equipment similar to that of our ancestors.

After a short break to allow the nerves to settle and the body to regain composure instead of taking meat, I removed the jaw for the tusks and took some photo’s to remember the hunt; a practice that many cultures have participated in for millennia past. I moved off with a renewed sense of purpose and enthusiasm at having successfully taken the boar, instilling a sense of confidence that I could do it all again.

I had only walked a short distance from the swamp when fresh scat and clove prints on another dusty, well used game trail drew my attention from the surrounding bush. Following the scat laden trail through the scrub, another large swamp appeared. My eyes transfixed without thought on the numerous black shapes milling around the edge amongst the Elearis Reed and lily’s in a desperate search for any tasty bulbs, mussels or worms that may be present. I removed my binoculars from my shoulder and positioned myself to take advantage of the surrounding habitat. I concealed my whereabouts and settled to give the area a thorough glassing to locate the best trophy boars.

After a short time scouting, I located a rather brazen boar moving in my direction on one of the numerous trails that circumnavigated the swamp. I lifted the bino’s to my eyes giving the boar a thorough going over to determine his qualities as a trophy. The lumps bulging from his top lip allowed me to reflect on previous experience that he was sporting some good hidden ivory.
He walked along holding his head in an intimidating, somewhat aggressive manor, setting himself apart from the rest of the mob as the alpha male of this particular swamp. The bristles along his back were thick and raised and his shoulders heavily muscled and scarred from past battles with other adversaries. He was certainly the dominant male boar of this swamp and it was obvious just from observing his general demeanour.

Lowering the bino’s, I quickly evaluated the areas for potential locations to conceal myself, allowing for the wind, sun and cover. A medium size black wattle tree had fallen alongside the game trail the boar was traversing, which provided thick cover. The sun would be directly overhead and a stiff breeze would be blowing in my face. The area held all the requirements to allow a successful ambush of this cunning old boar and now in my hands to determine the eventual outcome. Lowering my body in a crouching position, I edged forward in a steady deliberate shuffle to get to the wattle tree that held all the prerequisites for the finale unfolding in this untamed place. Keeping the bulk of the tree between the boar and myself allowed faster progress than normal as it concealed my movement from his poor vision, until I had arrived at my chosen hide.

The boar was ambling along totally unaware of the unfolding scenario, still a good one hundred metres from where I knelt. I readied myself finding a perfect size hole in the foliage naturally occurring from the way the black wattle had fallen and landed. Positioning myself at the right distance and angle from the hole to allow a quartering shot as the boar passed, I knocked an arrow while laying in wait for the final coupe de grace.

The boars torn ears, scars like road maps on his head and shoulders and the way he carried himself, made it apparent that he was likely the monarch of the swamp. He had closed the distance now where he passed the wattle tree close enough that I could have reached out and touch him sending my senses into overdrive as the adrenalin spiked for the second time that day. The boar had passed me at five metres quartering away and the instinctive motion of drawing anchoring for a split second then releasing all seemed a blur as it unfolded. The many years of practice, perfecting and performing the same motions, all seemed so natural now rarely requiring any thought at all.

The arrow entered directly behind the elbow of the front leg exiting the far side shoulder causing the boar to let out a tremendous roaring grunt. As he spun around in circles, the sudden elevation in his heart rate caused thick frothy blood to stream from both wounds. For a second, he gained some composure and took off across the burnt open savannah that surrounded the swamp.

I watched that boar bolt across the flats leaving a dust trail in his wake as he went. The front legs started to crumple and I could see he was losing consciousness mid-stride as his head nose-dived into the hard dusty ground, which was to be his final resting spot. At that point, the tension and anxiety lifted, giving an overwhelming sense of satisfaction at having cleanly securing the boar.

Walking over to the fallen boar, his size was impressive and tusks were clean, sharp and sizable. A worthy adversary in any hunter’s book! Removing the tusks was a simple task after taking the photographs had been completed, all to aid memories of successful hunts as the years go by. These memories and stories will be shared around camps and homes for years as have others shared their stories of hunts over generations past, a common bond we share with our ancestral beginnings and traditional roots!

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