I felt extremely privileged to be in the company of a living legend, the author of numerous books and countless hunting articles, the ultimate professional. His achievements, knowledge and ability in the field are unquestionable so when he came to an abrupt halt, whispered the words “big boar” shouldered his .358Mitchell express and fired.
There was no doubt in my mind that a large hog had just bitten the dust and we’d soon be having the obligatory photo session. Obviously, the solid, black boar had recognised the ‘hunting guru’ and was so confident in his prowess, knowing his days were numbered had stuck the mandatory stick in his own mouth……………………or could it just be that he’d been shot and photographed the afternoon before?
That’s pure, raw fear etched in Todd’s face, in anticipation of a ride in the quad with Matt (Evel Knievel) Hall.
I certainly gave him some stick, but not the one from the hogs mouth as we walked the short distance back to the vehicle; it would have seemed along way for Ted. I’m laughing now just at the memory, but to save any further embarrassment I won’t mention the incident again.
Sorry for shooting the gun, (and so was Ted – sorry I couldn’t help myself) I’ll go back to the first day of the hunt. That was in typical ‘Hall’ fashion, unorganised, unrehearsed, unscripted, uncensored and full-on.
For the record, no stunt doubles or high-speed dummies are used in the making of this production and the only dummies who may get hurt are us. So with the likelihood of high adrenalin levels, dodgy driving, bulldozing buffalos, big bad-tempered bailed boars, sharp-witted humour and deflated egos it was all systems go.
As usual, we (meaning Matt and I) decided it was better to stumble about in the dark, falling over things, dirty and hungry later, so instead of setting up camp headed straight out. My son, Matt and I had cemented a lifetime friendship a couple of years back so it was great to have Ted and Todd up here again and were keen to get amongst it.
Ted looking the epitome of calmness and composure (so apart from being a good shot – he’s a terrific actor) as he jumped into the passenger seat of Matt’s Rhino and grabbed a firm hold of the roll cage. Having experienced Matt’s ‘drive it like you stole it’ technique previously he knew what to expect. A nanosecond later, Ted was jolted back into the seat as Matt pushed the pedal to the metal and launched the Rhino into action.
As the Rhino took off at speed, in a cloud of spiralling dust, avoiding most of the weathered stunted scrub and fallen timber; Todd and I just shook our heads and grinned at each other.
A few minutes later, with my bailers, Dash (Staghound/Greyhound/Kelpie) Mate (Catahoula/Kelpie) and Rocky (Jack Russell) in the dog crate, plenty of fluids in the icebox we left camp in Matt’s dual cab.
With very little encouraging fresh sign in the main watercourse we decided to ‘chance our luck’ at a small, isolated, semi-dry creek line that dissects the properties back fence line. It was a decision that paid immediate dividends. As a short walk from the vehicle the bailers well and truly earned their biscuits by finding and thwarting the escape plans of a rough looking, black, brute of boar.
In the narrow confines of the creek bed, backed tight against some overhanging foliage, streaked in shadow, it was a menacing looking sight as it stood its ground; challenging the dogs to come within range of its large, lethal looking tusks.
Seconds after we arrived on the scene, the fired-up hog broke the bail, sidestepped a courageous in your face, pocket sized Rocky and bolted. Luckily, the bailers pulled it up just short of the vehicle and when a safe shot was presented Todd dropped him on the spot with his 375H&H.
After a few photos, while Todd removed its bottom jaw I retrieved two celebratory apple ciders from the icebox (does it get any better than this?)
Back at camp for lunch, a good-humoured, animated Matt described a very close call with a solid bull buffalo with an unusual, lopsided, but formidable spread that had stepped out of the shadows and was lining Ted up for a bulldozing.
It turned deadly serious very quickly, Matt recalls, as Ted was lining up a shot on a donkey. Standing a few paces behind Ted I saw a big-bodied buff step out of the scrub about 15m to his left. Not wanting to spook the well-built bovine I whispered “Ted, don’t take the shot” no response, (next time louder and with more urgency) “don’t take the shot” due to Ted’s hearing or lack of it, there was still no reaction. At this stage Ted had the donkey in his sights and the buffalo had Ted in his sights considering its next move.
As Ted fired, I yelled “big buff on your left” and he instinctively turned, worked the action and fired. It was in midstride, moving towards Ted as the first round caught him in the right shoulder, it staggered momentarily and two shots later it was all over. “That was close”.
While enjoying a sandwich and a coldie, a grinning Matt joked that even though only five paces separated them he even contemplating calling Ted up on the two-way that was in his shirt front pocket.
Apart from having a close encounter with a buffalo, Ted had also taken a trophy buffalo (copybook style) with a single well placed shot from his .358Mitchell express. The solid grey ghost with a nice set of curved headgear had taken a couple of shaky steps then expired. Also coming off second best to the hard-hitting .358 was a portly porker with a sharp set of dog ripper tusks. That’s after Matt’s hardworking bailers Bella and Tina had given it an absolute earful.
Late afternoon, while Ted and I relaxed, enjoyed a brew and a chat the lads took the Rhino, the seasoned bailers, Dash, Tina and Bella and went for a look see.
It was just on dark when they returned and you didn’t have to be ‘Einstein’ to work out they’d had success. Modesty isn’t one of their better qualities; the triumphant pair was all show, high-fives, big grins and loud. “We got a ripper boar, even removed its head”
On cue Todd stepped from behind the Rhino, displaying a dartboard sized boof-head that only a mother could love; and he was also holding up a huge boar’s head. Over a few apple ciders the lads filled us in on all the action.
The four-legged trio had been brilliant and a testament to their skill, teamwork and tenacity two absolute whoppers had been bailed then nailed by Todd. Even better, Matt had captured all the dogs’ exploits on film and the footage was awesome.
The following morning, while Ted was shooting a good boar choking on a stick, that Todd had shot the evening before. Matt and Todd headed towards a chain of well-frequented billabongs in the Rhino. After a few uneventful hours of walking Ted and I returned to camp and started packing up.
Very rarely does Matt have a hunt without incident and today was no exception. Usually, Matt returns to camp like he’s trying to break ‘the land speed record’, but today the Rhino limped in like it was in a scene from driving by ‘Miss Daisy’.
The Rhino’s right-hand back shock absorber had been snapped off and the lads had ingeniously run the winch under the chassis, tightened it off and held it in place for the slow seven kilometres run back to camp.
That was the bad news; the good news. The lads had approached to within a cars length of a small mob of watering buffalo cows and calves (unobserved) before Todd had taken a shot. Dropping a female with a nice set of matching rounded horns, instantly, remarkably the mob didn’t bolt so the boys remained in place giving the digital cameras a real workout.
“We also got a couple of pigs, how’d you go?” asked Todd. As Ted is a close friend and hunting buddy, I tried not to dwell on his unfortunate incident and only described it briefly. By the sixth time, we were all in stitches, including Ted. “I didn’t know whether he was going to shoot it or perform the Heimlich manoeuvre on it”.
All jokes aside, it had been great fun to catch-up with Ted and Todd and look forward to their next visit.