Hunt for the Elusive Bushpig

 

By: Engee Potgieter
By: Engee Potgieter

I quietly pulled my bow up by the rope from where it dangled, some 20 feet below my treestand in the big old Pine tree and by the time I had settled into my seat the last few sounds of day faded away into dusk. It was a little after 19:00 when I first heard a branch break some distance away in the inky blackness of the forest, I held my breath and strained to listen when another twig snapped, this confirmed it, the sounder of pigs were finally on their way down the kloof to my feeding spot. I cautiously turned and unhooked my bow from where it hung, hopefully tonight my luck would change, I might finally get my chance to arrow the cagey white faced boar I had been playing cat and mouse with the past few months.

 They are scourge of crop farmers across the country, yet Bushpig are vastly popular with hunters, due to their extreme elusiveness and cunning. Few bow hunters have been lucky enough to arrow a trophy Bushpig boar and fewer still can claim to do so regularly, not because of a lack of effort or scarcity, on the contrary they are quite abundant across most regions of South Africa. Yet their adaptability together with their extremely shy and cautious nature, make them a trophy that you will have to work hard for. Bushpig hunting can quickly become an all-consuming obsession, as you spend more and more time, money and effort trying to outwit a phantom like trophy you caught a glimpse of on camera. I have dedicated the better part of the past two decades, to studying and hunting these ingenious creatures and although I still learn more about them each day, I have definitely learned a great deal through trial and error as to what it is that makes them tick.

As most frustrated hunters can attest, this is often the closest most will ever get to a trophy sized boar, a trailcam photo.
As most frustrated hunters can attest, this is often the closest most will ever get to a trophy sized boar, a trailcam photo.

First and foremost, you as the hunter are faced with two options if you want to arrow a huge boar, the first being to book a hunt with a reputable outfitter who has already done the ground work and who has decent pigs on the feed. The other option is doing it yourself, this can be highly rewarding and you might also believe it to far the cheaper and quicker, but don’t fool yourself, if you ultimately want to shoot a Bushpig off of a bait that you have established then you should prepare yourself for a lot of hard work, frustration and monetary expenditure, as it requires a serious effort if you ever want to see a big boar with any amount of regularity on your trail camera. Simply put, what you put in is what you will get out, the harder you work the better your luck; it is as simple as that.

I’ve done it both ways and have taken my fair share of stunning pigs off my baits, yet I chose to go with a respected outfitter in my quest for a true monster sized pig. Thanks to old time friend Jacques Dames I was put in touch with Gareth Haines who managed vast stretches of virgin forest area around Richmond. Gareth assured me that he regularly saw huge boars that would push the 100Kg mark, on the various trailcams he had overlooking baits which dotted the incredible expanse of forest surrounding the little town of Richmond. He told me of one pig in particular he had nicknamed “Stompie” because of his short amputated tail which was a frequent visitor at one of his baits, he was positive this was the pig I was looking for.

 

A kisser button on your string together with a lighted nock on your arrow (not clearly visible in this day time photo) goes a long way in ensuring you make a pin point accurate shot for peace of mind.
A kisser button on your string together with a lighted nock on your arrow (not clearly visible in this day time photo) goes a long way in ensuring you make a pin point accurate shot for peace of mind.

Our first evening was a bust due to strong swirling winds, yet our second night was cool and clear with nearly no breeze at all and just after 20:00 the quiet of the night was pierced by a rambunctious noise as big group of pigs moved in from our left and they certainly wasted no time in coming in because by the time I had stood up and Gareth had switched the light on, they were already feeding. The immense shape of “Stompie” materialized from the dark as Gareth turned up the red light, he was standing nearest to us, slightly quartering away, perfectly angled for a bow shot. Drawing back my 80# Elite Energy 35, I brought the top pin almost half way up from the brisket and three inches behind the near shoulder of the beast, held for a second and touched my release. Chaos erupted at the dull thwack of the impact as I watched my arrow with its bright green lighted nock come to a shuddering stop. A few seconds after the arrow passed through the vitals, slamming into the boar’s far shoulder we heard a loud crash, surprised we debated whether he possibly could have gone down so soon? Yet a few minutes later I was sitting next to the biggest Bushpig I had ever taken, a mere 48 yards from the bait, the scalpel like blades on my Muzzy Trocar tipped Gold Tip arrows again proving their lethalness. An old scale, once used to weigh maize, borrowed from the nearby farm, showed his weight at over 102 Kilograms, but measurements put his weight closer to 112 Kg.

Gareth and I next to the incredibly impressive 100Kg+ Bushpig boar I had taken in Richmond.
Gareth and I next to the incredibly impressive 100Kg+ Bushpig boar I had taken in Richmond.

Looking at the pig in the dim light from our headlamps I couldn’t help but feel a shiver run down my spine, the pigs massive head and pale white face, adorned with numerous scars and huge bulging warts gave the boar a truly menacing appearance. I simply cannot thank Gareth enough for all his effort, incredible hospitality and determination in getting me in front of this incredible trophy, a true gentleman and an absolute fanatical Bushpig hunter, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend him to anyone who is looking for that once in a lifetime trophy.

But as I’ve mentioned before, doing it yourself can be a highly rewarding and some of my fondest memories come from having done it all by myself. The months of work, planning and strategizing can be highly addictive as you try and outwit these clever animals.

Finding the perfect location that lends itself to an ambush spot is the first step, then follows days, weeks and even months of baiting, checking trail cameras and planning before you can finally sit in wait for your trophy. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice or to change up your routine for better results, Bushpig are crafty creatures which often make fools of even the most experienced hunters.  From a bow hunters perspective I recommend hunting from a treestand, given there are suitable trees, keeping the distance to the bait as short as possible, I have found that anything between 15 and 25 yards to be ideal.

Another good tip is not to overdo the feeding, pigs soon become complacent at the fact that there will be feed whenever they show up. Ideally you want them to come in as soon as possible after dusk. You can supplement the corn feed with nearly anything as Bushpig are omnivorous and will just as happily feed on animal intestines, old vegetables, old bread and basically anything else that has a strong odour so that it travels quite some distance on the wind to lure them in. (Pouring molasses out onto the ground so it seeps in or even rubbing some on the surrounding trees and brush also works great at spreading the scent). Lastly, place some form of obstruction directly behind the feed from where you will be positioned, so as to keep the pigs from coming in facing directly towards you, by placing something like a large stump behind the feed you manipulate the pigs to come to the feed broadside or quartering away, which offers you the best position for an accurate shot into the. A good tip is to place the red light roughly two metres high and a couple paces away toward your hide or treestand, so that the light shines from your position toward the bait, as opposed to hanging directly above it. This allows you to see the entire flank of the target animal.

The next hurdle to overcome is setting up your bow, to do this you need light on your pins, most all bow sight brands offer some form of a sight light that attaches to the sight housing, just remember that less is more, you need surprisingly little light to sufficiently see your pins, too much and you will experience a halo effect that actually hinders you from seeing past your pins to your target. I also strongly urge bow hunters to use a kisser button, as you won’t be able to see through your peep even if you are using a sight light, thus by adding a kisser button on your string you will be confidant that you are anchored correctly at full draw. Because the majority of missed shots at Bushpig go either high or low, which indicates an improper anchor point, something a small kisser button can quickly remedy. Another item that will be a great deal of help is a lighted nock on your hunting arrow, although your shot will be at short range it is still a great comfort to actually “see” your arrow hit the right mark, it immediately dispels any doubts about the shot placement.

Bushpig are very tough animals, therefore I recommend a heavier arrow (as much as 10grains per pound draw weight) and a broadhead with a large cut on contact main blade with two bleeders, I particularly fond of large four blade designs such as Muzzy’s Phantoms. The reason for this is simple, the larger the wound channel the quicker the pig will expire which means a shorter tracking job, which due of their tendency to head for the thickest, nastiest brush after being hit, being a blessing. Mature boars are large, tenacious creatures and the layer of fat under the skin together with the long hair covering most of the body often hinders blood from reaching the ground. By using an arrow and broadhead combination that creates a very large wound channel and guarantees an exit wound you stand a better chance of getting a good and easily followed blood trail. The last item you will need is obviously a torch of some kind, but keep in mind that you still need to have one or both of your hands free when tracking the animal and in some cases actually follow up with another shot, so the simplest solution will be to use a powerful LED headlamp together with a secondary small and compact hand held torch.

 

Some of the items I always use on Bushpig expeditions are my trusty 220gr Stainless Steel Muzzy Phantoms and for follow up work I rely on the tough, dependable and impressive Nitecore SRT 7 Handheld & Nitecore HC 50 Headlamp for lighting.
Some of the items I always use on Bushpig expeditions are my trusty 220gr Stainless Steel Muzzy Phantoms and for follow up work I rely on the tough, dependable and impressive Nitecore SRT 7 Handheld & Nitecore HC 50 Headlamp for lighting.

Now, back to where I left off in the opening paragraph, this was officially the twenty fourth time I had sat in wait for the big sly boar to come in to the feed under the dim red light and give me, even the most fleeting of shot opportunities. But each and every time something went awry, a comedy of errors if you will, if he wasn’t spooked by the scent of my careless footprints at the bait, then the wind would suddenly change, or the big sow with her string of piglets would actually chase him off. Some night I could see him standing in the shadows only a handful of paces away from the feed, never attempting to come closer, on other occasions he would trot in, grab a mouthful and run off as soon as I even dared switching on the red light, so dim that my eyes could not pick it up. But tonight just felt right, a light drizzle earlier the afternoon was just the thing to get the pigs moving and the air was cool and constant as it drifted down the valley, somehow I knew that tonight would be THE night. I was totally surprised when the boar was first to appear under the red light, followed by the equally impressive sow and three youngsters, my immediate thought was that the boar was going to do his grab and go routine again, but amazingly he just stood there, feeding contently on the sour maze, so I carefully kept increasing the brightness of the rheostat until I could make out his entire profile as he stood quartering away a mere 14 yards away. My pulse quickened as I clipped my release on my string, because this was my first real opportunity to put an arrow in this boar after more than 20 fruitless nights. Because of the steep angle I would have to put my arrow very high and behind the boars near shoulder, to have the arrow dissect both lungs and the heart before exiting just to the left of the brisket.

My 80-pound Elite Answer came back smoothly to full draw, I settled the kisser button in the corner of my mouth and brought the small, dimly lit green pin up high behind the boars shoulder. A split second later I watched as the fiery orange lighted nock on my 900gr arrow disappeared on the exact spot, the boar lunged forward, crashing loudly over the barricade behind the feed. I knew the shot was perfect and with my heart beating loudly in my ears I listened as the boar kept breaking through brush on his death run, I tried to keep track of where he was heading when I heard a loud thud, then silence.

Sheer persistence and determined perseverance enabled me to win the game of cat-and-mouse with this sly Zululand boar, weighing a respectable 90Kg.
Sheer persistence and determined perseverance enabled me to win the game of cat-and-mouse with this sly Zululand boar, weighing a respectable 90Kg.

The boar was down! I sat down for a couple minutes to gather all my gear before I climbed down from my perch and walked over to where I could still see my arrow flashing in the dark. When I got there my torchlight revealed a prolific blood trail starting almost immediately at the feed and over the stumps, arching widely before heading dead straight through a tangle of brush and branches, so typical of a fatal shot. It was easy to follow and with each closing step my excitement grew as I knew what was waiting at the end of it, when I came to a spot where I could see the boar had stumbled and gone down, I started panning around in the dark with my powerful little Nitecore torch. Soon the clear bright light illuminated the big boars white face as he lay motionless, a couple paces to my left, and I finally had him! I switched my headlamp on as “n knelt down next to the hairy beast, I had such admiration for him, not just because of his age and beauty but his cheer cunning. He was very, very clever and had no doubt escaped many a hunters attempt to bag him, twenty three long, disappointingly fruitless night I had to endure before I could claim this old boar, what a challenge, what a trophy.

 

For more please go to: Engee Potgieter