Wild Boar Hunting at Night

Max Götzfried shares his experience about a lucky wild boar hunt in the Hessian Forest. And lucky he was!

Considering lawmakers, who seem to have a keen sense of male suffering, prohibit Sunday shopping trips and the ultimate punishment of a ‘visit to Ikea’, it’s surprisingly easy for me to get away and drive to the hunting ground, with pronouncements of “lovely weather today!” and “the dogs need a walk!” seeming to be all it takes. Early into a routine check of the first bait place in a meadow, my attention is drawn to a narrow footprint in a molehill – fallow deer? In fact, two further hills confirm it: at least one adult animal and a calf – a rarity in our little hunting ground. As the bait place has been attacked, I decide to venture a backache-inducing waiting game – and to sit it out until the morning. I would be more than able to capture each animal in the current crescent moon, optimally using my residual-light-intensifying ZEISS VICTORY 5.6 × 62 Night Vision and it would be even easier with the bright (without added auxiliary means) ZEISS V8 2.8–20 × 56, but there is one thing stopping me: the night-time hunting ban for fallow deer.

Only five meters from the feast does the fox begin to fear for its safety and sits down.

Max Götzfried

The chance of me setting eyes on one of those spotted friends during legal hours is low, but, as we all know, not shooting is also a missed opportunity. An hour before dusk, I move into position and wait for what should come along. Nothing appears for a long time other than two hares and three roe deer. The fallow deer has cleared the first hurdle; I can’t do anything else now – but there is movement… by way of a change, cunning Mr Fox is making no compromises and beeline’s straight to the bait place, meaning I hardly have time to bring my weapon gently into position.

Only five metres from the feast does the weak fox begin to fear for its safety and sits down inquisitively in front of me. There is no great skill involved in calmly setting the fine illuminated dot in the middle of the white chest. I assure myself once more with the night vision device that the robber is lying down and am about to lean back contentedly when I happen to notice something else scampering about.

The next fox approaches as if nothing has happened, also making a beeline to the bait and – synchronised swimmers couldn’t have done it any better – takes up position in the same way on the other side of the bait place. Really? I don’t stall for long; we have a small-game hunting ground … even number two is no big deal.

The night hunting ban still applies until the morning – but not to sows! Therefore, I decide to leave my stand hunting bag as a place warmer and to visit our suburban problem area first. I haven’t quite got out of the car yet when the night vision device almost slips out of my hand due to shock: about 150 metres in front of me, a proper chunk of a sow is conducting a thorough deworming of the wet meadow.

Ha! What’s going on today? I hardly need move, but I don’t like to shoot far in this area. Shoes off and proceed! I approach the sow carefully and nervously as she stands conspicuously, like an oil slick on a ski slope, in the short meadow with the city lights behind her. I’ve had her before me often in the past, but she either had small piglets in tow, was standing on the nearby railway tracks, broke calmly into the neighbouring hunting ground or had some other guardian angel watching over her.

What a lump! It can only be … Erna! The grande dame of urban sows!

Max Götzfried

Even if she’s a wild sow, she is my preferred pursuit – each year, she leads in a large number of new settlers who continually and brazenly populate the urban area. Just last week, I happened to see her cross a street a couple of hundred metres ahead with nine(!) young boars of almost a hundredweight, which, compared to her, looked like halflings. I look around, but Erna’s followers are nowhere to be seen.

In any case, since they are no longer dependent on her, I decide to seize the opportunity. But I have forgotten to turn the glass back down, meaning that, initially, Erna looks even more monstrous across the barely 20 metres’ distance. Because of the excitement, the fine illuminated dot dances about – barely any tracking in this problem area! I have to set it down again briefly. Then I deliberately aim at the shoulder blade to avoid her trying to escape. With an impressive strike of the bullet, the black locomotive slumps like a bag of flour.

With mixed feelings, I approach the old lady who, believe it or not, later turns out to weigh 103 kilos dressed. As I gaze somewhat sentimentally across her former territory, the queen’s entourage – the nine hundredweight sows – amble out of a gap between buildings a distance away, roused by the shot. They want to reach the safe haven of the railway embankment hedgerow. Quickly now! Pan! Pan! The second clearly reacts to the shot and falls back immediately, which sends the horde into complete disarray and has them fleeing in all directions.

Barely five metres ahead of me, a boar stops in its tracks to get its bearings – child’s play and 200 kilos of game in maybe two minutes. Today is a special evening indeed! Hours later, exhausted and sopping with sweat, I am arguing with myself at the hunting lodge – should I really have another go in the meadow? I have to go back to get my stuff at any rate!

I carelessly approach the pulpit, more plodding than prowling – another big black lump! The night vision device has me close to a heart attack: it’s not just anything standing in front of me, but an enormous fallow buck! I haven’t seen it’s like in this hunting ground before! And what’s far worse: I’m so tired and wobbly that he has long since noticed me. He gives himself the time to let my jaw drop audibly at his powerful frame and broad shoulders, and then he turns leisurely and walks pointedly away from me into the nearby wood.

He keeps stopping to turn and laugh at me. He is perfection. A one-off from a picture book – but it’s still night-time! I stare after him agog until he moves into the only small wood we have in our field hunting ground surrounded by state forest. Utterly perplexed by this extremely rare visit, I scramble onto the ladder and slump onto my sleeping bag. Not that I’m a big trophy hunter, but this fallow buck is impressive.

I have only ever seen such a strong stag one in over twenty years – and then this!

Max Götzfried

Suddenly, my face brightens just like the dawn that gradually surrounds me as if on command. What is the fallow buck even doing in this little wood? That’s no safe place for him! I have a tiny chance because to my left, there are 20 hectares of almost transparent timber forest – but to my right there are more than 1,000 hectares of state forest with masses of young beech trees. With the luck I’ve had so far, I want to give it a go. I feverishly observe the edge of the wood half in position. Behind our wood and to the right is a bare field. To the left is a marshalling yard – the fallow buck can only turn here and has to go past me somehow! I fumble the safety mechanism nervously, check the glass, continually eye the meadow… There! No. It’s a hare… There! Nope. That weed bush has been there all night. Or there? Slowly, a long way back, the merest suggestion of a movement into the meadow, then an expansive fallow buck – he’s realised his mistake! Like a statue, he checks the ground where he discovered me before.

He seems uncomfortable at the thought of having to pass by this place again now. How to stay calm? It’s certainly more than 200 metres to the fallow buck. No trifle for a ‘keen marksman’ like me. I switch to 20×, correct the BDC (ASV) – and wait for “the’ step”. But the statue stands still. And stands. And stands. What seems like an eternity that leaves me waiting desperately in position. Oh my word! The fallow buck is turning again; the stag is checking ahead – almost… my rival moves majestically into the open and checks in my direction once again. Now or never. The flight of the HIT projectile in .30-06 lasts what seems to be a lifetime, but it finds its target with a slap. The old fallow buck rears up one last time – and sinks into the meadow. I could never have repeated it – my hands are shaking too much. What a night! I have to pull myself together before I approach El Capo and take a look at his scarred body in awe. For the second time in such a short period, I am torn. An unusual guest – an abrupt visit. Only a little while later does the joy of the slay set in…

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