Tuesday, 27 November 2012

How to for summertime hogs

Yesterday I realised that summer is upon us. We were walking along the waterfront at Cockle Bay and the searing heat was giving me a headache, my feet were burning up in my black shoes and I was sweating in my shirt and pants. It was hot and as I kept the girls from jumping off the wharf and into the harbour, my mind drifted off to my favourite corner of this wide brown land, our far western marginal country where summertime hog hunting is possibly the most enjoyable hunting I've experienced in my life.

I tend to hunt the mountain country in the cooler months and leave the flat western country for October to February - when it's hot. It's not that the hunting out west isn't productive in winter, it's just that the hunting is bloody brilliant in summer!

More often than not, my hog hunting at the height of summer is in north western New South Wales or south western Queensland. Over the years I've had a lot of success with feral pigs, particularly in the heat. The thing with hot weather hunting is that the pigs need to drink and wallow and with that comes plenty of opportunity for the energetic hunter to get amongst them!  You just need to identify areas of concentrated activity and then focus your hunting on these hot spots.

This outstanding boar was caught wallowing in a puddle on a dusty flat outside the sheep yards where the poly-pipe had sprung a leak; boars like this are seldom seen except for when conditions demand that they take risks to survive.

My hunting tactics in the heat are simple. Sleep in, take it easy and have a good breakfast, then get out there around 9:00am. It'll be cooking by then, too hot to lug that rifle, too hot to stalk through the scrub and too hot to cover any amount of country; but if you want to catch a pig this is by far your best strategy. Get out there when it's too hot. In the country I love, by the time I start hunting I would expect it to be in the high thirties - that's 95 or over for our American friends!

So the mercury is about to hit 40°C and the forecast is looking like a top of 46°C - that's 115°F, fairly typical for this country. No what? Water.

Drive the waters. Park the car a couple of hundred yards short and do a lap of the water. If it's a ground tank, focus on the scrubby areas behind the embankment and weave through any bush where you can't see the dirt. You need to see the dirt.  If there's a patch of scrub or a shadow, that's were your hog is going to be bedded, out of the sun.

When there's water everywhere, the pigs could be anywhere!
I'll spend up to an hour at any watering point, possibly more depending on what cover is available. You're gonna' have to push the pigs in this weather. It's all about identifying the right spot; stalking through country close to water is going to pay dividends as the pigs are only going to travel a short distance before bedding down and you can expect them to come in to drink and wallow throughout the day. So start at the water and work your way our, how much cover there is will determine how you approach the hunt.

River hunting is fine, but if there's water everywhere then the pigs could be anywhere which means a lot of unproductive kilometers and at +40°C, today is not the day you need to prove yourself to anyone. If you have a creek or river that's not flowing then the remnant ponds and wallows are a great spot to find a pig and scouting the surrounding country is likely to give results.

This pig was shot in a fairly open swamp that had started to dry up.
When cane grass is growing in a ground tank there's sure to be pigs in there but you have to push them out. So in this scenario or whenever you come across a patch of thick stuff in open country, get the wind behind you and make some noise. Don't get carried away and start yelling, but don't be afraid to clear your throat and don't sweat it if you crack a stick or trip on a stump.  Getting them moving is the key! Bear in mind you'll have a very small window to get your shot off and it's gonna be about putting the brakes on that pig quick smart. A well fitted rifle is your friend when you're snap shooting pigs in these conditions.  You need the perfect pig rifle, and you can learn about that here as well... http://www.daggaboyblog.com.au/2011/12/perfect-pig-rifle.html

Caught at a trough in very hot and dry conditions in QLD, this boar wasn't quick enough for the .308.
If it's buddah bush or turpentine country, I walk through it, weaving to cover as much ground as possible and any potential bedding areas. I've had big boars break from a lone bush the size of a dining chair in fairly open country; don't underestimate a pig's ability to use cover. In needlewood scrub I walk through every shadow, always at the ready. Fallen timber and a couple of bushes in the needlewood are worth checking out.

Using the wind to blow my scent ahead of me I pushed this pig out of a thick patch of turpentine in soft red country above the flood lines. This tactic is useful when you have a shot opportunity after they bolt!


Another excellent boar taken in the needlewood with the .450 Ackley Magnum. Again a case of flushing the pigs with scent and a bit of noise to motivate them.
In flood country full of Coolabah you want to spend a lot of time glassing; you're most likely to spot the flick of an ear or the swish of a tail more than anything else. Pigs will be bedded under the big trees amongst the roots and wallowing if its muddy. It's worth a thorough look at any time of the day.

It's not unusual for flooded plains to hold good numbers of carp and pigs are rather partial to a feed of these feral fish. As the waters recede the fish will start to get lazy and then die.  When the muddy flats start to reek of rotting fish, the pigs will be out in force. I find that the late afternoon and into sunset is the best time to get out there and scope the pigs getting there fill of Omega 3.

As floods recede in the summer heat, pigs will move in to feed on the carp.
A lot of the soft red country is interspersed with gilgais where you'll find lone Coolabahs - you'll spot the high green foliage above the scrub from a mile away. These spots are cool and often hold the last vestige of water or maybe just a patch of mud. If you can sneak up to these spots the pigs are more often then not very sleepy as they don't get harassed away from major watering points; this usually means a close encounter and fast shooting in scrubby country so be ready.

Lignum is always worth looking at but the stories I hear from the 1970's when smashing pigs in the lignum was very productive don't seem to translate so well in the country I hunt. I mostly encounter flooded flats with lignum swamps and deep channels; the water is too deep for me to go racing through the mud, or maybe I'm just getting old?

However you choose to hunt the lignum swamps, if it's holding water it'll surely be holding pigs. It gets very hot in that stark lignum - white and bright, sucking mud, sand flies and mosquitoes, you'll earn your pigs if you nail them in there. Skirt the edges and keep an ear out. If you hear pigs grunting or moving through the water look for dark masses through the lignum canes.  If the pigs are close and the wind is in your favour move in slowly, they'll often freeze and listen and scent the air for what might be coming.  You might get a split second at a shot but more than likely you'll have half that time to get a shot off as they dive deep into the the lignum.

The green feed just outside of this lignum swamp is very attractive to big pigs in the afternoon.
 In the country I hunt there is a bit of lush feed close to the lignum and a couple of flowing channels from an artesian bore; I often find pigs bedded on dry ground a few feet from the water. If I'm close to lignum at dusk I often catch them heading out of the lignum swamp for a feed of fresh greens. If there is recent sign in the area it's certainly worth hanging out at dusk, it can be very productive as they're likely to come out for feed.

Once the water starts to dry up in those lignum swamps you can really get in there and shift the pigs. Access is easy and shot opportunities are better simply because a side step is easier when there is no threat of sinking knee deep in the stickiest mud on the face of the earth! Hunting the dry lignum will take some experience as the pigs are less concentrated so you'll need to wear out some boot leather to get a good hanle on the habits of your local porkers.

This good boar was one of almost 30 pigs shot in two hours in this dry lignum swamp on a very hot Sunday in October.
I tend to find pigs in or at water in extreme heat, around 1-2-3pm. I've found them in dams, wading through floods or standing in precious troughs or cup and  saucer tanks during the hottest part of the day.  Experience has taught me that for the rest of the time, if it's hot, they won't be far from water.

This ground tank is fed from an artesian bore in a very isolated area of this particular block.  I have caught up to 40 pigs wallowing, drinking and feeding at this spot in the midday heat. It's also an excellent spot for big boars given the availability of good feed, permanent water and thick cover. With thick scrub all 'round, five from five is the best I can do!

Enjoy the heat hunters, it's shaping up to be a good summer for pigs, at least till the inevitable Boxing Day thunder storms!

10 comments:

  1. Love your work Dagga. Good write up and some great tusky boars too.
    I usually avoid hunting in the summer heat due to the snakes, and .... the summer heat. Judging by your success maybe I should rethink my position.
    I usually spend november to march hunting a cooler environment, underwater with a speargun.
    Hunting on land or underwater, I love it!
    Look forward to your next instalment.
    Adam

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  2. Hey Adam,

    Thanks for visiting and glad you're enjoying hunting adventures of a very ordinary bloke!

    Don't think about the heat, just focus on hydration and the rest will sort itself out. Drink enough to ensure you pee clear at all times, that's my measure for "drinking enough". And douse yourself with water regularly to ensure your body core temperature remains normal. Rest assured it won't be "normal" if you're hunting on foot in the mid-forties. Water is your friend.

    Dry and hot is ideal for this type of hunting so head west and get into it! It won't be comfortable like a shoulder season hunt, but you're hunting not holidaying.

    Mind you spear fishing in January sounds like a nice holiday...

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  3. Just spoke to the owners of my best block in SW QLD and they leave tomorrow having just sold the place. It's been bought buy some rather large concern who are putting a manager out there so I expect that's the end of that after 15 years. Av very sad day.

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  4. I know that feeling... there is hope, though, Dagga. Don't give up, you never know what might happen.

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  5. I have a couple of other options not too far from this block, but it had the perfect mix of soft red country thick with scrub, flood country and lignum swamp as well as some excellent permanent waters. Such a shame! It's a 2,000 kilometre 'round trip but I'll go for a drive in the new yer and introduce myself...

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  6. Bummer to hear about your favorite spot, but so it goes... I expect you'll find another. From all I've heard, hogs are quite the nuisance down your way.

    As far as summer hunting, I couldn't agree more. If you've got access to the water sources, you've got some great potential. On the other hand, I find hunting hogs in winter to be more similar to deer or elk hunting.

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  7. Phillip the pigs out here certainly are a nuisance in some parts of the country. On this particular property the choppers generally knock off 600-1,000 pigs each year when they visit; that's a lot of pigs!

    Finding another property is surprisingly difficult out here. Most property owners have family and friends who are more than happy to help out with the shooting and they all seem to know someone who has had some experience with poachers and trespassers or both, so they aren't often welcoming to hunters. This block that has just sold had a lot of visiting shooters some 20 years ago, but with the passing of time, all of these other groups without exceptions have made mistakes - shooting stock, shooting out of boredom, shooting around the house, shooting things they shouldn't, making a mess of the quarters and leaving rubbish lying about.

    Thanks to the ignorance of these other shooters, I have had sole access to this 40,000 acre block for the past 7 years and with that has come better hunting for me. The owners are always happy to have a sensible, safe and considerate hunter up from the city. I've no doubt the very big basket of gourmet foods and treats I take along with a few choice beverages is a rather nice visitor as well…a very welcoming family.

    Here's hoping the new owners welcome this old regular and that the neighbours might be keen on a Sydney hunter going for a walk around their back yard.

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  8. Damn, i feel your pain. Same thing happened to me last year on a property I'd been hunting up near Glen Innes. After I sent a letter of intro to the new owner, and neighbour, and a visit to them both to introduce myself I got access to the beeter block next door and to the old block with new owners. One door closed, but two opened!

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  9. This place has been sold before - it took 8 months of letter writing to get a response and I never looked back, we became firm friends. I've no doubt when they buy a new place I'll be heading up that way for a hunt.

    However the old block - well it was such a perfect spot! The new owners are will be living elsewhere and are putting a manager on. It's a very big maybe this one... I'll let you know how it goes.

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