New Zealand correspondent Greg Morton has been looking into the growing popularity of hog hunting with dogs there. Though not a new style of pig hunting to New Zealanders, it seems more traveling hunters are pursuing this opportunity there. While you might not go all the way to New Zealand just to hunt wild boar, Morton says it’s a fun add-on if you are already there and would like to try something thrilling. Here’s how he describes his own experience on one of these hunts:
“There are few hunts in New Zealand that involve jogging, running, crawling, using a long knife and perhaps even climbing a tree, but boar hunting behind dogs requires all of that. It is an adrenalin rush and recently is attracting a bit of a following with visiting North American hunters. Most hunting outfitters in New Zealand don’t own pig-dogs, but the one or two who do can go pig hunting at the drop of a hat and are finding willing clients ready to experience the whiff of danger and sense of unpredictability this adventure creates. In addition to the excitement and being a great safari add-on, there is also the possibility of taking a trophy size boar.
“Brendan Matthews of Matthews Trophy Hunting is the main outfitter who has noticed and is satisfying this spike in boar hunting interest. He is based in the South Island three hours south of Christchurch, which has an international airport. Over the last big game hunting season Matthews had several clients from North America who chose to upgrade their hunts to include the boar hunting option. The reason was simple. They saw the boar tusks hanging on Matthews wall, observed the scars on his dog pack and saw the photos in his album. Upon hearing the lurid descriptions of these hunts they wanted to experience the hands-on ‘pig-sticking’ nature of it for themselves. Once ‘blooded,’ so to speak, many describe the experience as the highlight of their trip.
“Pigs originally arrived in New Zealand in the 18th century with the English explorer Captain James Cook, and later descendents of these lean black pigs were called Captain Cookers. Further releases of domestic breeds and farm escapees saw the wild pig population explode across the country in the early 20th century. They became a farmer’s nightmare, ripping up grasslands and pastures, while the big boars often became lamb killers. The mix of breeds also produced some huge beasts with the largest animals busting the 200-pound mark dressed out. In one of my blog entries on The Hunting Report web site (http://www.hunting report.com/Greg-Morton/post_details.cfm?post_id=24) I posted a photograph of a boar that broke the 300-pound mark.
“The main form of control was good pig dogs, and this chase-type of hunting became, and still is, a national pastime for many New Zealanders. Dogs used are a mix of finders, bailers and holders, including breeds such as mastiffs, boxers, collies, Labradors, pointers and even Jack Russells. Hunts involve long pursuits, so hunters usually leave the rifles behind and use a long knife to stick the pig and kill it. An open sighted, heavy bore rifle is sometimes carried to provide backup if required. The pig is then carried out on the hunter’s back.
“Although pig numbers today are well under control, Matthews has access to some properties with good populations of pigs. He also has an experienced pack of four dogs well versed in finding them. Hunts with Matthews generally are carried out in one of two ways. The dog pack, Matthews and the client are dropped off in good pig habitat and walk down a likely valley back to a planted vehicle awaiting them. Or, a vehicle is driven through likely pig habitat while the dogs wind for game off the back. In either case, the dogs are scenting for pigs, and upon smelling them try to find them. When discovered, the pigs run, and the dogs select a target to chase. If caught, the pig will bail (bay) and fight back. Squeals tell the hunter it is a small pig. Barks mean it is too big for the dogs to grab. But a big boar fights silently and in a deadly manner, clacking his jaws and sharpening his tusks.
“The guide and client must quickly get to the bail, and dispatch the pig before the dogs get badly ripped trying to hold it and keep it from breaking bail and running again. Finders and bailer dogs find and stop the pig, then holder dogs latch onto the ears so the client and guide can tip the pig for sticking (knifing) in the hollow of the throat. Not easy when the pig is a 200-pound boar with hooked tusks and a mean temper. Matthews helps the client roll the pig, and if asked to, he will position the knife, but the actual act is usually performed by the client. A rifle is carried for back up. Often, a big boar breaks the bail, bursts downhill and charges anything that gets in the way. This is where tree climbing skills come in handy.
“On a visit last season, I was lucky enough to cross paths with one of the big boars. He crossed the road in front of us, and the dogs bailed him in thick scrub above a frozen creek. It was pitch dark, being early on a winter morning, and the fight was ferocious. Three of the dogs were ripped in the battle, and the 200-pound boar was finally dispatched in the middle of the iced-up stream. A photograph is available on my blog.
“In pig-dog hunts there is no guarantee the pig selected will be a boar, although Matthews’ dogs usually select the bigger animals in a mob to chase. His last hunts have produced amazing results. Seven hunts, seven big boars, with the largest weighing 236 pounds.
“Matthews charges US$1,500 for a three-day, all-inclusive package for hunters who come to New Zealand just for the boar hunt. Clients who want to add a day of boar hunting to their stay pay $750 for one day. Non-hunters are $150 per day. Contact Matthews for more information at 011-64-3-689-7658 or send him an e-mail at b.matthews @clear.net.nz. You can also check his web site at www.bestnzhunting.com.”