It’s that time of year when many people bail up in front of an air conditioner, but for us that grew up in the heat it’s a perfect time to be out and about. There’s time off around Christmas and New Year, and if you’re looking for something to get you outside there are worse things than pig hunting. If you think the heat is tough on you just think how it affects them. There is no better time of year to easily find a pig. They have to come to water, and water is scarce – easy!
Find the Water
Seems simple enough, and for those of us that hunt on private property, farm dams are a great place to start. Rivers and creeks are just as good to spend time by. The middle of the day with temperatures sitting at 40⁰ Celsius and above is extremely hard on wild boar; and if they have the choice they are going to be in the water.
If you know your country well you should be familiar with ALL the water points around. Don’t just focus on dams – in some places water holds in little holes in the middle of nowhere – particularly if the area has had rain recently.
If one of these little holes exists in your country, it has great potential for a big boar. These old blokes aren’t dumb – they seem to actively seek out the places most people overlook. They don’t get big by hanging out in spots that are hounded regularly. Get to know your country well. Think about where water could get held up. Ask those that know the area best. Better yet, get outside and become the person that knows it best.
Find the Activity
It’s entirely likely that every watering point around will be visited by a pig at some time or another, but you can’t be everywhere at once. Check the waterholes for sign – fresh wallows (those that you can still see the impression of bristles in and that are still stirred up); fresh rub trees (where pigs have a good old scratch); and fresh camps under trees nearby are all good signs.
The next thing to determine is when the pigs are visiting. It’s not much use to you if they are coming in during the middle of the night (unless you’re a spotlight kind of dickhead). The easiest way to do this is to wait until midday then start making the rounds. Make the effort – if you’re driving between points park well back and downwind then stalk in. Getting in undetected will give you a chance to learn something other than how fast a pig can get out of a wallow.
If you stalk in, observe the area and find no one home, check the edge of the water for really fresh sign that might indicate a pig having been there earlier in the day. If the pigs have come and gone then just be there earlier tomorrow. If there is no sign from earlier in the day then it’s likely no one has visited yet. You can either set up camp in a good position and wait; come back later in the day; or come back later the next day and check again.
Some Words on Behaviour
The summer routine is geared towards being active during the cooler hours and resting in the heat. Pigs will wait until late in the evening before they get up, and will need a drink when they do – so they will start turning up on water points just on dark or shortly after to quench their thirst.
Following that they will head out to forage and will keep that up most of the night. Come the early hours of the morning they will be feeling pretty dry again depending on what they’ve been eating, and they will start trickling in to water. Then there will be a last feeding session until around dawn when they will make the most of the lingering cool temperatures to snack on their way back to camp. Camp is going to be well back in a shady bit of scrub but; if safe; close to water. As the day heats up things start to get tough – a pig can overheat fairly easily and the summer can’t be a comfortable time for the poor buggers.
By the time it hits 12 or 1pm you should be rearing to get out and about. Pigs will be filtering back to water by now if they aren’t already there. At the very least they will be nearby.
A key thing to know, particularly of boars, is that they are creatures of habit. If a boar visits a dam at 12.13pm one day, he will be there at 12.13pm the next; unless he’s disturbed by you. If you put a pig off a water point one day while you’re doing other stuff – DON’T CHASE IT. Note the time and be there the following day. If the pig wasn’t stirred up it will be there.
Take your time as you move, working into the wind, as there might be a pig lying up in the shade near to the water source. Pay particular attention to well covered spots – wilga trees with branches drooping to the ground were the classic camps where I grew up, but look under horizontal tree trunks, African box thorn, thick lignum – whatever provides a lot of shade and is hidden.
As I said, move slow and look hard. Lots of times all you’ll spot is a bit of an ear, a snout, or a tail. Be ready for quick action – as you are the one moving about you are making yourself the most obvious creature in the area. Quite often while stalking around water where pigs might be camping all you get is a startled woof!, a scramble as a mob gets to their feet to assess the danger, and a second or two before they take off. Make those seconds count!
Pigs occupied by wallowing or swimming are slightly more approachable but even then they are incredibly alert. An ear or an eye is always scanning the area so pay attention. Any pause in whatever they are doing is a warning that they might be onto you. Freeze and watch intently – either until they go back to what they were doing or blow out in a shower of muddy water.
Doing the daytime rounds with dogs is another approach at this time of year. There is usually some pretty spectacular action as no pig wants to run in the heat, so if you want to see a big boar stand his ground from the beginning this is where you’ll get it. Fights often end up in the water too, which can be interesting!
For all this, I can’t stress enough the importance of monitoring your dogs and keeping water within reach. Just as the heat is tough on pigs, it’ll kill (or disable) a dog quick-smart. While you may feel fine, there are some key differences between your evolutionary biology and that of your dog’s. Namely the body’s cooling mechanisms. Do not work dogs hard in the middle of a summer day without water for them to drink and swim in.
Summer is here, so make the most of the seasonal opportunities. An added bonus to getting out during the day is that you’ll appreciate a cold beer when you’re done, and hopefully have some pork chops for the barbie! It’s perfect weather for those sorts of activities too!