Leading up to Christmas 2016 a good mate of mine, Dev, bit the bullet so to speak and splashed out on a brand spanking new Tikka T3x .308. A rifle that I was certainly envious of, as I was tackling the age old debate of which calibre and brand of rifle to buy myself. Dev and I had previously drawn blood with the rifle on a ridiculous goat mission that is definitely worth its own story. This trip however was about putting some meat on the table in the lead up to Christmas.
It was late November 2016, and due to the Kaikoura earthquakes I was unable to attend work… Bugger! Dev had an injured wing, dislocating his shoulder at the gym and was also unable to attend work… Double bugger! So our only option was to do a quick brainstorm and head out on an adventure.
Dev had scouted some promising looking country for a deer in the weeks prior and had us fizzing to hit the hills in search of animals. Our desired destination wasn’t too far from Christchurch and didn’t involve a long drive or horrendous slog in. That being said we were very aware of the fact that being so close to a major city probably meant that it was hunted often, and although we had high hopes, we headed in with realistic expectations.
Walking in on a Friday we were hoping we might get in early before the rush that the weekend may bring. The weather forecast was for overcast conditions and we had our fingers crossed we wouldn’t get rained on or fogged in. A couple of relatively easy hours later, the legs had taken us to our desired destination . We spotted a couple of deer on the way in but being on private land they were certainly safe from any lead we were planning on firing.
Dumping our packs and smashing a few muesli bars left us in a good head space for a late afternoon hunt leading into the evening. We both looked at the map and came to the agreement our best bet was to head for the tops where the bush opened up and we could get a better understanding of the terrain for the rest of the trip. Off we set following a marked route.
Walking through the native bush was great, but as we coasted uphill along the bush edge we were on high alert, as animals could well be grazing in the late afternoon sun. The vegetation opened up and we stopped every now and then to glass the new country we were exposing. Things were looking good until we fully left the safety of the bush. We knew from the forecast the wind wouldn’t be absent but we weren’t expecting the full on near-cyclone strength winds just howling across the tussock.
The wind was so intense once we reached the very top that we had a job to stand up right and it was impossible to glass through our binoculars as our eyes just watered up instantly. We both looked at each other and came to the same conclusion. This evening was a waste of time and we may as well head back to camp and settle in for an early start and see what tomorrow morning will bring.
I remember we had psychologically flicked the mental switch and were no longer in hunting mode. Yelling into the wind seemed like a good idea to vent our frustrations. We headed back towards the track and started our descent. The wind was just relentless and I looked back across the open terrain and was genuinely surprised to see a pig hightailing it across the face of the hill we were on. The pig was clearly on a mission and instantly so were Dev and I. Wouldn’t it be great to bring home some bacon just before the Christmas period!
The pig ran behind some dead trees and I pointed out to Dev where I had last seen it running. We wasted no time in closing the gap between the pig and us. It made perfect sense to close the distance while the pig was unaware behind the dead trees. As we rounded the hill side the trees came into better view but the pig was nowhere to be seen. What happened next was honestly the epitome of “right place, right time”. It all happened so fast.
There was a quick moment where we both thought “where has the pig gone?”; followed by “it’s running right at us!”; followed by “it’s literally 5 metres away!; followed by the crack of a rifle as Dev fired his .308, sighted in at 100m and scope zoomed at x12 magnification, at animal only 5 metres away.
The howling wind that we thought was our downfall happened to be our saving grace as the pig was completely unaware, and the neck shot Dev had somehow managed to pull off against all the odds, had our Christmas hams rolling down the hill perfectly in the direction we needed to head!
We followed the blood trail down the hill which led to the downed pig, caught in the kanuka scrub. The kanuka had acted as a buffering net, stopping the pig’s momentum before it would have entered the beech forest below. Handshakes, photos and the usual hunting etiquette followed. Dev gutted the pig and hung the heart and lungs up in the kanuka so that the mana of the animal would stay within the landscape from which we had harvested it from.
Due to fading light and Dev’s injured wing, I had the pleasure of backpacking the 85lb sow back to the hut for the night. It only took about half an hour but that was more than enough and I was thankful to hit the hut and fire up some much deserved dinner. The last memory from that night was picking pig lice out of my hair and burning them in the candle flame. The things we do for bacon!
The next morning drew and a heavy mist was in the air followed by a steady drizzle. With an animal already downed, there was no desire to get out of bed early and fight the rain. Instead we decided to head out on a Saturday morning and still have the rest of the weekend to brag about what had happened the previous afternoon.
Seeing Dev had pulled the trigger on the pig I think he knew it was only right that he carry the pig as much as he could. Cutting the head off and adjusting the straps, Dev headed off back to vehicle with the pig on his back, whilst I cramped Dev’s pack into mine and followed suit. There’s no doubt about it, you’ve got to give credit when credits due. Dev carried the pig that whole way back to the truck only taking the pig off his back for oranges at halftime. A three hour walk, 85lb of protein, and a dislocated shoulder, made for a lot of man points and a fair bit of respect once we loaded the pig on the back of the truck.
It was certainly a memorable trip. The whole scenario kept playing over in my head. It was just ridiculous how it had happened. Yet over Christmas at Duncan Bay in the Marlborough Sounds, enjoying wild pork chops with the whole family, I ended up being thankful for the gale force winds, thankful for the opportunity that had come out of a dislocated shoulder and a powerful earthquake, and thankful that Dev had shared his hard earned spoils which is bloody rewarding in itself.
Until next time,