Driven boar in sub zero conditions

Mark Lewis braves the bitter cold in Hungary for three days of open area driven boar hunting with Berkshire-based Tomo Svetic, of Artemis Hunting, who was hosting a hunt for a team of 18 guns. The team had been put together by Rupert Ellis of the Hunting Agency and was a cosmopolitan mix of English, Welsh and some guest German guns.

The trip started with the five of us heading down the motorway from Wales to a Holiday Inn near Heathrow ready for our early morning flight to Vienna the following morning. Full of anticipation and beer we only managed to catch 2 hours sleep the night before we were picked up and transferred to Heathrow. The flight took just 2 hours to Vienna where we were met by Tomo Svetic of Artemis Hunting Ltd. and his team.

After all the introductions we were on our way, the one thing that strikes you whilst you are making your way through the beautiful and stunning Austrian and Hungarian countryside, apart from it being -20 is how they are so geared up for the needs of the shooter, with high seats dotted all over the area alongside well maintained forestry. It looked like a hunters dream! The transfer took just two hours and we arrived in comfort in our luxury coach at our destination, the Abbazia Country Club in Western Hungary. Our base for the next 3 days and what very nice accommodation it was too, with riding stables and health club, not the normal rugged hunter accommodation we were used to but none of us were complaining.

After a night sinking a beer or two and getting to know the other guns, we rose at 5:30 for a 6am continental breakfast. We then travelled 20 minutes to a hunting lodge where we filled out all the relevant paper work, was given a safety talk and drew our peg numbers for the day. I drew peg 20. I must say I was a bit gutted as I felt like a back gun being the last peg and on the end, but it’s the luck of the draw and yes there are a few choice positions but in truth, you are in woodland so an open space with fewer trees is to be preferred, as when those pigs are running and jinking at high speed you are less likely to shoot a tree!

We headed off for the first drive, the terrain was not too hilly or heavily wooded. Most of the shooting is either done from the many dirt roads that cross the area or not far off them. My weapon of choice was my Tikka T3 9.3x62mm with Kahles CSX 1.5-6×42 on top, a very nice and light bit of kit coupled with 285 grain Lapua ammo. It was -22, as I stood ready on my peg bursting with anticipation it was so hard to keep still in the cold but still you must as the smallest of movement will send the pigs on to a neighboring gun.

20 minutes in and I could hear shots ringing out throughout the wood which sends your body in to over drive with floods of adrenalin and anticipation but still nothing came my way, after a couple of hours the end of the drive was sounded.

The second drive I was on an open forest track, the first 45 minutes was deadly silent so I decided to answer the call of nature. There I was gun in 1 hand ready for action or so I thought when all of a sudden only 25 yards in front of me eight pigs ran across the track and back into the woods. I was gutted my first boar sighting and I was otherwise engaged but my frown was quickly turned upside down as another big sow crossed the forest break. I took aim shot but missed, by this time shots were ringing out all over the forest and I was starting to feel a little flustered as though I had lost my chance for this drive. Then all of a sudden I could hear twigs snapping. I looked up to see a pig running flat out, I picked up on it and just as it started to break cover I took my shot. It faltered but carried on across the track where it proceeded for 50 yards then dropped. YES my first wild boar, I was ecstatic.

Another thirty minutes passed until the end of the drive when the Hungarian shoot captain came and congratulated me and put a conifer spring in my cap that he had dabbed with the sows blood to signify my first boar, which was a sow of 135kg.

With a smile from ear to ear I joined the rest of the guns, as we all broke for lunch in the woods we had Hungarian goulash (thick soup) with ham steaks on top freshly baked bread and English tea, PERFECT! I took some more photographs and saddled up ready for the last drive of the day. It was another long drive and I was on the end again, by now it had warmed up to a respectable -11. After one hour I could hear a boar running through the woods, in an instant I saw a flash of it around 75 yards away. I took the shot which hit well, but it carried on running across the forest break. I shot once again which this time hit just above its shoulder, still it did not faultier, “am I firing blanks in this gun I asked myself” it ran on for another 100 yards before she finally came to rest, another sow of 155 kgs, what a magnificent beast 2 wild boar on my first day, to say I was Over The Moon was an understatement.

These animals command the greatest of respect as to me they are the best quarry I have ever had the pleasure to hunt, and respect was what was given at the end of the day. We were all taken into the woods where all the animals, nine wild boar and three red hinds had been laid out, tree bows surrounded them forming a tablo which has an opening in the middle with fires either side making a door way to walk through. The beaters stood on one side and the guns stood on the other, hats were taken off and respect was then given by the hunt captain to all the animals shot by way of words and different tunes played on hunting horns followed by the last stand. It was great to see respect being paid in such a way for a good hunt and something I feel would not go amiss in my own country.

Then me being a wild boar virgin and all, it was my turn to step into the tablo and take my initiation in the form of bending over my wild boars on all fours as the hunt captain said a few choice words while spanking me on the arse with a big stick that was cut the length of the barrel of my gun, after all the pictures were taken and the guns had finished laughing I was presented with my stick along with another gun Grant Dunston who had also had a spanking. We all headed back to the hotel for a late tea and entertainment, what an end to a perfect first days hunting in Hungary.

Day two still full of anticipation, excitement and a sore arse from day one we all rose for breakfast at 6am, a very windy morning greeted us and -11 with a wind chill making it feel -20. Today we were at a different ground and as we arrived we were met by officials and police who checked guns and licences and then conducted random breath tests, safety is paramount here and I cannot say how impressed I am of the way the trip was being run and conducted, so far it really was first class.

The first drive I was on peg 19 deep in the woods on a fire break after 30 minutes or so. I could hear twigs snapping leaf litter rustling and the ground thudding, I looked up and saw a big keiller( male tusker) running towards me. I lifted up my rifle, he stopped dead side on to me about 80+ yards away in the trees, I took aim and shot him in the neck just behind the ear. A good shot but he just looked at me turned and trotted off like I had just hit him with a pea shooter, not a 9.3mm.

Another 40 minutes later I could hear more pigs coming, they broke cover and I could see that 5 pigs were running at full stride starting to cross the ride 70 or so yards away from me. I nailed the first one just behind the shoulder in the engine room. It crashed down hard just before the other side of the break, the following 4 ran straight over it. I raised my gun again to put another round in my downed pig just to make sure, click a misfire. I left it a second then recycled the round I lifted up my rifle but to my amazement my pig had gone, both pigs were hit so hard what else did I need to do to drop 1 of these beasts I asked myself. The strength of these animals is awesome, at the end of the drive we were taken back to the lodge were we cooked bacon steaks and deer sausages over a huge open fire with fruit tea and stumpy bottles of coke to wash it down. I was then informed that the killer I had shot was found 500 yards away from where it was hit. It had killed 1 dog and injured 2 others while trying to hold it at bay, it weighed in at 180kgs and was a trophy medal boar. The sow I shot running across the break was found 100 yards away and was 135 kgs, Wow! What a morning. When someone asked me how I felt my quote was “its made my f***ing year”! to which they replied “its only February “ .

For the afternoon drive I drew peg 3 right on the edge of an open field overlooking the woods which were being shot. It was very exposed and very cold but the adrenalin from the first drive was still keeping me warm, I never saw a thing in 3 hours. I heard over 50 shots ringing out from deep within the woods, Dave a member of my team shot his first sow 100 kgs and Phil shot a roe. Another end to a great day. At the lodge we had boar gulash and many a bottle of beer to celebrate, we then headed back to the hotel for a few more beers, a hot tub,sauna and bed, to be fit and ready for what the last day in Hungary had in store.

Our last day was another 6am breakfast, then back to the same hunting lodge as yesterday. It was still very cold -10 but nice and sunny. I drew peg 20 for the first drive which was in the middle of a thick hedgerow 20 or so feet wide with big open maze and stubble fields on both sides. One hour into the drive I could hear the beaters and dogs pushing towards me, just then I could hear the dogs baying 100 yards in front of me, then from my left I saw a huge red stag break cover and trot across the open field before me. I was in awe what an awesome beast, with the biggest rack I had ever seen I lifted up my rifle to see its splendor through my scope. I must say I had a very itchy trigger finger but dare not shoot as the stag was definitely a trophy and would of cost me packet if I had shot him. My admiration seemed to go on forever until I was brought back by the sound of more dogs baying even closer to me. I knew there was still something else there in front of me but WHAT, just then only 6 foot in front of me 3 pigs broke cover and ran straight at me. One hit me head on, span me around knocking me onto my back foot. I regained my balance mounted my rifle and shot the lead one in the head and the last one through the back, my heart was beating out of my chest. They ran on 30 yards or so and were found by the trackers, they weighed in at 50 kgs each. What another great first drive, and even better to be alive if they would have been bigger it might have been different story .

We headed back to the lodge for lunch and the afternoon drive which saw me in a high seat for the first time on the edge of the wood. The view was stunning I heard over 60 shots ringing out in the woods as I watched the sun setting over the fields. What an epic end to an amazing 3 days driven boar hunting in Hungary. We returned to the lodge where we were given a feast fit for kings. We paid our respects to the animals that had been shot over the past 3 days and respect to our hosts and Tomo Svetic who worked like mad making sure everything went as well as possible ensuring everyone had a time to remember, All in all a great trip, excellent accommodation and food, with plenty of potential pigs. Out of the 18 guns in our group everyone had a shot and seen a lot more. We had 6 drives in 3 days accounting for 43 pigs with 210 shots fired, with myself accounting for 7 of them. My killer being the biggest at 180 kgs.

I had the time of my life with the best hunting ever exceeding all my expectations and made some great friends in the process. If you have ever thought of doing this DO IT, it will be a trip of a lifetime and should be number one on every ones bucket list. All that is left for me to do now is to thank all the guns, our Hungarian guides and Tomo Svetic of Artemis Hunting for making my year.