Saturday, 17 September 2011

I pig hunter

My New Zealand "been there done that" list is steadily growing. The newest addition is pig hunting. Successful pig hunting. Quite different from piloting a stunt plane, but equally rewarding. I don't enjoy killing animals, but this experience was definitely worthwhile.

Don't read this post if you're vegetarian. Don't read it unless you're ok with a bit of blood and gore.

New Zealanders seem to like animals a lot. They love their possum hunting, pig hunting, deer hunting, fishing... Mike once told us: "do you see that beautiful stag over there? We're gonna shoot it next week, the meat is delicious".

Pest control hunting
Hunting isn't just a hobby, though, it's also necessary for keeping the pest population down. Most hunted animals aren't native of New Zealand and can cause damage to crops, cattle/sheep business, etc. Possums, for instance, have been imported from Australia, where they're rare and protected, and thrive on NZ soil.). Wild pigs come from Europe and are a real nightmare for farmers. A grown boar can apparently pass through an electric fence powered with ten thousand volts and once it gets inside a paddock, it goes on a lamb-eating spree.

GPS tracking collars to follow the dogs.
That's why farmers and hunters help each other out. The former provide hunting grounds and make sure only their "hunter of choice" has access to it and no outsiders mess it up, while the latter keep the lamb-eating pest population down. And of course there's a lot of meat to be had for both.

The fastest way to kill a pig is to stab it in the heart.
Clinton the hunter
Mike's been kind enough to ask "his hunter" Clinton if he would take us with him, and Clint was kind enough to agree. The first hunt wasn't successful (apparently success ratio is about 50%), but he hunts several times a week, often more than once per day, so it was just a matter of trying again. And indeed, the second attempt brought fruits (or hams, to be precise).

A hunter's tools, a hunter's trade, a hunter's life
Clinton uses dogs, a hunting knife and a GPS tracking system. That's all he needs to catch his prey. No guns. Dogs wear GPS collars so he can keep track of their movements when they get out of sight, and if they start running in circles, it means they've cornered the pig.

The dogs can't wait for their reward.
It's not as easy as it sounds, though, and it's quite dangerous. First of all you must know the area, be able to recognize pig tracks, how old they are, how big the animal is, etc. and then you have to walk a lot, crawl under thick and prickly bushes, climb over steep hills covered with fallen trees, dodgy potholes and slippery rocks, and when you finally find the pig, you gotta be pretty fast.

Gutting takes only a few seconds.
And you have to deal with the animal, of course. If it's a small one, the dogs usually kill it by the time you get there, but if you run into a hundred-kilo mutha-fucka with tusks the size of roofing nails, it's a different business. Many dogs get killed on the job and every hunter has quite a collection of scars, ripped leg muscles or bitten-off fingers.

Once the dogs' job - cornering and possibly immobilizing the pig - is done, the hunter has to go in and stab it in the heart or cut its throat. That means he might have to grab the pig, turn it over on its back and stick the knife behind its front-right leg. That's the fastest and least painful killing method - the prey dies in a few seconds. Of course you need a proper knife. I've seen a Youtube video where some sick fucker went after the pig with a pocket knife and instead of sticking it properly, he kept stabbing it in the back, wherever he could reach it, causing just pain but no real harm. That's cruel, and judging by the 500+ angry comments, other hunters hate such idiots casting bad reputation over their trade. 

Small pig, big reward
Our hunt was one of the easier kinds - the pig was on the small side, only about 20-25kg, and by the time we reached it, the dogs had done most of the work (you wouldn't believe what a pitbull's jaw is capable of, better spare you the details). We basically just ended the beast's suffering.

Dealing the killing blow
Before the hunt started, Clint had asked us who was going to stick the pig once we found one. Neither Dominik nor Káča were keen on it and despite my initial reluctance, in the end I decided to go for it. Not for the pleasure of killing a living being, but simply to find out whether I'd be capable of it or not. I believe that if someone enjoys a good steak, they should be able to do the unpleasant part, too, and I'm glad I'd done it. Simply walking to a supermarket shelf is too easy.

Either way, it was as simple and matter-of-fact as opening a car. The dogs had already done the main part, Clint just passed me the knife, told me where to stab and I ended the beast's suffering quickly and efficiently. No time for second thoughts, and I guess the adrenaline rush from the chase also played its role.

Unexpected traditions (skip this part if you're not keen on guts and bloody stories)
What caught me totally unprepared was Clint's statement right after the kill. Totally out of the blue he comes with this thing about tradition wanting every new hunter to eat their first prey's heart. I must have made quite a face, because he quickly added "it's up to you whether you do it or not, but it's considered a good luck omen for future hunts, and it doesn't taste too bad, actually".
He also said that his son killed his first pig at the age of six and although he didn't want to eat the heart, in the end he gave in (otherwise daddy wouldn't take him hunting any more). Now he's eleven and lots of pigs perished by his hand.

WARNING: don't watch the video unless you're ok with potentially gross stuff.

WARNING: don't watch the video unless you're ok with potentially gross stuff.

And he was right, it doesn't taste too bad (still warm, almost like cooked, only more chewy and without spices). That said, after one bite I gladly shared the rest with the dogs. This is their favourite part anyway, they go crazy for fresh liver and heart and it's their rightful reward.

Onamalutu bloody massacre
After hunting, killing, gutting and abiding by traditions, the grunt job was all that was left - we had to get the pig out of the forest. Luckily it was just a small one, no more than 25 kilos, and we caught it in a relatively accessible area. I can't imagine how a small guy like Clint manages fully grown boars in some deep gully or on top of a steep hill.

Since it was my prey and I had the honour of abiding by tradition, I would have gladly carried it out myself, but after seeing how much blood was still coming out of it, and considering my inappropriate clothing, I gladly left that task to Clint. I didn't mind him looking like the bad guy from Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Once out of the woods, it was just a matter of driving back to Mike's, hanging the pig on a tree overnight for the meat to settle, Mike kindly offering to skin it for us and dropping it off at the hostel the following day, and then deciding how to cook it.

Proudly ours.
Ham. Ham. Ham!
I probably needn't elaborate on what follows. Wish there was time to spit roast the whole pig and make a garden event of it, but there wasn't. Instead, we took our share of the meat back to Nelson and cooked it the "domestic" way. I committed the cooking - not without Dominik's help - and let me say that a bit of garlic, onions, thyme, salt, pepper and three hours in the oven do amazing things with a wild pork ham. The hostel crowd seemed to agree (up to their ears). Today's dinner - honey ribs - was just for me and Dominik, no sharing, and it was equally orgasmic. Damn, I licked the plate clean!

Rewarded efforts
The audience was more than satisfied with my performance.
The food chain is complete and that's the conclusion of my hunting report. Some people may disagree with this activity, some may even be judgemental or whatever, but it doesn't matter. For me it was a great experience and it makes me appreciate the hard work behind a meat meal. No packaged meat from a shop will taste as good as the one you get yourself, knowing it's fresh, where it comes from and how much effort it takes to get it on a plate. I'm not planning to start a hunting career and I'd definitely not do it as a  hobby, but every once in a while...

Dinner number 2.


  1. na té první fotce vypadáš jak opilý zombík :-)


  2. nikdy sem si nedelal iluze o svy fotogenicnosti ale aspon nektera se snad povedla ne? treba ta kde vypadam jak strizlivej zombik :D

  3. You are disgusting and should be ashamed. To kill something for the sake of killing is sick in the head. You are incredibly shallow to get a thrill out of something like this. How you can kill something and torture something that is living and wants to live is sick and twisted. I don't know how you can live with yourself. Hopefully you do the right thing next time. I also can't believe you're taking pictures as though you are immensely happy that you just ended a life. You're sick.

    1. Did you even read the article? I killed for the sake of eating, not killing. I believe that if someone enjoys a good steak, they should be able to do the unpleasant part, too, and I'm glad I'd done it. Hunting is dangerous and hard work, hence more rewarding and thrilling than simply walking to a supermarket shelf. Who judges someone for hunting down an animal and then buys a burger or cooks a steak is arrogant and short-sighted.


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