It was a long bus ride to where we would hunt, near the town of Palanga, on the Baltic Sea. While the hunt was primarily for wild boar, we could also shoot female roe deer and female red deer. The problem was that the males had shed their antlers and a mistake would be costly. I saw several roe deer, but never was sure enough about what I was looking at to pull the trigger. Twice they moved past my stand and were shot by other hunters. Also on the “shoot them” list were red fox and raccoon dogs. The raccoon dog is a tree-climbing canine that is native to East Asia and is considered an invasive species here.
While not related, they look remarkably like a raccoon, hence the name.
For the uninitiated, a driven boar hunt is something that will give the average American hunter-safety instructor cold sweats at night. The game is chased to waiting shooters and, almost without exception, it is shot while running.
Despite the disorganization I witnessed that first morning, which proved to be a one-time thing, these drives are conducted with military precision. Each person knows his job. The hunters are carefully placed so that the shots are directed down into the ground. The drivers make enough noise that the hunters know their locations at all times. It’s far less dangerous than it sounds. This is the primary way that boar and many other animals are hunted throughout most of Europe. The safety record is excellent.
I am not sure exactly when it happened, but the American culture has decided that shots at running game are unethical. There was a time, before America became feminized and stifled, when shooting at running game was the norm. Writers such as Townsend Whelen and Jack O’Connor wrote instructional articles on how to hit running game and magazines published them quite regularly. There were running-deer competitions at most shooting ranges; hitting running game with a rifle was a skill that hunters were expected to learn. I grew up in a camp full of trackers and still-hunters and was well into my 20s before I realized you could shoot a deer that’s not running. I am not exactly sure how all of that changed, but when I write about shooting at running game today, I get a lot of hate-filled letters, most calling me names and questioning my credentials as a hunter.
In Europe shooting running game is a tradition and, just as with American hunters of the past, you are expected to acquire the skill. The traditional way to learn is on a running-boar target, which can be found on any shooting range. In today’s high-tech world there are also shooting theaters, like the one I shot in at the Blaser factory in Germany before this hunt. With these popular shooting theaters you can hone your skills shooting live ammo at a movie screen with running boar or other game playing out like a movie. A computer records your hits or misses so you can review your performance after the shot.
They are a great training aid and are becoming very popular throughout Europe.
Even if you make a poor shot on the boar, which can happen with standing game as well as running game, they have tracking dogs that are trained to find the wounded game. As far as I know, we didn’t lose any wounded animals during the entire hunt.
A European driven hunt is a fast-moving, exciting way to hunt wild boar. You never know what to expect. It might be one boar or a dozen that shows up at your stand. There are no bag limits so you can shoot as many as you want.
One afternoon I was up the road from Aimpoint’s Sabine Eriksson when I heard her start shooting. From my perspective, it looked like she was in a castle battlement and under siege by wild boar. It appeared like a dozen or more were attempting to overrun her position while she was shooting in self-defense. I expected to see her pouring boiling oil on them any second.
My luck improved and I saw game from every stand but one during the three-day hunt. I had opportunities to shoot on about half the drives, which is a good balance. In one instance, those years of 3-gun competition paid off as five boars crossed the small opening I was watching. I started with the lead boar and, moving back like running a plate rack, I fired three shots and got three wild boars in about two seconds.
The meat is sold to restaurants so that the public can enjoy one of the better game meats, but the excitement, memories and freedoms of such a day remain mine forever.