Fountain of Youth
How did it get to this, I pondered as my young fellas voice crackled to life over the radio “Get here quick dad your dogs are barking and the pig is grunting at them, it sounds like a big one.
I looked down at my freshly poured coffee sitting next to a plate of Sausages and eggs and realised that would be the end of breakfast before it had even started.
The two boys had woken at 5am, giggling like idiots and banging doors to ensure I woke up as well I had opened my eyes to find them sitting poised, boots on and ready to go.
I looked at them sitting there as keen as and realised that without a decent feed and a large cup of coffee it would be a long day keeping up with these two.
So rather than hold them back waiting for a grumpy old fella to get kick started I decided to step aside. With strict instructions issued to radio me if the dogs bailed and to deal carefully with anything the dogs held, they disappeared off into the darkness.
It was the first time I had let my young fella take the dogs out without me and although he had been hunting with me since he could walk, for the next hour I felt like a reserve at a rugby game itching for an excuse to get involved.
Armed with only a knife and a tracking collar on his belt and sporting a radio in his pocket everything was covered and still I worried. It is normally mothers being told to cut the apron strings and I guess it was my time to stop thinking of him as my little man.
It had only just gone 6.30am but had felt like hours since the two of them slipped off into the darkness when his message crackled over the radio. Initial panic turned into a mad race to tip a beautiful breakfast into an empty pot for later and to slide wet boots on and grab the gun.
As I raced along the tracks in the buggy, I was given a running commentary over the radio from a very excited 15 year old. Dogs barking and an angry pig that kept getting bigger and bigger the more we talked. I watched the distance on the GPS diminish as I came over a steep rise. There was Rusty waving frantically, “Where’s your mate” I asked concerned at why Rusty was on his own a long way from the bail up, Oh, we decided I was the fastest, so I ran back to meet you he replied and I left Te Mawae watching the bail up.
The dogs were still another 1500 meters away and he had run all the way back in Red Bands without even raising a sweat, it was going to be a very long day I thought. He guided me along a rough paddock and before I knew it, I was out of the buggy and racing to keep up as he dodged and swerved and kept looking back to make sure I was still on my way.
We arrived to see his mate perched 20 meters up above a nice even bail up. I snuck down with two young fellas breathing down my neck and bobbing from side to side, so they didn’t miss the action. The dogs heard us arrive and fanned out waiting for my shot.
A big fat barren sow stood glaring at me wondering what was next and I realised this wasn’t my pig. A shot by me wouldn’t create a lifelong memory and I hadn’t earned the right to end this. I lowered the gun, stepped to one side and hissed the two dogs back in to hold.
Quick you boys grab it I shouted as the dogs latched onto an ear each. I stood and watched as the two boys both tumbled forward, a tangle of bodies unfolded and with a back leg each they quickly decided Te Mawae would stick it, after all Rusty had already dealt to the first two.
“The first two?” What were these young fellas going on about. A well stuck pig quickly left us all sitting in silence broken only by panting dogs. I had finally had the chance to inquire, what did you say earlier about the first two?
Oh, Dad you should have been there replied Rusty, there were pigs everywhere and we already caught two. We saw some other bigger ones getting away after we stuck the first two and we ran the dogs over onto their backtrack and they bailed this one.
What had I created I thought, two pigs and running the dogs onto a third then running back to meet me as I arrived, with this limitless energy what chance did an old fella like me have of ever getting to a bail up first. Perhaps the only saving grace was it would be another year till he could carry a gun without me around and get his driving license!
Well since you two young fellas already have blood on your hands you may as well sort this one out and meet me back at the buggy I said and after loading myself up with their radio, camera and GPS I gave a whistle to the dogs and walked away.
I had thoughts that perhaps if I hurried, my breakfast might still be eatable and lukewarm in the pot where I had left it behind in the front seat of the buggy. I made it half way back and as I stopped for a breather and gazed across the bush edge I caught sight of the back end of a decent pig disappearing into the scrub. I looked down to catch the dog’s attention and they were nowhere to be seen.
They were one step ahead of me as well and had slipped off already. This would be one bail up I could get to first I thought as I raced to where the pig had disappeared under the fence. A couple of quick barks followed and within minutes another steady bail erupted back in the bush.
I decided against updating the boys on the radio and shot off to gain a valuable head start. The open native made for easy going and the echoing bail spurred me on. Before I knew it, I was right on top of the action and there parked up against an old log was a cracking grey boar.
The dogs were bailing hard and what a great chance to grab some footage I thought. I grabbed out the camera and hit record, the red light flashed and then died. Bloody hell I thought, I had put a fresh battery in that morning. I quickly placed it down and as I stood up the boar charged, he made it halfway to me and as the dogs let it know who was boss it spun and backed up to the log again.
I gave the dogs the command to “get outside” and as the dogs parted I placed a shot in the middle of his head, he charged again at the last minute and the bullet skidded along his skull hit the point of his shoulder and deflected down into his lungs.
His momentum carried him toward me sliding with front legs folded and if not for a quick-thinking dog saving me by latching to his back leg I would have been nailed. He died at my feet glaring at me and perhaps wishing for just one more meter.
The noise of the shot had echoed and rolled down the valley and before long the radio sparked into life with a barrage of questions - What have you shot Dad – where are you – is it a pig? I gave the boys a blow by blow account and began the task of prepping it for the carry out. I made it halfway and as I sat leaned back on a log, I heard some chatter above me, he cant be far they said, the dogs are here.
The cavalry had arrived and trying to save face I stood and continued the slog out to an excited commentary of pig hunting words describing the size of the beast that 15 year olds should never use anywhere but the bush.
I realised the batteries in my camera were flat as they had carefully filmed the entire 25 minute bail up of the sow from the safe distance of 20 meters. Safe to say the footage showed a number of trees in perfect focus and a small grey dot way off in the distance.
The buggy was a welcome sight and after depositing the boar on the back I staggered to the front seat. Horrified I found my treasured pot of breakfast as empty as the lemonade bottle and chocolate wrappers strewn alongside it.
Yeah sorry Dad, me and Te Mawae got hungry while we were waiting for you Rusty sheepishly commented but I can run down and fill the lemonade bottle back at the river!
It was now 10am and I was struggling to turn the key and sit straight in the buggy and they were still talking of running almost a kilometre for water. I realised then why thousands had spent the second half of their lives fruitlessly looking for the fountain of youth and vowed to begin looking as well.
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