A yarn about new friends and pig-hunting

So, it was a Friday night.  I was at The Twisted Hop having a beer or two with a few of the boys (@richardsd, @nzJayZee and @michaelmurfy) when I spotted a guy standing by himself, checking his phone, looking round and looking a little lost.  I also noticed his fly was down…all the way.  And being the good citizen that I am, I went over and said, in a quiet, discreet voice “Excuse me, but your fly is down”, and he replied in a much less quiet and discreet voice “Oh cheers for that” and fixed the situation.

It turns out he was at his own leaving do, but believed he’d been “stitched up” as no one else was there.  So I invited him to join the boys and I, which he did.  Simon is one of those people who seems to get on with anyone easily, so we all talked like we’d known each other for ages.  And some time after, his friend Jimmy turned up and joined us too.

Now Jimmy is an interesting character.  His talents are many and varied and include “pants related surgery” – adding a new hole to his belt after I pointed out his jeans were riding just a bit too low to be respectable. Cheers Justin for the pic. That’s my Leatherman he’s using, by the way, ‘cos every girl should carry a knife.

He also does a bit of diving – and I have a decent crayfish in my freezer as a result of that.  Jimmy also tells a good story…ask him about the MAF guys related to that crayfish. Oh, and he is also a recreational pig-hunter.

Now, I’ve wanted to go pig-hunting for a while, so when I mentioned this to him, and after witnessing my knife-handling skills, he offered to take me.  And cut a long story short, after a false start the next day – less than 3 hours notice didn’t work for me – Thursday was to be the day.  With a bit of text banter to sort out the details, Thursday 5pm rolled around and we were off. (Warning – there are some graphic images of dead pigs – in case you get squeamish)

This trip wasn’t all beer and skittles.  I was handed a book and told to study it closely.  The New Zealand Pig Hunter’s Handbook by one Paul Askin.  Who just happens to be the father of the dude featured on the cover of the book, one Pete Askin. And Pete just happens to be Jimmy’s mate and the dude we were going hunting with.  No pressure. And study it I did.  Luckily I don’t get car-sick with all that reading required.  I saw the book in PaperPlus the other day in case you’re interested in buying it.

Oh, and one of Jimmy’s other, slightly dubious, talents is no-hands driving. Which he demonstrated to me by eating his Pad Thai, pre-hunt sustenance at 100kph on the open road, steering with his knee.

I’m not a nervous passenger, so it was all good – and slightly amusing.  I tried it myself – not so easy in stilettos.

Anyway.  Moving on.

We headed to Glynn Wye Station – situated about 15 minutes past the Hanmer turn off, off Lewis Pass Rd, it’s one of the South Island’s iconic high country stations, running sheep, cattle and deer.  Jimmy took me on a quick tiki-tour of the property – actually, he was looking for the deer sheds, and got lost, but I promised not to tell anyone that.

Here’s the view from the car, during said tiki-tour.

So…we hooked up with Pete and his girlfriend, Tash, geared up, and got the dogs sorted.  The dogs are a fascinating bunch.  All quite different breeds, personalities, with different roles – we had Swede, Cruise, Tiny and Pearl. A couple even wear GPS collars so they can be located in the bush. Makes sense really.

And about 9pm it was off.

Since it was my first hunt the terrain was pretty easy.  No point in over-exerting me and them having to carry me out I guess.  Wise boys.  However I soon learned that walking on a treadmill or a nice paved footpath bears little resemblance to the slightly rougher terrain of the hills and I was soon doing my best to control my breathing as the others all seemed to be pretty relaxed.

We walked, and walked and was told by Jimmy to take note of the tree line and hill profiles in case I got separated and had to find my way back to the truck alone. Gulp.  Didn’t fancy that.

The dogs would disappear and come back, and disappear….and we’d track the two with the GPS  and after a couple of hours Pete and Jimmy decided we needed to move.  So back to the truck and headed to what is affectionately known as Pig Swamp.

For those of you who don’t know much about wild pigs, apart from tasting nice when cooked well, they make a fucken mess of the hillside and bush. They rip up native vegetation at the roots to make cosy little homes for themselves and babies.  They’re also known to kill lambs.  So they deserve what they get.

So…off we went again.  In the dark. We had a head torch each, but tried to avoid using it where possible so we didn’t alert the pigs.  Oh and another thing.  No talking. Limited whispering.  You can just imagine how hard that was for me. And I also got told off for walking too loud.  Don’t alert the pigs.

Then, just as the boys were beginning to think it was to be a fruitless night, and without warning, there was a bark, and a high pitched squeal and Jimmy, who was behind me, turned around and took off.  I looked at Tash, in front of me who yelled “Go” – I turned and tried my best to run through dense matagouri. Then from behind me, Pete, who had been leading, literally leapt over me, accidentally shoving me into said matagouri as he did.  The image of the slightly maniacal expression on Pete’s face, illuminated by my head torch as he seemed to fly past, will be forever imprinted in my mind.

By the time I made it to the nearest track, Tash was also ahead of me and I desperately tried to sprint to keep up with her, but my fitness was no match.  She slowed down so I didn’t lose her.  The boys were no where in sight.

We located them back down in the bush. Now, this is where I tell the story of how I arrived to find one the dogs holding the pig, was given the knife and stuck the pig, with one clean motion, straight to the heart.  One dead pig.

However, that wasn’t the case – by the time I got there, Pete was about to gut the prize.  This was the first find for the new dog, Pearl and she was given the heart and had pig-blood rubbed over her snout as a reward and learnt to appreciate what she’d done.

Then, once the pig had been cleaned out, it was carefully placed across my delicate wee shoulders, and from there I carried it.  It was a slightly strange feeling, it was still warm, but very dead.  We became good friends that little pig and I.

I have no idea how much it weighed – I’d like to think it was a lot, but probably less than 20kg.  However pig-shape is different to barbell shape with a slightly different weight distribution.  I did employ a new technique I’d learnt earlier in the day from Spida Hunter, to bring my elbows forward and down when doing squats. This engages the large back muscles and helps engage the glutes which then shared the load with my shoulders and made carrying little pig much easier.  And despite Jimmy regularly checking to see if I wanted to hand it over, I soldiered on.  After all, I considered it my duty, since he was kind enough to take me along.

And just when we thought that was it, we realised one of the dogs wasn’t with us – there was a mad bark and Pete and Jimmy turned-tail and disappeared into the night once more.  I looked at Tash wondering how the hell I was going to run whilst carrying little pig.  She said to drop the pig and wait for the boys.  Whew. We kept in radio contact with the boys who advised us that it was a big one and that we were to continue back to the truck and come back and collect them.  Easier said than done, given neither Tash nor I actually knew the terrain.

However, we made it back and as we drove to pick up the boys, Tash checked in with Pete via radio.  He was puffing.   Pete hadn’t puffed the whole time we’d been out.  While I was doing my damndest to not audibly gasp for air on the uphill climbs, he continued to look like he was out for a leisurely stroll.  So, if Pete was puffing, it meant he was carrying something large.

And here’s Pete tying big pig’s legs up ready to carry, with Cruise waiting eagerly in the background in the hope he gets a a treat.

And below is Pete carrying big pig.  All 71kg after gutting it – we weighed it.  That’s why he was puffing.

And so the happy hunters returned to base.

It was after 3am by the time I crawled into my sleeping bag. Still stinking of little pig. But happy with the knowledge I could call myself a pig hunter – even though I technically hadn’t killed anything.  I’d carried little pig for about an hour. And that counts.

I was woken in the morning with the sound of a peacock call – well I’m pretty sure it was a peacock.  Jimmy wasn’t so sure.  And don’t think he appreciated being woken to check.  Pete was already up cooking a batch of the most amazing pancakes….although they were so light and wafer thin, I’d consider call them crepes.  I told Pete I’d heard a bird that sounded just like a peacock.  He said it was.  I was right.

The first task for Pete after breakfast was to fix up Swede.  Turns out the big guy had taken a tusk in the chin and had a bit of a gash.  Lucky for him, Pete is a dab hand with the surgical stapler.  If you’ve never seen this in action – it’s just a stapler, that’s used to close wounds rather than stitches.  Fast & clean – I’ve seen a vid of Keven Mealamu getting his head stapled by Doc Robinson (from 1min on – bonus shot of DC shirtless 🙂  – so it’s all good.

Jimmy and I were gifted little pig by Pete and we bundled him into the back of the car and headed home.

But that wasn’t the end of my adventure – no siree.  I had yet to process little pig – skin him and cut him up for eating.

Jimmy demonstrated the cuts and the knife technique required, while I returned the favour with an anatomy lesson.  Yes Jimmy, pigs (and other animals) have the same muscles as humans.  Just arranged slightly differently since they walk on all fours.  Although to be fair, I hadn’t really thought about it like that before I did anatomy training.  It was a fascinating process.  And I’d love to try it on a larger animal.

But then my adventure was over and I was dropped off with a backstrap, shoulder roast and leg roast and some fantastic memories and a hat which has pig-blood thumb-prints, which I now wear like a badge of honour – after all – I am a pig-hunter!

A huge thanks to Jimmy, Pete, Tash and the dogs for an awesome experience. And thanks to Simon, for having his fly down. And to Nick for BBQing the backstrap – delicious. You guys all rock!

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