Spanish crops and mountain ranges are becoming somehow overpopulated by wild boar. Over the past few years, and most likely due to favorable conditions, this animal population has increased probably by a triple factor. This overpopulation has resulted in an increase in off-season hunting actions such as night stalk.
I am always impressed by this animal’s cunningness, resilience, and cautiousness. I have faced these animals in hundreds of monterías (Spanish driven hunts), but the feeling is not comparable to stalking this animal. You can feel it from the distance, listen to its breathing, also listen to its silence… knowing it is behind a bush a few meters from you and knowing it will not move a muscle for minutes or even hours, waiting to reveal your presence.
I have secured a small hunting estate in the Toledo region, located in an inhospitable hill range not far from the Cabañeros National Park. The landscape is wavy, and the vegetation is dense, thick and impenetrable. Only several scattered holm oaks provide generous shadows over the never-ending rockrose carpet. I have walked the hunting area guided by the hunting guard in April and May and we have observed several paw prints and traces that indicate the presence of several boars. Benito, the hunting guard, has identified a large male in the area. Although he has never spotted it, he proudly shows me pictures of several bitten trees with long and profound tusk marks.
After a couple of long months, we finally obtained the hunting permits for the area. I started my two-hour-drive to the hunting estate loaded with optimism and the childish nervousness I always feel on the eve of every hunting trip. Benito had arranged a great hunting spot under a holm oak tree taking advantage of a clear that holds a small puddle. My spot is just off the clear and the open field is an oval like shape about 20 meters wide and 90 meters long. On arrival, I cut a few branches to provide a good cover and place my chair resting on the tree log. I load the magazine with three .308 Winchester bullets, cock the rifle and put the safe on the rifle.
Although I love platform spots, there is nothing more thrilling than a ground spot. The rockrose is about a meter tall and although I can see about three meters deep into them, I know that when the light will fade, I will most likely see nothing. The rosemary scent, the intense heat, and the cicadas’ chant create an intoxicating atmosphere, only disturbed by the quick and tortuous flight of a few doves looking to land on my cover. As the sun is disappearing over the hills, I can hear the first signs of movement. As I observe the tip of the rockrose move, my pulse starts accelerating. Any moment now… my visitors on this occasion are two female roe deer that enter the clear quite calmly. It is a delightful sight, observing them how they walk the area unaware of my presence. The sun is now down and the shadows are taking over the clear, the cicadas abruptly stop their monotonous chant when a female boar accompanied by no less than eight youngsters visits me. I can hardly spot them with my plain eye, but that is easily resolved with my Leica Geovid binoculars. The distance to the group is 84 meters. I have spotted them on various previous trips, but my intimate adversary always waits until I am gone to pay his visit to the puddle. But not tonight, tonight I am going to wait till dawn if necessary. After a crackling sound about 100 meters away, the herd abruptly escapes the clear.
An hour goes by when I hear a faint movement on my left. I assume it is the wind, but it is getting closer and almost like a rhythm: a few steps, silence, a few steps, and silence again. After about ten minutes, I can hear clear movement about 20 meters from my spot, possibly right at the edge of the left corner of the clear. And then silence. But I know he is there.
After another ten long minutes of silence, only broken once by an owl’s hoot, I am startled by a deep and loud snort. My hands are shaking due to the adrenaline pumping through my body. I slowly position my rifle and remove the safety. Any moment now… but no, you are way too cautious for that and you know something is not right. You condemn me with a long silence again. Safety back on. Again another loud blow, you most likely have caught my scent. Silence again, a long one this time. The duel is set.
I start feeling a light breeze on my face and there is no sign of movement. It is now more than 40 minutes of the last blow. We are 20 or 25 meters apart… but you either have turned into a statue or disappeared. My eyes are now dry and I am starting to feel the temperature difference, I arrived on 37ºC and it’s probably 15º C now. But I am not making any concessions tonight, I will not move and I will not reach for my fleece.
Another long hour goes by when I believe to hear a noise in my back. I am not sure that I heard something or if it is my imagination allying with you. Again, there are branches rustling, possibly no more than 15 meters away now. It is you, isn’t it? Suddenly I see a silhouette in the darkness, right next to the puddle. I now hold my rifle and focus with my Magnus on 6x magnification. It is a mid-sized stag. The noise behind me continues while I am confused on why I have not heard the stag that is still quietly strolling and feeding on the clear. Has the breeze distracted me?
The tenuous noise is shifting to my right. You are surrounding me. You know I am here. We have been a little over ten meters apart, only separated by a few dry rockrose branches. My legs are now aching and I am feeling cold. But I will not move, not tonight. Again you start snorting and blowing air. I can hear you scratching against a dry oak, I can even distinguish the noise of your tusks scraping the tree. The stag is now joined with another two young stags that are getting maybe too close to my post, but I am not getting distracted by them, I am focused on you.
After a few more bites and scratches to the tree, you have gone quiet yet again. The stags are now gone, it is just you and me. I am tempted to reach for my fleece jacket – it is probably around 12ºC. I m thirsty and I really need to move my legs. I have been immobile for more than three hours. My heart and my brain agree on fifteen more minutes of immobility. I cannot disappoint you. This is my eighth stalk in this same spot and this is the closest we have ever been. Every minute feels like an hour now. I regularly pass the clear borders with my crosshairs. I am starting to believe you have disappeared once more.
Suddenly I see some kind of light in my scope, and I try to focus on the darkness to identify the source. 7x, 8x, 10x, 16x! Is it an eye? Is that your face? I reduce the magnification and wait for you to take a step in the clear. The dimmed light of the 23% moonlight hardly helps. You know your grounds well, my admired adversary. I feel like you are starting to know me. You seem to know that I will not take the shot unless I am 100% certain it is you and it is a safe shot. A few more minutes go by and then with the loudest snort, you start running through the thick vegetation, breaking the branches as you run through them. I have challenged you and you have defeated me again and yet, I have a smile on my face. That is why you have become my intimate adversary. See you soon.