If I had to name one type of hunt that really excites me, I’d say: in summer grain. At night, observing the damaged areas in the milk-ripe wheat with a thermal camera, stalking the boars if they come to feast, and possibly taking one down – that’s incredibly appealing to me. But if we discover that the boars are in a cornfield, despite chemical deterrents and electric fencing, that’s an entirely different story. Sure, I have it easy, because I’m standing outside it and don’t have to fight my way, step by step, through the sweltering microclimate of the cornfield, like my wife and our friends. On this hunt, anything can happen – or nothing at all, as we ourselves have experienced many times.
So I was all the more pleased last year when our friend and game warden Patrick that the boars were in the corn. During his evening rounds around the large cornfield, he had noticed the unmistakable tracks, hung a game camera at the boars’ entry point, and brought two driven-hunt stands out from the forest and set them up appropriately. Since we had been planning to go to the hunting grounds that weekend anyway, everything was already packed – we only had to add the Leica Tempus illuminated dot sight and an orange signal vest.
On Friday, we reach the Hunsrück region late in the afternoon. We quickly drive to the cornfield to assess the situation ourselves. The fence is live, and the boars’ trail – now flanked by the stands – is well-trodden. Numerous tracks lead through the fence and into the cornfield. This clearly indicates significant crop damage, but also, possibly, an exciting hunt ahead.
On Saturday morning, we meet in our usual group. Patrick and I will be on the stands, while Ilka, our son Johannes, Marcel, our second game warden, and Mario, a dog handler, get ready down by the village, at the bottom of the large cornfield. The sun is already burning and so, after disconnecting the electric fence as a precaution, we have distributed water troughs around the cornfield in case man and beast, having returned from the hellish climate deep inside the corn, want to cool down.
When we finally take our places on the driven-hunt stands, and are ready for anything, I tell my wife that they can set off. Immediately the loud “Hopp, hopp!” and the dogs’ baying and ringing starts (yes, the dogs wear small bells which we brought back from France 20 years ago). In the hustle and bustle, this is quite practical – if you hear crash or rustle, it could be anything, but if it rings or tinkles, it is most likely a dog. Especially in the corn, the bells are wonderfully helpful for staying oriented and keeping your eye on the dogs. Roused from my thoughts, I see Patrick across from me, pointing to the corn. Boars? Wait and be ready! Now I see the corn stalks moving, 80 to 100 yards ahead of me on the left side of the field. Something rustles and rustles, while stalks continue to move in my direction. And bells ring brightly. The dogs! Sure, the spaniels, setters, and terriers are much faster in the corn than the faithful drivers. Every now and then, one of the vest-clad dogs comes out for orientation, only to dive back into the cornfield a few seconds later. However, none of the hounds makes noise that would give us palpitations. Then, after a good half hour, I see Ilka emerge at the upper end of the cornfield. “Nothing!” she shouts, and I feel a bit disappointed. But that shouldn’t discourage us – in the past, we’ve gone through this same field several times, and only at the end did the boars explode out of the corn, scattering in all directions.
The driver group gathers, the dogs gulp water. I talk briefly on the phone with Ilka. She wants to walk the crew down the paved road on the other side of the cornfield, back to the lower end, and then push through the field again. That’s the plan anyway. Lost in thought, I lean against the stand’s railing. My rifle rests in front of me, the illuminated reticle is still on. Then, all of a sudden, there is a mighty crash in the corn. Whole rows of stalks break in my direction. “Ilka can’t possibly be down there already,” I think. One dog? Or several? I don’t hear any bells – but then I see a bristly, black back plowing through the flowering strip in front of the corn, quite a bit taller than the plants growing there. Wild boar, sure, but what …? Female? Male? I raise my rifle, pull along. This animal is moving fast, knows no obstacle. Now he breaks through the wire – and it is a “he”, I see his tusks! Without delay, I cock the Steyr, pull in the direction of his ears – not even 50 yards away now. Bang! The boar moves, without any sign, on the trail into a grove of alders. I repeat, pull along – he is now at about 75 yards, just in front of a ditch. Bang! And the trees swallow him. My heart races. I watch the woods on the right, trying to spot movement. Nothing. I call my wife, report to her. She thinks it would be wiser to push through the corn again to drive out more boars if possible. She is right, of course, but I am plagued by uncertainty.
I hear the dogs’ bells, and can relax a bit. The drivers follow them. And I already see our spaniel Birdy, who runs out of the cornfield on the trail of the boar, ready to clarify the situation. She has picked up the trail and stops with interest where I think I hit the boar. I call Ilka, who is struggling through the corn, but she doesn’t seem to hear me. Once more, and then I see her head sticking out of the stalks. I point in the direction of the woods and the place where Birdy picked up the scent. Ilka breaks into a run and comes out of the corn. Birdy is tracking the boar, and I’m worried – an injured boar can cause more than just trouble. But now I hear her prolonged barking. She has found him. He is down – apparently just behind the ditch.
Ilka, who had quickly followed Birdy, now calls out, “Boar down!” I let out a sigh of relief and make my way to the spot. Patrick has arrived, too. While we are still standing around happily, pondering how to retrieve the beast, the others join us.
Together, we pull the massive boar out of the ditch and up the slope. The heat is almost unbearable now, and we have to make sure we remove the boar’s entrails and organs as quickly as possible and refrigerate the meat. I love days like this, when anything can happen – or nothing. That’s hunting!