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Feral pigs: why I was ecstatic to find them on my beat in Scotland

Feral pigs are elusive and tricky to manage without driving them, but using strategically placed bait and a trail cam can give you the edge, says Charlie Blance

feral pigs

Feral pigs on my beat

During my first year of college, I went abroad for a few weeks on a self-funded placement. A gent got in touch with me and asked if I’d like to come to Germany to learn about forestry and wild boar management. I thought he was joking at first, but when I realised it was a genuine offer, I jumped on it. I learned so much from him about German forestry and game management and even got the opportunity to hunt wild boar under the moon. Since then, I’ve been utterly fascinated by these hairy beasties, so when I found out one of my beats in southern Scotland had feral pigs on it, I was ecstatic. (Read about the best calibre for wild boar.)

I’d seen plenty of pig signs while stalking over the winter but was never lucky enough to catch a glimpse of them, for they spend the daylight hours deep in the trees. The bossman had managed to catch up with a couple during his stewardship of this wood but mostly by chance. They certainly are elusive creatures and are a difficult species to manage without driving.

We decided to set up a bait and monitor it with my trail cam; I use a Browning Recon Force Elite HP4. I picked this camera primarily for its exceptional sound and video quality because I like to put the footage on YouTube. It’s easy to use and has an impressive battery life, even in cold and wet conditions. I set it up near a clearing that had semi-fresh pig signs, an area that could be watched from 100 yards away, and lay maize under the trees where they’d feel safe. There was no guarantee they’d even show up, of course.

We returned a week later to find out they’d hit the bait the same night we laid it. The camera had caught a lot of footage over the course of three nights. It was a group of young feral pigs: four sows, one small boar of similar size and one larger boar that continually chased the smaller one away. We’d replenish the bait and switch SD cards every seven to 10 days. We got some cracking footage of this group — especially of the bigger boar, which would harass the sows and terrorise badgers.

The first night we went out to shoot, we erected a pop-up hide in the late afternoon and then left it quiet while we went away to spend the evening stalking bucks. Thirty minutes or so before dark, we crept back down to the hide. We were only about 10 yards off the hide when we spotted a pig feeding in the treeline. It wasn’t a viable shot, so we slipped silently into the hide and waited for it to come out of the trees. Three black masses seeped out of the wood into the open and began feeding hastily on the bait.

No torch needed

These pigs were young. The plan was I’d shoot first, and on the off-chance another one stood, the bossman would shoot it. We were confident there were no dependent young with this group, and so when one stood broadside clear from the others, I shot. The pig dropped, squealed and kicked for a moment and then came still. The others evaporated back into the trees. It was still light enough to retrieve the carcass without a torch; it was amazing to observe them in daylight. (Read our list of the best hunting torches.)

The second time we sat out for the pigs, we managed to get one each. True boar are a healthy part of the ecosystem that we have been missing for some time, and at sustainable levels they can be a positive thing, but hybridisation with feral pigs can cause populations to become unsustainable quickly. The genetic purity of the UK’s populations are somewhat unknown. I am interested to see what the future holds for Britain’s boar, albeit a wee bit apprehensive. (Read just how many wild boar are there in the UK?)