These days there are many different opportunities available to hunt boar on the European Mainland. Indeed, hunting boar, warthog, or wild pig around the world is becoming more and more popular. I have been lucky enough to shoot boar throughout mainland Europe including on a driven Monteria in Spain (when they come charging through the Gun line along with stag, mouflon and any other large animals found in the drive area); stalked under moonlight in the forests of Poland and driven over snow covered ground in Hungary and the Czech Republic. In addition, I have had the opportunity to stalk them in South Africa and Zimbabwe, as well as hunt for them in Florida and South Carolina, where they grow to extraordinary size after cross-breeding with escaped domestic pigs.
However, one of the most enjoyable forms of hunting wild boar I have come across, takes place on a private Estate in the Loire Valley in the Centre of France. We are lucky enough to represent the owners in respect of a few of the days which they let each year and, in this capacity, I have now taken a number of teams down there over the last few years.
It is probably worth pointing out initially that the boar shooting in this area is not an exercise in shooting the vast numbers that you might find in Germany or indeed many of the ex-Eastern European countries, combined with indifferent accommodation and large quantities of the local spirit. In addition, there are only really boar (apart from a few roe deer) on the property and so the hunting is solely for these animals. However, what makes it particularly exciting is the addition of the packs of hunting hounds and the French huntsman who hunt them.
Before going into the details of the hunt, however, it is worth setting the scene. There is a recently finished first class Hunting Lodge on the Estate which can accommodate up to 7 hunters in real luxury. It has been meticulously laid out and is extremely comfortable. Full time staff look after guests extremely well and the food, although based on more traditional French hunting fair, can range from simply delicious to highly intricate. The wines are as good as you would expect from a House Manager who is reputed to be the longest ever serving sommelier to have worked for Gordon Ramsey!
The whole operation is run by an English Shoot Manager/owner who lives directly across from the Lodge and who has owned and run the property for over 11 years. His knowledge of where the Boar are likely to be and how best to disperse his guests throughout the property is fantastic and everything is done to ensure that all members of the team get as much shooting as possible.
As stated above this is not particularly high volume Boar Hunting, typically a group of 6-7 Guns can expect to shoot between 15-30 boar on a 2-day hunt. However, the attention to detail, safety and style of shooting means that it is ideally suited to those who have not perhaps done boar shooting before and would like to do so in luxurious surroundings with a meticulously well-run and safe operation.
Without exception, every party spends time on the afternoon of their arrival on the running boar range getting used to shooting with the open sight bolt action 7mm rifles, which are provided by the Estate. As you would expect, safety and gun handling are stressed and it is ensured that everyone has the detailed meticulous rules explained to them about where they can and cannot shoot from each potential hunting stand. Suitable accuracy then needs to be displayed when practicing before the party is then ready to go out the next morning for the real thing.
Gathering for pre-dinner drinks provides an excellent opportunity for the home team to run through the plan of operations for the morning and as you can imagine the excitement always heightens, when the talk turns to the hunt whilst enjoying a glass of wine and an excellent meal.
On the morning of the shoot the individual hunters are taken out to their chosen stands by an electric Polaris or similar. The staff use the electric powered vehicles to ensure minimum noise disturbance to the boar. As they will be travelling around the area during the course of hunt and potential encounters with irate residents do occur, being able to move stealthy is of great importance!
There are over 40 different possible locations for the guests to occupy and each morning and afternoon they are reallocated to different positions, depending on the success of their individual shooting in the morning/day before.
The hunting stands used are using 6-8 foot off the ground with access by ladders and are covered against the elements. Having spent time there both in the early Autumn when temperatures climb towards the 80’s as well as in late February when they are well below zero, I can confirm that having shade/protection from the rain/wind is of paramount importance. However, they also provide good visibility on all sides and give the hunter the chance to shoot a boar coming from any angle.
Once everyone is in position the hunt can begin. Initially, there is a period of silence and then suddenly the song of hounds starts up as the huntsman works the hounds towards the thicker areas of undergrowth in the chosen part of the Estate. Once the pack of boar is discovered, they then skilfully work out which animal will be best to hunt and then the hounds go in to try and separate it from the others. Once this is done, four long blasts of the traditional French hunting horn are sounded and the hunt begins. The boar in question quickly realise that it is the “hunted boar” and sets off as fast as it can away from the pursuing hounds. All of the hunters immediately get ready as the boar can appear from any direction at any time once the hounds are in pursuit. Sometimes the first shot rings out after only a few moments, at other times, the boar is clever and it can take 20-25 minutes before an opportunity presents itself. However, once it is running and is sighted (further four blasts of the horn for this moment), opportunities present themselves at a number of different places throughout the Estate.
When all goes well the Estate is soon ringing with the sound of hunting horns and the occasional rifle blast followed by a different note on the horn to signify a successful shot. The morning soon passes and it is back to the Lodge for lunch, together with discussions on how the morning has gone for everyone. If anyone has been particularly unlucky in the morning, they are reallocated a location in the afternoon which, depending on where the Hunt Manager feels the boar are likely to be will improve their chance of a successful shot. When it is particularly hot a longer lunch is taken and the hunt goes into the evening in order to ensure the cooler conditions provide the best sport.
It has to be said that there is nothing quite like the heart thumping moment when you hear the cry of the hounds getting louder and louder through thick bush in front of you, then a subsequent crash and a large boar bursts through seemingly impenetrable foliage only 15 yards from your high seat. All the rehearsed fluid moves of mounting the gun and elegantly bowling the boar over are forgotten in the adrenalin rush that seizes you. There is nothing like shooting driven boar in this manner and it is definitely something which is a great favourite with all those who experience it on this French Estate.
At the end of 2 days everyone has usually achieved at least a couple of boar and sometimes significantly more. Trophy Taxidermy is provided in the nearby village to an extremely high standard and the Estate has its own butcher who will happily carve up any preferred joints for taking back home and subsequently provides delicious meals. Driven boar hunting in the Loire Valley in France is an extremely exciting sport and one that I would personally recommend to anyone who has not tried it before and even those who have experienced Boar Shooting in other parts of the world. It is not as prolific as one or two places, but it is probably the best run operation that I have come across, in the safest conditions and provides all members of the team with ample opportunity to shoot boar of decent size and in an incredibly sporting (and challenging) way.
For further details contact James Chapel on 01295 277 197 or via email to email@example.com