Thoughts and comments from a hunter’s wife – Day 4/5
I am convinced that these 24 hours will be filed in my long term memory as one of the craziest days of my life. At least a top three! I wanted to keep the blogging short, but it is hard when the time you are awake keeps getting extended and more action packed for each day… but I will try.
Until now we have been spending most of our time with Pista, who Michael connected with through Facebook and met once. As I understand it, he is one of the minds behind the recent legalization of Slovakian bow hunting. He helped write laws and the necessary educational books. He has been planning our stay here and taking really good care of us together with Štefan and his girlfriend Martina. And they have all done their best to answer my hundreds of questions despite the language barriers. Štefan is the manager of the hunting area and the son of the land owner. He is also a photographer and have been working with Pista on several of the bow hunting projects. But by their conversation and laughing you can tell they are also really good friends.
Thursday after the morning hunt Pista took us for a three hour drive south east to a private area next to the Hungarian border. Actually so close that we kept getting notifications from our phone company that in turn welcomed us to Slovakia and Hungary.
We arrived at a 3000 hectare sheep farm and it was so fascinating to watch the shepherd and his dog make 300 sheep walk inside for the night, when I am thinking it is some times hard to get two teenagers to cooperate! – and we even speak the same language!
Speaking of teenagers; I called our kids for the first time. Of course they were alive and well. They hardly had time to talk as they were getting ready for an ice cream appointment with a friend of the family…
Then we met the land owner Martin, his friend Eric and a couple of other guys. Those four men prepared a dinner worthy of royalty: Filet mignon from a roe buck Martin shot the day before, stew with (Carl Johan) mushrooms they just collected, served with the best Slovakian wine and home made apricot snaps.
We quickly learned that though only in their mid twenties, neither Martin nor Eric were rookies when it comes to hunting. Martin having 30+ different African trophies and Eric being a third or fourth generation professional hunter in the state forest with a total body count of over 800 wild boars. They come here 2-4 times a year to hunt hard for days, with little to no sleep. And they scheduled this week to be with us. What an honor!
By coming here I entered a man’s world. It became evident when I asked if I could use the toilet and Eric answered with a heartfelt laughter and explaining that I would have to use “natures finest”… I manned up and went outside to find a solution and against Eric’s insinuation I found a little green shed with enough space between the wooden planks to enjoy the view while you were doing your business…!
The only room in the house beside the kitchen had a table with benches, five beds and two couches and we were going to spend the night… so I dusted off my inner tomboy and decided to make the best of it. In return I got some great laughs and a lot of first time experiences. But they were true gentlemen! One of the guys hadn’t slept more than an hour at the time for several days but still made the beds for Michael and I and chose to sleep on a couch instead.
These guys were always aware of the wild life in the green hills around us and in the middle of small talk, joking and smoking suddenly they grabbed the binoculars from the cars, watched two roe bucks at 350 meters, nodding and commenting on how fine they were.
Soon we were directed to the shooting tower that would be our spot for the rest of the evening to look for bucks and wild boars.
The first two and a half hour we saw a female roe deer with a lamb and a young velvet buck. Time flies in good company with taking selfies, trying to figure out our new camera and distance guessing as entertainment while still listening for sounds and watching for movements. At 8:30 pm we heard a deep grunting sound and two minutes later came a single boar into the field, but disappeared faster than Michael had expected. The regret was tangible and it’s hard to find something encouraging to say in the moment. The sun went down and the moon started to rise. After an hour the boar returned from the same bushes. Michael quickly raised his rifle, looked in his binoculars whether it was followed by piglets. It wasn’t. He stabilized his breathing and released a shot at 121 meters. In the twilight we could see it go down on the spot and make the last few kicks.
Finally! This time the excitement was tangible! Michael texted Martin to tell him what happened and got a short answer: “Congrats. Wait for more.” So we did.
Half an hour later Michael spotted a sow with piglets and a big boar that kept to himself at 200 meters. The procedure was repeated, check distance, stabilize breathing, shoot. But this time Michael saw the animals run off into the bushes. He kept replaying what happened and came to the conclusion that while we were killing time, he tried to show me how the fine tuning of the rifle scope works and forgot to readjust it in the situation…
We decided to wrap up and text the “off road taxi”. Mostly because Michael sensed I was getting tired. It would be another 45 minutes before they could be there and we packed our stuff, he leaned against the fence, I against him and we both fell asleep to the sound of crickets. Kind of romantic actually… Suddenly Michael woke me up only by tapping my arm. He could hear the sound of a boar eating and just wanted to check if there still was enough light for him to see the pig through the scope, no cartridge in the chamber, and he could! Fast decision, loading the rifle and this time it was a perfect hit! I could tell by the tone of his voice that he felt fully alive!
Shortly after we could see the strong headlights of Martin’s Toyota Hilux climbing the hills and it reminded me of Mater on a night adventure from the Disney movie cars! But this is the only connection I saw to the Disney fairytale universe. When you have seen the damage the pigs can do to a field with crops, you understand why in this area they are required (!) to shoot at least one hundred a year just to manage the population of boars!
Martin asked me if I liked my first wild boar hunt with rifle and at the moment I really didn’t know. I am sorry to say that my excitement actually peaked the 3,5 seconds I saw the first firefly in my life… Michael and I are still very different, but I have realized that when I consider different a good thing and not a problem, it is way easier for my heart to love Michael for the man he is and celebrate his successes. And though I don’t quite understand how much this means to him, it is easy to see that this was one of the better!
Martin and Eric came and we easily found the first pig, an old female that looked sick and thin. It turned out that she had an infected wound at the snout. At the second site where the boar was at 200 meters, we found no blood trail which means good possibility of no damage done. The last one we found on the spot with a perfect shot as well. In this situation these guys knew better than me what was important to Michael and even though it was late they didn’t cut any corners in regards to the traditional way of congratulating the successful hunter with a fresh twig with leaves for the cap and one for each of the animals to pay their respect. They even rearranged the wild boars respectfully to capture the moment with the camera.
Back at base camp they all celebrated with a drink holding the glass only in the left hand, as a beautiful symbol of celebrating from the heart! It turned out that the Danish word for “cheers!” (Skål) is very similar to a Slovakian word for shoot… What a suitable parallel!
After hot soup we tried to get some sleep knowing that the morning hunt would begin in just two and a half hour! The last thing I remember was a vague longing for the next date with my toothbrush… and I was out!