Friday, December 7, 2012

We're in Season

3 weeks into the season, and it's been an eventful one.

Day 1 my brother and I headed out with my good friend Kondo-san and his Kishu. Came out of there with one for the freezer, and it took all of around 10 minutes. I dropped it trotting with a head shot at 20 yards, though of course I got a good ribbing from a disbelieving Kondo-san who joked that I probably actually hit it with a bat as it walked by. At noon we took Baron for a short round, but didn't run into anything. I had to hightail it out of the mountains and to the airport to pick up some friends who were flying in.

Pre hunting season Baron was finding and stopping boar fairly regularly, so I was excited to see how we'd do this season. My one worry was that we've been running into a lot of small-medium sized boar, and he seemed to be getting a little too confident.


Day 2 I went out to an area that has a lot of hiking trails and is primarily boar habitat. It's rather overgrown, and unless you are hunting with dogs, you're probably never going to see your quarry. My brother came with, and we had a couple of overseas visitors tag along to get a look at the NK hunting. After a rather uneventful morning hiking around in some pretty unseasonably warm weather, we struck out and over to cover the other side of the mountain ridge. It all happened fairly quickly, but Baron picked up some scent, moved down into a ravine, and caught a young 20kg male boar.

One of the visitors from overseas hunts moose with Norwegian Elkhounds, and mentioned that Baron hunts very close. This is not necessarily true of every single NK, but it's the way Baron and I have developed. He's generally within earshot of me, and checks in regularly. We take a lot of cues from each other as far as which direction to head, and what we want to do. I just have to point out areas to him, and he'll head in to investigate. He's also completely over his gun shyness, gunshot now means look for downed or injured prey.

Baron's stamina has increased, he can do a full day of hunting (does around 20km at all speeds in the mountains), he's as friendly as ever, but of course we've got a few new issues to work on. Baron's developed some separation anxiety, and a fear of thunder storms. Neither of these traits are particularly endearing, definitely not to anyone within earshot. NK are hunting breeds, bred to be tenacious when their 'switch' kicks in. Many people especially in Japan have a misconception that hunting dogs don't make good companions, but I don't feel that's the case. The NK have a fairly good on/off switch, only going into 'go' mode when the situation warrants it. Problems can arise however, when they aren't given the right direction. Nipping bad habits in the bud is paramount, because once they're all in, things can get pretty messy.

In Baron's case, he wasn't getting enough attention, and there had been some recent changes in his environment. We're now having to work on adjusting the situation and his reactions. There has been another change in his hunting behavior that came about after day 4.

Day 3 I headed out solo to the area we hit on day 2. There were signs everywhere of small boar again, but we didn't run into them all day. Either way I wanted to get Baron on some larger boar for the experience. We lucked out when I moved across the valley to the mountain opposite and we immediately found large fresh tracks. In 10 minutes Baron was up and running/whining through bamboo, and I could hear something moving with him. As I was pulling my shotgun out of my pack a 60kg boar charged out of the thicket behind me, quickly changing direction to avoid me with Baron on his tail. I moved up hill to cut them off, guessing which trail they'd end up on, and just as I was below the spot I knelt to load my gun. As I was getting the third slug in, I glanced up to see the boar coming around the corner 3 meters in front of me at full speed. We both had an oh shit moment, I tried to get out of his way, and he tried to stop for a second, and then fully committed to a charge. He was above me, and literally flew through the air the last meter before barreling into the left side of my rib cage. We tumbled a few meters downhill together, and as I rolled up I managed to get two good shots into him. Baron was on him by that point, and caught him, but the boar still dragged him around 40 meters downhill. I caught up by then and dispatched him, 30 minutes before sunset, and then had the exciting task of getting a 60kg male boar out of the mountain and gutted in a hurry. Ribcage was sore and bruised for a while.



Day 4 a couple other hunters wanted to tag along, so we hit up an area that I used to hunt when I first got my license. Again, this area is pretty much all boar. I heard from one of the locals that the boar are everywhere this year, and we were not disappointed. The ridge we picked for the morning was empty, and with the warm weather I spent the day hiking around in a t-shirt. The afternoon however started off with a bang as I picked a spot that is a great boar lair in a bamboo thicket that I almost always find decent size boar sleeping in. 

Baron went in, started baying, and a great amount of noise ensued. It's always exciting when boar are moving through bamboo, the sound is almost explosive. I couldn't get a good visual, but could see a white form moving around (white hunting dogs are great), and I thought I could see something rather large and dark as well. After a minute or so Baron came back to me looking rather frazzled, but as I moved forward, he went back in, only to come charging back out. He had stopped barking altogether. This has never happened before. When he moved forward again, I followed, and saw why. A huge 100kg class boar was sauntering out of the thicket, not even remotely phased by Baron. At around 50 yards he stopped to give Baron a stare, and I took a shot, which I missed. Baron took off after the now running boar, and around 100m later I heard them scramble and Baron give off a couple very high pitched barks (very different from his usual low bay). He was very loathe to close distance with this boar after running around with him in the bamboo.

That was pretty much the end of the day as sunset was approaching, the boar (later from the tracks I found out there was a few of them moving together) were on the run and while it took another 20 minutes or so for Baron to come back, we were done. Baron was visibly a lot more cautious moving through the mountains, it was obvious the big boar had shaken him up.

Day 5 the same two hunters wanted to have a go at the large boar again, so we headed to the same area. We had to switch spots since a group of hunters was already set up there, but we immediately got on some boar. They were runners, and Baron followed for about 500 meters before coming back. We went after them together, with Baron finding them around 40 meters or so away from me. I could hear the boar grunting its disapproval very loudly, and Baron didn't give more than a few barks before coming back to me. He was being very cautious and not very vocal. We were at the end of a ridge, and ended up hunting the fingers of it almost all day. There were several boar and a deer in there, and we ran into them a lot, but with Baron not really applying enough pressure to them, they didn't want to move out into the open where any of us could get a shot. When Baron finally pushed a 40kg or so boar out, one of my buddies missed his 3 shots at him.

We were losing daylight, so decided to hunt the ridge pushing back toward my truck. Baron quickly moved forward, and I heard some solid baying from around 100m out. I ran to catch up, and just before getting to the ravine he had been in, ran into a nonchalant Baron. I knew he had been up to something, and sure enough when we got back to the ravine he moved down and threw out a few barks. There was a herd of boar in there, with a huge one bellowing out its grunts at a volume I've never heard before. I moved in with Baron, but dusk was making it hard to see through the undergrowth. The large boar was moving the herd to my left, but Baron was moving right. Couldn't figure out why, but in a moment he reappeared in front of me with a boar charging him. I had 3 meters, and took a shot that went high, and as the boar moved broadside, my shotgun jammed leaving me to watch in frustration as the boar and Baron disappeared. Baron gave up after getting charged once and doing his high pitched bark.

I was pissed at myself for missing the perfect opportunity. While imperfect, Baron had done his job, and I'd utterly failed at mine (twice now). I was determined to get him a boar, so day 6 my brother and I headed out to the site where I had taken the 60kg boar. Baron was off fairly early on after a 40kg or so runner that kept doing circles and going through bamboo. Baron wasn't holding him, but wouldn't give up. After losing most of the day rinsing and repeating, we ended up on the road at the bottom of the mountain with a choice of how to get back up top to the truck. There was one ridge that we hadn't hunted, so I moved up through it while my brother walked the road up. Baron was supposed to stay with me, but wandered off with my brother. Around 15 minutes later I get a call from my brother saying I need to hurry there as Baron had a boar bayed up below him. It was grunting away, and from my position on the ridge I could hear them, but there was a large pond between us. I made my way around it nearly stepping on a boar in the process.

Getting to the spot, the boar had run Baron off, but we went back in after him. After 30 minutes or so we trailed it into an area that is shaped like an amphitheater and planted with 1 meter tall palm trees. Baron went in and started baying, and I hear the boar start grunting. Loudly. Then all hell broke loose. Around 10 boar started grunting back, and pretty soon the area was reverberating. It sounded like a chorus of frogs in the rice fields on a summer night, only these were boar. Baron came charging back out to me fairly quickly, and I heard a boar coming after him. It was in the bush around 5 meters away grunting, but I couldn't see it. I was ready with my shotgun trying to a get a look as Baron went back in and started baying. In a flash he came flying out toward me with a huge 100kg class boar charging behind. Again, at 2 meters or so I managed a haphazard shot that missed. Fired off another 2 shots that also missed. I started to feel like I was firing warning shots just to get the boar to stop their charges.

We went after these boar for a good while, as it seemed I might have grazed the big one with one of the shots, but after 3km and several hours, we gave up their trail. In the last 50 minutes of daylight, and 5 minutes out from the truck, Baron dashed back into the palms around 10 meters below me and started a solid bay. It's really thick stuff, and impossible to get into without crawling. Since he'd been pretty unvocal and cautious since the big boar on day 4, I was surprised by such a solid hold. Come to think of it though, he was doing pretty good this day. I thought he might be baying something else like a badger or something, and I tried to crouch down to get a look. Couldn't see anything, till a second later, Baron whirled around as a boar came charging out. There was some bustling and yelping as they moved downhill, and Baron came out of cover back to me. I thought the boar was gone, but a few seconds later, Baron went back in and started baying again.

Every once in a while a dog will get it wrong and bay just because the scent is still thick, and they think the boar may still be in its nest, and for a second I thought this was the case. I decided to honor his bay though, get over my willies, and crawl with my shotgun in front of me toward Baron. With Baron baying a few meters in front of me, I saw him back up quickly as a boar feinted toward him. I had a nice line on him and took the cleanest head shot I think I'll ever get. The boar was down instantly, and we had a nice 40kg male for the freezer.

This was probably the best 'hoedome' I've ever seen Baron pull off, and he really stuck with it perfectly. It was the best combination of human and dog that we've pulled off together yet, each of us trusting each other to do our part, and it was very rewarding.

Throw in another little boar on day 7, and Baron and I have now solo'd 4 boar in 7 outings this season. One gun, one dog: it's something that I've aspired to since I started hunting, and with Baron now 3 years old, we're starting to get there. Knock on wood for another injury/accident free hunting season.




7 comments:

  1. Great story, I really love hearing about your hunting adventures!

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  2. Dude that intense! Baron is really progressing well and from what it sounds like he just needs to get more time on the big boys and he will gain more confidence. We sure got some great dogs bro!

    Congrats on the harvest! Every time you said you missed a shot, all I could see is ten signs cause I know how expensive each shot is. Good stuff!

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  3. Love it!

    Baron did a great job!

    I'm glad your able to do these hunts now.

    I love reading how kishu hunt boar.

    I hope for injury and accident free hunting season for you too. :)

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  4. wow... Baron sounds like the perfect Nihon Ken. Hat's off to both of you for going all-in and really working as a team. Sounds amazing.

    RE: Baron hunting close compared to an Elkhound, well, Elkhounds are well known for being very far-ranging. It's an issue for them in wolf country as they tend to get killed and never come back to the hunter. So, saying Baron hunts close compared to an Elkhounds is kinda a given. LOL

    When I compare my Laiki( West Siberian Laika) to Kondo-san's dogs that we hunted with on my visit, I would say his Kishu ranged further and longer than Ike, Anya, and Kilbe.

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  5. @Gen $3 per. Sometimes I feel I should load up the barrel with the amount in \10's and fire them into the mountain instead :)
    Everything's a learning experience, for me and Baron, though I definitely appreciate the fact that he's a smart quick learner.

    @Brad the lady from Norway mentioned that wolves are a real problem now and that they lost a dog recently. Most of the areas I hunt are spots other older hunters avoid, either very far into the mountains, or right behind villages and fields. Hunting with 1 fairly well trained dog allows me to do that, but in both areas, and hunting alone, I'd be SOL if Baron's range was like an Elkhound's.

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    1. Yea man, I've heard about the wolf issue in that area. It's a topic often discussed in the Laiki groups. Most Laika are good about not ranging very far if they smell a wolf, but apparently that is a trait lost in the Elkhound. Moose hunting Laika tend to range a bit further than Laika who work other game, but they still do not range as far as an Elkhound.

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  6. Thanks for sharing your awesome hunting adventure! Loved it!!!

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