She charged at us with rage in her belly and a big brave heart. Why did she not turn and run away? Daniel had the dogs under his control and Te Hiri had a rifle on his back and a knife by his side. I had a racing heart, and no courage under fire. She charged and I pinned myself behind Daniel like a petrified barnacle. Cocooned inside prickly gorse bushes, this moment was a montage of deathly squeals, protective dogs and testosterone on fire.
So, let us rewind. With only leopard print as camo, along with the knowledge I would be completely out of my depth, I enlisted the help of father-son duo Mr Daniel Barlow and his son Te Hiri to take me on a pig hunt. This has long been a rural tradition and a story that needs to be told. In the first lot of scrub we disembarked with three GPS-tracked dogs and a pup in training. Like little kids in a lolly shop, these dogs were bursting with excitement as their noses sniffed the wind. Breeding, I am told, matters when it comes to hunting dogs and rest assured, these types could mix it up with any under command.
Daniel gave the signal and the dogs bolted into the scrub, chasing the scent of a pig. Te Hiri followed, trudging through the mangroves and mud, after them. The sow’s piglets scattered as they tried to keep on her tail, however on this occasion she had outsmarted them. As we moved through the scrub trying to track her, Daniel filled my heart with wonderful stories of a childhood spent in simplicity living off the land, void of material extravagance but rich in natural food provision. A decent sized pig can feed Daniel’s large extended family for a week. I find this selfless style of food provision by hunters heroic and independent, filling little tummies everywhere. We receive a text about a sighting of a large rogue bore in another location, so the dogs are called back and we move on. This area is thicker with gorse, and Daniel points out the tell-tale signs that pigs have been lurking around, including the decimation of an area of pasture. The dogs bolt, with Te Hiri sliding under the fence and belting after them towards the swamp. With barking dogs and a squealing wild pig in the distance, Daniel yells, “Let’s go!”. Sheesh! I take off after Daniel with a pumping heart, slippery boots, and a camera bouncing on my back. Piglets dart across our path. Through gorse we go and the sounds get louder and closer. Then like a scene reminiscent of Leonardo DiCaprio’s Revenant movie, there was Te Hiri holding this pig to the ground, rifle slung across his back … like Wow! Man, was I impressed.
Then Te Hiri released her to grow her offspring and this is where my story started. So, for me pig hunting has an underlying narrative: little love stories that are underpinned by strong men with the rawest of instincts to provide for their families in the face of an ever-changing and unpredictable world. The organic way in which these families can survive in a crisis is deserving of our respect. They are not constantly adding to supermarket queues, for their skillset elevates them well above this. So, if this world starts turning to custard I am resolute. I will not be sitting next to a fava bean plant waiting for it to grow, I will be with that mob, the “hunter mob” and you will find me sitting with them by a campfire, getting fat.