It had been a long walk. First up the valley, then up the hillside. I had stalked through most of the available bush and it looked like I was going to return home without a pack full of meat. Wild goats often browsed here, but this time they seemed to be elsewhere.
The hillside was steep and covered with loose rock. Nevertheless, the native bush had become well established. Kanuka was the predominant tree, but other species flourished in some gullies. And there was plenty of spiny bush lawyer vine to make things difficult.
I climbed to the next ridge and carefully peered over the top. On a spur in the middle of the gully stood two goats, easy targets for the rifle I normally carried, but too far away for an ethical shot with my bow. The bush was too open to head straight toward them, so I crept back behind the ridge, walked down into some better cover, then crossed the gully. Keeping low, I worked my way toward the spot where the goats had been. They had disappeared. Perhaps a wind eddy had carried my scent to them, or maybe they had just decided to move on.
It was fairly disappointing. I'd hoped this would be the day I'd shoot a goat with primitive arrows. I have had many successful hunts using a rifle, and a few years before I had taken a goat with a factory made bow - but obtaining meat with equipment I had painstakingly crafted was my current dream.
The bow had been cut from a branch of native Olearia paniculata. It was nearly as tall as me, but only pulled about 36 pounds. A bit too light for a goat really, but it was all I had. My arrows were tipped with home-made steel "trade point" heads. The fletchings came from Canadian geese shot by a friend. The shafts were made from bracken fern stalks that had been harvested as fat, ripe, living stalks and then dried by my woodstove.
There were now only a few hundred metres to travel through the bush before my hunt was over. Rather than feel disappointed, I made an effort to find things to be grateful for as I trudged on. The walk had been pleasant, it was a nice day, and at least I had seen some game. I could learn from the experience even if I hadn't been successful. There was plenty of food at home - I wouldn't starve no matter how this hunt turned out. And I knew, deep down, that the supply of things I needed didn't depend on my ability as a hunter or marksman or anything else - they came naturally from the operation of the laws of the universe.
Crash! Something was moving in the gully ahead of me. I strained my ears for more information. More crashing - and a grunt. Pigs! I had hunted this area for years and had seldom seen a pig - and now I didn't have a gun. At least this was adding some interest to the day. I decided to stalk the pigs to try to learn something about them. I headed toward the noise and finally saw two very big wild pigs. One was lying down on its side about forty yards away, while another nosed around in the undergrowth. They were too big, and too far away, to tackle with my puny bow.
I didn't often get a chance to observe wild pigs like this. I felt uplifted with gratitude. I hadn't been watching for long, when some movement above me on the hill caught my eye. A smaller pig, fifty pounds maybe, was meandering down the hill. I suddenly realized that it was likely to cross an open space just ahead of me at a distance of about fifteen yards. I stood still with an arrow nocked on the string. The pig entered the open space and stood side on to me. I drew my bow and loosed the arrow. As I shot, the pig turned slightly away from me. I saw the arrow hit. With a surprised "woof" the pig disappeared over a small ridge. The other pigs were now nowhere to be seen.
"What have I done?" I thought. I had tackled a pig with a light bow and now it had run off. Remembering some good advice, I decided to stay where I was for half an hour to let the wounded pig lie down and stiffen up.
I needed to find that pig. For a start I did not want to leave a wounded animal behind. Secondly, it would not be hard to identify the owner of the arrow if it was ever found - and I didn't want to give bow hunting a bad name, or let certain people get worked up about me hunting in "their" area.
After a few minutes I couldn't wait any longer. I walked a short distance and peered into the undergrowth. There was the pig - stone dead.
It is hard to describe the satisfaction I felt as I gutted that pig. No other hunt has been as good. I now had pork taken with my own hand-crafted bow and arrows.
If the pig hadn't turned slightly as I shot, the arrow may have just penetrated the lungs or liver. But because it had turned, the arrow entered just behind the ribs and travelled right to the heart. And it was such a good shot! It was as if some benign power had taken control of the situation. Perhaps it was my reward for being so grateful.
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