An American hunter is working on a book about hunting in all the European countries. He has not hunted in the Netherlands yet. Do you know anyone?” asked Ludo Wurfbain of Safari Press. I told him there was no commercial hunting in our country, and that I only hunted small game. But that was precisely the intention. So far Lloyd Newberry had hunted in 25 European countries, and already shot most of the European big game species. “Ok, then – send him my email address.”
We hit it off quickly. Lloyd not only was a hunter, but like me was also a writer, and collector of hunting books and paraphernalia. He had studied similar sciences at university. So there was no lack of conversation topics. I invited him, inquired with the police about the necessary papers, and arranged for those.
A month later I met him at Schiphol airport. We chose a rifle that fitted him, then talked about hunting in the Netherlands for the rest of the day, giving him the background information he needed for his book. The next day we moved into my hunting ground, together with my son Bart and friend Albert.
Windmills and wooden shoes
It turned out to be a fantastic day. Lloyd feasted his eyes on the Dutch polder landscape; he had never seen so many hares. He got his opportunities, and made the most of them: five hare, and a beautiful double on duck. He certainly got his jumping practice in: after negotiating a deep dry ditch a few times, he also managed those containing water! He easily got enough material to write his chapter on hunting in Holland, which he named ‘Windmills and wooden shoes’. For the occasion Albert had taken his wooden shoes with him, and we got a photo with a windmill in the background.
In high spirits, we drove back home. There, my wife waited with the sad news that Lloyd’s wife had called telling us that his mother had died. Chaos ensued: changing clothes, off to Schiphol airport to rebook the flight (his original plan was to fly to Denmark to hunt there), back home, dinner and sleep for a few hours, back to Schiphol, and goodbye. In the meantime he did invite my wife and me to Georgia the next spring to shoot a turkey.
Fast forward to the beginning of April when we landed in Jacksonville. Lloyd and his wife Martha were waiting for us, and drove us to their home, in a small village on Harris Neck Island in southern Georgia.
After getting acquainted with southern cuisine and an enjoyable evening catching up, the next day we left for one of his hunting areas. It was too far from home to drive back and forth so he had built a beautiful hunting lodge there. He led us around part of his hunting fields and pointed to the traces turkeys had made on some sand paths.
A few hours earlier than I would have naturally awakened, the next morning, under the light of the stars, we quietly walked to the blind and crept in.
The turkey hunt
The night before, Lloyd told me what would happen. At first daylight, the old gobbler would give its characteristic call somewhere in the neighbourhood. Thereupon Lloyd would mimic the sound of hen with a turkey call. But the action wouldn’t begin right away. First, the real hens would go to the tree from which the tom had called, and would be served by him one by one. When he had finished with his harem, the old gobbler would recall that he had heard another hen somewhere in the neighborhood, one apparently not about to come to meet him. So he would sound it out himself. The same would be done by other toms, who had no chance of displacing the old male from his harem but fancied their chances with the ‘outsider’. So certainly there would be a male turkey in the vicinity of the blind – especially because Lloyd would have placed his wooden turkey decoy hen there, and sprinkled a few handfuls of acorn in front of it. Then it only would be a matter of sliding the safety off the gun, aiming at the head, and shooting. Simple. Success guaranteed. That was the theory.
The practice turned out to be exactly what Lloyd had predicted… almost. At first twilight we heard the gobbling of a tom from nearby, and further out the sound of others, too. Lloyd then produced the subtle sounds of an enamoured hen on his turkey call. It reminded me of the sounds that at home our chickens make when they find something tasty for their chicks. Then the wait started.
All the time I remained tense. Not surprising, because the evening before, Lloyd also told me that once he found a bear in the same blind, sound asleep. And that it would not be unlikely if wild boar came to feed on the acorns. Both reasons to remain very alert. The gun, a camouflaged semi-automatic – the ugliest one I’ve ever held – was stoked with ‘turkey loads’: 12-bore magnum, number 5 shot. Could one kill a bear with that, or a wild boar?
My worrying was cut short – that big old gobbler arrived. About 60 yards – way out of range. For nearly an hour he kept scurrying at the same distance. And that was it. The wooden hen apparently did not turn him on, and he was not seduced by the acorn either. Gone!
Some time later a few hens arrived at the scene. They picked at the acorn, but it was close season for hens. Some time later, two young males appeared. Safety off, and aim. When the nearest one raised his head, I aimed at it, fired – and at that split second when he bent to pick up another kernel again. Complete miss! Both turkeys got airborne, making much more noise than pheasant. And that was it: I crossed half the world to shoot a turkey, then missed hin at 20 yards.
Back at the hunting lodge, both our wives – after hearing the shot – were waiting for a triumphant hunter with a big turkey. I needed a big beer instead.
The next morning was a repeat of the day before. After many hours of stock-still sitting, a gobbler came within shooting range. This time I aimed at its neck, right where it was connected to its body. And that one never moved any more.
Travelling back to Lloyd’s home the next day, I never stopped asking questions about the bear and wild boar that lived there. He told me they could be found close to his house, too, and offered me the chance to shoot one if I felt like it. Of course! It was decided: the next morning we would go, and José was invited along.
Nearly home, Lloyd suddenly hit the brakes: in the middle of the road was a big rattlesnake. A fierce discussion followed: “Don’t do it,” Martha shouted, “it’s too dangerous!” But he was resolute, stating that the danger was of no concern to him, and that he did not want rattlesnakes 100 yards from his wife, his dog, and sometimes their grandchildren.
He got out, gave me just enough time to take a picture, and killed the snake. To the horror of both wives he picked up the still writhing body and showed me the fangs. “Look,” he said, “a big guy like you might survive a bite, but a dog or a small child certainly wouldn’t.” A lecture from a now retired professor of biology isn’t to be ignored. I decided to put on high boots the next morning.
The boar hunt
Frankly, I did not know at all that wild boar occurred in America. But they have been around there for quite a while. In the 16th century, Spanish conquerors took pigs with them as an easily accessible source of meat. During the following centuries immigrants sometimes took pigs with them, too. And apparently 100 years ago, hunters even imported wild boar from Russia. Anyway, they are there, and in the marshes on the coast of Georgia they can locally be highly abundant.
In the morning twilight we drove to the edge of the forest, walked through it, and then had a beautiful view over a strip of bare sandy soil, about half a mile wide, ending at swampy reed fields bordering the Atlantic ocean. There we began a cautious stalk along the edge of the forest. Soon we spotted a boar there, at about 150 yards. “Go for it,” whispered Lloyd. But kneeling, I could no longer see it. I stood up and could see it again, but surely I couldn’t take a freehand shot from this position? “Put the rifle over my shoulder,” he said. I did, but the boar only filled a small part of the image seen through the scope, and I couldn’t manage to steady the crosshairs. Boar fever!
We continued our stalk, and for a long time there was nothing to see. Then we observed a few moving dots far at the horizon, on the other side of the bare plain, near the reed fields. Getting closer, we discerned four boar, one of which was clearly much larger than the others. “We’ll go there,” Lloyd said. “That will never work,” I responded, “it’s half a mile across an open field!” “It will,” he replied. “Boar do not see very well, and the wind is in our direction, so they will not hear or smell us either.”
We started to approach them in a straight line, Lloyd in front, then me, and José behind me. Every time one of the boar raised its head, he stopped. And we froze in his footsteps. How long can half a mile take then? At a distance of an ample 100 yards, Lloyd stepped behind me, handing me the rifle. “Now,” he whispered. I knelt, supported my elbow on my other knee, and peered through the scope. The big black one nearly filled the view but was facing in entirely the wrong direction. “Take one of the others,” whispered Lloyd. “No,” I whispered back, “I’ll wait.”
How long do minutes last when your boar of a lifetime is in the crosshairs? After an agonising wait, he made a quarter turn, and my shot rang out. The boar did not even acknowledge the shot, just ran. He made a semicircle, and came broadside again. My muzzle reverberated again. The boar kept on going in another semicircle – then he keeled over.
“This is not a good spot to take pictures,” Lloyd said. “We have to drag him some distance.” “Ok,” I said, “I’ll do just that.” At that point I didn’t know yet that he weighed 250lb, and after a few dozen yards I admitted that I needed help.
What a beast! Inspection confirmed that he had been hit both on the left and the right shoulder. A 7mm Rem Mag had gone in and out on both sides. And still he had gone on!
Lloyd himself was also very excited. He told me that it was very special – a really big specimen. He had only once shot one that was heavier – and that was, believe it or not, at the bottom of the stairs to his kitchen door. One night he had heard his dog barking hysterically, and when – armed with his pistol – he went out to investigate, found a boar hiding under his stairs. Boar over 200lb are not exceptional in Georgia, but hunters are reminded that the local record – by a distance – was established by Martha, Lloyd’s wife. A boar of just over 400lb. Not with a rifle, but with her car…
A few months later Lloyd sent me the teeth of the boar along with a plaque. He had had them measured and they proved good enough for a bronze medal. It said the beast was number 72 of the heaviest boar shot in America. But for me, he remains number one.