Paul Childerley gets the privilege of experiencing driven wild game on a prestigious German estate next to the river Rhine
The excitement of driven wild boar is a draw for many English hunters nowadays and I can honestly say a driven hunt is one of my favourite sporting experirences.
So when I was offered the chance to join Zeiss’s UK dealers on their annual hunt, I jumped at the opportunity – but unfortunately I had commitments on the first day with one of my driven game shoot days.
My bags were soon packed and I patiently waited until the last guest left, then I was on a plane before I knew it. Arriving in Germany at 10.30pm, it was past midnight by the time the taxi had taken me to a part of Germany I had not been to before.
The hunting lodges were set in the estate grounds next to the Rhein but the area, when I arrived, was pitch black with no signs of life. On my last text message, before my phone died, I was told I was staying in cabin 37, so the taxi dropped me outside and swiftly drove off.
Unfortunately, my roommates were sound asleep with the doors locked. Preparing myself to sleep in the log cover and questioning the sense of my late arrival, I saw a car light and managed to find the last remaining member of staff to sort me a key.
But being the last arrival didn’t make me any less enthusiastic for the next morning’s hunt. Being the first at breakfast, I was able to get to the range for a few shots on the rifle before the morning briefing had started.
It was a beautiful autumnal morning with a sharp frost and glorious bright skies in Oberwesel. There were several faces I recognised from previous hunts around the globe, so it was a great reunion and catch-up.
The day’s quarry list was fox, roe doe, red hind, and wild boar as top of the list, with the standard policy of shooting the younger piglets first, leaving the old sow.
Finishing the quarry list and safety briefing, we were divided into small groups with a team guide who would drive us to our shooting stands and explain the surrounding areas for safety and the likeliness of where game could appear from.
When it came to my turn, the guide stopped us a few hundred metres from the forest edge, and we walked all the way down to about 20 metres from the outside edge.
He advised me that I would not be in a tower but instead would be placed on the floor next to a couple of piles of firewood stacks. There was a small ride directly in front, a short, wide ride to the left, and several gaps in the forest where I could see over the grass fields that ran parallel with the forest.
Being on the floor added extra excitement on this particular hunt owing to the fear of wild boar attacks (as you must have seen on YouTube clips), but I was ready and mentally going through where I thought they may appear from. The dogs had been released and I could hear them speaking a good few hundred metres behind.
They drew closer and had moments of full cry, quickly dropping to total silence, then back to a full cry and silence once again, with the occasional sound of a rifle shot in between.
This went on for a good hour or so, then I spotted that a group of red deer had quietly snuck in on the grass fields beside me. They didn’t give a clear shot, but were slowly approaching a gap in the trees.
I could see there were several hinds and calves with a big red stag following behind. I was preparing myself for one of the juveniles to cross the open area to my right, when a pair of dogs appeared and opened up in full cry after the group, which pushed them straight over the bank to my neighbouring gun. Before long I heard a shot from his position.
With this, the group charged straight back at me and passed me within feet, but no shot was on. The big stag slowly trotted up and decided to stand in the wood only metres away, then melted into the cover, not to be seen again.
The dogs once again were in full cry, only 100 metres or so behind where we were stood. There was thick bramble and silver birch plantation here – the perfect spot for a wild boar to hide out during the day. There was lots of commotion and I was poised ready for anything that would head my way.
Another shot came from my neighbouring gun – the same one where the red deer had come from – and as I turned to look back in that direction, I saw a small wild boar in full charge heading in my direction. I turned and the rifle came into the shoulder as the boar decided to cut right across the ride, about 15 metres in front of me.
I drew through the boar and as I reached the nose, I squeezed the trigger. A total reaction shot – no thinking, no processing, just familiarity and knowing your equipment. The boar rolled in to the autumn leaves, cleanly shot.
The forest fell silent with no sound or movement for what felt like eternity. It was obvious that the day was almost over. As I was going over the previous shot in my head, I was pleased with my success and was happy to call it a day. But in my delight, I noticed a racing movement across the adjacent grass paddocks.
It was another boar, the same size and from the same direction as boar number one. Because of the gaps in the trees, taking a few steps forward was necessary to get a clear shot across the paddocks. Once again I lined up on the boar; this one was a good 50 metres away, running at full tilt.
Starting with the same format of the previous shot, I swung through at the correct height and gave it a calculated lead, which seemed to do the trick as this one soon rolled with another clean shot. Two boar down and I was super happy with both shots. It’s not very often you have the opportunity to shoot boar, and to not only have success but to do it twice with two fantastic shots was a very satisfying achievement.
The drive was soon over and it was time to collect the morning’s boar. After collecting both the boar I’d shot, I dragged them to a gralloching area where I did the necessary preparation ready for the foresters to collect and get ready for the parade. All the hunters, foresters and gamekeepers were back at the open-sided lodge having lunch and exchanging stories of the morning’s excitement.
The game was brought back and laid ready for the parade, which proceeded after lunch. The fanfare of traditional horn blowers started the ceremony and each hunter went out and was given their congratulations and their sprig of traditional spruce.
We all headed back for a fantastic evening banquet where wild boar was one of the dishes of the day, along with red deer. Once we had finished eating, we gathered at the gateways to the estate castle, which was situated overlooking the Rhein.
We were all given candles where we paraded down the long pathway to a courtyard where we gathered round a large open fire and the fanfare of horn blowers went through all the different hunting tunes from the German traditions. An unbelievable finish to the day and one I will treasure for many years.