Tekst and Photo: Christophe Morio
End of March 2011, this is the last day of a 3 weeks safari dedicated to Bongo, Lord Derby Eland, Leopard and Buffalo which all are in the salt. Eben my very good and extremely fit friend from South Africa told me at the beginning of the hunt; if we see a big Giant forest hog, much bigger than the first one (which was already 150 kg and 9 ½ inch tusk) he shot two years ago during our previous safari in the north of Central Africa, I shoot it. You know I am not scared to squeeze the trigger.
We were not very lucky to find the hogs. I did not know the area like now and our few quests were fruitless. Eventually and despite our tiredness due to the long and hard walking on the Eland we decided to have a look at the last saline that my new and excellent tracker knows in a thick and deep bako.
As we walk down the steep bank, we could feel the pain in our legs. This is exactly at this time that we smell the hogs. We know, they are still close. From our position we can see the salt lick with a stream of clear water running in the middle. Rifle in his hands, bullet loaded in the chamber for Eben, binos in my hands we all sit and wait all senses wide alert. But we only hear the forest birds and the purring of millions of bees by the salty water. We finally walk toward the opening and see the spoors heading upstream.
We follow the trail for a few hundred meters. I remember, as we went into the thicket, the heat and the humidity were very high and we got wet instantaneously. It is too difficult to follow and I can feel, because I don’t smell them anymore that we will not catch them up. So we go out of the bako and follow the edge trying to hear or smell them.
After 1 ½ hour we understand that they are not in this part of the forest gallery. On the way back to the saline we find the spoors going down stream!!!! Passing at some 10 yards from where we started… We almost give up when Mahamat explain to me that another opening is situated at 300 yards downstream and downwind…. Very cautiously we walk on the game trail to the meadow. Mahamat in front, myself just behind. We are now in the middle of the river with the water over our knees and I can smell their strong odor. Immediately our heart is hammering in our chest with excitement because we know they are very close, a few meters from us. Even if the sounder is on the side of the wind, a latecomer sow caught a glimpse of our scent and took the all group out of the clearing. I briskly jump out of the water and only see the leaves waggling!! Dammed, gone… At this time Eben see one over the green foliage on my right side going up the bank. Straight away we crawl through the green screen of impenetrable reeds where we find tunnels and bedding where they use to spend their resting time. On top of the bank, the ground is covered by dry leaves… We stand still, our breathing slow down but I can feel the bead of sweat on my forehead. Through the inextricable vegetation of the bako, the lynx-eyed of the tracker is scanning the surrounding. There one goes, come, come. We half running, half trotting on the edge of the bako. The sun is burning outside and we find the sounder standing on the shade right on the edge of the thicket… hesitantly. Mahamat knew that they will not go out with such a heat and he tried to cut their way out. Smart, very smart because now at 40 yards away from us, 16 giant forest hogs are standing still next to each other not knowing what to do…. But ready to vanish if we make a mistake. Eben is on the shooting stick, dead steady, rifle loaded with a 300 grain solid as I ask him because of the thousand of sticks. Myself, binos stuck on my eyes looking for the boar. Through the leaves, sticks, brush I am battling to find him. Suddenly the boar is there, ¾ hidden by the other hogs and the vegetation; I can only see a part of the big flat disc underneath his eye and a piece of his big tusk. Through the tube of his Swarovski Eben can’t get him. The hog moves his huge head slowly from side to side, smelling, questing, and testing. Finally he drops his head and moves away to the safety of the thicket some 30 yards from us leaving the sounder decide what to do. There he goes, quartering away, wait for him in this gap. Offhand, Eben, after 4 hours of tens hunting squeezes the trigger and hit the hog in the left back leg but the 300 grain solid bullet went right through the body and exit between the neck and the right shoulder. The hog disappear in the green thicket out of our sight. By the time we look at us asking to each other if it is a good shot we hear from a short distance a very loud grunt going through the forest. That was so loud that I thought it was an elephant trumpeting… I never heard such a noise before and I was very surprise. So we walk carefully to the hog and we find him dead with 15 hogs around him.
He is a big blocky body hog, as long as he is wide with a rare pair of perfectly symmetrical tusks of 10 inch.
Eben and I stand next to each other in quiet awe and contemplation of the huge board. The trackers hug Eben, clasp his hand, beat his back shouting “gros male” “bravo”.
He made until now the biggest Giant forest hog I ever seen and shot, reaching 220 kg. He also pushed me to observe, photograph, video and study him more. It is now a privileged for me to write and share with every hunters what I lived in the deep forest galleries, salt licks and meadows of this eastern corner of CAR.