It's a step straight into history, into tradition, into the land of Magyars and Attila the Hun. Once only royalty could hunt here. Now, all of Hungary is one great hunting reserve, attracting hunters from around the world.
The hunting grounds sprawl past proud hilltop castles, sloped golden vineyards, and heavy oak woodlands where great sounders of wild hogs seek acorns, setting store against the onset of winter.
A well-organized, fast-paced drive requires a healthy number of professional beaters and specially trained and tenaciously bred dogs; this kind of hunt is a challenge that calls for expertise and experience. Even the faces of the beaters seem unchanged through centuries — squint wrinkles around the eyes, strong moustaches on strong men.
For the hunter sitting in the high seat, a rustle in the oak leaves carries easily through the dusk. Dog or beater or boar? Adrenaline rises. The 400-pound black tanks do not go quietly and require large-caliber rifles that are works of silvered art, bearing scenes from a medieval tapestry.
Most of the shots are quick and running. Aim at the head or neck and make it count, because there is no completely safe way to track a wounded, angry boar. As a 12-year-old beater, a wild boar turned on me. Only the insane tenaciousness of a jagdterrier saved me from
injury or death. Lesson learned: Make your shots count.
At the end, hunting horns sound the final respect to the boars — celebrating the hunters, honoring the taken. Smoke from ritual fires rises into the air. We can raise a glass to this.
A trip to Hungary for traditional, European hog hunting means hunters often use handcrafted guns with a medieval feel to them. Double rifles, ornate engravings and ancient European charm come together for an unprecedented experience.
The Art of War
As one of the more difficult animals to take down, wild boar present a unique hunting challenge. Hungarian hunters typically opt for a powerful caliber single or double rifle to stop a boar in its tracks. That said, many of the guns feature ornate engravings and world-class craftsmanship, making Hungarian hunting an old world experience par excellence.
Despite the charm of the traditional experience, wild boar hunters also take advantage of modern technologies like scopes and other optics. With the possibility of a 400 pound boar on the charge, hunters utilize every bit of help needed to put the massive swine down.
Take Your Pick
Hunting wild boar in Hungary is as much about style as it is anything else. As such, you're probably not going to find an AR on duty. Like a fine cigar crafted by hand, hunters pick a rifle with class, power and sophisticated style.
Wild boar, which can weigh up to 400 pounds and stretch out to six feet in length, often travel in groups of about 20. Hungarian hunters shoot from stands or on foot at moving targets, which requires expert marksmanship.
Wild on the Prowl
Oftentimes chasing swine through thick woods, Hungarian hunters face the threat of a charging fury. The moral of the story? Carry a big boom stick and make your shots count.
While wild boars don't have the best eyesight and often make quite a bit of noise when feeding, they're often on the move, which makes for a difficult shot. There's even more pressure when the tusked target is moving in your direction.
Unlike the situation with feral hogs in the U.S., wild boars have been native to Europe for centuries. As such, they don't pose as much of a destructive threat to the habitat of other animals or farmers. They normally gather in wooded areas in small groups.
The best part of Hungarian boar hunting might just be the cast of characters standing next to you on a hunt. With old school apparel and manly mustaches, you might just forget what century you're in.
Blow the Horn
Hunting horns signal the end of a hunt, honoring the hunters and the animals taken. In turn, the sound brings you back a few hundred years to the days of the Magyars.
Fast and Furious
Hunting wild boar requires a well-organized, fast-paced drive by professional beaters and tenaciously bred dogs. The best weapons in the field? Experience and expertise, which prove handy when the storyline is always changing.
Light a Fire
At the end of a hunt, men light ritual fires as thick smoke rises into the night air. A lifted glass, a smoke and warm conversation signal the end of a successful Hungarian boar hunt.