FIRST PRIZE - A HUNT IN BULGARIA
AN EXPERIENCE OF A LIFETIME
In 2017, I competed in a shooting competition hosted by RWS. When the winner was announced I was flabbergasted hearing, “André van Dyk, you are the winner of the fast shooting event!” Only then I learned that the prize was a hunt in Bulgaria. I was stunned and speechless. Even now, months after I had returned from the hunt, it still feels unreal. But let me tell you about this amazing hunting adventure, an experience of a lifetime ...
Early in November 2017, I flew to Dubai and, after getting lost at the airport, I eventually boarded a plane and headed for Sofia, Bulgaria. I only had one thing on my mind – my mission: to hunt wild boars. Arriving midday, the temperature a chilly 13 degrees. There were quite a number of hunters invited from all over the world to participate. We were shuttled from the airport to the hotel which had been arranged for accommodation.
DAY 1 - A MIND-BLOWING EXPERIENCE
The next day we were transferred by bus to a shooting range located between rocky hills and forests. A little fog in the air offered breathtaking views of the scenery! Each hunter was equipped with a 30-06 Merkel Helix RX Speedster fitted with an Aimpoint® red dot sight.
Later that afternoon we all travelled by bus to our hunting destination a couple of hours’ drive away. Every second of travel time was a mind-blowing experience for me as I enjoy exploring different lifestyles compared to the one, I’m used to in South Africa. I went to bed late that night, but my high adrenalin levels kept me from falling asleep. I was just too excited and looking forward to the adventure the new day would bring! Hunting wild boar – my long-awaited dream and it was about to come true!
The next morning all rose early. A few safety rules and regulations were brought to the hunting party’s attention to ensure a safe hunt for everyone. Teeth chattering, my hands feeling numb and a biting wind huffing down my neck, but that would not derail me off track for the adventure awaiting me... I could hardly control my excitement. I tensed up as I realized I had to be ready should I sense any movement coming from the woods. If a big boar would appear suddenly, I would have only a few seconds to respond and leading the target was required when firing to ensure a kill shot.
Later the day we went out to a hunting area which covered woods, hills and grassy plains. Everyone was positioned 100-150 m apart from one another and would be shooting in the same direction. Shortly afterwards I heard the dogs bark and I knew the hunt was on. Looking down on my GPS watch, I could see the dogs move into a direction chasing some wild boars.
That afternoon I concentrated solely on hunting wild boar. Even though we were given permission to hunt foxes, jackal and wolves too, the purpose of my visit to Bulgaria was to hunt wild boar and that was what I set myself out to do. Fog settled down, covering the forest trees like a blanket, greatly handicapping visibility. Totally unexpected a very large and dark wild boar dashed out through the trees, heading straight towards me. I did not blink an eye. I took aim, leading the keiler and fired a shot. The keiler went down instantly! I was astonished and afterwards reliving that moment a thousand times!
Suddenly a loud noise from behind startled me. I hastily turned around and spotted another wild boar sprinting away from me. Leading by approximately one foot ahead of the beast, I aimed and fired a shot. This wild boar also went down, leaving a dust trail in the air. I was totally astounded. I couldn’t believe what had just happened. Overwhelmed with joy, having shot two wild boars within a very short time span, I jumped up and down with glee. Soon afterwards they called ‘the beat is over’, meaning the hunt was suspended and everyone was granted the opportunity to get their hunted wild boars and move them closer to the road from where a truck picked them up. By now it was already dark; everyone was tired, yet impressed with the hunt. We concluded the day by celebrating our achievements while enjoying a wonderful dinner.
DAY 2 - A HUNTING ADVENTURE
The next morning a similar procedure to the previous day was followed. Safety first and after that, we were transported to another hunting location. Once again fog covered most of the area and visibility was limited. For some unknown reason I had this weird feeling deep inside me that something was about to go wrong. However, pinning it on nerves and excitement, I once again took up my position.
Gunfire all around me – from left to right – sounding as if war was declared on wild boar in the woods. A black Labrador was coming down the road and disappeared among a clump of trees. The forest was dense, I could hardly see 30 m ahead of me. The dog was barking continuously and viciously, highly agitated and aggressive. Minutes later two other dogs also joined in. I heard bushes crushed and trampled underfoot; the next moment a monstrous wild boar bolted straight towards me! With the beast almost upon me, I knew I was in trouble here! In attack mode these boys are extremely dangerous. I raised my rifle and just as I was about to fire, the Labrador charged right in and crossed my line of fire. I knew my shooting chance was ruined. I had to get out of the way fast and leaping sideways to avoid a collision, the boar missed me by a few inches. I swung the rifle back, but it was too late. The beast disappeared among the thicket. I felt both disappointed and relieved ... Yes, the Labrador did mess up my chance, but I was truly grateful being alive! That keiler could easily have skewered me on its tusks and served me as an espetada!
The hunt continued after lunch and everyone got into their new positions at a different hunting location We waited anxiously for wild boars to show up, but at that particular site, we did not spot any. The fog hung lazily over the forest and mizzled the landscape softly. The misty scenery of trees, mountains and brooks seemed surreal, creating an ominous atmosphere. The next moment my eye spotted a keiler. There was no shooting opportunity for me, but suddenly the hog, now approximately 80 m away from me, started trotting towards the woods. Leading him, I took the shot just before it was about to disappear between the trees. I knew the shot was good. However, the keiler did not drop right there like the other two I had shot earlier. I had to wait until the hunt was suspended before I could retrieve the wild boar.
I went to the place where I shot it, not entirely sure that this was indeed the right spot as the woods can be very misleading. I traced a blood trail on leaves covering the forest floor, leading me to the keiler. It went down less than 40 m from where I had shot it. We dragged it to the side of the road and took pictures.
I was delighted and felt blessed being part of such an adventure. That evening we celebrated a most successful hunting experience.
I shall for ever have fond memories of this Bulgarian wild boar hunt.
For me it wasn’t just a hunting trip – it was a hunting adventure!
A marvellous opportunity!
An experience of a lifetime!