Bailing a mob of pigs

Bailing up more than one pig at a time is something that all pig hunters would love to do but there are a few things that have to be right for this to happen. The main thing is the dogs have to be willing to stand back and bail because as soon as any dog goes in and grabs a pig and that pig starts to squeal all of the rest of the pigs will break away leaving you with only the one pig. These pigs that I have bailed up are my own pigs and are nine months old and weigh between 50 – 60 pounds each. I filmed these pigs when they were only a couple of days old and have been interacting with them ever since. All of my pig dogs know not to chase them as they are still just a little bit small yet. These pigs escape from the training block every day and head up the hill to eat the bracken roots. The main pig block used to have a lot of bracken in it but over the year has been completely cleaned out so these young pigs have used their initiative and ducked under the electric wire to get an extra feed. I have enjoyed watching them from above whenever I go to the top of the hill. My dogs would sit beside me and just watch the pigs with me. Up until now I have not let the dogs chase these pigs because I looked at them as being too small and I hate seeing dogs chasing small pigs it is just a bad habit that I lot of hunters don’t understand how to train their dogs not to grab small pigs and this lack of training loses a lot of good pigs while a dog is wasting time chasing small pigs the big ones are getting away.

On this particular day I was sitting up the hill with my four dogs Fog, Lightning, Jeff and Snow watching the pigs digging away in the bracken when I decided to send Jeff and Snow down to bail them up. I first told Fog and Lightning to stay then sent the other two dogs away. As you can see by the footage these two dogs had done well and after fifteen minutes Snow returned to me so I sent Fog over with Jeff and they carried on bailing for quite some time before the pigs managed to get into the pine trees on the other side of the gully so at this stage I called both dogs back. This was to be the first time that I have let Fog bark at these pigs so it will be interesting to see whether he thinks that he is allowed to bark at them again in the near future.

Dream hunt

Back at home with the boar

Back at home with the boar

It was one day before my 49th birthday and I had a spare day due to a dog training session being cancelled at the last minute. I had not caught a pig for over a week so was keen to get Fog and Lightning out to see what was around. Because I was on my own I had planned an easy hunt to walk up the hill on a track then across one gully and back down to the bike. As I was heading up I could see that Fog was having a good look around and had headed into the next gully over that I knew had a sow in it last time I was in there. This is where Fog is so good as he does not get to worked up with sows and can work through them to find himself a boar if there is one around. As I headed up the ridge above Fog he came tracking out of the gully past me at a fast rate. Now I had been standing in this spot for up to a minute and did not see an animal break out but I knew that Fog could smell a good pig as he looked very excited. As Fog tracked down into the next gully over Lightning came up to me and was working the scent that Fog had just tracked though on but was not going out far enough. It did not take Fog too long to put up a nice bail at which Lightning took off with me following. I watched the GPS as Lightning closed in the last bit slowly and joined Fog without the boar trying to break. As I came though the gully I came across a nice big wallow fifty meters short of where the dogs had their bail going. I could tell that it had been used by many pigs recently and that barking fifty meters away really had the excitement going.

Lightning and Fog with the boar back at the bike

Lightning and Fog with the boar back at the bike

Closing in on the bail I could see both dogs out in front of the boar under the Douglas firs, I did start filming from here but could not get a good view as I had some scrub in front of me that the camera had focused on. The sun was also coming through the trees into my eyes so I tried to get up towards the next tree for a better position to get a shot. I would have been about seven meters away from the action when the boar got spooked by me and broke. The dogs done well to pull him up again so quickly and at this bail I did not muck around even though I did have the camera going when I shot the boar. It was a nice clean shot as the boar dropped and I had to grab a hold of him before he ended up to far down the hill while his nerves kicked their last. Now that he was dead the real work had to start, gutting him was easy the hard part was going to be carrying him out. I only had to go about 150 meters but the ground was very steep with the Douglas fir needles on the ground that consisted of soft dirt. Just getting the boar up on my back I lost five meters of ground simple because my feet just could not get any traction. At one stage I was pushing through some of the lower branches of one of the trees on some step ground and I knew that the branches were holding me back so when they let me go I shot forward, I could not just put my foot down to stop myself so instead I had to line myself up on the next tree down the hill and just before I hit it I spun around so that the boar took the blow for me. I managed to stay on my feet but I had lost another six meters of ground and had to keep climbing back up. At another stage I was really struggling looking ahead I wanted to try and get another twenty meters up the hill but my legs were starting to want to cramp up on me so I just had to put the pig down. When I had had a rest I went to stand up again with the pig on my back and slid back down to the next row of trees before I could get my feet to hold on the ground. It took me three carry’s to get the boar out to a main ridge where I could roll him down 800 meters to the track.

Back at home the boar weighed 145 pounds, I thoroughly enjoyed sitting down having a beer afterwards and reflecting on my great early birthday present. One day earlier  I was watching Jeff and my young pup Snow bailing five fifty pound pigs while Fog and Lightning were standing at my side watching. This is a stage that a lot of hunters don’t get their dogs to because they normally want their dogs to attack any pig they see.

Craig Cox with Bruiser and Pumba

This was Craig’s first trip to come and see me with two young dogs. Craig had acquired Bruiser two weeks prior to coming to see me so he did not know what he would be like on the pigs. His other dog Pumba was only about six months old and as yet had not been on pigs so Craig wanted to see what these two dogs could do. We first took Bruiser down to introduce to Mr Pig, I was quick to see that he would need to have a rope on his collar to hold him back. It has been a while since I have had to use the rope but Bruiser just wanted to go straight in and attack Mr Pig so we needed to hold him back. The behaviour that he was showing out in the wild would break a lot of the bigger pigs and he would scrag the smaller pigs but could get hurt on a big boar. For this reason we needed the rope to be able to change the way that he was thinking. Another problem with Bruiser putting so much pressure on the bail was that he was wearing himself out so fast. He would go and try to attack the boar then lie down puffing and panting while he tried to get his breath back. At one stage we put Bruiser on the opposite side of the fence so that he could not try to bite or break the boar. When we added young Pumba into the bail she was quite happy to stand back and bark. When we took both dogs into the main block we were walking up the gully when Fog bailed up above us. As soon as Fog started barking Young Pumba stood beside us and went to town barking away but she did not want to go and join in. Because Pumba is only six months old this is a habit that no hunter wants to see in a young dog as a dog that trail barks chases a lot of pigs away and does not normally stop many. I suggested to Craig that he would want to try and sort this problem out before he got her out on the hill because if she starts getting used to barking too much it will become very hard to change. Craig needs to stop her from barking at the other dogs when she is playing so that she gets used to being a lot quitter. As for Bruiser when he caught up with Fog and the black and white boar he just kept on wanting to go in for a hold. Bruiser has a temperament that he is going to have to change, he reminds me a lot of my son Sloan’s dog Mack. When Mack was younger he had a bad habit of wanting to growl at any other animals without thinking of the consequences. If Mack was left out of the kennel with my dogs over the day I would see him growl at a cow then another time I would see him growl at a sheep or another dog. It was not as if he wanted to attack them he just could not help himself. The turning point for Mack was when the dogs bailed a 148 pound boar and Mack flew in thinking he was ten foot tall and bullet roof. The end result was two holes in Mack one in his stomach and the other in his back leg. This helped to change the way that Mack reacts around other animals. While he still has trouble containing himself he does know think more as he now understands what the consequences are if he tries to fight a pig.

Mouse and Linda Cotton with Flur and Grey

The dogs starting training on Mr Pig Grey is the black dog and Flur is the brown and white bitch

The dogs starting training on Mr Pig Grey is the black dog and Flur is the brown and white bitch

Mouse and Linda were in a bit of a predicament as they had recently lost one of their main dogs and there other main dog was out of action having a litter of pups. They were considering trying to buy a new main dog but soon got disheartened with this idea when they found out how hard it is to buy a good going pig dog. It was one of their friends that suggested to them to considering coming to visit me and invest in their younger dogs rather than looking elsewhere. So I received a phone call from Linda and a date was set for her partner Mouse and her with their dog Grey and their bitch Flur. These two young dogs had done a wee bit of hunting but not too much so they were hopping to give them some experience on a bigger boar. For our first run we took Lightning and Grey down to bail Mr Pig. As we entered the block Mr Pig the white sow and the little piglet were standing together when Lightning bailed up. As soon as Grey saw the sow break out he was after her and the wee piglet. Luckily for us he was wearing a muzzle and he soon returned to Lightning and Mr Pig. They were only bailing for five minutes and I could see that they were not putting too much pressure on the bail so I suggested to Mouse that we go and get Flur to let her join in as well. With the three dogs they put a wee bit of pressure on Mr Pig but he handled it well. Grey did like going around to Mr Pigs back end and trying to bite him a few time so I could see that during the training we would try and discourage this behaviour. When a pig is bailed and a dog goes behind the pig then the pig will have to move to keep facing the dog and this can cause a lot of pigs to break the bail. These two dogs started to show me that they wanted to catch pigs which is a sign that I love to see.

After this run we put the two training dogs into their dog box for a rest while we went up to the top of the hill on the four wheeler with two of my dogs Jeff the possum dog and Snow my pup. On the way up while we were stopped Mouse spotted one of my pigs Arnold across on the middle face Jeff had also seen him so I sent him across to bail Arnold up. Once Jeff bailed I sent Snow over to the bail and was pleased to see that he went two hundred meters out to help Jeff with the bail. I managed to get some good footage of the dogs bailing form above. Arnold broke three times before he got out of sight under the pine trees so I called both dogs off without any electric collars from about four hundred meters away. As we carried on back down to the house Jeff picked up the scent of a possum so we turned the bike off and did not have to wait very long until we heard Jeff giving a possum the death grip. Linda was very impressed when she saw Jeff retrieve his possum right back to me. This helped to feed the dogs for the night.

For our next run we took Fog with the two training dogs and we got them onto Boris. This was a good run as Boris did not want to sit still and kept trying to move, this was great to keep the dogs interested as they kept onto him for the next hour. We walked back to the house just before dark to a nice warm house as my wife Janice had the fire going and cooked us a fabulous meal. After tea we sat around having a quite drink and a good yarn to get to know each other better. Linda is very much into horses and likes show jumping, she said that she can see a lot of similarities between dogs and horses. In the morning Linda and Mouse commented on how nice the wee hut was to stay in while we had breakfast.

For today’s run I thought we would try with just Flur and Grey as I thought they had done enough yesterday to make me think they could work on their own today. When we entered the main block the big lazy fella Digger was standing there so I grabbed him by the tail so that he would growl at me this got the two dogs giving a few barks. As Grey tried to get around by his back end a picked up a long cabbage tree leaf and every time that Grey came in from behind I raised my hand with the leaf so that he went back to Digger’s front end. We only played this game for a short time before we decided to head a bit higher up the hill to get into the sun shine that was up there. As we were standing around admiring the view Linda spotted the black and white boar on the opposite face so we started making our way in his direction. He was well onto us though and moved off before we got too far. As we were just about in the bottom of the gully both dogs hit some other pig that we had not yet seen. The dogs broke all the way back towards the house with a few barks going on but then returned to us. As it turned out it would have been the smaller pigs that are around the fifty pound mark so I was quite happy that they came off them. As we got the dogs back on track after the black and white boar they tracked off slowly up above us and started bailing. When we arrived we discovered that they had actually bailed Boris again and they were doing a great job. Every time we got close Boris would break but if we stayed back a bit they would keep him in the same place until we approached again. At one point Linda and I had split up from Mouse so we walked up to the house and sat down to a cuppa with cheese and crackers while we listened to the dogs bailing 45 minutes later Mouse turned up and joined us. When we finally went up the hill on the four wheeler to call the two dogs off they had been bailing Boris for over three hours. They were not barking anywhere near as much as they were when they started but they had done a brilliant job and both dogs came off when called form four hundred meters away.

Te Moana waterfall in winter

Te Moana waterfall in winter

Because the dogs had had such a big run I took Linda and Mouse for a ride to the waterfall which looked just stunning with a lot of frozen ice on the sides. I also took Jeff with us just to prove to Mouse and Linda that it was no fluke with Jeff getting a possum. As we left the waterfall Jeff got his first possum which Linda filmed him carrying it back to me. From here we went to visit one of my neighbors Craig who loves growing all sorts of plants which they were interested in. Also Craig showed them his rocket mass heater that keeps his hut nice and warm even though he has snow on the ground outside. By the time we left Craig’s, Jeff had caught another two possums.
When Mouse and Linda were about to leave on their trip back to Nelson they were already talking about their next trip to visit. Christ I love my job, two days ago I had not meet Mouse and Linda and now I feel like not only have I meet two more hunters and helped with the development of their dogs but I have also made two new friends. Their two young dogs will step up to being main dogs in no time at all.

Ben Waipouri with Misty and Taeo

Misty and Dusky on their first run with Mr Pig

Misty and Dusky on their first run with Mr Pig

This was Ben’s first visit, he had driven over from the west coast with two of his dogs. About a week before Ben was due to arrive he gave me a call to say that his young Bitch Misty that he wanted to train was just showing signs of coming on heat. All of my dogs are males so this could have been a problem but because he had let me know early enough I arranged with my Son Bryce to burrow has bitch Dusky for a couple of days.

Dusky bailing Boris in the tight stuff before Digger turned up

Dusky bailing Boris in the tight stuff before Digger turned up

The last time that I had Dusky up home she performed very well so I was not expecting anything different. Bryce did say to me that on his last few hunts he thought that Dusky was targeting the smaller pigs. On our first run in the small block we put the dogs onto Mr Pig and it took them a wee bit to get into a bail. After this run we took the motor bike up to the top of the hill, we took with us Jeff, Snow and Ben’s dog Taeo.

Misty and Dusky in with the smaller pigs

Misty and Dusky in with the smaller pigs

As soon as Ben let Taeo out of his truck I could see the bond between man and dog. Taeo is an older collie dog that works stock. I could see a dog that idealised his master and was always waiting for Ben to give him a command that he would happily do. The other side of this was of course Ben and the way that he talked to his dog in a nice clam voice is what gets respect and makes good dogs. Being a dog trainer most of the dogs that I get to see are younger dogs that need work so it was nice to see a well-balanced dog that could think. The way that he stayed close to Ben had me wondering how well he would go off looking for a pig. Once we came back down the hill we put both Fog and Taeo into the main block and Fog was quick to take off after Boris while Taeo was just as quick and he took off after Black and White. Both of these boars love to run Boris had made it into the gully and was trying to get away from Fog but having a hard time of it while Taeo was up on the top fence line bailing the black and white boar. Both dogs focused well on their boars until we called them off.

Misty enjoying herself chasing one of the smaller pigs back into the mob.

Misty enjoying herself chasing one of the smaller pigs back into the mob.

On our second run into the main block with Dusky and Misty we got onto Boris which Dusky bailed well but misty was a wee bite standoffish. It did not help things when Digger came down to check out what all of the noise was, he also had one of the smaller boars with him.

Next morning is normally the time that most dogs want to get right into it but this time both Dusky and Misty were slow to get going. We bailed Mr Pig first and then next took them into the main block and let them run around after the small pigs. Putting a dog onto a smaller pig is not something that I am a fan of but I have been watching these young pigs grow and they are quite cocky little buggers because I have not let a dog bark at them before they think that they can take on a dog.

The two bitches bailing Mr Pig

The two bitches bailing Mr Pig

Because they had safety in numbers the pigs would try and charge the dogs. This looked quite comical especially when my smallest pig Snuffles charged out and sent the dogs running backwards. Any time training dogs on pigs it is about getting the balance right if you have too much dog pressure the dog will try and grab the pig if you have too little pressure the pig will get away. My small pigs would be weighing up to 50 pounds now so in the right situation with a softer dog wearing a muzzle the small pigs can help to build a young dogs confidence. Once the dog starts showing that confidence then I make sure that the dogs go back onto a good boar.

working with Snow’s mind

Snow waiting to ambush the next dog that comes back

Snow waiting to ambush the next dog that comes back

In some of my latest articles I had mentioned that Snow was bailing the other dogs and this was a good behavior on pigs but I had to be careful on how I stopped him from doing this. I had all of the dogs out on the hill the other day with Fog out having a look around when Jeff came back towards me. As soon as Snow saw him he ran up and started bailing him. I had to stop this fast as the last thing that any hunter wants is a dog making a lot of noise when we are trying to be quite. I gave Snow a sound on the collar which he took no notice of so next I gave him a light shock. This stopped him and he walked back to me wondering what he had done wrong. A couple of minutes later Fog came back so Snow went over and started bailing him. As Fog went to run past me with Snow chasing I put my foot out and knocked Snow off balance and at the same time told him off. This was to be the first time that I can remember that Snow had to be sorted out by me. His reaction was to go away from me and sit under a bush. As I walked away he looked at me but did not want to follow as he was not trusting me like he had up until this point. When I was fifty meters away I called Snow, he did not look like he wanted to follow so I gave him a sound on the collar, he still took no notice so I gave him a light shock. He could feel it but did not jump up as he was still a bite unsure so I gave him another one and called him again. This time he got up and walked back to me so I gave him a pat. I wanted him to realize that I was not angry but he just needed to listen some times. Everything was good for a while until the next time that Jeff came back from a look around. This time instead of Snow going and bailing him he slowed as he approached Jeff and I said ( settle down Snow). He behaved well. When I got him home I put Snow and Lightning back into the pig block so that Snow could have some bailing practice.