There was a certain time of year I really used to live for: camping over the Christmas break. I was 15 in the Christmas of 1976 and up to that point I’d shot a heap of goats and smaller game, but the thought of maybe getting a chance at a pig really got my blood flowing.

One morning shortly after daybreak, Dad dropped us off at the Raukokore river. We set off up a big valley. My brother Allan took Dad’s Long Tom .303 and I had my bow. The quiver held six arrows armed with extremely sharp razorhead broadheads, so sharp they could shave the hairs off your arm.

Even after an hour’s travel, we could still hear the ocean swells as they crashed onto the rocks and shingle benches. Hawks hung in the air. We rounded a bend in the river and came to a side tributary. It was still easy walking, and within 15 minutes we came across our first pig sign: small benches ploughed up by pig rooting.

There was no wind. Allan was just in front of me as we stalked our way up onto a small bench. He suddenly became very animated, chambering a round into the breech of Dad’s gun and at the same time whispering excitedly for me to get up there.

A black pig walked out onto a sandy little flat on the other side of the creek. I grabbed an arrow from my bow quiver and nocked it onto the string. The animal stopped, about 20 yards away from us, broadside on. It knew something was up. Allan was bursting with the temptation to shoot it with the .303, but he had confidence in me. This was it. I came to full draw, not even noticing the 50-lb pressure from the string on my fingers. I held for what Allan told me later seemed like a lifetime. I wanted that pig real bad and wasn’t releasing that shaft until I knew I was bang on his lungs.

On a small pool of blood lay my pig, as dead as a hammer

When your arrows are ‘spined’ well to your bow weight, all you should see is the very end of your arrow as it flies, and that was all I saw as it hit that pig exactly where I had aimed — the flights and all disappearing into the animal. It let out a loud squeal and took off up a bank into the tight bush. We quietly walked over to where the pig had been standing, and there we found my arrow dug into a punga, covered with frothy pink blood. Lung shot, with a complete passthrough.

Hunting arrows kill differently than rifle bullets. They kill by haemorrhage from those razorblades that cut through life-supporting tissues such as the lungs and main arteries. A bullet kills by shock, through smashing bones and such.

I knew I had hit that pig in a very vital spot and he should be mine. It was hard to contain our excitement. As hard as it was, it was also necessary for a bowshot animal not to be followed straight away. One must sit down and wait for up to half an hour, depending on where the animal was hit. By doing this, the animal will not be pushed and will lie down and succumb to the damage more quietly. Regardless, it’s usually a quick death.

After our wait, we started tracking my pig. Blood on the ground and nearby trees marked the route it had taken. The sign became heavier as we followed it, now angling back down slowly to our small creek. We were perhaps 60 metres up from the creek when the sign just stopped.

We decided to walk the section of the creek below where his last sign was seen in case he had cut down and crossed the creek. We started following it upstream – and on a small pool of blood lay my pig, as dead as a hammer.

I think we were possibly the happiest guys on earth.

Taken from Straight Arrows and Fast Bullets: A hunter’s tale by Peter Hill (Bateman, $39.99), available in bookstores and hunting stores nationwide.

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