Pilates (noun) a system of exercises using special apparatus designed to improve physical strength, flexibility, posture and enhance mental awareness.
What does Pilates have to do with hunting? Usually nothing but what does it have to do with hunting in this story? Everything. They say opposites attract but the thing about proverbs or sayings is you often find one which declares the opposite, like ‘birds of a feather flock together’. This is a case of the latter, rather than the former, ringing true.
It has long intrigued me how the only hunters in a crowd manage to find each other. Be it a wedding reception, your partner’s office Christmas dinner or any other social event you’ve been dragged along to. As sure as gravity pulls stuff down, sparks fly upwards or toast lands butter-side down, a pair of hunting tragics will find each other in a cast of thousands - and it won’t take long either. This phenomenon, I’m sure, is true of most other hobbies but this rumination is about hunting partners and where to find them.
Sometimes this law of attraction - let’s call it the law of ‘hunter-tivity’ - is accelerated by something small and seemingly insignificant to the non-hunter yet clear as a distress flare in the night sky to the keen eye - a T-shirt of a particular brand, bullet-case keyring and so on.
These type of things stand out like a 100kg boar in the middle of a farm-track to the keen and desperate eye of the uncomfortable hunter milling around the punch bowl. Even more impressive is when there’s no trigger yet somehow, even without a catalyst, the law of ‘hunter-tivity’ still works - but how? I have no answers, though just like I’m not completely sure how gravity works, I know for certain it does. This case, however, isn’t nearly so subtle.
Was it a hat or an overheard snippet of conversation? No, it was a fully road-registered Suzuki Jimny painted top to bottom in ‘Auscam’ parked out front of the physiotherapists. I was late for a Pilates class which I attend in a bid to maintain core strength after a lower back injury, and I chuckled as I paused and snapped a photo on my phone. I spent that class looking round the room trying to figure out who the owner might be and, in a group mainly comprised of women over 50 in Lorna Jane tights, it was no big riddle.
The smart money was on the bloke in the Berretta cap with blood type tattooed on his arm and leg. As we filed out the door I positioned myself for an off the cuff: “Nice paint job - you wouldn’t be into hunting by any chance?” Does a one-legged duck swim in circles? Of course he was and so we began: “Where do you hunt?” “Oh, out west a bit, and you?” “Same, out west a bit . . .” We were in Townsville on the east coast so neither of us was giving much away, ‘west’ narrowing it down to pretty much anywhere from here clear across to Broome.
In a state which only allows hunting on private land and more than its fair share of numpties ruining it for those who try to do right by landholders, ‘west’ was hunter speak for: “I don’t trust you anywhere near enough to risk anything but a vague compass reference as an answer to your question”. We said we’d contact each other if ever in need of an extra man on a future trip, exchanged numbers and left. The law held true, the two hunters in the room had collided but I was left wondering if anything would come of it.
For the next month or so our Pilates schedules didn’t align. I texted Dave once or twice to ask if he was keen for a quick trip to a small nearby property but he was unavailable. I’d mostly forgotten about it until one Friday afternoon my phone buzzed with a message from Dave trying to sell me his mate’s 30-30. I declined the offer and he replied saying he was planning a run later that night and was I interested. Silly question.
Then it dawned on me I hadn’t been hunting with someone new in years. I felt like I was going on a first date - what do I wear as I didn’t want to over dress and come across too keen, like the keyboard warrior who learned everything he knows about hunting from YouTube videos and internet forums. Conversely I didn’t want to show up in a singlet and thongs to find Dave head to toe in camouflage, lest I and give the impression I was some redneck out for a night of spotlight poaching, so I opted for the middle ground, smart-casual hunting attire you could say.
So what gun to take? Calibre considerations and personal opinions, as we know, can be volatile and best avoided on a first hunt so I was kicking myself I hadn’t got round to checking the zero on my usual go-to bolt .308. On its last outing a first-timer I’d taken along dropped it scope-down and sent five inches of mud up the muzzle.
I was also kicking myself for selling my pre-Rem 1895 in .44 Mag topped with a Leopold 1-4x a week earlier due to lack of use. I settled on my Browning A-bolt II in .243 Win and had no doubt about 95gr Nosler BTs being up to the task of dropping big porkers, but stopping them dead in their tracks before they run off on adrenaline and die 50m away in nocturnal scrub was another question.
Turned out the knockdown power of the .243 wouldn’t be tested that night as we didn’t stumble across a single target species. Still, it was better than watching TV and gave us plenty of time to discuss those first-outing topics - hunting background, favourite species, first gun, the one that got away and so on. Time flew by in the Auscam Jimny as the roof-mounted spotlight scythed back and forth probing the darkness and it was late by the time we called it a night. I could sense Dave was disappointed he hadn’t been able to put us on to some game. “That’s hunting,” I said and thanked him for the invite.
This article pretty much ends here but the story doesn’t as Dave and I often hunt together and still attend the same clinical Pilates class. If space permitted I could regale you with tales of being charged in the dark by boars, taking Chital in places they weren’t supposed to be and testing equipment to failure. Coming up with harebrained theories and testing them, trying new techniques like thermal-sight hunting and using recorded sounds to draw in big boars. Small runs close by evolved into longer hunts further afield then extended trips far away.
I don’t believe there’s a moral to this story, just a reminder to be patient and keep your eyes and ears open as hunting opportunities and reliable partners can seem few and far between. But they are out there and sometimes in the most unexpected circumstances. My wife still laughs when the answer to her question of “who are you hunting with?” is “Dave from pilates” and I’m told Dave’s missus has the same reaction. Birds of a feather do flock together and the law of ‘hunter-tivity’ states two keen hunters will find each other in a crowd, that’s a fact.
Results for what happens after that will vary but in this case I’m typing slowly with tired, quadbike-fatigued hands after returning from the trip of a lifetime to the gulf where two of us cleaned up a respectable cricket score of feral pigs in a week. No prizes for guessing who’d invited me and yes, they were all Pilates pigs.