The Hungary Games: Hog Hunting Euro Style

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.

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