Hit up a fairly local WMA last Tuesday for some wild pig hunting. Me and a buddy met up at 4:00 a.m. at a highway exit to trek the hour and a half to our hog hunting grounds.
As the sun started to brighten the dark sky, we slipped into a large hardwood drain that came off the dam of an impounded lake. We circled to the back edge of the swamp and then put the wind in our face and stalked back to our waiting car. We didn’t see or hear any hogs and the sign wasn’t that fresh even though there was rooting everywhere. Just didn’t look like the game was using that area heavily in the last couple weeks.
Upon arriving back at the car, we looked across the road from where we were parked and noticed that the lake had been drawn down several feet and where the lake bottom was exposed, aquatic vegetation was being rooted up by the local hog population.
We decided that the spot looked worthy of an honest effort and off we went. We slipped along the lake bed for a couple hundred yards before entering the woods on this heavily used pig trail.
We hadn’t gone 100 yards into the surrounding hardwoods when 5 or 6 shoats jumped out of their beds and dashed off through the undergrowth. We both had iffy shots that we could have chanced, but the sign was too good to ruin a great spot on a marginal shot attempt. However, after another 2 hours of slipping through the swampy habitat around the lake we failed to detect any more hogs. At this point it was already 9 a.m. and we already counted the trip to be a success given that we were hunting on public ground.
Our next stop was a swamp that ran parallel to the main road but was about a 1/2 mile hike back off the gravel. As soon as we hit the edge of the palmettos on the creek, we ran into hog sign – lots of hog sign. Everywhere the creek bed was dry had become a heavily used game trail with hog tracks dominating the spore.
Some of these tracks were definitely left by trophy sized hogs. I killed a 330 pound hog 3 years ago and I know what big pig tracks look like and these weren’t left by just any sized hogs.
Unfortunately, droppings, tracks, and rooting was all we saw on this long hike – no real live hogs to go after. However, we did find some high spots in between swamps that may be prime candidates for archery season as well as some reptilian friends. This fat cottonmouth swam right up to us before noticing we were standing there watching him.
Here is another picture of what kind of habitat we were hunting.
At the end of this hike, we were debating on whether or not to pack it in for the day or hit one last spot before the 100 heat index temperatures drove us out of the woods. Fortunately, our irrational minds told us that we had not taken enough punishment yet and that another nasty hike was the best choice.
After hiking through a 1/4 mile of pine plantation, we arrived at the swamp’s edge. No sooner had my rubber boots entered the water, then I whispered “HOGS”! The sunlight was coming through the canopy in streaks and patches and played tricks with our eyes. Before long we realized that the “pigs” were just a dozen or so brown shorebirds out wading in the water about 100 yards away.
After getting over the excitement and frustration of thinking we had pigs within range, we crossed the swamp. When we were almost to dry ground, a single pig blew out of the palmettos just 20 yards in front of us and grunted loudly as it dashed off into the safety of the thick cover.
It didn’t sound like he ran farther than 50 yards before stopping, so we crouched down at the water’s edge and just listened for a couple minutes. Before long I thought my ears were playing tricks on me, but the longer I listened the more I was confident that I could the hear the “huff-puff-grunt” breathing of a pig working its way slowly towards us. It wasn’t long before we spotted movement in the palmettos and when I could clearly see the front end of the hog in a small window, I dumped the safety off my rifle, put the crosshairs on its head, and squeezed the trigger.
When we walked up, we realized that it was in a wallow and I have a hard time believing that the same pig we just spooked would circle back to practically the same spot and start wallowing. We’ll never for certain if it was a different pig or not. Regardless, we had a 90 pound sow on the ground and with temperatures near the century mark, we didn’t waste any time breaking her down into quarters and stuffing her in the backpack.
I had never used the quick-quarter method on hogs, but it worked like a charm and Alaskan game bags will become a staple of my hog hunting daypack from now on.
My buddy did the honors.
Nothing left but buzzard bait.
At this point, we were thrilled to have some fresh pork to tote back to Auburn and we set our tracks towards the car. Little did we know, the hunt wasn’t quite over. Only 100 yards from where we left the butchered pig, I glanced up the swamp in the opposite direction from where the shorebirds were still out in the water and thought I saw movement.
Thinking that it was just another batch of birds, I gave them a second glance with my binoculars. “PIGS!” For real this time. I handed my buddy the high powered rifle and he got a solid rest. 3 shoats were in ankle deep water rooting around for a meal when the .270 sounded off. Pig #2 on the ground.
It was only about 30-35 pounds but that was okay as we already had a pretty heavy load to carry out. After a few pictures and another quick-quarter butcher job, we were headed to the car.
Can you beat that? Shaking off some cabin fever on public ground in the dead head of summer and coming out of the palmetto-choked, cottonmouth-infested swamps with a couple of porkers. I think not.