Though we struggled through a down deer season on the Delta, it’s not in our nature to give up, so we chased after the hogs relentlessly and finally scored on a few big ones late in March.
My hunting buddy Randy Levingston and I combined forces with the husband and wife team of Brian and Torrie Eaton. The Eatons are friends of ours, who are as hardcore as they come in terms of hunting deer and hogs. They hunt hard and often, just as we do. This year they struggled like the rest of us, but still brought a few deer home for their freezer.
We hunt many of the same areas and islands of the Delta and often compare notes and game cam pics. We talked earlier this season about joining up for some hog hunts when we could coordinate our schedules. It’s awesome when you find partners who equally match your desire, determination and dedication to the sport: We worked together very nicely and the transition was seamless.
We decided to continue what we had been doing — stalk hunting hogs in areas familiar to all of us. We used the wind, past hunts and our knowledge as we game-planned each hunt.
The hog population of the Delta is much more difficult to hunt than they were just a few years ago, when many times we could just slowly walk up on hogs and shoot them with our .22 mag rifles. Now the slightest mistake sends the hogs scurrying long before we even have a chance to see them, much less get a shot. So using the wind to our advantage and being stealthy has become even more paramount during our hunts.
Of course just like any other hog-only season, we jumped deer left and right. They offered us shots we never saw during the deer season, stopping at short bow range and giving us ample opportunity to drill them with an arrow. Still, it is always nice to see them — even though all of the bucks have dropped their antlers and now look like stocky does.
One of the keys to our hog hunts is to move slowly into the wind and try to hear them before they hear us. You really need to be very patient and go slower than most hunters feel comfortable hunting. But the payoff is if you can pick up on a grunt or squeal, you can quickly zero in on the hogs’ feeding or hiding area. Next, it’s just a matter of trying to figure out their escape routes and cover them. With only Randy and I on most hunts, that is difficult to do. And Brian and Torrie told us the same thing, since most of their hunts are done as a two-person team.
So we figured that four of us hunting together would increase our chances of success and allow us opportunities to try some different techniques that don’t work as well with just two hunters.
On one of our hunts together , the Eatons brought along their daughter, Avery. She is well on her way to becoming a hardcore hunter just like her parents. She was walking in water and mud well over her knee boots and seemed to love every second of it. We split up four ways, with Avery staying close to Torrie on this hunt. Not even 30 minutes in, I heard two loud blasts ring out from Torrie’s 12-gauge shotgun. Randy was closer to her and radioed that she had a big hog down.
A few minutes later, we were high-fiving and admiring the big boar she shot at 20 yards. The second shot was “just in case” as the boar kicked a bit and tried to get up. Torrie gutted the hog and we all took turns dragging him out on the sled. The ground was fairly firm and the drag was not all that far, so it went very smoothly. We got back to the boat and decided to call it a day so that they would have ample time to get the big hog skinned and cleaned.
We planned another hunt the following weekend, but plans changed so we worked on our calendars and scheduled our last hunt of the season. We tried an area during the mid-morning that had been successful for us. And once again we jumped several deer and got close to a few hogs, but none presented us with a shot.
We had one more chance and decided on an island that Brian and Torrie were very familiar with. Brian had a solid plan that has worked in the past and we decided to try it. Torrie and I hunted one area, while Randy and Brian paralleled us. At some point I heard a shotgun blast from Brian. Randy radioed me that he had a 70-pound hog down, and said they could hear more hogs nearby.
As the hunt continued, I heard a slight noise behind me and turned to look face to face with what I believed to be a buck without antlers. We were no more than 15 yards apart. He just peered at me for a second, then stiffened up and started to stomp. You know what happened next — three quick stomps, followed by the deer bolting and jetting back into the cover of the myrtles. I have my Tactacam video camera mounted to my scope, but I couldn’t move a muscle at such close range. Still, it was a very cool experience.
A few moments later, I spied a hog running through the shadows of the woods. Though I had no shot, I maneuvered into a position on one knee in case another came through the same area. The next moment, three quick shotgun blasts erupted.
Randy quickly radioed that Brian had put two more hogs down. My first question was, “How big?” Randy replied, “Big!” I knew how far into the woods and away from the boat we were. My next question was if both of the big hogs could fit into the sled together. Randy said he didn’t think so.
I reconnected with Torrie and we made our way over to see what Brian had shot. He and Randy were walking a ridge that was absolutely torn up with hog wallows and rooting. The first hog started toward Randy, then doubled back toward Brian who was ready with his 12-gauge.
The first hog dropped at 20 yards and the second one ran over the first trying to escape. Two quick shots dropped that one within a few steps. It turned out the two big hogs were about 175 pounds each. Putting those together with the other 70-pound hog, and we knew our work was cut out for us. Where is the Apex Predator when you need him? Josh Chauvin would have sliced off all that hog meat, packed it on his back and ran back to the boat — just for the fun of it. Oh to be young again!
But back in the world of us mere mortals, we had to take a moment to figure out how we were going to get those beasts back to the boat most efficiently — and more importantly without any of us injuring ourselves. Randy and I are both in our 50s, while the Eatons are 30-something. We managed to fit both of the big hogs into the cart, although they were hanging out.
The real issue was we could not budge the cart with both of them in it. So we gutted all three and decided to cut the heads off of both of the big ones. Brian dragged the 70-pounder halfway back to the boat and then came back to us. He strapped one of the big hogs on the cart and attached it to his waist and took off for the boat. Torre and I joined forces on the other big hog and dragged it with two pull ropes on the ground, while Randy carried the guns and switched out from time to time.
When we got to the 70-pounder, Torrie latched onto that one and began dragging it. I took over the other big one solo and on we went. Randy again swapped out at times and we finally got all three of them back to the boat. Of course we were tired, but it felt very good to finish the season strong. The final count for the hog season was six hog kills, with each of us contributing.
We performed well as a team. Even though that was our last hunt of the season, we all look forward to joining together when deer season starts in October. Many more adventures await us, and I look forward to sharing those experiences with you guys.
I am still waiting for the stats from the deer season at the Atchafalaya Delta WMA. As soon as I get them, I will post them and give you my opinion on the results.
Until then, be safe.