My buddy Jimmy Kyle and I headed down to the Atchafalaya Delta for a late-afternoon hunt in search of some wild pork. I had an area in mind, where the hogs usually congregate and bed down, but they are easily spooked and we would need the wind in our favor to have a chance.
When we reached our destination, thankfully the wind indeed was favorable, as we made the long trek back into the marsh. Twenty minutes later, we set up next to two small ponds. The choice of weapon was a 12-gauge loaded with buckshot for the special shotgun only hog season, which goes on through March 31st at the Delta. While I have killed several hogs with my bow, I had never shot one with a gun. This is Jimmy's first year hunting and he had killed a buck and a doe with his bow, but had never even seen a hog in the wild.
I stationed Jimmy at the corner of one pond where he could cover a large, heavily used hog trail, and I set up about 100 yards away where I could cover the opposite side. I had my back to a large thicket of brush that was about 20 feet high.
Little did I know how quickly the hunt would begin. It seemed like I had chosen the perfect location, because just minutes into the hunt I heard the obvious sounds of several large hogs approaching from my back. I stood up and could see the tops of the thicket moving wildly as the hogs came tromping through. The grunts were very loud and deep, and I knew it had to be some big ones.
Jimmy would later tell me the hogs passed within 10 yards of him, but were shielded by brush. He said he had barely taken a seat when they were upon him.
I knew the hogs came from the general area that Jimmy was positioned in, so I didn't want to call him on the radio for fear that my voice would spook the hogs and mess up his potential shot.
The hogs were coming directly at me and making a terrific racket. I was standing 10 yards from the thicket, on full alert, ready to blast the first one that came through. My heart was pounding in my chest – BIG TIME! That feeling is the main reason I hunt. You can't duplicate it, my friend. Being on the ground with several large hogs about to burst through the brush right point blank in your face, is as about intense as it gets.
Suddenly the hogs stopped. Not a sound. Not a movement. I was, and still am, puzzled by why that happened. I was standing motionless, shotgun on my shoulder, ready to fire. The wind was definitely in my favor. But for whatever reason, they stopped and then went into stealth mode. They would take one step and then stop. For the next 30 minutes or so, they stayed in the thicket, barely moving and making little noise except for the occasional grunt.
After the standoff began, I heard a slight sound from my radio as Jimmy was trying to call me. I whispered, "Did you see them?" He whispered back, "Yes!"
I asked, "How many?" He replied, "At least two." I asked, "How big?" His reply was chilling: "Scary big!"
Well, if my heart wasn't already beating fast enough, those two words REALLY got it pumping!
As time went on, my only worry was that the hogs might leave from the same direction they came in. That would be the only way one of us would not get a shot. I thought about trying to stalk around the thicket, in hopes of getting a clear shot from a different angle. The problem with that idea was the marsh was soft and it was difficult to walk without getting that suction sound from each step.
But with the afternoon fading away and the hog grunts seeming to lead back from where they came, I decided to make my move. I slowly crept to my left on the edge of the thicket. I could clearly hear the hogs rooting and sloshing in the water, and I hoped their noise would muffle any I was making. The biggest obstacle I faced was the wind. By moving to my left, soon my scent would be blown to the hogs.
After about 40 yards of painstakingly slow walking, I was within 30 yards of at least one hog. He was really tearing it up and seemed oblivious to me.
I still could not see him directly, only the edge of the bushes moving. After 10 more minutes of being motionless on a small clump of sturdy marsh, it seemed like I was going to have to get even closer to get a clear shot. I took a step, and the marsh was even softer.
I was confident the clump I was standing on would at least allow me to get a good bead and shot. Finally the hog moved towards me and was paralleling to my left.
At 30 yards, I saw his snout and then the whole huge head. I had what I needed. My shotgun roared, and the big boar dropped immediately. I covered the 30 yards very quickly, ready for a second shot, but it wasn't necessary. The hog twitched a few times and was done.
I immediately ran back to my position, to cut off any more hogs coming out and tried to force them back to Jimmy's location.
As I was doing this, a thought suddenly occurred to me: "How could we possibly get TWO hogs out from this far back in the marsh?"
So I called Jimmy and told him mine was down and that he was a big one. He put down his equipment and walked over to see what I had. He was very glad I called him off, as he immediately saw by the size of this beast, that we had our work cut out for us.
Jimmy was totally pumped. He got to see several of the hogs, but could not get a clear shot. Again these were the first hogs he had ever seen on hunt. He was amazed by the size of the animals and had the same adrenaline rush I was experiencing – if not more!
Upon my shot, he said a sow of equal size and several piglets came flying out of the thicket, too quick for him to get a shot. As we were talking, we realized there was still another hog in there, and he sounded very big. But we were done.
We could barely move the big boar and had a hard time just getting him to the pond, so we could field dress him. We snapped a few photos, and then contemplated what would be the easiest way to get this brute back to the boat.
After several variations, the method that worked best for us was to tie a rope around his head, then tie the rope to a 3-foot-long stick, put it behind us and then pull it like a plow, making sure his head was not dragging. We also tied the legs up so they wouldn't catch on everything. Compounding the problem was our equipment we had brought in with us. Eventually, we decided to walk up about 100 yards, put our stuff down, and then walk back and drag the hog.
A grueling 2 ½ hours later, we struggled out to the river and the welcome sight of my boat. Just to be able to sit down with nothing else to pull, was heavenly. The hour-long boat ride was very cold, as we were absolutely soaked with water and sweat. We made it home after 10:30 p.m., and still had to get our stuff together and clean the hog. Long story short, I made it to bed at 2 a.m., tired, sore, but soooo satisfied!
This hunt will go down as one of my best ever. My adrenaline flowed as much as it ever has in my life. The hunt seemed to last forever. The thrill of the unknown, when it seemed they were going to burst out of the thicket at point-blank range, was just awesome. I was confident my buckshot would put the first one down; it was the second and third ones I was wondering about. Not knowing how many and how big they were just added to the excitement.
It was a wild experience and one that we will surely never forget!