I never hunt with less than a full quiver of six arrows, but before I made that hunt I took a quick shot with my bow and noticed the site was knocked off. It took me awhile to allen wrench the pins back into position, and running late for the hunt I forgot three arrows in the target.
This is a mistake I'll never make again.
The hunt began great. I had two does and a spike pass 40 yards away, but no opportunity was given through the thick area. I was able to video the deer as they ran into the open select cut for awhile only to later backtrack through the same thick trail they entered.
About an hour later, as the sun began to set, I heard many big animals approaching the cutover from a different ridge and turned on my head camera. With one clean shooting lane, I released as the first big hog entered.
"Thwak," the 40-yard shot stuck the hog.
Suddenly, hogs started trampling all over in circles through my areas, but at first I was given no shots. Another bigger hog ran through and briefly stopped, giving me a quick shot at 33 yards. I took it but never ranged that gap and used the wrong pin. The arrow sailed just over its back.
Yet again, one more hog came through quickly at 25 yards, but I didn't see a branch cross my peep as I followed the animal, and the arrow was deflected.
I thought for sure with all the commotion these hogs would take off in the opposite direction, but instead they grouped up and proceeded to creep along the cutover's edge, stopping many times broadside a mere 10 yards away. The video was dark and wasn't positioned well on my head, which was a relief because that's a moment I'd rather not relive.
The hog I stuck had little blood. I let it sit overnight, but had no luck tracking in the morning.
This past weekend is when the action picked up like never before. With the full moon high in the sky all night, I started Friday morning's hunt around 8 a.m., and planned to hunt all day.
After checking my cameras on the way in, my confidence was high because all through the week I had many midday pictures of deer — and none where at morning or evening.
At 11:30 a.m., I heard some animals coming through and saw two hogs. I drew, hoping they'd pass on the 20-yard trail next to a thicket. They proceeded into the tangled thicket instead.
Seconds later, another hog approached the same way. Figuring it was going to follow the path as the others, I took the only 35-yard shot I had and stuck the hog.
Unsure of the shot placement, I let the hog sit four hours and walked back over a mile to my vehicle to get my hog-tracking weapon.
My first-ever hog kill had chased after me when tracking it during rifle season, and the same thing happened to a buddy of mine. The 275-pound boar laid up in an overgrown pipeline and roared out at me when I was just feet away. It took three more shots to finish him off, and he came mighty close to enacting his revenge.
Not wanting this to happen with a bow on hand, this year I planned for a lethal tracking method: my 12-gauge semi-automatic loaded with 3 ½-inch Wingmaster HD in T shot and my new Carleson's super steel extended full choke, which patterns these shells amazingly out to 60 yards. T shot is the second-largest shot legal on WMA's when it isn't gun season, and tungsten is said to hit hard.
I was about to find out just how hard.
Before the track, I decided to walk to a spot over a mile in to scout an area I hunt. Once arriving, some hogs started trotting off. I knew with the dry leaves I wouldn't be able to sneak any closer.
Instantly, I unhooked my heavy fanny pack and sprang off at full speed with three shells in the gun and one in my pocket. The rest of the shells were in my girl's hunting bag back at the house.
I quickly learned that this herd was loaded, as it had over 15 hogs of all sizes. They were scattering in all directions like underage drinkers fleeing a party when cops busted the scene.
I saw a big one about 30 yards away and stayed on her tail. After over 300 yards, according to my GPS, from where I started the chase, the big hog finally stopped for a brief second to catch her breath.
I was about 30 yards behind the hog, as every time I gained the hog gained back the distance. Every part of my lungs, arms and legs burned like I just finished a sub-50-second quarter-mile race in track.
Unsure of how powerful these shells were on large hogs, I was looking for a head shot. The head was behind a small tree, only giving me a shoulder shot.
Meanwhile one of the smaller hogs that I passed up on the chase came sprinting through like a rabbit. I decided to take the sure kill, took the gun off safety and knocked down the small hog at 10 yards on the run. I put a second shot to finish the pig off quickly, making certain of a kill.
My friend had shot two piglets the previous week in the head with a .22 at 10 yards while stalking on Red River WMA. Instead of shooting them multiple times, he tried running after the rest of the pack. His gun jammed, and when he returned both hogs he had shot had ran off wounded.
The big pig had taken off out of sight. I quickly slipped in my last shell from my pocket and focused my attention to the rest of the pack that I had blazed past on the initial chase. I saw about six remaining hogs heading deeper into the woods about 100 yards away.
I picked out the biggest one and bolted using whatever energy I had left in the tank. Lactic acid was burning like never before.
I closed the distance to around 35yards, and the hogs went from trotting to full sprint once they saw me. I knew this would be my only chance before a very thick section of woods.
I aimed at the back shoulder and drilled the hog, flipping the 195-pound sow instantly in her tracks. I used my last shell to finish the job quickly at point-blank range.
At this point, I was still gasping for breath and all torn up from head to toe after barreling through picker bushes like a bowling ball, but the most exhilarating hunting chase of my life was worth every prick and prod. I had quite the time chasing down and slaying the near 300-pound monster hog two years ago with squirrel shot in my shotgun, yet I had the advantage of stunning it in the head before that chase began.
This time I was given no head start and had to run down these hogs at their full power. Now when I'm at the track working out I'll be more motivated, imaging chasing hogs rather than envisioning my race opponents.
A key to good speed endurance is practice. I am always running with my lightweight Lacrosse La Grange boots in the offseason while scouting, usually doing sprint intervals through the woods and working on agility and balance. Also, doing crossfit and male gymnastic exercises weekly will prepare you for anything you may encounter in the woods.
You just never know when your stand may break while in a tree or you have to pull a massive animal out of a steep hillside alone.
When I come across hogs in the offseason while scouting or marathon training, I give chase. My woman has seen me take off after them several times while setting cameras. Many times I'm able to catch up right up to the hogs just for fun.
My goal is always to bay the hogs, which I've done three times before. It is an adrenaline rush like no other to see that hog pull up in defeat of the chase. Large packs of hogs will rarely stop, but solo hogs tend to scare easily when they feel outmatched. Like a scary movie, the trick is to isolate one of the hunted from the rest of their friends.
I learned this method of hunting from my college cross country and track coach, who placed fourth in the Olympics in the marathon. Back in Africa where he was from, Coach Amo would chase down large, dangerous game with poisoned spears to put meat on the table for his family.
Often on the African plains he'd give chase for miles until his quarry tired. Stories of building spear-laden mud pits, carving spears and having no fear of man-eating predators on our long bus rides inspired me. Unfortunately some of his fellow hunters became the hunted and only the fastest survived. Amo was fast.
I'm very impressed with the power of the Wingmaster HD shells and how well they pattern. The big sow had well over two dozen holes, and about a dozen passed completely through. I now know within 40 yards no head shot is needed with my new favorite tracking weapon.
Too bad they quit making these shells and now the only similar option is Hevishot Dead Coyote, which runs nearly $5 a shell.
After going back to get my bow, since I was out of shells, I got on the track from the original hog I shot that day. After 300 yards of blood, the trail ran dry and my hours of searching came up empty.
I have just been having little luck with getting closer shots this year. Also, I've haven't been practicing with my compound everyday like I used too since I got my 65-pound recurve, so being off target is my fault. I'll be back to practicing everyday with my Mathews too.
Traditional archery is my new addiction, and I've been shooting hours each day. I now have equal confidence up to 20 yards as I do with my compound.
I made my first traditional hunt this past Saturday; sure enough, right before dark I had a pack of a dozen hogs come out 40 yards away — including a monster 300-pounder. But they were out of range with my weapon. I climbed down quickly and tried a stalk, getting within 50 yards, but the dry leaves defeated me.
The next day, back with my compound, I saw two deer at 12:30, but they were at 50 yards. Goodness, archery can be such a challenge, yet no matter the challenge I'll be carrying excessive bolts, arrows or shells on every hunt from now on.