On the final morning of October, I sat in my climber overlooking a water puddle commonly used by hogs on R.K. Yancey WMA with my new pig-busting 100-pound longbow.
But a stiff wind had me climbing down before long, and I figured a stalk would increase my odds in such gusty conditions.
I crept through the 1 mile-wide cutover toward a small patch of oaks, where a pack of porkers was gorging themselves on fresh wind-blown acorns. With four medium-sized pigs working slowly through, I set my course to intersect them upwind and broadside.
I tiptoed unnoticed within 15 yards, but as I drew, something very loud started plowing through every shrub in site.
‘King Kong’ had just stepped out of the brush! (Last January, I shot a massive 350-pound hog that I mounted, and I knew I had just met his bigger brother.)
The giant porker was standing next to another 100-pound hog (which now looked like a baby piglet) and stood nearly 4-feet tall and measured about 6-feet long. I filmed the entire encounter with my new GoPro 4, but the wide-view video doesn't do justice to the hog's actual size. Check out the video action here.
The giant stepped through a shooting gap and I let the longbow unleash my 1002 grain arrow (which is 2.5 times heavier than the average hunting arrow) squarely behind the hog's front shoulder.
"Perfect," or so I thought.
But the hog spun sideways, and I caught a quick glimpse of the lighted nock sticking out way too far.
I backed out and returned eight hours later with my dog and a shotgun loaded with tungsten. I've been charged twice before by large wounded pigs, and while crawling through tangled vines on all fours, it’s never wise to track with a bow.
There was blood alright, and lots of it, but none from a hog. After my dog pulled me through every 10-foot-high picker bush patch until darkness fell, I came back to the camp covered in cuts and scratches.
But I didn’t give up. I restarted the search the next morning in the direction my dog had led. At 5 a.m., I saw the red light of my Nockturnal in the pitch dark forest. It brought bad news: The arrow was bloodied for only six inches.
Just as I thought, the arrow had encountered the hog's nearly impenetrable shoulder plate.
I continued the search until after lunch, returning to the camp even more busted up than the previous evening. Unfortunately, the Halloween Hogzilla had taken off running and apparently never stopped. I returned multiple days to look for vultures, but no birds were ever seen, and I truly believe this massive porker still roams the lands of R.K. Yancey WMA.
The game warden told me he once shot a hog there that bottomed out a 500-pound scale, and a farmer shot one in a field bordering the WMA that weighed 500 pounds, as well.
I rarely lose deer, but hogs do sometimes vanish. Unlike deer, which tend to stop within 200 yards of being struck, hogs like to run until they simply can't go anymore.
On smaller hogs, an arrow will typically make it through the shoulder plate, but a giant bore's shoulder armor can be nearly 3 inches thick.
On the 350-pound pig I shot in January with my hard-hitting Marlin .444, the 240-grain bullet luckily made it through the plate and destroyed the lungs, liver and heart before the bullet lodged in the opposite shoulder. That pig still ended up running 150 yards with no blood trail on a perfect shot.
One website I reviewed puts wild hogs in a category recommending at least 42 to 65 pounds of kinetic energy (k/e) be generated from a bow to harvest big porkers. Even though I know the momentum (.60) delivered from my 100-pound long bow puts out a strong enough blow to slay most pigs, those heavy arrows only go 135 feet per second and dish out a meager 40 pounds of k/e.
My 58-pound recurve wouldn’t have delivered either, since it shoots a 555-grain arrow at 137 fps, putting out only .34 momentum and 22 pounds of k/e (25 to 41 pounds of k/e is recommended for deer, but most traditional archers only shoot 40- to 50-pound bows with low-powered arrows lighter than 555 grains.)
My PSE Full Throttle's regular 400-grain arrow puts out a similar momentum of .61. So unless you’re shooting an arrow greater than 600 grains with an extremely fast compound bow (making it inefficient at long ranges), pretty much the only way to take big pigs with normal archery equipment is to hope for a rare quartering away shot.
Remember, the hog’s vitals are more forward than a deer's, and the hog's stomach extends all the way to the lower back shoulder and butts up next to the heart. The hog's shoulder plate covers 85 percent of the vitals, leaving only the rear posterior portion of the lungs unprotected. So shoot 2 to 3 inches behind the shoulder mid-body vertically, to hit this small spot and possibly get pass-throughs.
My buddy, who has harvested more than 400 pigs with a rifle, has lost over half of the hogs he's shot. Another friend has lost about 70 percent of the dozens of hogs he’s shot with archery equipment. I’m proud to say of the more than 50 public land hogs I’ve hit, the vast majority were found, but only due to relentless pursuit on the track.
The hog’s thick layers of fat quickly insulate wounds, so very little blood is lost even with great shots. And hogs will run for the thickest cover after being hit, making them challenging to follow.
Even if I don't find the animal, I always leave satisfied that I gave it my best effort and searched for many, many hours. As an endurance athlete, I consider the good workout as an added bonus.
It always frustrates me to hear of people who rarely search for their pigs because the animal didn’t drop instantly or the blood trail ran dry. That's a lot of wasted high-quality protein.
Most of my adventures usually end with a large animal in my hands, but I don’t mind sharing an exciting story where the beast got the best of me.
I lost that battle, but rest assured I'll keep mowing down all porkers that step into range.
On the following day on Bayou Cocodrie National Wildlife Refuge, I arrowed a 170-pounder using my wife's compound bow. And later that week on Sicily Island Hills WMA, I double-lunged a 60-pound sow.
But my thirst for the biggest hog that haunts the land, including the Halloween Hogzilla, remains unquenched.