In the predawn darkness, the headlights of the Tacoma revealed a substantially washed-out section of dirt road. I switched the truck over to 4-wheel drive, and began driving forward over the unconsolidated sand and washed-out road. I continued on, carefully navigating around large logs and debris that had been deposited onto the road from the periodic flooding. In the past year, the Neches River had flooded much of the low-lying ground around Davy Crockett National Forest. The road abruptly came to a dead end and the headlights from the truck illuminated the moist green leaves of the forest.
After turning the truck off, I quietly opened the door and was immediately inundated with the sounds and smells of the east Texas forest. The dull humming of insects could be heard and there was the smell of the sweet rich earth. Everything wore a thick layer of dew. The air was hot and damp; I thought I could hear a distant roll of thunder over the constant hum of the forest.
After I put on my florescent orange vest and baseball cap, I then loaded my bolt action .204. Shouldering my pack, I found a grown-in trailhead in the light of my headlamp. My goal was to finally harvest a wild pig, Sus scrofa, and although my eyes were bleary from lack of sleep, my heart raced with excited anticipation. I moved quickly yet quietly through the bottom-lands.
The towering trees were now silhouetted against the cloudy gray skies as the first morning light made its way over the horizon. It looked like it was going to rain. Intermittently, a soft breeze worked its way through the bottomlands. I made sure this breeze was directly in my face, that way I wouldn’t be winded by the powerful olfactory gland of a feral hog.
I was making my way to the steep bank of a slough when suddenly there came a sound, like a short guttural grunt. This sound stopped me in my tracks and I strained my ears. There it was again! The sound was coming from the slough just ahead. Slowly I stepped closer, rolling the heel of my boot forward to the ball of my foot. In a crouched position, I moved to the edge of the slough, slowly rising to peer over the edge of the bank. There was nothing there. Then the sound of the low grunt came again and I looked down at the edge of the water, only to see a frog. My lungs released a long breath as I sighed. “Wow,” I thought, “I still have a lot to learn about pig hunting in Texas.”
I made my way across the slough and up onto the opposite bank. After walking along the bank for some ways, I then cut away from the edge of the water. Suddenly there came the sound of a short snort followed by a quick stomp of a whitetail deer. It burst from its bedding area and effortlessly bounded through the forest.
After pushing through some fairly thick brush, a beautiful oak grove opened up in front of me. The trunks of the oak trees were ramrod-straight and the huge heavy boughs were clad in dark green leaves. I sat down on a large log. It was the arboreal skeleton of an oak that had fallen to the forest floor years ago. Perhaps it was a brother or sister of the ancient trees that loomed ominously all around. There I sat for some time, looking about. I sometimes brought the binoculars to my eyes to see across the length of the grove. I took some food and a canteen out of my pack. Glancing up, I noticed a doe had materialized, almost from thin air, and she was standing under the canopy of the tall trees. Her keen senses alerted her to my presence and she stood stark still. Then there came the sound of falling rain through the oak canopy. Looking up into the sky, I felt the soft droplets of rain on my face. When I looked back to where the doe had been standing, she was gone.
The rain was welcomed, it cooled the woods and also helped cover up any noise that I might make while stalking through the bottomlands. I glanced at my GPS. The night before, I had marked a swampy area on the map that was of interest to me. Shouldering my pack, I started for this location.
Thick shrubs and wet muddy ground told me I had arrived. There was a lot of pig sign. Big furrows were dug in the loose soil by the rooting pigs. In a crouched position, I moved into the thick brush. The ground was slick and it was only getting slicker from the rain.
While moving through the swampy area, I caught sight of movement out of the corner of my eye. There they were! Several young pigs were moving through the thick brush. They were probably only 15 yards away, but the brush was impenetrable and getting a clear shot was impossible. Apparently, the pigs were privy to me; they were moving through the brush in earnest. Hastily, I fumbled over a log in pursuit of the hogs. Then, there came the sound of a deep grunt. There was no mistaking it this time. Looking up, into the brush, I saw a large sow. She stared at me, unflinching. She was about 20 yards away and was standing behind a pile of logs. Just her head poked up from behind the woody pile of debris. She let out another grunt and I raised the rifle. The rain and condensation made it quite difficult to see through the scope and find my target. From a crouched position I found the sow in the scope and made a terrible hasty shot. The bullet hit the log in front of the sow and she dashed away, unscathed, into the thick undergrowth.
Frustration swept over me and I cursed myself for making such a hasty shot. After crawling back out of the thick swampy brush, I began stomping around the woods as the rain came down. I was annoyed at myself for letting “buck fever” get the best of me. In disgust, I decided to start heading back towards the truck. But, I wanted to take a detour and walk along another creek before completely giving up.
The desire to move stealthily through the woods had vanished with the sow. Anger and frustration still hung over me as I came to the creek of interest. While moving along the bank, I took another quick glance at my GPS, just to make sure my trajectory back to the truck was right. Looking up from the GPS screen, I stopped dead in my tracks. There was a pig, no more than 10 yards away and it was rooting along the bank of the creek. The pig was quartering away and was completely occupied with the task at hand. What luck! Quickly, I shouldered the rifle and placed the crosshairs just behind the shoulder blade of the hog. Remembering that a hog’s vitals are positioned further forward than that of a deer, I hugged the shoulder closely with the crosshairs. I squeezed the trigger, and click! A misfire! The pig lifted its head while I quickly worked the bolt and replaced the dud round with a fresh one. I brought the rifle’s crosshairs back onto the alerted hog and squeezed the trigger. The pig frantically ran into the brush out of sight.
I walked forward to examine the ground where the pig had been rooting. Bright red blood on the leaves showed that the bullet had done its job. I was concerned that the blood would wash away because of the rain, making the trailing of the hog impossible. I immediately began following the blood trail meticulously. The little pools of blood led me through the thick undergrowth. Finally, I came to my quarry, my very first wild hog!
I stood over the boar looking down at it in awe. What a strange animal. Its whole body was covered in thick dark hair. Its head was massive and its cutters were protruding from its lower gums. I couldn’t believe I had finally harvested a wild Sus scrofa. After snapping a couple of photos, the field dressing of the animal got underway. Using a tree with a low limb and a rope that I carry in my pack, I hoisted the animal off the ground. After skinning it from the neck down, the animal was quartered and the meat was packed into trash bags. The bags were then loaded into the backpack.
As I hiked out, I reflected on the day. It was a great excursion even though it had had moments of bitter frustration. Undoubtedly, the rain had covered up the noise I was making and allowed me to get close to my quarry. It all just seemed to come together, and now the freezer would be full of wild pork. I couldn’t have been happier.
|Ready to start field dressing|
|The freezer packed full of wild boar meat|