Preparation, failure and lessons learned on a Lower Suwanee National Wildlife Refuge wild hog hunt.
The middle of January was coming fast. I was under pressure to locate some hogs so Bill and Paul, two close friends from out of town might enjoy a successful hunt. Two weeks before I spent a day scouting two very different areas and found some promising hog sign and some well used trails. Although I wasn't satisfied with my scouting efforts and wished I'd had more time, I had to turn my focus on getting gear together for the two-day hunt.
Paul drove up from Tampa on Friday, arriving just as I was wrapped up my workday. He and I quickly determined the priority course of action; first: go to the grocery store and buy steaks to grill for dinner and a serious amount of beer and wine, that I, the fool I am was sure would last us the weekend, plus some. While Paul and I were discussing culinary matters, putting a dry rub on the steaks, making a salad dressing and starting a fire of oak and charcoal in the grill, Bill was in the air, in route from South Florida via California.
Back at my place after picking up Bill from the nearby airport, we assembled our gear on the living room floor, set a wake up alarm for 4 AM and sat down to dinner and a briefing. Dinner was full of good food and conversation, with recent decades of water under the bridge; we had a lot to catch up on. So much in fact, none of us remembered what time we turned in but I'm reasonably certain it was between 1 AM and 3 AM.
Fast-forward after only a couple hours of sleep, we were walking through the dark of night just before the dawn, into the swamp to our setups. We walked Paul to a hang on stand overlooking a swamp and the edge of a hammock with some well used hog trails. Bill and I then packed in climbers and set up on different sides of another hammock. Bill was in a palm tree overlooking couple hog trails that cross a creek between two hammocks. I had killed a nice boar and buck in the general area about a month earlier and there was plenty of fresh hog sign.
At approximately 8 AM I heard some hogs fighting about 150 yards away in the hammock I was overlooking. I used my hog grunt call to make some contented feeding grunts and about an hour later caught a glimpse of the sow and a number of piglets. The Palmetto was thick and I was only catching a glimpse here or there mostly of the palm fronds moving. The hogs were always moving and I tried unsuccessfully to follow their movements in my scope. It was midmorning and I was impatient enough to take two shots both clean misses I believe.
Approximately 30 minutes later I heard the report from Paul’s rifle, a beautiful Henry 30-30 carbine with a brass receiver and heavy octagon barrel. I climbed down met up with Bill and we proceeded to Paul's location with the expectation we would find a dead hog on the ground. But we learned the sow and piglets left the hammock I was hunting and took a path through the swamp that brought them approximately 100 yards away from Paul. The sow and piglets we removing pretty fast through heavy cypress and hardwood timber only affording Paul a difficult shot at best and it appeared to be a clean miss.
Disappointed but looking forward to having lunch and strategizing about our afternoon hunt we headed over to the Treasure Camp restaurant on the banks of the Suwannee river. The Treasure Camp is one of those authentic, small, out-of-the-way restaurants, serving good food and run and staffed by authentic people in places…all of which have become far too rare.
I’ll fast forward to the lessons learned because there were no dead hogs for photo ops. What did we do wrong or could have done differently?
Except for no dead hogs it was a great two days of much needed time together in the beautiful and challenging Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge.