After a difficult and unseasonably warm archery season we pulled the .50 cal muzzleloaders out and planned our strategy.
First we decided that we would hunt public land areas were we had captured photos of bucks and or found fresh buck sign and where we might also come across hogs.
The first couple hunts did not produce bucks or hogs so Paul and I decided to review some google earth images and topo maps for hammock areas that were well off any marked trails, had food sources (primarily live oak trees) and difficult enough to get to that they might be sanctuary areas for bucks and likely areas for hogs.
We settled on one such area for an afternoon hunt and began the hike in, starting in a longleaf pine flat woods transiting to scrub oak hammock, then swamp, creek crossing , river flood plain and then the edge of deeper hammocks that few hunters have likely seen.
Carrying our climbing tree stands, muzzleloaders, and all the other gear that we feel necessary we made our way in. When we made it across the creek we chose a meet up location and headed off and opposite directions with our GPS units recording our tracks and intending to meet back up after dark. Since we were both heading into areas where we had never been and because we did not have cell phone I also took a couple compass bearings. I took an approximate bearing of the truck and the direction I expected to travel and headed off. I came to the narrow end of the hammock and decided to push around into the western edge a bit and there I found a palm to climb that that I expected I could see across a slough that separated two hammocks. When I climbed up 30 or so feet I was rewarded with a decent number of view corridors between 100-200 yards long in most directions. When I reached the height I wanted to set up at I decided to face Easterly to keep the setting sun behind me and because it was the direction with the most visibility through the slough, swamp and hammock.
When I was settled in my palm tree, I began scanning. During archery season I try and keep standing as much as possible with my bow ready but gun season allows me to comfortably relax in my Summit brand climber...so much so that it becomes difficult to keep my eyes open at times.
I think it had ben about an hour in to the evening when I heard a rustling and the sound of something walking though water off to the NW at about 80 yards or so. I turned in time to see a nice 80 to 100 pound hog come into view at the edge of the swamp and watched him wallow in the mud for a short time then when he stood up and was broad side put my 1 to 3 power scope crosshairs on him and squeezed the trigger.
When that .50 cal black powder rifle fired I couldn't see a thing at first through the smoke but the squeal of the hog and his 50 yard run into the palmettos where I heard him crash was a good sign. Because I didn't know if I would need a second shot to finish him off, I stood up and started the reloading process. As I was reloading a second, much larger boar came into view and dropped into the wallow. I fished the reloading as fast as I could and sat back down. When the boar climbed up out go the wallow and stood still for a moment I placed the cross hairs on his broad shoulder and fired. He took off in a different direction than the first hog I shot and I lost sight of him after about 50 yards and didn't hear him crash. Concerned that he may be wounded and given his size (well over 200 pounds) I started reloading and decided I would try and recover him first before the sun that was already low on the horizon set.
I was reloading when to my disbelief, a third and very large hog came into view at the wallow. I rushed the reload dropping a cap or two in the process and trying not to make much noise as I rammed the 250 grain bullet down over the 150 grain powder charge. As soon as I was loaded I immediately sat down and acquired the target. I fired at it appears that the hog was hit hard but he also ran in yet a different direction. Now it started to sink in what had happened, I had three hogs down, two of them very large, in different locations, I didn't know if they were alive or not and it was going to be dark very soon.
I reloaded, climbed down, took some compass bearings in the approx. direction that I thought the hogs were, turned on my GPS unit and decided to first look for the large #2 hog because I thought I had a feel for where he was and if he was alive but wounded, I didn't want to run into him in the dark.
I found him laying in an upright position, not over on his side, with no visible wound. I could clearly see how large he was and the very long tusks he had and worse, I was sure he was just resting and would get up and charge me as soon as he knew I drew close. I approached him very slowly from the rear with my finger on the trigger, knowing I would only have one shot to finish him off if he charged. But when I was right behind him he hadn't moved and when I pushed the gun barrel against him and realized he was dead, I pushed him over and saw that the bullet had entered his shoulder likely devastating his vitals but had not exited the other side. I would find out later just how think the shoulder plate was and how incredibly tough these invasive and adaptive animals are.
...........to be continued.