The deer hunting gods sent us plenty of photos and videos of decent Florida Public Land bucks leading up to archery and through the gun seasons. However, as soon as the archery season started and throughout gun season those bucks were no where to be seen. Yes, the heat, rain, wind, moon, insects, conspired to make many hunting days miserable.
After the "living hell" of archery season, as Paul L. described it, I still had hope for the last hunts of the gun season.
on one of the last hunts, Paul R. and I set out with our 30-06 and .308 "deer" rifles with absolute confidence. That confidence quickly waned and was sliding towards despair after one of our last morning hunts and of sitting and sitting high in a tree with out seeing a thing.
I decided to walk and stalk for hogs and look for buck sign later that morning....who knows I may even see a buck, I foolishly thought. I cased my 30-06 and loaded my walk and stalk rifle of choice, a short barreled AR-15 with Hornady .223 Full Boar ammo. I chose an old logging trail through some open swamp and hammocks that terminated at the marsh. I like the old logging or tram trails as they are sometimes called. They were constructed long ago to log the hard to reach areas in the swamps. Typically 8' to 10' wide and about a foot higher than the surrounding swamp, they make great pathways to access hard to reach areas and are heavy used by deer and hogs. Often these logging trails connect oak and pine hammocks with large ancient Live Oaks and palmetto thickets that provide food and bedding.
The sow and piglets in the video were following a logging trail that connects multiple oak hammocks. The hogs almost always seem to take the easy and direct route where deer will at times avoid using the logging trails if they sense danger.
Very slowly walking and watching with the wind in my face, I was feeling good to be out of the tree stand. Seeing fresh deer and hog sign made me think that even the deer gods might shine on me. I still hunted the logging trail for approximately 1-1/2 miles until the trail ran out against the marsh, actually a game trail continued to a nearby island but the island was too thick to approach quietly. After a few detours and exploring a couple side trails I turned and headed back.
I moved a bit faster as the wind was not favorable and I doubted that I would see any game. However, not a 1/4 mile from my truck a hog bolted out of the swamp and in the split second it took to shoulder my rifle the hog was out of sight into an oak hammock and palmetto thicket. I jogged down the trail until I was downwind of the thicket then moved extremely slowly toward the palmettos. As I make it the edge of the thicket, stopping with each step to look and listen, I saw a palmetto frond slightly move approximately 30 feet away. I shouldered my rifle and looked through my scope set at 1.5 power I saw the online of the black hog standing under the palmettos. I placed the red dot on the hog and squeezed the trigger. The Hornady .223 Full Boar hollow point found its mark and the hog tumbled over. I approached slowly and saw that it was a small to medium sow and took a second shot to end it.
The next weekend brought with it the last hunt of the deer season and I was determined to kill a buck. Paul R. and I decided to hunt an area where some very nice bucks had recently showed up on camera. We carried our climbers in and set up about 200 yds away from each other. I was so determined to kill a buck that I brought my 30-06 rifle, sure that having my "deer" rifle in the stand would be looked upon with favor by the deer gods. I climbed to about 30 feet in a large and tall pine to ensure that my scent would not be an issue. No bucks presented themselves along the swamp edge or small clearing and trail I was watching but early in the evening I heard some splashing coming towards me along the swamp edge. Sure my prayers and commitment had paid off, I was already looking through the 3x9 scope for the big buck but he had already morphed into a big black boar hog. I put my crosshairs just behind his shoulder and took a quartering shot. The 168 grain Hornady Precision Hunter bullet dropped the hog in its tracks.
And so that's how my "deer" season went. And I have come to accept that the hunting gods may have determined that I will forever be roaming the swamps and hammocks in search of wild and invasive hogs to kill..... so be it.
I'm thinking of building an AR-15 in .300 blackout to help with that effort.