The intense heat, wet, mosquitoes of July and August didn’t let up when September arrived. It actually became worse with the arrival of Hurricane Hermine for Labor Day weekend. I made the commitment to keep up a regular regiment of scouting and it paid off with some great sightings of quality bucks, but would we be able to kill one? On opening day Douglas aka Hoginator, John aka Deadeye and I set off to our chosen areas on the first day of Devils Hammock WMA Quota Hunt. Always wanting my companions to be in the best locations I chose a tree for Hoginator that overlooked a trail/cutover lane and two pinch points within bow range. We put John, aka Deadeye on an attractive edge and near a trail that led to a bedding area. I went to a small hammock about a ¼ mile from the others closer on the edge of the river bottom.
We had all climbed our trees and were in place with about an hour before there was enough light to shoot. Unfortunately, my hunt was disturbed before it even started by a hunter walking in late to an area too close to my set up. Public land hunting is difficult enough with our having to contend with hunters that don’t consider others, sleep in or generally not prepared.
Fast forward to mid-morning. Douglas had killed a small doe; the first kill of the quota hunt. Deadeye had seen a large deer pass by early when it was too dark to shoot and I saw no deer.
We did get in a few more hunts but the bucks never materialized. Was it the full moon, the fact that that moon was full, hunter pressure???
Not long after the Devils Hammock closed another one of our favorite refuges, the Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge opened. It was still hot, wet and generally miserable but Max and I trekked in to one of my favorite hammocks. Following an old logging tram trail we picked our way around the blowdown from the recent hurricane. I left Max to set up in a quality location and I pushed in another ¼ mile or so, wondering why I carrying 55 pounds of gear (25 lb. climber and a 30 lb. pack and bow).
The hammocks in the Suwannee River basin often have dense tree canopy with a mix of live oaks, palms, pines, and smaller understory trees. The sunrise comes slower and later in these areas and on moonless nights you can’t see your hand in front of your face before first light. I prefer the dark nights for walking and getting set up. It was one of those nights as I climbed about 25’ up in a palm tree about 30 yards off a game trail and overlooking a hammock with oaks and grasses surrounded on three sides by swamp and a tram trail that formed the fourth edge. There is no guarantee that the deer and hogs will follow edges, they have no hesitation to going right through a swamp, even swimming when they want to but they also and often follow the natural and man-made edges. Additionally, those edges often provide longer view and shot windows.
Mid-morning, I heard then saw a large hog come into the hammock. I quickly put my range finder crosshairs on him and at 30 yards he was in right in my 20 to 40-yard favorite kill zone. He was stopped and broadside when I put my 30-yard pin on the edge of his shoulder, wanting to miss the shoulder plate but perhaps get close to or even hit some lung. The preferred shot on wild hog is a quartering away shot, but that wasn’t going to happen.
The arrow struck with that solid sound you hope for, not a hollow gut shot sound, nor a sharper bone only sound that can sound like you shot a piece of plywood. The impact made the hog turn 180 degrees and take off running. I didn’t see the arrow and assumed it was a pass through. I hunted another hour then texted Max with a plan to meet up and track the hog.
When we made it to the location where the hog was hit, I expected to see the arrow. No arrow, no blood, what the f!@#. Fortunately, the blood trail started less than 20 yards away and within a 100 yards we came across the arrow, the entire shaft and vanes covered in rich red blood and the tip of the Magnus Buzzcut broadhead very slightly bent…bone I suspected. The arrow must have made it at least part of the way through the hog and he either pulled it out or it worked it’s self though while he was running. Now the blood trail was easy to follow and we were convinced that it was a solid lung shot and we would find him dead. After approximately a ¼ mile the hog entered a swamp with water deep enough that we lost the trail. Max and I worked the area kept moving out further and further from the swamp hoping that the hog decided to get back to dryer ground. Max fell into a hole in the swamp, over topping his tall boots and against my recommendation, continued into the deeper areas and areas with very thick reeds. I warned him that gators like those reeds and I had no desire to recover the hog and Max’s body; at least not in the same day.
After a long and thorough search, we determined that the hog kept going deeper into the swamp and not finding any further blood trail we reluctantly called off the search, made our way back to the trail, packed up our gear and headed out, disappointed.
This is how it goes at times hunting public lands where there is always lots of territory you have never seen before. There are also many rewards to exploring and hunting new areas, especially well off trail where few venture.