Last weekend, we took Max and Mason hog hunting. Hogs are a huge nuisance to ranchers here and we’re happy to do our part to help with that, as well as to fill our freezer (and the freezers belonging to our marina neighbors).
I am swamped today (getting ready for the Fall, 2018 24-Hour Short Story Contest, which is THIS WEEKEND – DON’T MISS IT!!) so I’ll share the most exciting part of our trip (for me anyway!) right now, and more about our adventure next week.
This was Max’s second hog hunting trip, and Mason’s first. Brian Whiddon (who is also the Managing Editor of WritersWeekly.com and the Operations Director at BookLocker.com) is an NRA Certified Firearms Instructor, and has been training all of us to shoot with a scope. He generously brought along his rifles. Using something we’re familiar with would greatly increase our chances of bringing home the bacon!
I got skunked on our first day there so the owner of Okeechobee Outfitters, Danny, met me at the camp kitchen at 5:30 the next morning so I could take another shot at it. (Sorry. I can’t resist the puns.) I had on my clunky camo clothes, and was carrying the rifle and my backpack, which contained water, jerky, my phone, a Ziploc bag (for my phone in case it rained), and a portable battery charger (also for my phone).
Danny drove me to a big field where we very quietly got out of the truck, and slowly and silently closed the doors. Danny told me to load my rifle before walking to the blind so I wouldn’t spook the hogs. Then, I followed him down a pitch black path through the forest. We didn’t want to use a flashlight because we didn’t want to scare any nearby oinkers.
Danny left me at the blind, bid me good luck, and silently walked away.
I settled myself inside. It’s at ground level and there were two small benches on either side, a wooden floor, and some rafters overhead supporting a slanted metal roof. In front was a high railing with dead palm leaves attached all over it to hide hunters from the game.
It was blacker than black out. No moon. No stars. Nothing. I swear I could hear the blood gurgling rhythmically through the arteries near my ears. I could hear every single animal sound. I could hear every insect. I could hear the flapping wings of a bird overhead. I could even hear a hog snorting and rooting around somewhere to my left, out of sight.
And, okay… I admit it. I was scared. Downright terrified! My heart pounded faster and my breathing was labored and quick. I was on my way to a full-blown anxiety attack until I remembered…I was ARMED! I took a deep breath, reached over, and pulled the rifle a little closer. There. That was better. I looked out over the railing. Still black. I literally couldn’t even see my hand in front of my face.
I listened to the wildlife buzzing and cawing, something shuffling behind me, and even an angry animal howling in the distance. There was a LOT going on under the canopy of trees! I still couldn’t see anything but I started to enjoy listening to all the critters going through their early morning routines.
After awhile, I pulled out my phone, made the screen as dim as it could be, and checked the time. Only 6:15. I looked back up. There was a faint hint of light in the sky. Beyond that, I still couldn’t see anything.
I heard something growling but quickly realized it was my stomach. I silently pulled out my water bottle, and took a sip. I didn’t want to drink too much because it’s a pain in the backside (literally) when women have to pee against a tree. I put the bottle back down, and kept staring. The sky was getting lighter by the minute. I could just make out the clearing in front of me and I could just barely see the wooden planks under my feet.
There…that was better. At least if I had to run from a wolf, or a bear…or Bigfoot himself, I’d be able to see where I was going. And, of course, I had the rifle just in case something did want to chase me.
I leaned back on the bench, and tilted my face upward so I could just see over the railing in front of me. And, at that second, SMACK!!! A fat, long, smooth, warm, wiggling thing landed with a thud on my eyes, the bridge of my nose, and across my cheeks! I made a muffled squeaky grunt and, before I even realized what was happening, I instinctively reached up with both hands, grabbed the wiggling monster, and flung it to my feet.
Grasping for my phone with violently shaking hands, I pushed the on button, and shined the screen light at the floor. A fat, black, bewildered snake, about 15 inches long, was slithering his way out of the blind. He was quick and I could then hear his body moving through the grass after his escape. He didn’t want to become acquainted with me any more than I wanted to know him.
I think I was in shock for a moment. My heart was pounding so hard I thought it might stop. My entire body was vibrating violently. A million thoughts ran through my head: “Did it BITE me?!?!” (I touched my face and neck all over, and checked my hands and arms with the light from the phone screen. No fang marks.) “Did that really just happen?”; “OH, (BLEEP)! WHAT IF THERE ARE MORE OF THEM?!”
I grabbed my phone off my lap again, and tried to brighten the screen all the way. It was difficult because my fingers were still shaking so badly. I finally got it done, and shined the light upward. The snake had obviously been on the rafter right above my head, and fell at just the right (wrong!) moment when I tilted my head back. Otherwise, he probably would have landed in my lap.
I no longer cared about making noise. I stood up, and inspected that blind from top to bottom, and left to right. No more snakes.
I sat down, still numb. I took the phone again, and group texted my fellow hunters and family. It took FOREVER to type out the text because my shaking fingers were creating typo after typo after typo.
“A sake js fll n my facc!”
I looked at what I’d sent, and shook my head. I tried again.
“Snke! Fel on ny ace!!”
I no longer cared about scaring the hogs. I clicked the microphone button, and screeched, “A snake just fell on my face! ON MY FACE!!”
Despite the early morning hour, two of them immediately wrote me back. And, they didn’t seem worried at all. Rather, they thought it was HILARIOUS!
After a loud harrumph, I put my phone back in my pocket. Clearly, my loved ones did NOT understand the extreme trauma I had just experienced. I reached up, and touched my nose again. And, that’s when I noticed it was sticky. Gross! I had morning dew snake belly slime remnants on me! Not caring what the insects and animals around me could see, I yanked the bottom of my camo t-shirt up all the way up, and rubbed my face vigorously all over.
I tried to calm myself down and, after about half an hour, I started laughing. It may have sounded a bit maniacal to my forest friends but it felt good to get out of my system. I was then able to start relaxing again.
I quieted down, and heard another couple of hogs behind me and to my right but I never saw them. As the sun came up, I saw dozens of species of birds and countless rabbits. And, I entertained myself by watching insects do their morning chores.
And, I waited. And, waited. And, waited.
The sun came up and, while birds, squirrels, and rabbits were happily flying and romping about, no hogs came into the clearing.
At around 8:30, it was getting pretty steamy out there so I texted Danny to come pick me up. When he arrived, he seemed completely unfazed by my ‘OMG-snake-on-my-face!’ story, and told me about a previous guest who had been terrified of snakes. He said the guy was really panicked about the prospect of running into one.
Danny finally told him, “Look, we do have snakes here but it’s not like they’re falling out of trees or anything.”
And, the next day, while the guy was hunting, a snake fell in his lap.
PART II (with more pictures!): THE HOY BOYS GO HOG WILD! How Many Bullets Did Mason (age 12) Need On His First Hog Hunting Trip?
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