To the anti-hunting crowd, please know that hogs are huge nuisance in Florida. They destroy farmland and they reproduce in rapid numbers. We are happy to do our part to keep the hog population under control. We also LOVE baby back ribs and pork breakfast sausage! If you don’t like hunting stories, please skip this week’s column.
Last week, I told Part One of our hunting story…namely, about the snake that fell on my face. ON MY FACE!!
This week, I’ll share the rest of our exciting weekend. It was Max’s 17th birthday and the hunting trip was a gift he’d requested.
We didn’t have to be at Okeechobee Outfitters until 3 p.m. so we had a leisurely, scenic drive to Lorida, Florida. (Yes, there really is such a town.) According to Wikipedia: “Lorida was first named Istokpoga, a Seminole name, but it was afterwards changed because the U.S. postal authorities refused to accept that name, there being another post office in the state with a similar name. It was then named after an abbreviated form of Florida.”
Creative, huh? 😉
On the way, we passed a large tortoise trying to cross the road. By the time we were able to turn around and go back to help, he was gone. He either made it across himself or somebody else stopped to help. Stopping to move large tortoises crossing the roads in Florida is a pretty regular thing here.
We drove and drove and drove, and literally hit a dead end on the final dirt road. The property is beautiful! Countless large oaks, dripping with Spanish moss, are everywhere the eye can see.
Surrounding those are a mixture of forest and pastures. We arrived, and were quickly greeted by our two friendly guides, Blaine and Silas. There was a line of cozy cabins, the office, and the big family kitchen, all connected, and all sharing a large, long front porch with chairs. The view was spectacular and it was so quiet out there!
It didn’t take us long to put on our camo clothes and boots, and meet Blaine at the buggy.
But, we first had to sight in the rifles at their small range. We were then taken to our blinds. Just as we arrived, we received a huge Florida afternoon, rainy season downpour. We didn’t mind getting wet. It dropped the temperature and that was a huge relief.
I hadn’t been sitting in the blind for 20 minutes when I heard a shot. This was Mason’s first hunt (he just turned 12) so he was with Brian Whiddon (who is also the Managing Editor of WritersWeekly and the Operations Director at BookLocker.com). Since Brian is an NRA Certified Firearms Instructor, we felt that him supervising Mason was a good idea. I didn’t know it at the time but Blaine was also in their blind. Everyone at Okeechobee Outfitters knew it was Mason’s first hunt and their #1 goal for the weekend was to make sure Mason got his first hog.
After we heard the shot, I texted Brian: Was that you guys?
He replied: Mason got his!
WOW!!!! I wished I’d been there to see his reaction. Blaine later told me Mason looked very surprised and extremely pleased after he got his hog with just one perfectly aimed shot.
And, about 20 minutes later, we heard another bang.
Brian texted: I got mine.
I’d been sitting there for just under an hour and I hadn’t seen one hog. And, I sat there for another two hours, and still didn’t see one. Max also got skunked. He seemed disappointed but I said, “You didn’t really want this to be all over in just 20 minutes, did you? The anticipation is half the fun!” He agreed.
We were picked up by Blaine in the buggy at dinnertime (which is always just after sundown) and, after a hearty Okeechobee Outfitters dinner of salad, pulled pork (hog) sandwiches, coleslaw, cheese covered baked veggies, and HUGE banana splits (YUM!!), the guides took Max walking through the dark woods for a REAL hog hunt. No feeders. No tricks. They were searching for hogs on foot. The owner, Danny, said if they got one for him early enough (it was already after 10:00 p.m.!), they’d come back for me. I knew I’d be a zombie the next day so I immediately went to bed…in my clunky camo clothing.
At 12:30 a.m., Max came back to the cabin. He hadn’t gotten a hog but he admitted he LOVED walking through the forest in the dark, being quiet, and really hunting the old-fashioned way. The only thing he didn’t like was the mosquitoes buzzing his ears even though he was coated in bug spray.
I admit I was a bit relieved that it was too late for me to go out, and spend hours swatting mosquitoes. I put on my jammies, and went back to sleep because I had to meet up with Danny at 5:30. That part of the story (you know, THE SNAKE ON MY FACE!!) is RIGHT HERE.
While that horrifying incident was happening, Max was at the other blind. I heard one shot during that time. Blaine was there helping Max but he missed. At least he’d actually SEEN a hog! He was having more luck than me!
After breakfast that morning, Max was taken back out in the woods by the guides (three of them this time). They also had a dog. We later heard that they chased a HUGE trophy hog with large tusks but it was so hot that the dog got overheated. Max thought it was cool that they had a tracking collar on the dog so they could find him if he chased a hog too far away. The property is HUGE! They showed Max the hog cemetery, which is actually a pile of discarded bones. Max found some tusks (ewww!!) and put them in his pocket (double ewww!!). He got skunked once again but he didn’t mind. He was having a BLAST! Max LOVES being in the woods.
While Max was out, the rest of us napped, including Mason who has hated naps since he was a toddler. Late in the afternoon, they wanted to take us back to the blinds. Now, I’d been in the same blind twice, and been skunked twice. I wanted to go to the OTHER blind. You know, the one from which I’d heard three gunshots in the past 24 hours. Brian was taken to the “bad blind” (as we later came to call it). Everyone else decided to stay at the main house. We needed two more hogs to meet our self-imposed quota (in other words…what would fit in our freezer).
As we were leaving the cabin, we passed another hunter. He said he was in his 80’s, and from the midwest. He comes there a few times each year. While we were talking, Brian was offering me two clips, and telling me how many shots I’d have available. I chided him, “I’m only going to need two bullets.” He rolled his eyes, and pushed the two clips into my hand.
I was dropped at the blind and I was sooooo very quiet. This would be my last chance to get a hog. We’d paid quite a bit of money for this trip and I really, really wanted us to bring home four hogs. I made a deal with Brian. We needed two more hogs, no matter what. If Brian shot two before I could get one, we’d be happy with that, and vice-versa.
So, I was sitting there being as silent as I could. I could hear a hog somewhere off to my left but he never came out of the woods. I watched all the nature around me. A squirrel was eating under the feeder, then crawled up ON the blind, and started digging corn out of it. He must have been the same squirrel Brian and Mason had told me about the night before. He had crawled up there and, when the feeder turned on (it’s on a timer), it spun around and the squirrel got flung several feet away from it. Mason and Brian thought that was hilarious! I watched, hoping the same thing would happen. Maybe I could get it on video with my phone? That didn’t happen. The feeder did turn on but the squirrel jumped down right before it started to spew food.
Finally, there was fresh corn on the ground. Now maybe the hogs would show up!
Birds came to eat after that. I didn’t see any rabbits at this blind and, thank goodness, no snakes, either! I’d been sitting there for about an hour and, I admit, I was starting to get anxious. What if we were only going to take home two hogs? We’d counted on filling the freezer! All of that meat would last us for several months. And, our dock neighbors were hoping we would share!
And, that’s when some movement caught my eye. A very large, black hog poked her nose out of the woods, into the clearing. She didn’t approach the feeder. She turned around, and went back into the woods. She hadn’t seen me.
In slow motion, I picked up my phone, and texted Brian: Hog! Big black one!
Brian texted back: PUT YOUR PHONE DOWN AND CONCENTRATE!
I did. A minute or so later, Big Bertha came back into the clearing…and she’d brought two friends! I guess she’d let them know the coast was clear.
I silently positioned the rifle, and looked through the scope. I knew exactly where to shoot, thanks to these awesome instructions that were drawn on the inside of the blind:
Seriously, though, Brian has been training all of us in firearms safety and skill for more than two years so we’re all, admittedly, pretty good shots. And, that picture above doesn’t show the ideal place to aim but I still got a kick out of the cartoon.
To eliminate suffering, you have to aim right being the ear. It’s quick, effective, and the hog can’t run away and die hours later, which would be awful for the hog.
The three hogs were rooting around under the feeder. I had to wait for one of them to turn sideways. All of the sudden, they were all sideways, and all facing to the left. I had my choice. I was going to go for the one in the middle but the one closest to me seemed to be the biggest. I’d gotten the biggest one on our last hunt and I, of course, wanted to show the guys how it was done (heh…). I aimed, and squeezed the trigger. The hog dropped instantly. I later learned I’d hit her in exactly the right spot. No suffering at all.
Brian had heard the shot and texted me: Well?
I texted back: Got it.
While I was supposed to remain quiet the entire time, I figured no other hogs would be coming around for awhile after the loud bang. I heard thunder in the distance so I stood up to pull out my rain poncho, and to put some things in my backpack. I then laid the poncho over my chair. It was so hot and I didn’t want to put it on until the last minute.
I turned around, and something caught my eye again. A large, blonde hog was at the feeder! I’d been making all kinds of noise and Blond Benny could obviously see me but he was unfazed. In slow motion, I stepped back to my chair, and silently sat down. I’d put my phone in a Ziploc bag and I slowly lowered it to the floor on my left. When I did that, I knocked over my metal water container. CLANG!!!
I looked up. Benny was still eating corn, oblivious to the noise I was making and also, obviously, to Big Bertha lying there under the feeder.
I picked up the rifle, and positioned it. I aimed. He was moving all over the place and it was taking forever for him to get in a good position. There was lots of corn. He wasn’t going to leave anytime soon. So, I waited. I watched through the scope as he turned to face me, turned his butt towards me, and turned sideways but then stepped behind a tree. I kept waiting patiently. Finally, he came in front of the tree, turned sideways, and dropped his head to eat. I aimed carefully, and fired again.
Brian heard that shot, too: Was that you?
I replied: We’re all done here. Call the guide.
Then I just couldn’t resist, and texted him two more words: Two bullets!
I got up, and packed up the rest of my stuff. It started to rain so I put on the poncho. I removed the clip from the rifle, cleared it, and put the clip in my pocket. Then, I just had to wait for the guide. I sat back down, and looked out. And, I couldn’t believe it. Five hogs were under the feeder! They’d been so quiet! Two of them were actually trying to push the downed hogs to the side so they could get the corn from underneath them. Then, two more came out of the woods.
A few minutes later, an additional two hogs came into the clearing. I’d been making tons of noise, and moving all over the place, and now nine hogs were rooting around in front of me!
My phone vibrated. It was Brian: Hogzilla just walked out of the woods here!
I laughed out loud (and the hogs in front of me ignored my outburst, and kept eating). A hog had finally come to that blind! Gosh, maybe being quiet wasn’t the right method! Making lots of noise, knocking over water bottles, and firing rifles did the trick!
Brian didn’t shoot Hogzilla. We’d already gotten what we came for. And, it had started raining – HARD. The blind protected me for the most part but I’d have to sit there for another half hour because our texts and phone calls weren’t getting through to Blaine. When we finally were able to contact him, he immediately came to pick us up. He and Brian loaded the pork onto the buggy and we returned just in time for dinner. After we ate, we watched Blaine and Silas expertly butcher the hogs. And, after they were put in the large freezer, we all showered, and went to bed.
The next morning, we had a delicious breakfast of biscuits and hog gravy (of course), eggs made to order, and fresh fruit. Every meal we had at Okeechobee Outfitter was delicious, and HUGE! Danny’s wife is an amazing cook!! I told her she should write a cookbook. I told her I know an excellent publisher. 😉 Also, everyone eats together at a huge, beautiful wooden table. Guests, owners, and guides. It was a great family atmosphere!
After breakfast, Blaine and Silas loaded our pork into the huge cooler we’d brought with us. We put the cooler and our bags in the truck, and headed to Tampa. Once there, we dropped off the meat at Cacciatore Bros, an Italian grocery store that processes meat for hunters. Later that evening, they called us. They were already finished! The next morning, we picked up 87 lbs. of sausage (!!!), several packages of backstrap, roast, and ribs. Lots and lots of ribs. Everything was wrapped in freezer paper. Once we got the meat loaded on the boat, we put it all in Ziplocs, labeled those, and posted a note on our Dock 4 Facebook page, telling everyone to come pick up their pork.
The first picture below is our completely full deep freezer (which is located on our boat). The next picture is the meat for our neighbors, which was waiting for them in our fridge. (And, yes, the irony of seeing pork hot dogs and ham lunch meat in the same picture is not lost on me. We threw those out.)
We ended up giving away more meat from the freezer, too, because nothing else would fit in there. Not even my beloved Klondike bars!
Despite the full freezer and the fun we had, another great part about the weekend was being out in the wilderness, away from wifi. For the first time since I can remember, I didn’t turn on my laptop for two whole days! It was HEAVEN!
We can’t wait to go back again! But, we can’t until we eat all of that sausage. Thank goodness we have wifi again because, this week, we’ve been researching tons of hog meat recipes. Please let me know in the comments box below if you have any good ones! 🙂
Paying Hunting and Fishing Markets for Writers By David Berlin
Writer, Hunter, Christian By J.Y. Jones
Angela Hoy lives in St. Petersburg, Florida. She is the publisher of WritersWeekly.com, the President and CEO of BookLocker.com and AbuzzPress, and the author of 24 books.
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