I arrived at the WMA Thursday about noon. I had left earlier than planned when my travelling companions had to bow out for noble reasons in order to not have to drive the whole thing at once and maybe get some hunting in Thursday. Camp was small when I arrived, only three tents were there. Shortly RC and Darren showed up for lunch. I can’t remember when Paul came back to camp. Not too long after, Thom, Steve, and Nick piled in. I pitched a tent, ate some lunch, and then headed out hunting with RC and Darren for the afternoon. They dropped me off part way down a road so I could cover some of my own territory, but not until RC had started to tell me how I should go about hunting hogs. Turns out it’s not like hunting deer, this would be important soon. I never saw much besides some sign that first day, although I ended up stalking some birds making a hell of a racket in some brush.
Dinner that night was tenderloins from my snackpack I shot earlier this year along with some red beans and rice. Delicious. Time around the campfire was great, but it was getting colder than I had planned for in southern Georgia. I hunkered down in my little 3-season backpacking tent and made it through the 24 degree night without too much discomfort, but I was wishing I had brought an extra blanket.
Friday morning Darren had the fire going and I hung out around that and drank my cowboy coffee. RC came over and announced that he was heading to the Huddle House for breakfast. I invited myself along as that sounded better than my frozen bagels or Darren’s soup. (Darren ate soup for breakfast, lunch, and dinner on this trip.) The omelet hit the spot and on the way back RC pointed me to a couple of good areas. We got back around 10 and it was time to shoot and compare everyone’s bows. With a little encouragement, I decided to take my newly minted yew and black glass bow hunting that day over my old standby. Maybe it would be my good luck charm. It was time to get hunting, so I jumped in the hybrid hunting rig and headed down some access roads that my wife will never believe (or forgive me if she does start to believe.)
I covered a lot of ground in one area, coming across deer, squirrels, and even a coyote at 30 yds; but no pigs and not too much fresh sign. I took a few pics of my new bow down by the river. And I looked at some of the ice formations in the swamp.
I came back to the car about 2 to grab some lunch and decided to try another area that looked good on the topo map. Again, the car’s plastic skid plates made a lot of noise getting down the access road, but at least it was dry enough I felt I could get back up the hills. Down in this new area there was a lot of sign. I walked a firebreak for a bit, then sat down to listen. After about 30 minutes I thought I could hear ‘em. RC was right, they really do make some noise when up and about. I headed in that direction, my heart starting to speed up a little bit as there was huge amounts of very fresh sign and I was closing in on the noise. Then I saw one. And then another. And I could hear more. I got down low and started to work my way out of the palmettos and into the hardwoods. I made it behind a large oak, but slightly spooked a large sow with piglets. Staying still, she eventually calmed down and laid down about 20 yds away to feed the little screamers. At that time, another sow with piglets interrupted. They each managed to get their own separated and they both began to feed about 25 yards away. Up the hill I could now see 2 more pigs moving in my general direction. The wind was steady in my favor – I couldn’t believe my luck. The sows stopped nursing and got up to feed just out of my range. The little piglets didn’t move far, but practiced rooting around themselves.
I had been close to pigs for about 10 minutes and not quite sure what to do when one started coming towards me. It weaved through some trees and brush and was on a path to end up directly downwind of me. It was at the edge of my range at about 20-22 yds, and it was all black. I figured if it winded me, they would all be gone so this was my window. I raised my arm as I drew, hit anchor, and the darned thing turned just so its vitals were behind a little tree. Let down. It came away from the tree and I started to draw again as it turned towards me. I figured a head shot was a bad idea. Let ‘er down again. It turned to the right and stepped forward leaving a little gap in the brush to shoot through. My arrow was on its way. But I don’t remember picking a spot the third time. The arrow hit high, above and behind the shoulder. It turned as it went in, and the shaft was sticking up in the air at about 45 degrees as the thing turned and ran off. I watched it go, as did the other pigs. But they didn’t follow. After a few minutes, they settled down and went back to business.
I stood there in a bit of shock. I needed my heart to stop pounding so hard. I needed to figure out what to do. I needed to stop smashing my forehead into the tree for shooting high. The wind was still in my favor. There were pigs around me still. I started to move towards one that was feeding my way.
It was a large sow, light brown with black spots. I made it behind another large oak as it fed across in front of me, occasionally showing glimpses of the vitals as it went past trees and a few palmettos. It had now been about 40 minutes since I had gotten close to the pigs. I watched a large, black boar chase some pigs around farther up the hill. The wind was steady still. I’ve never heard of wind so steady for 40 minutes that pigs within 40 yards don’t eventually wind you. The sow worked closer and came out from behind a palmetto at 15 yards. Broadside. There was a 2 inch black spot behind the shoulder. It’s like it was put there for me to concentrate on. I leaned to my right as it paused to root. I need to watch my lower limb on the tree. Check. I need to pick a spot. Check. Raise my bow and draw. Check. Solid anchor. Check. Relax the muscles in my forearm and wrist – solid back tension. Check.
Wait, what just happened? Oh yeah, the bottom limb. Whoops.
The arrow stuck in the dirt, nowhere near my pig. It ran off, but not far. The others were unspooked. The wind was still in my favor. The game wasn’t over, but the sun was setting. I was wondering what happened to my pig. I could hear pigs fighting and making a racket off in that direction. But there were pigs between there and me, and I still had thoughts I might get a shot. I watched more pigs, including my sow rounding up brood that had been about 30 yards away. They fed again. They bedded down for the cold night. They were harassed by another pig and moved away. I was hoping for a shot on this new pig which had moved into the 20 yard range. But darkness was coming fast. I didn’t think I could shoot that far, but if it hurried up and moved so that I could get within 10 yards, I felt I could see well enough to make that happen. I didn’t know the time. But reality got the better of me, the few minutes it took for me to get closer also made it so that even 12-13 yards was too far in the darkness. I was done. I watched and listened to the dark shape for a little while. It was still within 25 yds or so when I just stood up and walked away. It didn’t spook. The wind was still in my favor. I had been there with the pigs for about 1.5 hours, taken two shots, and if I had been more proactive might have fared better on opportunities.
But now it was time to head back to my car. My being an idiot wasn’t over yet. I had forgotten my flashlight back in my tent. Luckily, I was only a few hundred yards from the fire break, and that would lead me back to my car. I headed back to camp to tell my story and figured I’d be back early in the morning to look for the pig I had stuck.
I think I was the last one back to camp that night. Darren had headed home. I had gotten a text from him telling me of RC’s success and then another letting me know he had gotten a flat before making it too far down the road. Most of the others were getting ready to go out to a buffet for dinner. Only Chuck and I hung around and cooked there in camp. It was nice in front of the camp fire as we ate. Eventually the rest of the gang rolled back in. And I mean rolled. They all looked like they were having trouble walking normal after doing what I’m guessing is considerable damage to the buffet. Campfire time was more limited, and I rolled into bed at a reasonable hour. I did realize that the Coleman lantern could heat up my tiny tent very nicely – allowing a baby wipe bath and some fresh clothes before settling in for another cold night. And it was cold. I think it hit 19 degrees there in southern GA that night. I woke up in the morning to find my contacts embedded in little frozen blocks of saline.
After breakfast around Paul’s campfire, I hit the woods early to go look for my pig. I was in the woods before 10. (That’s early on a cold morning pig hunting, but of course seems about 4 hours late for deer hunting.) I started working towards where I was the night before. I figured I’d warm up shooting at some stumps as I tried to locate a blood trail. But as I got there, I heard pigs again! They had moved to what would have been downwind the night before, but the wind had switched ends that morning. I started to move close to the same spotted sow I had smacked the tree shooting at last night. And then a red pig surprised me from the left. I soon had a shot opportunity. It turned away leaving me a quartering away shot with its head also turned. There was the back rib and then about six inches of pig to the left. I concentrated on a spot just the right of that rib, made sure my lower limb was clear, anchored, and released. No idea what I did with my right arm, but it wasn’t pretty. My arrow sailed harmlessly past at 7 inches to the left of where I was looking. Are you kidding me? At least it was a clean miss, but still.
That pig swapped ends and tried to figure out what was going on. I drew another arrow, but my confidence was now pretty much shot. The pig came a few yards closer and then laid down in a sunny spot, facing me. I found myself pinned behind that palmetto, with no shot at a pig only about 15 yds away. As easy as I found it to sneak up on feeding pigs, they are much more jumpy to the noise I made on the dry leaves when just laying there. That sow came and fed her piglets in front of me again, offering me nothing but a shot at her back as she laid in front of me at about the same 15 yds. I thought about what I could throw to get the resting pig to stand up and spin around. I thought about how to get a shot at the sow. But I didn’t come up with anything. The sow moved on without giving me a decent shot, and I wasn’t about to take a marginal shot at this point. And eventually it happened. The wind was no longer my friend. It swirled and that dozing pig jumped up and turned tail faster than I could have imagined. Oh well. My trip was already made!
I picked up a blood trail about 50 yds from where I shot the pig. I found a two good spots close together:
But then it was tiny drops every 5-10 feet. Progress was slow. I lost the trail after about 20 yds. I couldn’t find another drop. But I did see my arrow laying off in the distance and got excited. It was broken off about 8 inches from the tip (holding it next to another arrow.) It had blood on the remaining 2-3 inches. But there was not a drop to be found around the arrow. And I looked hard. Eventually, I gave up and started a search grid in that direction for any more larger blood spots or a pig. I eventually gave up after a couple of hours. My initial reaction to my bad shot was that it wasn’t going to result in a recovered pig. But I held out hope, you never know for sure. My hope was pretty much gone.
I came on a couple of pigs one more time that day, but they were moving and not feeding and I was unable to close the gap. I did end up within 30 years of a nice big doe and her fawn. I tried to work my way over to another area that looked good on the map. I crossed through the swamp and tried the other side of Shellstone Creek by crossing on a log and working my way back to the west. But it was getting late and then it became hard to find another point to cross back over the creek. I thought I had managed to cross it a couple of times only to find that I had either crossed onto an island or just a tributary. It was getting dark and I was a long ways from the car. I had flashlight, but I wanted to get across that creek asap. I finally found a spot and made a beeline for my car. But in the final minutes of dusk, I heard pigs again. After about 10 minutes, it was obvious I would never get close enough to see them with enough light. But now I face the challenge of finding the tiny opening in the thicket that had the path back to my car. I knew it was close, but finding it in the dark with only a flashlight was more work than I would have imagined.
I was getting tired and hungry by the time I rolled back into camp. RC had already packed up camp and I saw no lights. I had that feeling for a minute like I was the only one left until I saw some lights from the other end of our camping area. (I was the only one left at my end after Darren and RC broke camp.) RC was hanging out saying goodbyes. When I told my story, he said what I was already thinking: I needed to have a serious discussion with my bowyer about that defective bow I was toting! That night Paul broke out his guitar and entertained us with some politically correct renditions of his favorite songs. Some tequila was passed around and our smaller group of six had a good time. I bailed and went to bed early compared to the others. At least it was a warmer night, somewhere in the 26 degree range.
The next morning I was up early. I wanted to get back to the same general area to see if I could find morning pigs again. I packed up my stuff and noticed my sleeping bag was only rated for 25 degrees. I thought it was warmer than that, but it sure explained my comfort level. I flipped my fly off to let some of the condensation dry off, but it immediately turned to ice. At one point, the stuff in my pocket hit the panic button on the key fob and the alarm went off for the whole camp to hear. No one seemed to stir. So about 15 minutes later, I felt an adequate snooze period had elapse and set it off again leaning against the bumper loading the car. That got ‘em up….
I said my goodbyes and headed back to the woods and swamp for one last try at pigs. I took up the blood trail one more time just because, searched a little more in the general direction and then started covering some ground. I quickly became hot, it was supposed to rocket up to the upper 50’s finally. I hadn’t eaten a real breakfast and reached into my pack to grab a cliff bar when I realized my pack was still in the car. I just wasn’t together on this hunt, was I? I crossed the road at the train tracks and hid a bunch of my layers in the brush to pick up later. Across the road I had a great walk and a lot of shooting at ant hills and the like. My shooting improved some and my confidence was building. But all for not. The only thing I would have been able to shoot at the rest of that day was a bunch of noisy birds. They seemed to be everywhere. By the time I made a giant loop back towards the car, I was in a t-shirt.
I was back at the car for some much needed food, picked up my clothes, and was heading home by 1245. It had been a good trip: I had seen a lot of new territory and really gotten into pigs. I had had my chances, even if I didn’t manage to capitalize. The unrecovered pig will probably haunt me for awhile, but if nothing else it’s good motivation to keep practicing regularly for next year. And I love my new bow – it just needs a better archer!
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2015 Traditional Archery Society Honorees Mr. John Schulz, Mr. Jerry Hill, Mr. Jacques Bonin. http://t.co/uqtwL2f30j pic.twitter.com/nZySLMRXwP— traditional archery (@TASFORUM) February 24, 2015
2015 Traditional Archery Society Honorees Mr. John Schulz, Mr. Jerry Hill, Mr. Jacques Bonin. http://t.co/uqtwL2f30j pic.twitter.com/nZySLMRXwP