Down in Southeast Texas
Article contributed by T. Warren.
“Waha…..I ain’t goin’ back in there” he exclaimed as he brushed the remnants of thick underbrush from his camouflage overalls. He held up a broken stick in his hand, emphasizing something, but I wasn’t sure what. As he approached I could see that something had him rattled.
“What happened?” I inquired as my cousin Jerrod got closer. Something had definitely occurred, but as to what…well I’m sure I was about to find out.
“Didn’t ya hear me hollerin’!?” he asked.
“Yeah, but I figured you were just trying to push them out to me” I followed up.
“Hell naw, that big boar done turned around and chased me up a tree!” He explained in his thick Texas drawl. “I heard ‘em makin’ a bunch of racket and I thought they were headed your way, then that boar came out from under those Palmettos”. “Whoo boy, I grabbed them first three branches and they broke clean off!”
Laughter erupted from deep within my belly and after several moments of trying to pull myself together I caught him staring sideways at me, clearly failing to find the same degree of humor that I did in his recent harrowing experience.
“Well….., its so thick in there I bet that’s where they bed down, but I ain’t goin’ back in!” It was still early morning, but I could already feel the heat and humidity of the day starting to make itself known. We loaded up on the Honda four-wheeler, comfortable with leaving these feral swine where they were, and set off to another portion of the property.
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“If you’re gonna shoot one, try and find one that is all black or red, those are the good eatin’ ones” he advised as we scoured the landscape hoping to spy one of the many feral hogs that make this piece of private property their home. The owner of the property along with Jerrod had been placing a concoction of corn, strawberry Jell-O and vanilla extract in the open spaces of the property trying to entice the hogs out of the thick brush.
We parked the four-wheeler at the end of a clearing and began to pick our way through the thick cover. The vegetation was a perfect environment for all types of animals, especially swine. There was no sense in trying to look ahead as the trees and Palmetto fronds made it impossible to see much more than five feet in front of you. I kept my head down scanning the ground covering for any evidence of pigs and another brush dweller…..the water moccasins. We checked several spots on foot, trying to sneak up on any unsuspecting pigs that were loitering in open areas, however, they remained elusive.
The sweltering heat signaled the end of the morning causing the animal activity to slow. We concluded we should take a page out of the animal’s book and rest during the heat of the day. Arriving back at the four-wheeler, I saw a gopher snake slithering its way into the tree-line. I tried to catch it, not realizing how petrified Jerrod is of snakes! He jumped on the quad as I tried to reassure him that it was non-venomous. All he said to me was; “Nope, I’m pretty sure that was a Rattle-Moccasin!” solidifying in his mind that any snake is poisonous and refusing to believe otherwise!
The sun traveling through its axis brought with it a recognizable drop in temperature as the late afternoon arrived. I decided to change tactics and sit along a clearing, waiting to see if I could catch the feral hogs as they crossed between the cover of the trees. The sun began to release its hold on the sky, signaling to the animals it was time to emerge from their covered beds.
A large dark-colored figure appeared from the edge of the tree line. I watched through the scope of my rifle as it zig-zagged towards me, using the edges as concealment. Image clarity began to improve and I observed the reddish-brown sow moving towards me.
Taking aim behind her ear, I took the shot. She lurched forward, escaping into the safety of the thick vegetation. I stood there silent, trying to use my ears to track her movements as she crashed through the undergrowth. All sounds ceased and I felt confident I could move up to the spot where she had been to begin looking for signs of blood. Much to my disbelief, there wasn’t a single drop. I moved into the trees about five yards and began to check the ground as I worked parallel to spot where she had run in. It was dark in the trees. The dense canopy shielded any remaining light from penetrating. I turned on my headlamp and after several minutes I found the first evidence my bullet had found its mark. Expecting to walk in a straight line, I found that the blood wove frantically around tree trunks, under Palmetto fronds and through the crunchy leaves covering the ground. I worked slowly, heeding the warning from Jerrod that an injured hog can burst out and attack you. I transitioned from looking down tracking blood, to looking forward, avoiding large spiders suspended from their webs in between the trees.
Seventy-five yards in, the blood trail led me to her final location. I pulled her one hundred twenty-pound mass into the clearing. As Jerrod examined her, he declared that she was a “Pine Forest Rooter Hog” based on the length of her snout. He explained that these types of feral swine can cause all manner of agricultural destruction. They have large metal traps set up around the property to try and catch them. We had passed one earlier in the day, but it didn’t appear that any hogs had ventured near it. The feral swine will become trap smart he told me, so they will pin the door open which will allow them to travel in an out, reducing their wariness. Hunting them is a way to help control their numbers and put meat on the table. I was grateful for Jerrod’s help, realizing this took time away from his newborn son Rhett, in order to show me a glimpse into his world of hunting