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|Down and Dirty in Dixie|
Some opportunities in life are just too good to pass up.
For me, one of those opportunities was the chance to help out at a Florida hog hunt hosted by Slaughter Brothers Wild Hog Hunts, arranged by the United Special Sportsmen Alliance (USSA).
USSA is a nonprofit organization that grants outdoor wishes for disabled and terminally ill children and adults across the USA, and since this hunt was to be held at the low-fenced hunting preserve of a friend of mine, Kenny Banaciski, I knew that I could be there to help out. I did so, and I'm very happy that I did.
The USSA hunt was to begin on Friday morning, and most of the crowd arrived on Thursday evening. Kenny and I had gone to Tallahassee to fetch USSA founder Brigid o'Donogue from the airport, and we found the "Carolina crowd" at the lodge when we returned. This group included two USSA hunters: a bright teenager named Chris, and a thirty-something father of two named Mike. Also present were Chris's parents Mike (a.k.a. Big Mike) and Jackie, and Mike's hunting buddy Bobby, brother to Big Mike.
My Dad was at the lodge to greet them upon their arrival, and when Kenny, Brigid, and I entered, they were settled on the sofas in the living room of the lodge. Any initial awkwardness at meeting these new folks dissipated rapidly, and jokes and laughs came freely. After introductions and handshakes all around, Kenny got right down to business, announcing that it was time for Brigid's night hunt.
Gearing up for a Night Hunt
Brigid had done a tad of hog hunting in Texas before, but never in these swamps south of Perry, Florida. I retrieved my Cordura leggings, long Sunrise River boar hunting knife, and boots, and suited up while Kenny assembled the Cold Steel spear that Brigid was to use on the hunt. Talk was animated and we anticipated one heck of a swamp brawl that night.
Brigid handed me her video camera to check out, since my job would be to back up Kenny and fellow hog hunter Clint Wood, shooting video of the hunt if I was not needed in the fight itself. Kenny has some nice big porkers on his property, and there was no telling whether we would end up neck-deep in black swamp water fighting a tremendous hog.
After familiarizing myself with the camera and getting our gear in order, we headed out into the darkness, and a group of prodigious porkers was soon spotted by Kenny and Clint in the lead vehicle. We hurried to catch up to them as they readied the dogs, and were soon out of the trucks and running into the field where the hogs had been seen.
Dogs on the Trail
The spotlight picked out a huge hog in the pack, and the dogs were released. They raced by some smaller hogs (each weighing more than two hundred pounds apiece) and zeroed in on one truly tremendous swine. The dogs caught up with the big hog at a small cluster of oaks in the field, and I watched through the camera lens as they tried to grab and hold the beast. The huge hog would have none of it, and swiftly rounded the trees, trying to make its escape.
Caught - and Speared!
I began to run again, but I hadn't gone far before the hog began to squeal, a loud bawl that announced that the dogs had caught it well and good. Clint wheelbarrowed the hog, lifting its huge legs easily clear of the ground in a move he'd performed countless times before. Brigid moved in for the kill, and under Kenny's direction she had soon inflicted a fatal wound, and the big hog went down.
After getting back to its feet for another - very unexpected - heart-thumping fight with the dogs, the big hog was pulled down for the last time. A round of congratulations followed as we checked out the big sow's respectable teeth, then loaded it with some difficulty (that hog was BIG!) and headed back to the lodge to skin it out. The folks there for the USSA hunt now had no doubt that there were some big hogs on the property after seeing that behemoth! It was a proper warm-up, to be sure.
Brigid and the Behemoth
Photo copyright 2007 by USSA
Page Two: Shotguns, Rifles, Hogs, Dogs and Knives